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Best of John Grochowski

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Meeting Old Friends at the Ghost Bar

26 December 2002

The drinks and hors d'oeuvres were free. The view, from the deck outside the Ghost Bar on the 55th floor of the Palms in Las Vegas, was spectacular. And Frank Scoblete was amazed.

"Can you believe this?" said Scoblete, the prolific gambling author whose books include Break the One-Armed Bandits, Best Blackjack, and Forever Craps. "Where else would you find gambling writers being treated as if they were actually important?"

Scoblete and I often have met up in Las Vegas, and at the fall gaming industry conventions--World Gaming Congress in the past, the Global Gaming Expo for the last two years--I've made it a point to get together with Blackjack: Take the Money and Run author Henry Tamburin, The Frugal Gambler author Jean Scott, Las Vegas Advisor publisher Anthony Curtis and others.

But this was different. Scott had convinced Palms owner George Maloof to close the Ghost Bar to the public for an hour and instead throw a party for gambling writers. That attraction ranked right up there with the single- and double-deck blackjack and full-pay video poker on Maloof's casino floor below.

It gave me a chance not only to catch up with some old friends, but to meet many others I knew only by their work, some of which I've reviewed here. Let's catch up on what's going on with some names familiar to regular readers of this column.

Jean Scott: Her follow-up to The Frugal Gambler, a perennial best seller among gambling books, is still in the works, but she does have a new project out. At the gathering, she was handing out copies of "Frugal Video Poker" computer software, which at first glance looks even more advanced than the "Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker" software I've recommended the last few years. I'll review it in a few weeks, after I've had a more detailed look.

Henry Tamburin: A PhD chemist now in semi-retirement, Tamburin spends about half his time in Las Vegas. He's slowly been making the transition from focusing all his casino time on blackjack to devoting about 30 percent to video poker. Why? Because Las Vegas casinos have been toughening rules and playing conditions at blackjack, and Scott has shown him that some combinations of pay tables, slot club cash back and promotions at video poker have more profit potential.

Frank Scoblete: We had a long discussion on the nasty turn games have taken on the Las Vegas Strip, with not only blackjack card counters but some craps shooters being barred from games. When Maloof turned up at the party, Scoblete asked him what would happen if an advantage player was found playing in his casino. Maloof's response: "Nothing."

Anthony Curtis: Global Gaming Expo week is hectic for everyone involved, but it was truly a madhouse for Curtis because it fell during deadline week for his monthly Las Vegas Advisor. He took time out to stop by the party, and he backed up Maloof. The Palms, he said, has a reputation for letting tough players play. A big-money card counter who was really hurting the place might be stopped, but overall the Palms doesn't sweat the good players.

Barney Vinson: Semi-retired as a dealer, pit supervisor and gaming instructor at Caesars Palace, Vinson keeps turning out witty books full of casino stories. The latest, Ask Barney, is published by Chicago-based Bonus Books. I asked him how he wound up with Bonus after writing books for two other publishers. "It's because of that man right there," he said, pointing to Scoblete. I understood perfectly. I also wound up writing for Bonus because of Scoblete's recommendation, as have John Brokopp, John May, Fred Renzey and other gambling authors.

Victor Royer: Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine's slots columnist and I had communicated via e-mail, and I'd just finished reading an advance copy of his upcoming book on craps to double-check numbers for him, but we'd never met. He'd never met the magazine's other columnists, either, but at one time we had four at the same table--I write and question-and-answer column, along with Royer on slots, Scoblete on craps and Tamburin on blackjack. You'll hear more from Royer soon--he has a series of books on casino games on the way.

Michael Shackleford: I'd never met Shackleford, but I have recommended his Web site, wizardofodds.com, in this column. Shackleford has caused quite a fuss in Las Vegas because of a slot machine survey that was published in the May Las Vegas Advisor. He got hold of the PAR sheets that contain specifications for nickel video slots, and was able to rank theoretical returns at 67 Las Vegas casinos. The Palms came out on top with a 93.4 percent theoretical payback on nickel games, while the Venetian trailed the pack at 86.7 percent. Casinos that fared poorly have been furious. That kind of information isn't released in Nevada, even though actual payback percentages are published by gaming boards in other states. I had to offer Shackleford a big congratulations for this service to the betting public.

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:

The Craps Answer Book

> 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