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Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

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Chicago-Area Video Poker

20 November 2007

Q. I'm about to lose my upper tier status on my player rewards card, and I think it's just because I've been in a losing streak. I go back and forth between quarter and dollar video poker. My budget is the same as it always was, but the money just doesn't seem to go as far. Is this just chance, or do you think there's something wrong with the machines?

A. You don't say where you play or what games you're playing, so I can't give a definitive answer. But since you gave a suburban Chicago address, I can tell you that video poker in the Chicago area has gotten A LOT tougher in the last couple of years.

It used to be that quarter video poker players could find games with 99 percent or better paybacks with expert play at Majestic Star and Trump (now Majestic Star II) in Gary, Empress in Joliet, Resorts in East Chicago and Blue Chip in Michigan City. All have pulled back --- hard. Not only is virtually every 99-percenter gone at the 25-cent level, most have dipped below the 98s, to where it takes expert play to get even 97 percent on most quarter games.

What you're experiencing with money not lasting as long may be a direct effect of those pay table cuts. When casinos trim pay tables to squeeze a little extra out of a game, the payoffs they usually cut are those on full houses and flushes. A Jacks or Better game that returns only 8-for-1 on full houses and 5-for-1 on flushes brings payoffs worth about 13 fewer hand per hour than one that pays 9-for-1 on full houses and 6-for-1 on flushes. If you're going to play, money for those hands has to come from somewhere, and that somewhere is your wallet.

If you're going to stay within your budget, lower pay tables mean less playing time, and that will affect your cash back, comps and tier score on your player rewards card.

With the cutbacks at casinos closer to the city, the best bet for quarter video poker within hailing distance of Chicago is Four Winds in New Buffalo, Mich. The good games aren't on every machine, so you'll have to look around, but Four Winds does have 9-7-5 Double Bonus Poker (99.1 percent with expert play) and 9-6 Double Double Bonus (99.0) at quarter, $1 and $2 levels. It also has "Not So Ugly" Deuces Wild (99.7) and 9-6 Jacks or Better (99.5) on $1 and $2 games.

At the $1 and up level, there is still some solid video poker nearer to Chicago. Harrah's in Joliet has 9-6 Double Double Bonus with a progressive jackpot. Blue Chip has $1 9-6 Jacks or Better, 9-7-5 Double Bonus and 8-5 Bonus Poker (99.2). At Hollywood in Aurora, you'll find $1 Not So Ugly Deuces and 9-6 Jacks or Better. Grand Victoria in Elgin offers those same games. Grand Victoria also has 9-6 Jacks or Better on Multi Strike Poker games from quarters on up. Since you're betting 20 coins at a time, that's not the same bargain as finding 9-6 Jacks on a single-line game, but a nice find nonetheless.

Most Chicago area casinos also offer 99-percenters on dollar and up multihand games, but the max bets on dollar Triple Play/Five Play/Ten Play are a little rich for my blood.

Bottom line: If you're a dollar video poker player, there's still plenty to like around Chicago. For quarter players, you're better off making fewer trips to casinos a little farther afield. Make a day trip to Four Winds, or to Casino Rock Island, which has quarter full-pay 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker and a great player rewards program. Or maybe you'd prefer to save your gambling dollars for a trip to Las Vegas, where there's still plenty of great video poker at the off-Strip joints.

I like quarter video poker myself if I can find games that give me a chance. Of late, that means I play a lot less when I make my casino rounds.

Q. Are there any video poker machines in Detroit or Windsor paying 9-1 for a full house and 6-1 for a flush?

A. Greektown is the best video poker house in Detroit. It does have 9-6 Jacks or Better in the 25-cent, 50-cent and $1 denominations. Check the different games in multi-game machines before you play.

There are other good games. Quarter players can also look for Bonus Deuces Wild (99.5) with a progressive jackpot on royal flushes. A bank of $1 progressives includes both Not So Ugly Deuces and 9-6 Jacks or Better. And Greektown has Pick'em Poker (99.9) from quarters on up through $25 denominations. That's a nice collection, with some rock solid options for quarter and dollar players alike.

OFF THE AIR: After a run of a year and half, my "Casino Answer Man" show is no longer airing on WCKG-FM in Chicago, due to a change in formats at the station. Thanks to all who listened, and especially those who phoned in with comments and questions. I continue to be on the air with my one-minute tips weekends on WBBM-AM.

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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> 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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski