Most people can easily recognize the traditional games one might find in a casino. Walk in almost any casino in the world, and a few games stand out – slot machines, blackjack tables, the craps pit, baccarat, and more.

These are certainly some of the most popular options and many of these games trace their history back centuries. But some regions of the world, casinos, and cultures also offer some more unique gambling options that might not be found in every casino on the Vegas Strip or in a high-end Monte Carlo casino. Here’s a look at some unique gaming options from around the world.

1 – Pachinko

Most forms of gambling are illegal in Japan with just a few exceptions. Pachinko is one of those and these highly popular mechanical games offer some low-stakes wagering options for gamblers across the country. The games might be seen as similar to slot machines in a traditional casino.

Pachinko parlors can be found throughout Japan and the games resemble a vertical pinball machine where players make use of small metal balls. Players pull a lever that launches a ball up to the top of the machine. The ball then bounces around until it falls down the face of the machine. The goal is to land balls into receptacles along the way that can award more of the balls.

The metal balls are similar to tokens in older-style slots. The goal is to collect as many balls as possible. While it’s not technically legal to exchange the balls for real money, players can seek out a vendor off site and exchange them for cash. These vendors then exchange the balls back with the Pachinko parlor for cash themselves with a commission for the effort.

A round of Pachinko is similar to the “Plinko” game on the American game show The Price is Right. Pachinko was invented in the 1920s and was originally geared toward children. However, adults soon took to the game and the first commercial parlor opened in 1948. The game now represents an industry worth billions of dollars a year.

“Each year, Japanese gamblers spend $200 billion on vertical pinball-like slot machines called Pachinko,” Business Insider notes. “That's 30 times the annual gambling revenue of Las Vegas, double Japan's export car industry, and more than New Zealand’s entire GDP.”

Like slot machines, the games were originally based all on mechanical inner workings. However, newer machines feature more electronic components making the games more similar to video slots. Today’s Pachinko parlors look similar to casinos with gamblers shooting ball after ball on the machines with hopes of a nice payout.

2 – Chicken Challenge

In 2002, the Tropicana in Las Vegas unveiled a unique game quite different from traditional casino games. The property introduced the Chicken Challenge in 2002, which had gamblers squaring off against an actual chicken in a game of Tic-Tac-Toe. The launch came after the game brought some earlier success in Atlantic City.

Members of the Tropicana’s players club were given one game per day against the chicken, known as Ginger. Players used a touchscreen to mark their own selections as Ginger pecked her moves inside the game. The Chicken Dance song even played as gamblers made their selections.

The game was quite an attraction, with many players bringing their best skills in to try and outwit the chicken. But Ginger was no bird brain and left most casino guests walking away a loser and perhaps in a “fowl” mood. Those handing Ginger a loss had a chance at winning $10,000, so casino management apparently knew that this bird indeed had plenty of brains.

The Chicken Challenge has been featured in numerous casinos and the Las Vegas Advisor offered the complete history of the game in 2021.

“Patriarch Bunky Boger, a former rodeo clown, first started running the chicken tic-tac-toe game at county and state fairs around the South, charging 25 cents per game,” the Advisor noted. “Evidently, some casino marketer must have discovered it; at its peak in the early 2000s, Boger was earning $4,000 a week leasing chickens to casinos. He never revealed his training secrets, but was quoted as saying that it took several months and included a special diet. He also said that he was working on a chicken that dealt blackjack (though we assume he was pulling the leg of that particular interviewer, who of course reported it as fact).”

3 – Catch a Wave

Some casino games require players to have a bit of a deeper knowledge of the rules when playing, such as craps or blackjack, while others require a lot less of players. Catch a Wave seems to fall in the latter category.
This is a card game that featured eight decks and found its way into a few casinos in the early 2000s, notably Foxwoods in Connecticut. Players were required to guess whether the upcoming card would be higher or lower than the previous card. The game plays similar to the 1980s game show Card Sharks, in which contestants went through a similar process for a chance to win some cash.

The casino version of course includes some twists. The gameplay involved the player against the dealer much like blackjack or baccarat. Six straight  correct picks paid out 6 to 1, while an incorrect pick sent the bet to the house.

The dealer also made selections and predetermined rules limited his drawing possibilities and play. Payouts are based on varying draws and selection, but the general theme is that players are selecting whether one card is higher or lower than the previous card.

4 – Silver Strike slot machines

While this game isn’t exactly unique, these classic games are known for some of their unique payouts. The classic coin-based games date back to the early 1990s and offered a bit of something different for gamblers who found a nice spin of the reels.

As the name implies, the Silver Strike slots not only dispensed coins or slot tokens to winners, but coils also dish out a collectible silver coin to winners as well. Finding the machines isn’t easy but the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas introduced a pair of the games in 2020, although they no longer use coins and have been completely refurbished.

The Plaza Silver Strikes award special $10 silver-clad coins that give players an option: hand on to that piece of silver as a collector’s item or trade them in for cash. The silver coins have become a bit of sought-after item among those who enjoy gambling on vintage machines.

Those who can’t get to the Plaza – or strike out – can head to the Internet, where plenty are on sale for casino memorabilia collectors. Here’s a look at a winning spin:

5 – Pica Horse Racing

While this isn’t usually found in a casino, Pica Horse Racing is found throughout the island of Puerto Rico at fairs, festivals, cantinas, and other events. The gambling game has been around for decades and brings the excitement of horse racing and wagering to small towns throughout the island.

Pica Machine

Image by: Sean Chaffin

Gamblers will quickly realize that the game is a bit similar to roulette. But instead of a white marble rolling around a wheel, Pica has a wild setup that offers plenty of fun. A wooden and metal machine featuring 24 horses is positioned behind a corresponding table with a grid of all 24 numbered horses.

The wooden horses are usually intricately carved and painted like small works of art. Each is attached to a small metal dowel that carries them 360 degrees around the top surface of the machine.

Pica wagering is fast and furious – and all cash – as bettors select (or “pica” horse) an individual number and get paid 20-1 for selecting a winner. Other wagers include placing a buck or two on an intersection of four numbered squares, thus claiming four horses. Odds differ on various bets.

After all wagers are made, the piquero cranks a handle, sending the horses spinning around the tabletop. Gears built inside the machine ensure a slow conclusion to the race with plenty of excitement. Onlookers must wait until the very last row of horses creeps to a stop.

The horse closest to the line without going past is declared  the winner. The piquero then collects the bets and pays out the winners. The “picking” then starts all over again.

6 – Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel

A dreidel is similar to a top and a popular toy among Jewish children during Hanukkah. And while not necessarily found in casinos, some have taken to incorporating some traditional style gambling when giving that dreidel a spin.

A dreidel features four sides, each with a Hebrew letter inscribed. These include nun, gimel, hey (or chai), and shin. Players begin with the same number of game pieces or chips, adding one to the pot at the beginning of each round. 

A player then spins the dreidel once with the outcome determined by how the dreidel falls. “Nun” means “nothing” and the next player spins. “Gimmel” means “everything” and the player wins the whole pot. “Hey” (half) rewards the player with half the pot, and “Shin” (put in) commands the player add another chip to the pot.

Obviously the game wasn’t meant for casino style gambling, but has been embraced by some nonetheless as the video below shows. As casinos look to add more gaming options, perhaps a dreidel-style game might be a good idea.

7 – Card Craps

Gamblers heading to the craps tables in some tribal casinos may be surprised at the action when dropping a few dollars on the Pass Line. There are no dice at some properties and dealers instead shuffle some cards and draw a couple out to determine the “roll” of what might have been dice at another casino.

Why playing cards and not a set of normal dice? Some tribal properties, such as in California and Oklahoma, fall under certain regulations where only card games are allowed but not traditional dice games. To skirt this rule, casinos introduced cards to the table instead.

Some properties have players selecting two cards from a complete 52 deck with a certain combination matching up to a roll of the dice. Other casinos have a player drawing only one card from a select number with values on each card.

Those who have played Card Craps may notice quite a different vibe at the table. Part of the game’s fun is cheering along with fellow players as those dice tumble down the table and hopefully hit the point number.

Craps using cards is much more subdued however. There is no throwing of the dice, no tumbling down the felt – simply a selection and turn of the cards. Part of the game’s mystery and action is removed when simply using paper rather than dice. But when you’re looking for some craps and there aren’t any other options, drawing a card for that point number isn’t so bad.

8 – Pinball Roulette

This is a game found at some online casinos where, as the name implies, pinball is combined with the traditional casino game of roulette. The game featured a ball as on any traditional roulette wheel, but instead of a croupier spinning the wheel around the wheel, the player pulls a hammer that sends the ball high above an unorthodox roulette setup.

Similar to Pachinko (see above), the ball bounces around among several obstacles as gravity pulls it toward the bottom of the gaming area. Along the bottom are a horizontal row of black and red colored numbers just like in a traditional roulette game. The ball eventually lands in one of the numbered slots along the bottom. If you have that number or color, then you’re a winner.

The game is fairly obscure but is a unique twist on a casino classic. Older similar games with real mechanical workings also exist, some with a round center featuring numbers and the ball launched and then falling in the circular area before coming to a stop.

More modern versions come across more as a traditional roulette game with the player simply launching the ball and not the “bumper” experience of the pinball version. Either way, you still have to pick a winner.

Sean Chaffin is a freelance writer in Crandall, Texas. His work appears in numerous websites and publications. Follow him on Twitter @PokerTraditions. He is also the host of the True Gambling Stories podcast, available on iTunes, Google Play, TuneIn Radio, Spotify, Stitcher,,, and other platforms.