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Best of John Grochowski

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The Casino Answer Man

28 February 2001

Q. Last week I was looking for a quarter machine, and a couple of times sat down at dollar games by mistake. On one, the denomination was on the video screen, and it was so small I just didn't see it until I sat down. On the other, I actually put a $20 bill into the reader and was surprised when only 20 credits came up. I had to spend extra time going to the cashier's cage -- I'm just not budgeted to play dollars.

Why don't casinos have bigger signs to show where the quarter games are, where the dollars are, and so on?

Monopoly Mike

A. Some casinos do have large signs over banks of machines, saying "Dollars" or "Quarters" or "Nickels." But even if they don't, there is a fast way of telling denominations without having to get close up to the machine.

All you need is to know the color code. On top of each slot machine or video poker game, there is a two-tiered light called a "candle." The top light is white. It's usually off. It lights up if you push the "change" button on the machine to signal an attendant, or it flashes on and off if you hit a jackpot that must be paid by hand or if you have a coin jam when cashing out.

The bottom portion of the light is color-coded. The bottom light is red on nickel machines, yellow on quarters and blue on dollars. Look for the colored lights, and you can find the quarter games from clear across the casino.

Q. I hope you enjoyed those good video poker games at Hollywood because all of the good multi-line games are gone! I checked every machine on both boats. City of Lights I has a single $1 Game King with 9-6 Jacks or Better (next best game is 9-6-4 Double Double Bonus). City of Lights II has two $5 Game Kings with 9-6 Jacks, 9-7 Double Bonus, 9-6-4 Double Double Bonus and Illinois Deuces.

A few $1 multi-line games and 10 Play quarters offer Illinois Deuces. Plenty of bad games abound. Hollywood is still the worst 25-cent single-line video poker facility in the Chicago area.

Howard Stern

A. I had praised Hollywood a few weeks ago for putting games on its quarter Triple Play/Five Play Poker machines and its Ten Play Poker games that were better than other quarter multiple-hand games in Illinois. Pay tables were the same as those Empress and Harrah's in Joliet and Grand Victoria in Elgin offered on $1 and $5 games.

Upon receiving this e-mail from local gaming analyst Stern, I made a return visit to Hollywood. He was correct. The games I'd played a couple of weeks before were gone, replaced by lower pay tables. Instead of good old 9-6 Jacks or Better, the best quarter games at Hollywood now have an 8-6 version, with a reduced payoff on full houses. Other machines at Aurora go a step further to an 8-5 pay table, which also reduces flushes. And through all the changes, there have remained some horrific 6-5 games, paying only 6-for-1 on full houses and 5-for-1 on flushes, that should be avoided at all costs.

The best places for quarter bettors to play Triple Play revert to the two Gary boats, Trump and Majestic Star, where some quarter Triple Plays still include the 9-6 version of Jacks or Better.

I also made a return visit to Empress Joliet recently to check out its new Fifty Play Poker games. Waiting for me when I got home was another e-mail from Stern confirming what I'd just seen. The dollar machines (with a maximum bet of $250 a hand!) have strong pay tables, but the nickel games are awful.

Betting 50 hands at five nickels per hand, the maximum-coins bettor risks $12.50 per hand. That bettor should expect at least as good a deal as he gets on single-line dollar games, at $5 a hand. Instead, the nickey Fifty Plays offer the weakest pay tables on the Empress boats.

If I want to play Double Bonus on the nickel Fifty Plays, I get 9-for-1 on full houses, 6-for-1 on flushes and 4-for-1 on straights. Why would I risk $12.50 per hand on that, when in the same casino, for $5 a hand on a one-line dollar game, I can get 10-for-1 for full houses, 7-for-1 for flushes and 5-for-1 on straights, and get a progressive jackpot on the royal flush on top of it?

Empress for years has been one of my favorite video poker boats, but the presence of those Fifty Play pay tables in the context of the good games offered elsewhere on the boats is exasperating, to say the least.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

The Video Poker Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Casino Answer Book by John Grochowski
Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison
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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> 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:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski