Marc Meltzer

Sigma Derby: The Coin-op Sport of Kings

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Sigma Derby at the D Las Vegas

Sigma Derby, a coin operated electro-mechanical horse race game, was introduced to casinos almost 30 years ago. Since its release it’s become a cult classic similar to movies like Rocky Horror Picture Show. It was never the most popular game in the casino but the people that enjoy Sigma Derby looooooooooove Sigma Derby.

Today you can find less than 10 Sigma Derby games in casinos across America. The two remaining games in Las Vegas can be found at MGM Grand and The D (as part of their second floor vintage slot area). Coincidentally both games are located close to the respective sportsbooks at these casinos. So, what is Sigma Derby? Simply put Sigma Derby is a horse race game where you have to pick the first two horses to win each race.

Sigma Derby machines have seats for ten players. Since the games are coin operated you’ll need to come prepared with a pocketful of change, or visit the cashier or a change machine for quarters. There are five horses that bobble around the enclosed race track that’s surrounded by the bettors. Players can buy in with quarters and place bets on one of ten horse combinations. Each combination is for the first two horses to go around the track. In horse racing this combination is called a quinella.

Sigma Derby DThe winning horse combination is paid based on the odds posted around the track. The player’s station is credited with quarters with each win. Since the game is played with quarters you’re paid in quarters when you cash out. The casinos usually have old school buckets to carry the winnings to the cashier.

It should be noted that if a horse pays out more than 500 quarters you’ll receive a hand pay from the casino. If you’re betting a long shot at 200-1 or greater you might want to risk 2 or 3 quarters so you can get paid in cash if you win. Then again you might like the vintage feel of all those quarters.

Each Sigma Derby race offers different odds for each combination so you may never see the same odds for combinations in back to back races. The casino has a huge 10%-20% house advantage on this game. This makes Sigma Derby one of the worst bets for the player in the casino. That being said, you’re not playing Sigma Derby because it’s a money maker. You’re playing it because you want to play a vintage casino game and yell at the horses while they make their way around the track.

There is one note of caution when you play Sigma Derby. Races go off about once every minute. When you combine the large house advantage for the casino, the fun of the game and the 30 seconds in between races it’s easy to lose money quickly. Especially if you’re enjoying a few too many complimentary drinks.

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