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Best of John Grochowski

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The Casino Answer Man

9 October 2001

Q. Why do people play two slot machines at once when the casino is very busy, like on a Friday or Saturday night? I have experienced this many times, especially on the popular 25-cent machines. Can't people be a little more courteous? Then if you ask them if they are playing both, they answer like they are ready to rip off your head. I thought casinos were supposed to enforce a one-machine-per-person rule on busy nights.

PHB, via e-mail

A. Many casinos do have such rules, even posting signs on machines to ask players to stick to one machine at a time in peak periods. But as you've found, enforcement often is lax. And yes, it would seem to be common courtesy to refrain from playing two machines at once when the casino is packed, but courtesy doesn't seem to mean any more to slot hogs than it does to players who smoke in no-smoking rooms or those who park in no-parking spots next to handicapped spaces just to be a few rows closer to the pavilion.

The best I can suggest is to ask a slot supervisor to enforce the policy when you can't find a place to play. If you're in a Chicago-area casino that has signs telling of such a policy, and the slot supervisor refuses to enforce it when asked, e-mail me again. Get as much detail as you can -- day, time, what machine, name of the casino employee if possible -- and I'll check it out and report back.

Q. Recently when I was in Las Vegas, I was surprised to see that at several casinos on the Strip the dealer hits soft 17. Do you have an opinion as to why they are making this type of change?

Also, when I sat down at a $5 dollar table in Excalibur, I presented my players card only to be told by the pit boss that I would need to average $10 dollars per hand in order to have my play tracked. I heard that many other casinos on the Strip have a similiar rule and that some even required an average bet of $25.

What is going on?

Bob, via e-mail

A. I've also noticed several casinos on the Strip toughening their blackjack games, whether by hitting soft 17, adding more decks or using continuous shufflers. Blackjack is by far the most popular casino table game, but it's not the most profitable for the casinos on a per-table basis. The blackjack house edge is lower than on newer games such as Caribbean Stud, Let It Ride and Three Card Poker.

Casino operators realize they can't wean the majority off blackjack, so they're looking for ways to squeeze a little extra profit out of the game. Some try adding side bets, such as Royal Match or 21 Madness. Some add rules, rules such as the dealer hitting soft 17, that boosts the house edge, and some use continuous shufflers that speed up play, giving the house more hands per hour for its edge to work against the players.

The question becomes how much of this players will accept. If the public is content to play under the new conditions, then the tougher games are here to stay. But if players take their business elsewhere, it's a different story. I've spoken with several table games directors who took continuous shufflers off the floor after a low-cost trial. Why? The players avoided them. More hands or not, they were making less money with the shufflers and were looking at sky-high rental costs to keep them after the trial.

As for tracking play, it is true that some Las Vegas casinos, especially the high-end resorts such as Bellagio or the Venetian, won't track play of less than $25 a hand. They figure they have all the low-limit players they need. It's the bigger players whose loyalty they need to ensure. That, after all, is the purpose of casino comps.

If you're shopping for comps, look for casinos that need your level of business. The smaller, older resorts need $5 players more than the megaresorts do. I don't have details, but you might check out older places such as the Sahara, New Frontier and Westward Ho, and see if their comps programs might be more to your liking.

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