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Best of John Grochowski

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A Shuffle through the Gaming Mailbag

21 January 2003

Q. Now that Mayor Daley has changed positions again and says he wants a casino for Chicago, what do you think? Is a casino in Chicago owned by the city and state a good idea?

A.A., via e-mail

A. I rather suspect that the currently open license will go to a suburban site--Des Plaines, perhaps?--and that adding a casino for Chicago will take an act of the state Legislature to increase the number of available licenses.

That's probably just as well. A single Chicago casino with the legal limit of 1,200 gaming positions would be a minnow in Lake Michigan, and multiple casinos or more gaming positions would require changes in Illinois law.

There is little doubt that a Chicago casino, or even several Chicago casinos, could be extremely successful. The bigger question is whether the casino or casinos should be city/state-owned. In that matter, I have serious reservations, starting with the question of regulatory responsibility.

If the city and state own the casino, and the state regulates the casino, isn't that a gigantic conflict of interest? Do I want to play in a casino where the same body that owns the joint also is responsible for making sure the slot programs are random, that the roulette wheel is in balance or that card games are being played with a full deck? No, I do not.

There are other potential problems. Building and outfitting a casino requires large capital expenditures, and while a Chicago casino is likely to succeed, the risk is not zero. Casinos have failed. And forcing existing casinos, whose largest expense is the state gaming tax, to compete against a city/state-owned operation tilts the odds pretty heavily,

Still, it's the regulatory issue that makes my stomach queasy. The potential for abuse is enormous when the owners and regulators are part of the same overall body. It's a conflict of interest Illinois should avoid.

Q. I am new to the gambling world due to a recent retirement. I have heard there are systems to help you win at the slot machines. If this is true, are there any you could recommend?

R.R., via e-mail

A. With rare exceptions, slot machines are not beatable games. I've never seen a system that was worth the paper it was printed on, let alone the cost to buy it.

Some bonusing games have points at which the edge swings slightly to the player. For example, if you're playing dollar Piggy Bankin' machines and the "bank" shows more than $20, there is a slight player edge.

Most bonus games offer no player edge. If you're interested in seeking out the rare few, I'd suggest Charles Lund's book, Robbing the One-Armed Bandits. Most players would be better off with a good basic book on how slots work, such as Frank Scoblete's Break the One-Armed Bandits or my own Slot Machine Answer Book.

As for systems that claim to beat the slots with money management schemes and such, don't waste your money.

Q. I just returned from Treasure Island in Las Vegas and encountered a puzzle when selecting a machine for some $1 Jacks or Better action. They had a row of 8-5 games with a progressive payout for royal flushes that was at the $5,400 level. Just across the aisle were 9-6 games with a fixed $4,000 payoff for the royal.

The gentleman next to me said you're better off at a 9-6 machine until the progressive got to the $8,000 level. Is this correct?

J.S., via e-mail

A. Each 1,000 coins added to a royal flush adds about one-half percent to the overall payback percentage. At $4,000 for a royal, 9-6 Jacks or Better returns 99.5 percent with expert play, while 8-5 Jacks returns 97.3 percent. If the royal gets to $8,000, that adds about 2 percent, so 8-5 Jacks then would approach the point where it's as good as the 9-6 version.

Keep in mind that those payback percentages are with expert play over the long haul. In the short term, you can do much better, or much worse. And if the progressive jackpot is large enough to make the 8-5 game about as good a percentage play as 9-6 Jacks or Better, that doesn't necessarily mean it's the game you should choose. It's just as important to know what you want out of the game. The higher payoffs on the more frequently occurring full houses and flushes make 9-6 Jacks more of an even-keel game. You can lose your money a lot faster on the 8-5 game. The tradeoff is that if you get lucky and hit a royal on the progressive game, you're walking away with a much bigger jackpot.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

The Video Poker Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Casino Answer Book by John Grochowski
Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison
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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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