Sands Bethlehem’s Newest Blackjack Variant, Switch Hands, Was Designed by a Local

Switch Hands Blackjack at the Sands Bethlehem Casino

Switch Hands Blackjack won an industry award in 2014 for Best New Casino Game.

The Sands Bethlehem casino is featuring a variant of blackjack invented by a resident of nearby Allentown. The game, named “Switch Hands”, allows players a rebuy of a second deal if they consider their first hand unacceptable.

When a hand of “Switch Hands” is dealt, the dealer gives a player two cards for their main hand, much like he or she would in traditional blackjack. The dealer also deals two face-down cards. The player then looks his or her hand to determine whether to play the first or second hand. If the player discards the first set of cards, then he must wager on the second deal.

Stephen Berkowitz Profile

Switch Hands was created by Stephen Berkowitz, a graduate of Kutztown University. Berkowitz now works for Global Innovative Gaming, LLC. His game won Casino Journal’s 2014 Best New Table Game in 2014.

Stan Berkowitz recently discussed his thoughts on game design with “The Morning Call”, a paper serving Allentown and Lehigh Valley. In the interview, the award-winning game designer said, “When gambling was legalized in Pennsylvania, it really sparked my interest in game design. I thought to myself, what are the popular games that people love to play and how can we make them even better?

The Math Behind Casino Games

Game design is not as easy as Berkowitz might make it sound. To be successful, a balance has to be struck between the house edge and payout. Switch Hands had to generate enough revenues for Sands Bethlehem to make it worth the gaming space and dealer salary. At the same time, it has to offer a big enough payout that players are interested in playing it. Mathematical analysis must be done to assure the game falls within the acceptable range of house edges, without offering ways to beat it. Developers tweak the rules and payouts to make sure a profitable game is played.

To help with setting the odds, Stephen Berkowitz worked with gaming experts in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Mathematician Charles R. Mousseau helped with the math projections, while game developer Ed Kokosky offered suggestions in the rules creation process.

Once the game debuted, both the Sands Bethlehem and blackjack players were pleased with the product. Now, “Switch Hands” is played on 2 tables at the Sands Bethlehem.

Wizard of Odds Approves

Michael Shackleford, better known as “The Wizard of Odds”, is a a former actuary who’s worked as a consultant for many gaming companies. Shackleford, who is known for his math-based game analysis on his Wizards of Odds website, offered a positive review of Switch Hands recently.

When asked about the game, Shackleford said, “I’m surprised someone has not done this before. We now know why its inventors say that ‘It’s ‘Blackjack — only better’.

High Roll Dice

Stan Berkowitz is just beginning his career as a game designer, so he expects to have other successes. He told Matt Asad of “The Morning Call” that he has a game in the works called “High Roll Dice”. The game likely is a variant of craps, though Berkowitz did not reveal too much about his newest creation.

Sands Bethlehem might be one of those casinos. Sands Bethlehem generates the most revenue out of the various Pennsylvania casinos. It has remained ahead of the competition because of its innovative approach to gaming and marketing. The casino, which is owned by Sheldon Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation, markets to the Asian-American community in New York City. The casino arranges for 50 buses a week to bring such gamblers to the casino, while offering more baccarat gaming than other casinos. Baccarat is famously popular with Asian gamblers.