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Best of John Grochowski

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An evening in Par-A-Dice

23 September 2008

Keeping an eye on the gaming industry takes me to some of the biggest, busiest casinos in the United States. I'd say in the world, but these days it's tough to beat Macau resorts for big and busy, and that's a trip I have yet to make.

Each year, though, I reserve time for an overnight stay in a place I know is relaxed and friendly — the Par-A-Dice casino in East Peoria, Ill. Leaving from a family party in the southwest Chicago suburb of Woodridge, it took me a couple of hours to get to Par-A-Dice. There, I knew I'd find some "Illinois" Deuces Wild video poker, some of the latest slot machines and a chance to catch up with slot director Tammy Couchman.

"You just missed our Happy Days party," she said as we met at the buffet for lunch.

Boyd Gaming, which includes Par-A-Dice, the Blue Chip casino in Michigan City, Ind., and a number of properties in Las Vegas and in the South, has a 90-day exclusive on the WMS Gaming's new Happy Days slots, based on the hit 1970s-'80s TV sitcom.

"The guests had so much fun," Couchman said. "We wore poodle skirts and saddle shoes, and gave away popcorn and yoyos. The guys had leather jackets. There was a DJ playing '50s music. We had Hula Hoops — I don't remember the last time I used a Hula Hoop. I'm surprised I could still do it."

It all sounded like fun, and I was sorry I missed it, but at least I could get a grand tour of the slot floor to see what was new in the last year. Par-A-Dice has 1,129 electronic gaming devices, including slot machines, video poker and video keno, and stays right on top of the latest market trends.

That includes plenty of penny games — 478 of them the most in Illinois. The Penny Lane room that was so innovative when Par-A-Dice introduced it a few years ago remains, but now pennies have spread well out onto the main slot floor.

"Pennies are the hot games," Couchman said, noting that the other category that has seen a big increase in recent years are progressive slots. A look around Par-A-Dice certainly finds plenty of progressives, such as the 2-cent Fort Knox multilevel progressives from IGT.

Bally Technologies' new-look games have impressed Couchman along with the rest of the gaming industry, and machines including wide-screen Cinevision Game Makers catch the eye. Blazing 7s, a Bally standby since the 1970s, is present with a spruced-up look on dollar games, while quarter Blazing 7s progressives remain one of Par-A-Dice's best performing quarter games.

One bank of games has WMS Gaming's Goldfish and is Sensory Immersion series Wizard of Oz games. Both are popular, along with WMS Transmissive Reels games including John Wayne and Monopoly Super Money Grab.

Among all that was new, I went for a little something old when I sat down to play. The Deuces Wild pay table nicknamed "Illinois Deuces" by the late Lenny Frome because it rose to popularity at Par-A-Dice in the early 1990s. It's still there, still paying 98.9% with expert play. Not a beatable game, but a decent return once you include comps and cash back. At time to relax, that remains my little bit of Par-A-Dice.

**** ****

Deuces Wild video poker machines don't come with names such as Illinois Deuces, full-pay Deuces or Not So Ugly Deuces on the machine graphics. They just say Deuces Wild. The nicknames were given to the games by players looking to differentiate with something other than numbers.

Illinois Deuces Wild, such as I played at Par-A-Dice, refers to a specific pay table — games that pay 250-for-1 on a natural royal (rising to 4,000 coins with a five-coin wager), 200-for-1 on four 2s, 25-for-1 on a royal with wild cards, 15-for-1 on five of a kind, 9-for-1 on a straight flush, 4-for-1 on four of a kind, 4-for-1 on a full house, 3-for-1 on a flush, 2-for-1 on a straight and 1-for-1 on three of a kind.

The two payoffs that make the most difference in adjusting strategy are the 4-for-1 on a full house and the 3-for-1 on a flush.

Full-pay Deuces Wild pays only 3-for-1 on a full house, but raises to 5-for-1 on four of a kind. With that pay table, if we're dealt two pairs, the best play is to hold only one pair, yielding a shot at four of a kind. In Illinois Deuces, where a full house is worth as much as a flush, we hold both pairs.

Many video poker games pay just 2-for-1 on flushes. With the bigger flush payoff in Illinois Deuces, we try to maximize flush opportunities. Dealt 3-5-9-A of hearts and a 9 of spades, for example, in Illinois Deuces we hold all four hearts and discard the other 9. In games that pay just 2-for-1 on flushes, we hold the pair instead.

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