MOODY EKG HALL OF FAME INDUCTEE
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By Frank Fantini, Publisher of Fanini's Gaming Report
February 12, 2020
Ernie Moody is excited… and honored.
That is how the legendary game creator described his reaction to the latest accolade of his much-honored career – election into the EKG Slot Awards Hall of Fame.
That career began in Black Hawk, Colorado.
Always the entrepreneur, Ernie had owned businesses in Denver ranging from pizza restaurants to ice cream shops to arcades and spent time selling penny stocks.
In 1990, new opportunity struck as Colorado legalized casinos in historic mining towns.
Ernie and some friends decided to become casino operators. “We didn’t have much money to invest” Ernie says, explaining why the group didn’t open a casino in Central City, which was drawing major investment.
Instead, they “bought a burned out relic,” Gilpin Hotel, down the hill in much less attractive Black Hawk and opened the Gilpin casino. That turned out lucky. Black Hawk quickly became the destination of choice for gamblers because it was their first stop on the road from Denver.
Ernie began creating games, went to Las Vegas and tried to sell them. At one point, he arranged to be in a charity golf tournament and played with IGT executive Bob Bittman who became Ernie’s entrée into the world’s biggest slot machine company in a relationship that lasts to this day.
The next life-changing connection came at the World Gaming Congress, now G2E. There, Ernie met John Breeding, the Minnesota truck driver who had his own revolutionary invention, an automated card shuffler.
Breeding had a single table in a small booth to show off the product of his nascent company, Shuffle Master. But what struck Ernie wasn’t Breeding’s shuffler as much as his business model – leasing, not selling.
Ernie was inspired.
One night in 1995, Ernie was playing with various card combinations when “It hit me like a bolt of lightning.” A player could have three hands of cards in a game of draw poker and the kept cards in one hand would become the kept cards in all three. That created a wide variety of winning possibilities and the chance for a player to hit it big if, say, he drew a royal flush. “Play enough hands and you will,” Ernie said.
Triple Play Poker was born.
That began the period that became industry lore: The visionary inventor going from company to company, from casino to casino trying to convince someone to give his revolutionary game a chance.
By 1997, Ernie was placing Triple Play Poker in Station Casinos for a small daily fee. It might have taken the industry two years to give Ernie’s invention a try, but not players. They caught on immediately. Ernie would visit the bank of eight Triple Play machines at Sunset Station and watch standing rows of people waiting their turns to play.
The machines were winning $350 a day when house average was $50, Ernie says. He tripled his lease fee to $15 a day.
Ernie and his girlfriend kept track of game installations by pasting sticky notes on a white board. “We knew we had something when we had to get a second white board. We could no longer keep track of where the games were,” Ernie recalls.
Ernie had offers to become a Station employee. He had offers to sell his games. But he stuck to his Breeding-inspired business model and in 1999 struck his licensing deal with IGT.
A cornucopia of video poker games followed: Five Play Poker. Ten Play. One Hundred Play. Spin Poker. Ultimate X, and more.
Today, there are around 20,000 Ernie Moody-invented games in the field.
And, there are more to come.
“We have lots of new games coming out in the next year that we’re excited about,” Ernie says. They come from his game design company, Action Gaming. Many of Ernie’s games can also be played at his VideoPoker.com, the world’s largest video poker free-play website.
And the revolution brought by Ernie’s creativity may be just beginning.
“I’m really, really excited about the future of technology. We’re in this parabolic technology curve. Ten years from now will be really crazy,” Ernie says.
He envisions new ways to play video poker. He sees a gaming industry boom that, aided by technology, will transform the whole city of Las Vegas.
In other words: Ernie Moody is excited.
Note: Moody will be honored as this year’s EKG Hall of Fame Induction on February 27 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.