Normally I tend to play casino games that offer the best possible odds, in hopes of stretching my gambling dollar and maybe earning a few comps. However, there is one casino game I like to play just for the fun of it – Sigma Derby. The very first casino game I ever played (yes, a very long time ago) was a Sigma Derby machine. I played about an hour on a roll of quarters and actually walked away a few dollars ahead. Beginner’s luck, but I was hooked. After that I looked for that machine in every casino I entered – but over the years they’ve become harder and harder to find.
For those that don’t already know, Sigma Derby is a large, multi-player, electromechanical horse racing game. There are very few of these machines left in the world, and only two that I know of at casinos in Las Vegas. One is on the Strip (in the MGM), and the other is the centerpiece of the new “Vintage Vegas” gaming area at The D. The first time I wandered up the outdoor escalator and into the second floor of The D, I saw their Sigma Derby machine in all it’s glory. On an otherwise quiet afternoon on Fremont Street, this particular machine was flooded with action. All (ten) seats were taken, and there were people behind some of the players cheering on the game and waiting for a seat. I didn’t feel like waiting, so I changed a ten for a roll of quarters and vowed to ride that escalator each time I got near it, until I found an open seat waiting for me. Later that night my persistence paid off.
Sigma combines the effortless play of a slot machine, the excitement of a horse race and the comradery of a table game. Each race, five plastic horses make their way around an oval track that’s set into the table glass. The machine makes galloping noises, and the plastic horses vary their pace throughout the race, just like real horses – often ending in a near photo finish. Bells go off, the winning numbers are displayed on an old, rudimentary red digital display, and the people around the table cheer and curse. Winnings (anywhere between 2 coins and 200 coins per coin bet) make a lovely old-fashioned clickety-clack as they drop into the coin hamper. (The machine at The D is set to hold your coins until you cash out, but a lot of people like to hit the button after each win to hear that classic coin-drop sound.) A few seconds later, the odds for the next race are posted and players get roughly sixty seconds to place their bets before it starts all over again.
Check out this video of the Sigma Derby game in action:
There are ten “quinella” (first and second horse, any order) bets available on each race, and the odds are shown for each quinella before the race starts. Each race offers different odds. Some races the best possible payout is thirty for one, some it’s two-hundred for one. Anywhere from one quarter to twenty can be played on each combination. With ten seats at the table and ten possible winning combinations, there’s a winner almost every race. With a max bet of twenty quarters ($5) and max odds of 200 for one, there’s no need to worry about W2Gs, the biggest jackpot possible is only a thousand bucks.The odds, by all estimations, are horrible. I was very lucky to walk away a winner the first time I played this game, oh so many years ago. But I still play it. It’s low limits, it’s vintage, and it’s a hoot. In the same way that black chips don’t seem quite the same as hundred dollar bills at the blackjack tables, twelve credit wins ($3) seem much more exciting than the dollar amount would warrant, when playing this unique machine. Especially if you and your table-mates have had a few drinks. And, drinks you can have!
The table service at the Sigma Derby machine in The D was as fast and friendly as any table I have played at in downtown Vegas. Even though I only played a quarter or two a race for quite a few races, the drinks kept coming as fast as I could drink them. I slowly lost my ten dollar stake, but that ten spot (plus a toke a drink for the cocktail waitress) bought me well over an hour of entertainment. At times the Sigma Derby table gets as rowdy as a craps table with a hot shooter, and I can only imagine how crazy it must get if that two-hundred for one hits… There’s rarely anyone at the table that doesn’t have at least a quarter on that combo when it’s available.If you can be truly disciplined, and stick to one quarter a race, a roll of quarters would last an hour – even if you never won a race. It’s simple mathematics – there are forty quarters in a roll and forty races in an hour. Where else in Vegas can you play for an hour, get great cocktail service and only risk ten bucks in the process? Get up to the vintage gaming area on the second floor of The D and play the Sigma Derby machine while it lasts. It’s the other “most fun you can have for a quarter” in Vegas. Oh, and save me a seat!
The D Website: www.thed.com
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