Revisiting Casino Kid (NES) [editorial help needed]

Here's the HTML version of my review for my personal blog. Sorry for the formatting weirdness, I tried to clean it up as much as I could.

Any editorial help or opinions would be appreciated. My review is not intended to be a consumer driven score type review but is more of a subjective take on the game and what I expected and/or took from it.

Thanks in advance for your opinions, ideas, and corrections :)







Casino Kid










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Some of my childhood summers were spent in suburban Santa Paula with my grandmother. The place was pretty boring but there were some perks. Fresh homemade tortillas and a local Mexican video store that rented telenovelas (spanish soap operas), Nintendo games that nobody wanted to steal and Kung Fu movies. All the good games were pilfered so what was left were 5th rate movie tie ins, weird NES sims, and Casino Kid. I had already gone through much of their Kung Fu collection so I was stuck with Casino Kid.

My first forays into the world of Casino Kid were not pleasant. You were a young cutthroat gambler  stranded in Las Vegas with nothing but $500 and your wits. My brother and I were already addicted to Golgo-13, so this swanky gambling Vegas aesthetic appealed to us.

There was one problem though. I was ten years old and I knew absolute shit about gambling. Hell, I was borderline illiterate. The experience was akin to a blind man in a mall trying to procure a prostitute by mumbling perverse nothings and shambling across the food court with his pants down. Point being, it was futile. The game made no sense and all efforts to grasp what was going on seemed an impossibility.  Back to Kung Fu and buttered tortillas.








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Twenty years, several poker books, some online sit n goes, a 6 pack, and an emulator later and I was right back in the shit, balls deep. There I was staring once again at the Casino Kid title screen. What challenges could this archaic NES dinosaur offer me? I looked back at my dense shelf of poker books, cracked a beer, and dove back in.






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First off, Casino Kid is a bit of an oddity. It was published and developed in 1989 by a Japanese database and information management company called Sofel. After ten years of corporate data management the company decided to use it's algorithmic mastery to make a foray into the world of video games. Casino Kid was one of their initial endeavors for what would be a brief and predominantly unfruitful run of games.

As the game starts, your slim bank roll isn't enough to get you into the big poker games.Instead, you're forced to press your luck against the unruly odds of the Blackjack tables.

Hit, hit, hit, stand. The brutal cogs of blackjack shredding away my last sinew of interest. My entertainment being ground down inch by inch into apathy. Still, with my new found gamble skills, the game's litmus test, it's trial by fire.. blackjack, it was all too daunting. What's on TV, is Facebook calling me? I was about to throw in the towel. Then, when I'm about to give up, an interesting message pops up next to the head of my dead eyed, degraded, bunny eared, dealer. "Now shuffling the deck." Huh??




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We had only played for maybe 15 or so hands but already the deck was being shuffled? Holy shit, the blackjack game is playing with a one deck shoe. For those of you who don't understand card counting, counting a 1 deck shoe (a card repository literally containing 1 standard deck; which is nonexistent in a real poker environment) is like counting to ten, where as a 6 deck shoe is like trigonometry. Essentially, if I can count 4-5 consecutive game play cards with a greater value than 10 (10 -through Ace are considered a value of 10) then the likely hood of a high card coming greatly reduces. Conversely, a bad run of low cards (2 - 9) means that the deck is "hot" loaded with high value cards. Essentially, with a modest but reasonable probability you can begin to presume the likely value the down turned card.

This knowledge greatly increased my odds. I went from $180 away from losing the game, up to $1000 and crushing the dealer. By employing a basic strategy of presuming their down card as a 10+ when the count was low, I knew when to keep hitting on 15, 16, or 17 and when to stand on 12. You bet low to feel the flow of the count.. and then jam your bets high when the deck is hot. It's a basic low level card counting strategy that would be all but useless if it wasn't for the game's unrealistic use of a one deck shoe. Basically, don't plan on using this game as a Blackjack trainer any time soon.

Once you begin to increase your bank roll you can then work your way around the casino progressively challenging various dealers and players at blackjack and poker grinding your way up to $1,000,000 to face the final showdown against The King.

I won't lie, finding the right opponents at the right bet range was a huge pain in my dick. The casino is a graph paper like maze of collision blocking NPCs, empty tables, and players that refuse to challenge you. Determining the proper people to play and what order to play them in made a great excuse for drinking but more importantly wasted much of my evening. This is so much of a design flaw that online FAQs and walkthroughs have dedicated their efforts towards creating archaic maps and charts via MS notepad to help you find your opponents more quickly. If you want to just hit the tables as fast as possible I recommend looking them up and using the charts and maps.




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Littered throughout the labyrinthine collision of the casino floor are NPCs who will give you tips on how to beat some of the poker players. Without even a handshake or a reach around these people just give away tells and clues to help you decipher the strength of each players hand and/or bet. Make a note of this though, since you need to remember who they were talking about to make it useful against that respective opponent since these NPCs are just littered throughout the casino. Though helpful, none of those tip mechanics were really necessary to beat the game.




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The poker in Casino Kid is 5 Card Stud, an iteration of poker which was predominantly played prior to the No Limit Hold-Em poker boom. This is the same 5 Card Stud you play with your family every thanksgiving with your boring family and the strategy to win here is no different than the one you use to beat your nana. The game rewards basic aggressive conservative 5 Card Strategy. Essentially, don't go to war with anything less than two pair and be prepared to ditch that pair if your opponent aggressively bets after only discarding 1 or 2 cards.

Past reviews have described the AI as becoming progressively ballsy or reckless,  artificially generating huge hands as you progress through the challengers. I honestly did not observe this phenomenon.  From what I could tell, the AI played relatively straight with the AI's hands coming in the typical intervals that you'd expect from live play. This perceived increase in difficulty really just comes from the AI's progressive insistence on aggressive big chip play as well as the ratio of their chip stack to yours.

Initial moves, like pretending to have 3 of kind and aggressively betting against their 2 cards, will garner you some folds initially but the AI tends to call more as they get harder. For the most part, aggressive big betting and frequent calling with a deep chip stack are the big tools of the tougher AI opponents. Against a novice player this strategy is good because it kills all bluffing making you think that the AI has become omnipotent like Skynet or that the game is just cheating and looking at your cards. However, against an aggressive betting, conservative player this strategy turns the AI into an ATM machine.  Ironically, this makes the game easier for a reasonable poker player since their ideal strategy is to make real hands with strong starting cards and betting big and aggressive in order to maximize their potential value of their hand.




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Ultimately, for me, that's where the judgement of this game lies. Does it properly encourage a proper conservative, tight, aggressive 5 Card Stud strategy? Definitely. Almost laboriously so. So much so that they've added another element to the game play. From time to time, your opponent will offer to go all in and bet all of your/their money on the next hand. This is basically the equivalent to coin flipping your way out of a match and I imagine that this is how most people beat this game. Strategically, I would only accept the all-in bet when my opponent's chip stack was only about 30% of my chip stack. This way, I could use my chip stack to pad me against the losing odds of going in blind on a hand. For most people though, I'm sure they would just try to parlay their all-in wins to victory only to reload the game after their eventual and probable loss. It definitely ruins the game but I can't imagine most people reveling in the Buddhist like patience needed to win via pure correct game play.

I wouldn't describe this game as fun but it did become an enjoyable challenge. It challenged me to religiously stick to my conservative game play strategy in order to beat the game. That in of itself is a poker lesson worth learning and one I will take away from this game. Now if we can only get casinos to host 5 Card Stud games, then this game would be useful.



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