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Enduring slot themes

13 September 2011

If you're a slot player, you know the drill. A hot new game catches your eye. You give it a try — and you like it. You like the game play, you like the bonus rounds, maybe you have a couple of pretty good wins. You seek out the game each time you go to the casino. You become old friends.

And then one day it's gone, replaced by some flashy new slot with new bells and whistles.

But some slot machines transcend that. They don't disappear in a few months, or even a few years. IGT's Double Diamond spins on and on and on. So does Wheel of Fortune, WMS' Monopoly, and Bally's Blazing 7s. If you've played slots, chances are you've experienced these themes in one or more of the variations and incarnations. I know I have.

DOUBLE DIAMOND, IGT: It was near the end of a day on a Chicago-area riverboat, and my brother Jay — who'd been sticking with quarter video poker — put some money in a $1, three-reel Double Diamond machine. "The first Double Diamond came up, then the second," he said afterward. "Now I'm thinking, just give me anything but a blank on that third reel, and I'm going home happy."

Even if he'd just gotten a single bar, he'd have gotten four times the payoff for three single bars. The first Double Diamond doubled the payoff once, and the second doubled it again. And what he actually got was the third Double Diamond, and the biggest payoff he's ever had in a casino.

Dinner was on him.

WHEEL OF FORTUNE, IGT: I was in McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, and a woman I'd met at a convention was playing a Wheel of Fortune progressive. "I don't know why I play here," she said. "Glutton for punishment, I guess."

She hadn't even finished her sentence, and the symbol worth a spin of the top-box wheel landed on the payline. "This is $40 every time I spin," she said, smiling and shaking her head.

Only this time it wasn't. The wheel stopped on a $250 space. And that brought a big smile.

"I'm going home a winner!" she said. And she cashed out.

MONOPOLY, WMS: Another story with my brother. We don't go to casinos a lot, but when we do, something memorable always seems to happen.

This one was in Las Vegas, in 1998 at the time of release of the first Monopoly slots. I needed to take a break and do a little work before lunch. Jay headed for a nickel Monopoly video slot and told me he'd meet me in about 45 minutes.

I got my work done, and 45 minutes passed. And an hour. And an hour and 15 minutes. No Jay. Cell phones at the time were huge, unwieldy things. I kept one in my car at home, but didn't have one with me. Neither did Jay. I had to go looking for him.

When I found him, a crowd was gathered 'round. "I know I was supposed to meet you, but I was NOT leaving this machine," he said.

He had buckets and buckets of nickels. "I've been to that board, what, eight times? Nine times?"

"At least that," an older woman in the crowd chimed in.

And it was another 15 minutes before things cooled down enough to drag him to lunch.

There have been dozens of games in the Monopoly series since. The versions with trips around the Monopoly board always bring back that Vegas memory.

BLAZING 7s, Bally: Talk about lasting popularity. Blazing 7s has been with us since the 1970s, when Bally Gaming (now Bally Technologies) was based in Chicago. It was developed as a rapid-hit jackpot game, with 7s symbols on fiery backgrounds and a volatility that has proved so appealing to players that Blazing 7s in various incarnations has remained a Bally staple through electro-mechanical games to reel-stepper slots with microprocessors to today's video slots.

It's not a big million-dollar progressive. The top jackpot starts at $1,000 on a dollar game. Big hits can be frequent. That's the appeal of the game.

I know it was appealing to me on a Las Vegas days when I was taking a hit on my usual games of choice, video poker and blackjack. I was down $400 almost before I knew it, and went for a walk. I spotted a Blazing 7s machine with a jackpot near $1,500, and slid $50 into the bill validator.

I didn't win the progressive, but I did hit three double Blazing 7s. That was worth $500. I was starting fresh.

OK, things don't often work out that neatly. But on that day, was I glad some slots hold on year after year, decade after decade? You bet.

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