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Best of John Grochowski

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Harrah's Joliet Hotel Gets a Running Start

23 March 2000

Playing in casinos in the Chicago area is a night-out type of experience. We don't have glitzy destination resorts, we have casinos that cater to local customers. To draw a comparison to Las Vegas, this isn't the Strip, it's Boulder Hwy., except without the single-deck blackjack and 100 percent video poker.

That doesn't mean a nice hotel can't be part of the package as casinos reach out to broaden their base. Even for customers who live in the area, the casino hotels can be fun overnight getaways. With the package of a nice room, good food and a little gambling, I've had great stays at Empress Joliet and Par-A-Dice in East Peoria.

The latest to open is Harrah's Joliet, where my wife and I tried the new hotel during opening week. And despite a few first-week glitches, we give it a thumbs up.

A Harrah's spokesman told me after our stay that they were striving for Four Seasons-level service. And we could tell everyone was trying really hard, even if all systems were not yet go. An example: There was no TV remote in the room. A call to the front desk brought someone running in far less time than your typical hopper fill. Problem was, the remote didn't work. A second call brought a second remote, and someone waited while we found that didn't work, either. That brought a whole team up to inspect the situation, and they discovered the television had not yet been programmed to work with a remote.

Effort and personal service? Give them an A-plus. Actual results? Well, it was opening week.

One really nice facet of the Harrah's operation is that the hotel is right there at the casino pavilion. No shuttles or walks across a parking lot are necessary to get to the casino. Get off the elevator, walk past the front desk and you're within sight of the restaurants and the boarding ramp.

Even during opening week, our night at Harrah's was a really nice getaway. Once all systems are in place, it should be first-rate.

ALL THAT AND DINNER TOO: During our stay at Harrah's hotel, we dined at Van Buren's, the high-end restaurant that has replaced The Range steak house.

The Range was a beef-eater's place, not designed to compete with fancier fare at Empress Joliet's Alexandria or Hollywood's Cafe Harlow. Van Buren's takes matters up-market in selection and quality. (The rack of lamb, by the way, was outstanding.)

Van Buren's is pricier than The Range, too. My wife and I had no trouble running up a bill in excess of $100, and we drank no alcohol and skipped dessert. No matter. I doubt most diners will pay full price. If they're not premium players on a full comp, many will at least make a dent in the bill with Total Gold rewards.

Comp or no comp, it's hard to argue with good food and good service, and we got just that at Van Buren's.

TEN PLAY POKER: I'd received word via e-mail from local analyst Howard Stern that both Harrah's and Empress Joliet had added Five Play Poker and Ten Play Poker, on which we can play five or 10 hands at once. I like Ten Play even better than Triple Play, provided the pay tables are decent. I was disappointed then to find the pay tables on quarter machines at Harrah's were no better than on Triple Play machines.

Harrah's has 9-6 Jacks or Better on $1 Triple Play machines, but lowers the pay table to 8-6 on quarter Triple Plays. Five Play and Ten Play have the same 8-6 pay table, meaning full houses pay 8-for-1 and flushes 6-for-1.

The maximum bet of $12.50 a hand on quarter Ten Play nearly matches the $15 on dollar Triple Play. With 9-6 Jacks or Better returning 99.5 percent with expert play and the 8-6 version paying only 98.5, the slightly larger bet on dollar Triple Play actually results in lower long-term expected losses than the Ten Play wager.

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