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Best of John Grochowski

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Video Poker in Ontario, Detriot and Chicago

2 August 2005

Experienced video poker players tend to be a selective lot, always looking for the best deal. So it was no great shock when after the Frank Scoblete Gamblers Jamboree at Casino Windsor in May, I received a handful of e-mails asking the same question:

"What are the video poker pay tables like at Windsor? Should I make a trip?"

The optimists' answer: Things are getting better.

On this visit, there wasn't much to hold a video poker player's interest. But shortly afterward, I spoke with Casino Windsor's slot director, Glen Sawhill, while researching an article on a different topic for the trade magazine Slot Manager. Sawhill mentioned that a big upgrade in video poker offerings is in the works, one that will make Casino Windsor's games competitive with those in Detroit.

This time around, the one high-paying game was Pick-'Em Poker at the $1 level and above. Pick-'Em returns 99.9 percent in the long run with expert play, but it's a volatile game that requires patience and a large bankroll.

Only about 33 percent of hands are winners at Pick-'Em, compared with about 45 percent at 9-6 Jacks or Better. All of the five-card draw, Jacks or Better-based games, including favorites such as Double Bonus Poker and Double Double Bonus Poker, yield winners on about 44 to 46 percent of hands. The low hit frequency on Pick-'Em means long losing streaks are inevitable, and a player who is serious about the game needs sufficient bankroll to withstand those streaks.

Other than Pick-'Em, Windsor had a collection of 95-to-97 percent games, on the low side for a video poker fanatic. When I was told the video poker floor was being upgraded to be comparable with Detroit, I looked up the Detroit casinos on the vpFree Web site, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vpFREE/. On that site, you can find a listing of the best video poker games at casinos throughout North America.

VpFree listed Greektown with 25-cent through $25 Pick-'Em; quarter, 50-cent and $1 9-6 Jacks or Better (99.5) and "Not So Ugly" Deuces Wild (99.7) on nickel Fifty Play Poker machines. Listings for MGM Grand showed Pick'Em at $1, $5 and $10, along with 9-7 Double Bonus Poker (99.1) on 25-cent progressive machines.

Motor City has the largest collection of 99-percent or better video poker in Detroit: 25-cent and $5 Not So Ugly Deuces (99.7); $5 and $1 9-7 Double Bonus (99.1); $1 9-6 Double Double Bonus (99.0); $5 Double Pay Deuces (99.6); 9-5 White Hot Aces (99.6), plus more in Multi-Strike and Spin Poker machines.

* * *

Video poker offerings tend to improve as markets mature. Players become better educated, and demand better games.

Chicago, where I'm based, has had casino gambling for 13 years, and has quite a lot of high-paying poker options.

One newcomer to the high-pay video poker brigade is Resorts Casino in East Chicago. I wrote not long ago that after Resorts took over the former Harrah's East Chicago in May, slot director had upgraded the video poker to include 9-6 Double Double Bonus and 9-7 Double Bonus on denominations from quarters on up.

After visiting Resorts' grand opening celebration in late June --- I took part in a charity slot tournament, but, alas, did not finish in the money --- I'm happy to say more upgrades have arrived. Bonus Poker games have been improved from 7-5 to 8-5, leaving a 99.2 percent game with expert play. Deuces Wild has been upgraded from a "fooler" 96-percent game with short payoffs on wild royals and five of a kind to the "Illinois" Deuces pay table that yields 98.9 percent with expert play.

That makes Resorts a real player in the Chicago video poker market, competing with 99-percent-plus games at these properties:

Majestic Star, Gary: A large group of high paying games, from nickels through dollars. Quarter and dollar players will find the good stuff on single-hand machines, but nickel players need to look through the Ten Play, Fifty Play, Hundred Play, Spin Poker and Multi-Strike games. There's 9-6 Jacks or Better, 9-7 Double Bonus, 8-5 Bonus Poker and Not So Ugly Deuces for starters. You'll also find less common games such as full-pay Super Aces, Super Double Bonus, One-Eyed Jacks, 9-6 Bonus Deluxe and much more.

Trump, Gary: Another great collection, for both quarter and dollar players, with 9-6 Jacks or Better, 9-7 Double Bonus, 8-5 Bonus, Not So Ugly Deuces, 9-6 Double Double Bonus, 8-5 Super Aces, 9-5 Super Double Bonus and more.

Empress, Joliet: Some quarter Not So Ugly Deuces, but mainly this is a strong bet for dollar players, with 9-7 Double Bonus progressives, 9-6 Jacks or Better, 8-5 Bonus Poker, 8-5 ACES Bonus Poker, 9-6 Double Double Bonus and more.

Those are the main contenders for those of us with ordinary bankrolls. For the wealthier players, there are a number of high-payers on dollar and up multi-hand machines at Harrah's in Joliet and Horseshoe in Hammond, and a more limited selection at Grand Victoria in Elgin and Hollywood in Aurora.

That's not a bad selection --- not up to Las Vegas locals standards, but I'd rather play near Chicago nowadays than on the Las Vegas Strip.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com.

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