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Best of John Grochowski

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A Shuffle through the Gaming Mailbag

29 July 2003

Q. Recently, you recommended an e-book by Steve Gibbs, which I ordered due to your glowing recommendation.

I found the material to be somewhat uninspiring and basically not really anything new. Also, after some disappointing results using roulette and blackjack strategies espoused in the writings, I decided to exercise the guarantee that came with the sale of the material.

To date, I have heard absolutely nothing and have no indication that the guarantee will be honored.

N.K., via e-mail

A. I had never heard of Steve Gibbs until receiving this e-mail, and have never recommended an e-book by anyone. Naturally, I wanted to know what was going on, so I did a Google search on my name and Steve Gibbs. I found a Web site that was posting columns by me as well as columns by Mark Pilarski of the Detroit News and Michael Shackelford of www.wizardofodds.com. Under each column was a heading that said "Recommended reading," along with copy touting this e-book.

There is no byline below the "Recommended logo," and it would be easy for the reader to assume the recommendation had come from the writer of the column above. Well, that recommendation didn't come from me, and Shackelford and the Detroit News say it didn't come from them, either. That the same recommendation was running under columns by different writers should tell you something.

I don't know whether the e-book is good, bad or indifferent. I've never read it and have never been asked to review it. I've almost gotten used to seeing my work show up on Web sites that I didn't even know existed--that seems to be a reality of the Internet age--but it irritates me no end that readers would be misled into thinking I've recommended a product I've never even seen.

Q. Please help. A buffet lunch rides on the outcome. My sister and I are having a disagreement over slot payoffs. She says that the boats used to let the players win more and that they have tightened up with dockside gaming. It's more convenient for people to go to the dockside boats, so she thinks they don't try as hard to bring people in with loose slots.

I think it's the opposite, that the slots pay the same, or maybe a little better than they used to. Can you tell us who's right?

Cynthia, via e-mail

A. The long-term trend at area casinos has been toward higher paybacks, when measured by machine denomination.

I have records of slot payback percentages that go back to the spring of 1994, when Empress, Harrah's Joliet and Hollywood in Aurora were the only three casinos operating in that area.

That March, payback percentages on quarter slots were 90.18 percent at Empress, 90.49 percent at Harrah's and 91.24 percent at Hollywood.

On dollars, Empress paid 94.47 percent, Harrah's paid 93.64 percent and Hollywood paid 95.18 percent.

Compare those numbers to the most recent figures available at the same casinos. This January, quarter slots paid 93.79 percent at Empress, 92.66 percent at Harrah's and 92.67 percent at Hollywood--a healthy leap forward at all three casinos. On dollar games this January, Empress paid 95 percent, Harrah's paid 94.35 percent and Hollywood paid 94.98 percent--small increases at Empress and Harrah's and a tiny decrease at Hollywood.

If you broke down payback percentages by denomination for periods of several months at a time, you would find higher paybacks today at virtually every denomination.

However, when all machines are lumped together, overall payback percentages are lower today than they were way back when. In that March 1994, report, Empress showed an overall payback percentages of 93.83 percent, while Harrah's returned 92.75 percent and Hollywood paid 94.19 percent. This January, payback percentages were 93.44 percent at Empress, 92.51 percent at Harrah's and 93.15 percent at Hollywood--lower than the March, 1994, numbers at every casino on the list.

How can that be? How can paybacks be higher than they used to be at every denomination, but be lower overall?

The reason is the rise of nickel and dime video slots. Back in 1994, the closest thing to video slots was video poker and there were no games in the area below the quarter denomination. Now Hollywood has 277 nickel games, Harrah's has 237 nickel games and 113 dimes and Empress has 296 nickels and 50 dimes. The highest-paying machines of the bunch are Empress' dime games, and they returned only 88.98 percent in January. The low-payers bring down the overall average.

So in a way your sister is right. Overall slot returns are lower than they used to be. But if you're playing the same denomination machines as you were in the old days, you're better off today.

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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski