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Best of John Grochowski

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First-time casino stories

10 June 2008

A few weeks ago, I wrote of my first casino trip and things that kept me coming back. I invited readers to tell their stories — and it seems everybody has one. So many have responded that I'm going share a few tales this week and next.

Diane: When I was graduating high school in 1969 my parents asked me if I wanted to go to Vegas for two weeks with my sister and brothers as a gift. We stayed at the Westward Ho. They had 11 swimming pools — small pools but one for every section of rooms. In front of the Westward Ho was 'Nikel Niks.' If you had a fun book coupon you could get five free nickels so you could try your luck on one of their slots.

We did a lot of sight-seeing during the day but at night my sister, only 16, was in charge of my brothers while my parents and I went to the casinos. Being female and dressed up, no one questioned my age, so one night I decided to venture around on my own. We were at the Dunes and my parents were playing poker. I walked around and stopped curiously at a blackjack table where a friendly dealer asked if I wanted to play. I said, "Yes." With brief instructions and rules I pulled out my first (of many since) $20 bills. I was handed a stack of REAL SILVER DOLLARS! I instantly was a 'big shot' and very, very hooked.

Las Vegas then was glamorous, exciting, fun, small and intimate. Dealers and pit bosses learned your name and treated you like a queen or king. There were no comp tickets back then, the pit boss personally escorted you to the restaurant where he told the hostess "give them anything they want." It wasn't even a surprise at 4:30 a.m. when you saw Lucille Ball at the Dunes shooting craps or you shared a $2 blackjack table at the Flamingo with Sonny Bono (wearing a messy T-shirt), or chasing down Wayne Newton for an autograph. Yes, my first trip to Vegas was very, very memorable.

Nancy: Our first trip was up to Casino Windsor, in the old casino and riverboat. My husband had his only other experience in Vietnam playing some shady slots off base.

We drove and took $150 apiece and it was like pure gold: Everything we played, we hit. We hit two jackpots that evening, one for $1,000 and another for $1,800. We were ecstatic. After playing all night long we came home with a whopping $3,200!

My husband said this was "easy money" and we were going to go again and again. Well, it was a hard learned lesson in gambling. There is no such thing as "easy money," we just had the luck of one lucky whim.

We found out the hard way about how not having the maximum coin in some machines makes you lose out on big jackpots (those hurt the worst). You have got to read a machine before playing it to know what it will or won't pay out or get bitten. We learned from some good software programs how to play video poker without errors and have come away with many royals.

Many, many years later, we are now so savvy in knowing which casino is offering the best comps, days to play, we give advice friends on how to get the most comps for your play.

William: Our first trip to Las Vegas was on Labor Day weekend of 1987. My wife and I met my parents and they took us from one casino to the next. We did our best to preserve our small gambling bankroll by playing mostly nickel slots. I discovered video poker at Vegas World and got a royal. We now play video poker almost exclusively. We were hooked forever.

In 1988, we went on vacation to California and then to Las Vegas. While we were arriving in Las Vegas, we were driving to the Stardust and saw fire trucks at the Sands entrance. Once we had checked in, we walked to the Sands to see what was going on (small fire on the second floor). We used coupons for the free coffee mug and got $2 each in free cash. We started taking turns putting dollars into a video poker machine and turned it into somewhere around $35 (this was huge for us).

On our next trip we went back to Sands to see if lightning would strike again. Sure enough, it did. We were betting 1 to 3 dollars at a time and were doing pretty well. We hit a straight flush and then began putting in 3 to 5 dollars and in about 30 minutes we had a ROYAL dealt with a $5 bet for a $4,000 payoff. We go to many other gambling venues, but nothing else is even close to the experience we had and continue to have in Las Vegas.

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