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Best of John Grochowski

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Not All Hand Pays Are Jackpots

18 September 2001

About a year ago, I was playing Triple Play Poker at Hollywood casino in Aurora and made a miracle draw to a royal flush on one hand.

After I was paid, the attendant counted out 15 coins -- enough for one maximum-coins play -- and asked me to play once more.

It's not unusual for a casino representative to ask a player to "play off" a jackpot combination, so that it no longer shows on a video screen or slot reels. Some players, thinking that the machine is less likely to hit if it has recently paid a jackpot, won't play if the winning combination is showing.

What was unusual was that I was given the money to play. That's a rarity. Usually, the casino wants the player to do it on his own dime -- or quarter, or dollar. In fact, when I hit another royal at Hollywood a few weeks later, I again was asked to play off the hand, but wasn't offered the cash to do it.

Unusual as that transaction was, I found it even more unusual last week at Empress Joliet when I was asked to play off a hand that wasn't a winner.

I was playing Five Play Poker and had more than 1,000 credits on the machine. That's not unusual in the video age of casino gaming. Nowadays, players start with hundreds, even thousands of credits on multiline video slots and multihand video poker games, and cashing out hundreds, even thousands, of credits doesn't necessarily mean the player is a big winner.

Nevertheless, when I hit the button to cash out, the top light starting flashing, jackpot music started playing and an attendant was signaled to pay me off by hand.

"Congratulations!" she said, as slot attendants and supervisors nearly always do when summoned for a hand-pay. I hadn't really been a big winner, but I'm used to the drill, so I just smiled and said, "Thank you."

A guard showed up to witness the transaction, and the attendant paid me, then reset the machine so it could be played again.

Then she surprised me.

"Would you play that off please?" she asked.

Now, there was no winner showing. There were five losing hands on the screen.

I told the attendant there was nothing to play off.

She looked at me, befuddled, then looked at the screen and saw there were no credits. I got the impression she thought I was refusing to play it off because I had no remaining credits. She looked at her cash pouch, seemingly wondering if she was going to have to play it off herself.

So I offered further explanation.

"There is no jackpot here. I'm just cashing out. There's no winning combination. You don't need anybody to play it off."

That finally satisfied her. She nodded her head and went about her business, as I wished the other players around me luck and headed for the exit.

The move to games that accept more coins causes little exchanges like that every day. Someone who used to bet two tokens at a time on a dollar three-reel slot machine now might be betting 45 nickels -- or $2.25 -- on a multiline video game. Three-coin dollar players could just as easily bet 180 two-cent tokens -- or $3.60 -- on the two-cent slots at Trump Casino in Gary.

All that multicoin play at lower denominations means more and more of us are cashing out hundreds, even thousands, of coins at a time without really being big winners. It's more efficient to pay by hand than to have the machine spit out so many tokens.

The ultimate solution will be cashless gaming, whether using ticket printers or electronic transfers of credits from a smart card to the machine and from the machine back to the card.

Until that becomes more common, players and casino employees alike are just going to have to adjust to hand-pays that aren't really jackpots.

SMOKE RINGS: A few weeks ago, in my newspaper column I ran a letter form a reader who wanted to know what recourse he has when a casino doesn't enforce its own policies in no-smoking rooms.

The letter apparently touched a nerve, because my e-mail box was flooded by readers wondering why there weren't bigger no-smoking rooms with a better mix of games.

Casino general managers and slot directors tell me that customers don't play in the no-smoking rooms that are offered now. Even on crowded weekend nights, the no-smoking rooms are the last casino areas to fill up. With that track record, it's difficult to justify spending money on better smokeless facilities.

Which comes first, more play in existing no-smoking rooms, or more attractive gaming options for non-smokers? That's one vicious circle.

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