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Best of John Grochowski

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The ABCs of slot machines

14 July 2009

Looking at gambling by the number is the usual way of going about things — house edges, payback percentages, odds. Let's do it by the letters for a change, with some ABCs of slot machines.

A is for Adaptive Gaming, the WMS Gaming line that starts with Star Trek. As you play, you collect Federation medals, unlocking new themes. And through WMS' Wage-Net wide-area network, the system can even remember where you were and keep new games unlocked the next time you play.

B is for Bonus Rounds, those special events and games within the game that add excitement and anticipation to the slots. The first to gain massive popularity was Anchor Gaming's Wheel of Gold, which later begat IGT's Wheel of Fortune.

C is for Community-Style Slots, where players can share bonus events, turning slot machines into a more social experience. Sometimes everyone is rooting for the same outcome, as in WMS' Monopoly Big Event, and sometimes is a matter of waiting your turn while watching your neighbor, as in IGT's Wheel of Fortune Super Spin, but it's easy to get into community spirit.

D is for Double Diamond, the venerable IGT three-reel slot with its special diamond symbols that double payoffs in winning bar combinations as well as serving as jackpot symbols.

E is for Ergonomics, taking players into their comfort zone with better-designed chairs and slot cabinets. With button panels at the correct height to rest your wrists, recesses in bottom cabinets to rest your feet and even adjustable-height chairs in some casinos, it beats the old three-legged stool days.

F is for Fishing, a popular theme for WMS from its original Reel 'Em In! to the community-style Reel 'Em In: Compete to Win. My favorite was angling for the legendary Elvis fish in Reel 'Em In Cast for Cash.

G is for Game Maker, Bally Technologies' pioneering multiple-game video machine. Everyone has such machines now, but when Bally first put video slots, video poker and blackjack on the same machine in 1992, it was a sensation. In updated versions, it still is.

H is for Hyperlink, Aristocrat's trend-setting four-level progressive jackpot system that debuted with Cash Express. Whether you win the mini jackpot of a few bucks, the grand of thousands or the minor or major in between, it's a fun trip aboard the express.

I is for International, with manufacturers such as Aristocrat (Australia), Konami (Japan) and Atronic (Germany) competing with .U.S. stalwarts IGT, WMS and Bally.

J is for Jackpot Party, WMS' long-popular game of picking on-screen gift boxes to reveal bonus rewards. From three-reel slots with the bonus round on an orange Dotmation screen to video games with enhanced animation, Jackpot Party has been one of the most durable slot favorites.

K is for Kiosks, to cash out your tickets or check your player rewards.

L is for Lines for winning symbols to line up, with video slots giving players more and more ways to win. Players used to reel slots with single paylines at first were confused by five-line video slots. Now they'll play 100-line games with reel enthusiasm.

M is for Megajackpots, IGT's wide-area progressives linking jackpots and multiple casinos and offering prizes in the millions. Megabucks was the first, but now everything from Wheel of Fortune to the Beverly Hillbillies gets the Megajackpots treatment.

O is for Once Around, the most popular Monopoly slots bonus, with a trip around the game board.

P is for Player Tracking, using cards to see how much you play and determine your comps and cash back.

Q is for Quarters, the most popular denomination for three-reel slots, though few actually accept coins anymore.

R is for Random Number Generator, the program that determines what you'll see on the reels. It's as random as humans can program a computer to be. That's not perfect, but close enough that you'll never know what's coming next.

S is for Server-based, the slots wave of the future both for fast delivery of the newest games and instant two-way communication between player and casino.

T is for TITO, ticket-in, ticket-out payoffs with bar-coded slips of paper instead of coins or tokens.

U is for Upright, slots with a narrower base and vertical styling, as opposed to the lower-sitting slant tops.

V is for Video, commanding an ever-growing share of casino space. Twenty years ago, who'd have thought we'd see penny slots commanding floor space? Not me. Video, with its multiple paylines, and TITO, eliminating the need to use coins, made it possible.

W is for Wheel of Fortune, as popular with slot players as with game-show viewers.

X is for Xanadu, a mysterious journey on a series of Atronic slot games.

Y is for Yahtzee, an old Mikohn favorite where player skill made a difference in the bonus round. Y is also for "You don't see these much anymore."

Z is for Zeus, a five-reel video slot from WMS with a Greek god's power to award you free spins.

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