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Harrah's Video Poker Millionaire Maker

14 June 2005

Harrah's has been making millionaires out of slot players for a decade, having launched its national Millionaire Maker slot tournament in 1995.

But for video poker players, the chance at the really big bucks is a new experience. And in March, when 198 qualifiers from 23 Harrah's casinos across the nation gathered in Atlantic City for the first Video Poker Millionaire Maker finals, it was a Buffalo Grove, Ill., man who showed the field when to hold 'em.

"My wife and I have played video poker for many many years," says Dennis Zucker, 65, the retired owner of the Niles Color Center flooring and paint store that's now run by his son. "What cards you hold makes a difference, but it's basically how lucky you get. When you get four Aces with a kicker, or four Aces with no kicker, there's a lot of luck involved.

"We play on a computer at home, and we can play 50 lines (as in Fifty Play Poker). Sometimes you're dealt three Aces and don't get the fourth even once on 50 lines. There's a certain amount of skill in what you hold, but sometimes it's just fate."

The game throughout the tournament was Double Double Bonus Poker, and Zucker's luck came up Aces both in the qualifying tournament at Harrah's Joliet and in the two-round finals in Atlantic City.

"In Joliet, in the two sessions, I had four 4s with the kicker (an Ace, 2 or 3) for 800 credits, and then I had four 4s with no kicker for 400."

That helped boost him to a top-10 finish in Joliet, good enough to send him to Atlantic City for a chance at the $1 million top prize. There, the cards got even better.

"My second or third turn, I got four Aces with a kicker (2, 3 or 4) for 2,000, then 10 turns later I got four Aces with a kicker again for another 2,000. Later on I got four Aces without the kicker for 800.

"My second round, I didn't do too well."

Still, between the two rounds, Zucker had amassed 6,405 points. That figured to put him in the running.

"I figured I was in the top five, but I didn't know," he remembers. "After dinner, they called me with the top five to go up, but they didn't call us in any kind of order. One gentleman up there thought he won, but I had 25 credits more than him. I knew right away then that I'd won. Two of the top five had 3,000 and change.

"I called my son and told him I won, and he didn't believe me."

What to do with the windfall? Plans already are in the works.

"I want to make sure my grandchildren are taken care of," says Zucker, who along with wife Gloria has one son and two grandchildren. "That's the main thing."

Harrah's Joliet made sure Zucker was taken care of every step of the way toward his million. "They've been very, very nice to us at Harrah's," he says. "Amy, our senior host in Joliet, was with us, and she was just fantastic. When we got to Atlantic City, they had screwed up our credit line, but I have to hand it to her, she made sure it was straightened out. She made sure I was on time to my sessions."

On time, and with the right timing to become Harrah's first video poker millionaire.

DOUBLE DOUBLE BONUS TIPS: You can't make the big hands come up at the right time to insure a tournament win, but for everyday play, Double Double Bonus Poker is a game with a few little quirks.

For one thing, with five coins wagered, the 2,000-coin jackpot on four Aces with the low card kicker places a premium on holding Aces. Dealt two pair, including a pair of Aces, in Jacks or Better, Bonus Poker or the 10-7 version of Double Bonus Poker, we'll hold both pairs and take our 1 in 11.75 chance at a full house. But on all Double Double Bonus pay tables, we'll discard the lower pair and hold just the Aces, hoping for the big bonanza.

Along the same line, dealt a full house that includes three Aces, we'll hold just the Aces and discard the pair --- something we also do in Double Bonus Poker.

We don't go so far as to hold a low-card kicker with three Aces. Dealt three Aces, a 5 and a 2, for example, the temptation is there to hold the deuce along with the Aces so that drawing the fourth Ace will give us the 2,000-coin jackpot. However, by doing that, we reduce our chances of picking up the fourth Ace to 1 in 47, while we have a 1 in 23.5 shot if we hold just the three Aces. We may settle for a mere 800 coins the majority of the time we get Ace No. 4, but we'll get it a lot more often. On the 9-6 version of Double Double Bonus, meaning full houses pay 9-for-1 and flushes pay 6-for-1, holding three Aces alone brings an average return of 64.45 coins, while holding a low-card kicker with the three Aces reduces the average return to 59.15 coins.

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