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Best of John Grochowski

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Conflicting Progressive Meters

11 October 2005

Suppose you're playing a slot or video poker machine with a progressive jackpot, a jackpot monitored by three different meters. One meter shows the jackpot standing at a little over $1,200. Another makes it $1,345. And the third puts the reward for a big hit at $1,496.

If you win, which amount do you suppose the casino pays?

That's just the situation I was in during the second week of September. I was in town for the annual Global Gaming Expo, and you'll be reading reports on what's new and cool in the casino industry over the next several weeks. But there was a little time for play, too, so I sat down to risk a few quarters at 8-5 Bonus Poker. I was at the Stardust, sitting with my back to the Royal Bar, in a row of games that were linked with the bartops to a progressive meter.

With expert play, 8-5 Bonus Poker returns 99.2 percent in the long run, and the progressive jackpot amounts were large enough to push that percentage past 100, leaving what analysts call a "positive expectation game." The spade royal hadn't been hit in a while, and its jackpot was more than $2,900. A heart royal would bring around $1,500, diamonds were just past the reset value of $1,000. And according to the display on my machine, a royal in clubs would bring more than $1,340.

I'd been playing for about half an hour when it happened. I was dealt a straight --- Ace, Queen, Jack and 10 of clubs and a King hearts.

I held the four clubs, discarded the King and hoped for the best. Up popped the King of clubs. Jackpot -- $1,344.54, according to my machine.

Slot attendant Barbara Czeczok was over quickly to congratulate me, and take my ID to start paperwork on my tax form, required since the payoff was more than $1,200. In a few minutes, she was back to look at my machine. It seems the computer in back was showing a smaller jackpot, something over $1,200.

When she came back with the paperwork, another slot employee, Cris Perez, was with her. Perez noticed that behind the bar, a wall display had the amount at $1,495.97. She called for a technician. They had to make sure that when the jackpot reset after I was paid, everything was back in sync.

The Stardust had a technical glitch. Did I have a problem?

Far from it. Czeczok walked over to tell me, "I want you to know that, by law, they have to pay you the highest jackpot displayed. You'll get $1,496."

Wonderful. I made an extra $150 above what I expected just by sitting there and letting the slot team do its stuff. They were cheerful, friendly and efficient, and I was $1,496 richer. Can't beat that.

***

The Stardust is a Boyd Gaming property, a company we in the Midwest know from Par-A-Dice in East Peoria and Blue Chip in Michigan City, Ind. It's one of the few 1950s-era casinos remaining on the Strip, and it still has that old Vegas feel, from its table games layout to its classy William B's Steak House to the Wayne Newton showroom. Old Vegas keeps giving way to New Vegas, though, and plans are on the board for a new megaresort. You can expect an implosion near the north end of the Strip within the next couple of years.

Boyd owns several other properties in Las Vegas, and I made a point of going to downtown Las Vegas for lunch the day before the expo. I love the Hawaiian foods they serve at the California and Main Street Station. Not only do I know I'll find some good kalua pork and cabbage there --- and I did --- but they do some interesting things with video poker.

The California caters to Hawaiians and does nice business in tourists from the islands. While there, I found myself playing the nicely themed Diamond Head Bonus Poker, 8-5 Bonus Poker with an extra. It's not just the Hawaiian scene on the glass that carries the theme. A royal flush in diamonds in sequence either from 10 through Ace or Ace through 10 brings a $25,000 bonanza instead of the usual $1,000 on a quarter game. That doesn't add a lot of value to the game --- just 1 in 240 royals will be in diamonds in reversible sequence. The added value is in the theme.

Across the way at Main Street Station, I revisited one of the best long-running promotions in casinos anywhere. Any time you draw four of a kind at video poker, you hit the "Change" button to summon an attendant, and you're given a scratch-off card for a little bonus cash. I sat down to play 10-7 Double Bonus Poker. It's a treat just to play the game, which returns 100.17 percent with expert play, too high for regulatory approval in most Midwestern states.

I drew two sets of quads during my session, and got one card worth $5 and another worth $2. A good game, and a great bonus --- it rarely gets better than this for a video poker player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com

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