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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

28 October 2008

Q. Are the current economic difficulties affecting the casinos at all? I still play about twice a month, and I still see good crowds when I go.

A. The news is mixed. In Las Vegas, gaming revenue declined 6.5% in the first seven months of 2008 compared to the same period last year. Decline in travel dollars, along with a decrease in available airline seats, is partially to blame, but some markets that cater to local players also have seen declines. This September, Illinois casinos posted $1.2 million in gaming revenue on 1,152,143 admissions, down from $1.7 million on 1.434,880 admissions in September 2007.

On the other hand, the American Gaming Association points out that revenues have increased this year in Iowa and Missouri, and a check of the Indiana Gaming Commission's monthly report for September shows that gaming revenue of $217.8 million was up from $211.2 million in September 2007, despite a decline in turnstile count from 2,281,390 to 2,016,467.

Aside from the ups and downs of attracting players, the casino industry also is facing problems with the current credit crunch, just as are other businesses. Boyd Gaming has had to put an indefinite hold on construction of its Echelon Place megaresort on the former Stardust site in Las Vegas, largely because of the inability of hotel partners to raise capital.

Not all casino construction has been derailed. At the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, Ind., work continues on the new 302-room hotel and 20,000-square foot event center, due to open early next year. Empress Casino in Joliet, Ill., also has construction plans, with a $50 million facelift underway.

Still, the short answer to your question of whether the economic downturn is affecting casinos is "yes."

Q. I just got back from Las Vegas, and had a good time playing a video poker game I hadn't seen before. It's called Quick Quads, and when you have three of a kind, and the other two cards add up to your three-of-a-kind card, you get a four-of-a-kind payoff. It was kind of fun, but is it a good game to play?

A. Like any other video poker game, it depends on the pay table. I first wrote about Quick Quads from the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas last November. It's a Triple Play/Five Play/Ten Play game in which you can play three, five or 10 hands at once. Activating the Quick Quads feature requires you to wager a sixth coin per line.

The extra coin is worth it, if the pay table is right. According to Michael Shackelford at wizardofodds.com, Quick Quads 9/6 Jacks or Better returns 99.6% with expert play, up from 99.5 on the basic version. Make the game 8-5 Bonus Poker, and it's 99.5% to experts, up from 99.2, and in 9/6 Double Double Bonus Poker, it's 99.6, up from 99.0. If you encounter lower pay tables, however, you're still better off with a higher pay table on a non-Quick Quads game.

There are some strategy quirks to watch out for. Dealt 8-8-7-5-3, keep in mind that 5 and 3 add up to 8, so hold 5-3 along with the pair of 8s for a shot at the quick quads. Also, a Bob Dancer article at http://www.casinogaming.com/columnists/dancer/2008/0909.html points out that you should always hold a kicker along with three of a kind. If you're dealt 8-8-8-5-K, hold the 5 along with the three 8s. Then you can complete four of a kind with the other 8 or with any of the four 3s in the deck.

Q. I was playing seven-card stud and had an unusual hand. Another player and I had identical flushes in different suits. I had A-J-9-5-4 of spades, and she had the same cards in hearts. The dealer split the pot between us. I thought I should win because spades is the higher-ranking suit. Should I have complained to management?

A. No, they got it right. In poker, suit rankings are not used to decide hand outcomes, though rankings can be used for play order in games such as seven-card stud, where players' face-up cards decide who must act first. The proper decision in case of identical flushes or straight flushes is to split the pot.

There are card games in which suits break ties — bridge, for one, owing to ancient tradition in which spades represent nobility, hearts are clergy, diamonds are merchants and clubs the peasantry. Poker's not one of them when it comes time to decide wins or losses.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski