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The Casino Slot Sybil

14 February 2013

By John Grochowski

My casino play has a bit of a split personality. Multiple personalities, to be more accurate. When I’m playing for recreation, I want games that give me the best shot to win. So you’ll find me playing blackjack, video poker when I can find good pay tables, and occasionally craps.

When I put on my writer’s hat, I play a little of everything. I want to bring you the best information I can, so I’ll take a fling at Ultimate Texas Hold’Em, Four Card Poker or whatever else I can find that’s new and different.

But when my wife Marcy is with me, a different casino personality emerges. Together, we’re just after a little entertainment, and what Marcy finds most entertaining of all are the penny slots. Our goal is just to have fun together. A big part of that on a recent casino trip was playing at adjacent games, seeing how long we could make a few bucks last.

The penny slots Marcy likes best are those with second-screen pick’em-style bonuses. So we settled in at a couple of WMS Gaming favorites, with Marcy on Airplane! and me on Jackpot Block Party. For Marcy, it was one of those nights. Small payouts in dribs and drabs, no bonus events, and before long, her $20 bill had shrunk to around $8.

Jackpot Block Party was kinder to me. It’s a recent version of Jackpot Party in which instead of one screen full of gift boxes to touch for credits and bonuses within the bonus, there are four rectangular fields. Pick a box with a key, and it unlocks the next party. And a pooper in party No. 2, 3 or 4 just ends that party, not the whole event. It takes a pooper in the first party before you’re sent back to the video reels.

Just five spins into the session, it was party time for me. And just three picks into party No. 1, I found a key that unlocked all three of the other parties. Now the credits were jumping onto my meter. Whenever I picked a box on one party, the corresponding box would open on the others, until I’d finally popped my last pooper. Before it was over, I had nearly 3,800 bonus credits.

“Dinner’s on you tonight,” Marcy said. I already knew that.

After dinner, we went back to see how far we could stretch another $20 apiece. Marcy knows what I like, and asked if I wanted to play video poker while she went back to the slots. I’d already checked out the pay tables, and told her I’d just stick with her. Even low-paying video poker games have higher payback percentages than penny slots, but I refuse to be ground down by the 7-5 Jacks or Better, 9-6-4 Double Bonus Poker and 8-5 Double Double Bonus Poker games I was seeing. I’d just stick with her and keep it cheap and cheerful.

We decided to try one more WMS game, this time of the free spin rather than pick’em bonus variety. Fortunes of the Caribbean has a tropical theme and an unusual reel configuration. At the left are two reels that are only two symbols deep. To the right are three reels that are each four symbols deep. The wild symbol is the silhouette of cluster of palm trees on an islet before a setting sun, and the wilds are sometimes stacked.

The combination of two-symbol reels at the left plus stacked wilds leaves an extremely volatile game. The short reels mean fewer opportunities to match symbols on the first two reels, necessary for the start of any winning combination. But the stacked wilds create the opportunity for some big winners.

Marcy had a winner of more than 2,000 coins --- $20 on a penny machine --- then held off the cold streaks, eventually cashing out an $11 profit. On the other hand, my machine was cold from the start, with losing spin after losing spin.

I was almost through my $20 when I experienced the other end of the volatility line. Each of the first two reels turned up two banana symbols. The three larger reels all landed on stacked wilds. That made me a winner on all 60 paylines, and even though bananas are at the low end of the pay table with five of a kind worth only 30 for 1, that meant 1,800 pennies back on my credit meter.

That didn’t make me a winner, but it kept me in action while Marcy played with her profit. I wound up cashing out $15, and we had a fun couple’s night out --- the object of the exercise for that casino personality.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.
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, with podcasts at www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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