Overview of Sigma Derby
The unique casino game known as Derby Horse Racing, most commonly known as Sigma Derby, was approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 1994.
The credited inventors are listed as Hiroyuki Tatesaka and Takanao Moritsu, who were working for Japanese game manufacturer Sigma Incorporated at the time.
Following its debut in 1985, Sigma Derby and similar iterations became popular attractions at most casino properties around the country during the late 1990s and early 2000s. Resembling an arcade game or carnival sideshow more than a proper casino game, Sigma Derby is played on a large circular machine designed to replicate a horse racing track.
Up to 10 players can sit around a single Sigma Derby table, and the objective of the game is to correctly guess the outcome of a race featuring five mechanical horses. Using a system of pulleys and levers, the Sigma Derby machine simulates a horse race much in the way of a model train track, with intricately detailed backgrounds and settings creating a track-like ambiance, and five horse and jockey figurines occupying center stage.
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While the curiosity of Sigma Derby was enough to sustain steady play after its initial launch, the technological age has made the game appear to be obsolete, at least in the minds of many players. With modernized video slot machines, dozens of hybrid table games, and of course, simulcasting of actual horse races available at many casinos and gambling establishments, the market for mechanical a horse racing game simply dried up.
The selection of Sigma Derby machines available in American casinos today has certainly dried up, as you’ll discover in a subsequent section, but you can still stumble upon a holdover from time to time. For Sigma Derby, Las Vegas is one of the few places where it has been able to survive.
With that in mind, this page was written to provide a primer on Sigma Derby to help beginners get a better grasp on this casino horse racing game. First, you’ll find a review of the game’s overall structure, setup, and rules, followed by a guide to locating the endangered game, and finally, a discussion on any strategic concerns players should keep in mind before picking their ponies and placing their bets.
Rules and How to Play
The objective of Sigma Derby is quite simple and to the point: choose the winner and runner-up of the pending mechanical horse race. This wager is popularly referred to as the “quinella” in traditional horse racing, and it doesn’t require any particular order to win. So long as your pair of chosen horses finishes in 1st and 2nd place, your wager will be paid off.
Five Horses to Bet On
Five horses compete during each race, with each horse labeled as either 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5, and each horse will have randomly generated odds attached. At the conclusion of each race, new odds will be posted for each of the five horses.
Each race spans approximately 90 seconds, so players can easily pack several wagers into a brief session.
With two-horse combinations needed, and five horses racing at a time, there are 10 available combinations to choose from before each race.
Players can wager as little as $0.25 at a time, and betting limits range between one and 20 coins per quinella bet.
Typical Sigma Derby Payouts
Although the odds attached to each quinella wager will constantly evolve, according to the game’s random number generator, a basic form of the pay table can be found below:
|1,2||5 for 1|
|1,3||39 for 1|
|1,4||200 for 1|
|1,5||19 for 1|
|2,3||4 for 1|
|2,4||20 for 1|
|2,5||2 for 1|
|3,4||160 for 1|
|3,5||15 for 1|
|4,5||79 for 1|
One aspect of Sigma Derby to keep in mind is that all payouts are listed on a “for one” basis, rather than the usual “to one” setup. This means that your wagers are always claimed by the house, with winners receiving the corresponding coin amount for their bet.
Thus, if you happened to wager $1.00 on the 1,5 quinella using the pay table above, you’d receive a total of $19.00 in return at 19 to 1 odds, rather than your wager back plus an additional $19.00.
Depending on the machine you happen to be playing, payouts can be issued immediately as coins (or voucher), or simply added back to the player’s credit total.
The Wizard of Odds has some additional details.
Best Casinos to Play Sigma Derby
As documented in this informative article written by Marc Meltzer for Covers.com, the game of Sigma Derby, like horse racing in the flesh, is a dying breed in 2016.
Following the closure of the New Frontier Hotel and Casino, only two casino properties in Las Vegas currently carry Sigma Derby: the MGM Grand on The Strip, and The D Las Vegas in Downtown.
Rare to Find
Outside of Sin City, industry experts believe that no more than 8 of the Sigma Derby machines are currently operational throughout the rest of the country.
Unfortunately, it’s far easier to locate stories about the game’s departure from local casinos, such as the MontBleu in South Lake Tahoe, than it is to pin down exact locations for the rest of these machines.
With that in mind, if you aren’t able to get to Las Vegas anytime soon, don’t hesitate to place a few phone calls to local casinos and ask for the table games manager. A little luck on your side and you just might find a diamond in the rough, so to speak, or one of the eight remaining Sigma Derby machines known to exist.
And if you do, be sure to visit your favorite casino games forum online and report the good news, as loyal Sigma horse racing game fans around America will be sure to take note. In the case that you don’t, feel free to browse the selection of games at our recommended online casinos.
Sigma Derby Strategy Considerations
Despite all of the bells and whistles attached to the Sigma Derby machine and the reliance on a horse racing construct, this game doesn’t include any legitimate strategic elements.
When it comes to this casino horse racing game, however, it is based entirely on the results of a random number generator, and every race will produce wholly independent results. During any given race, your odds of selecting the winning pair of first and second place horses will always fluctuate based on the game’s internal random number generator.
High House Edge
Furthermore, the payouts associated with each wager will always fall short of the true odds against, and usually by a wide margin. This creates extremely high house edges for this casino horse racing game, standing at 12.19 percent when playing at the MGM Grand, and a whopping 20.16 percent when playing at The D.
Judging by these house edge rates alone, the best strategy for Sigma Derby is to avoid playing the game at all. But even if you don’t mind gambling on a historical artifact once in a while, there is no way whatsoever of accurately predicting the outcome of each race, or placing winning wagers at the correct time.