Saturday, December 3, 2011

New video on YouTube

At the beginning of October, when I was in Las Vegas for the Global Gaming Expo, I got together with American Casino Guide publisher Steve Bourie and his son Matt. I write a couple of articles each year for the Guide, an annual publication I highly recommend. It's chock full of articles about the games people play along with listings of every casino in the United States, their phone numbers, games offered, and amenities. In the back, there are coupons for travel, meal and gambling deals. It's a resource I turn to several times during the year.

While were together, we recorded material for two videos. The first, on the five best bets in the casino, is now up on YouTube. We're talking games only on the main casino floor that you're likely to encounter in any casino market. That excludes live poker, horse racing and sports betting, leaving a mix of blackjack, craps, video poker and baccarat.

If you want to check out the video, it's at

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One of the best beginners' luck stories I've heard. I received a phone call from a father who took his son to a casino for the son's 21st birthday. They were playing from a common bankroll, alternating hands. On the first hand the son ever played in a casino, he drew a royal flush. Father and son collected $500 apiece. Later, playing on his own, he drew another one, good for his own $1,000. Level head on his shoulders, he put about $1,400 of it in the bank.

I'll be expanding on this in my regular columns. Watch for the Chicago Sun-Times, Casino City Times, and others.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Pik-It Poker from DigiDeal

One of the pioneers in multiplayer electronic table games, DigiDeal is promoting a new game called Pik-It Poker. It's two-tiered game with both play against the dealer and a 3-Card Bonus bet. Antes plus bonus bets start play, and the bonus is resolved first. Cards are dealt face down, and players touch the screen to pick which three will be turned up to make a three-card poker hand. Winners are paid according to a pay table --- just as in Pair Plus in Three Card Poker, they don’t have to beat the dealer --- then the other two cards are turned up, and those who wagered on the bonus get an additional payoff if their five-card hand includes two pairs or better.

Then it’s time for play against the dealer. You check out your hand to see if it’s a stronger play to bet on a three-card hand or the full five cards, then touch the screen to choose which to play. Taking advantage of the electronic format, Pik-It has a “suggested: play” feature to tell the player the optimal choice.

DigiDeal has carved out a niche with traditional table games such as blackjack in an electronic format. Its first games used electronic cards dealt by a random number generator, but real chips for wagering. That format remains available for casinos that like to use a dealer-host to interact with players and settle bets, but game with touch-screens for wagering also are available. One advantage of the touch screens is that DigiDeal can offer multiple side bets on the same game without slowing it down, and without mistakes in payoffs.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bally goes for "Grease"

At the 2011 Global Gaming Expo, the casino industry’s annual Las Vegas showcase, the sounds of “You’re the One that I Want” rang through Bally’s booth with the introduction of the new "Grease video slots."

“We were really looking to increase our brand portfolio,” said Jean Venneman, Bally’s vice president of product marketing and licensing. “It’s not an area we had really been in in the past. We wanted to make sure we picked a couple of strategic brands that really hit the [slot-playing] demographic and we could create a lot of interesting games out of. We felt that Grease hit the mark on that.”

Grease, based on the hit movie musical, is a wide-area progressive, meaning that in states where it is legal, machines in different casinos can be linked to the same jackpot. There are two playing fields on the screen --- two sets of five reels --- in a penny game with a 60-cent minimum wager. Reel symbols are chock full of movie imagery, and there’s music and video featuring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John.

There are an number of bonuses, but the event everyone wanted to see was the “You’re the One that I Want” free games. The stars wooed each other in the “Grease” showpiece video in the top box, a scaled down video played atop the spinning reels on the main screen, and speakers in the back of the game’s special chair contributed to a surround-sound effect.

“This one has been fun to watch people play,” Venneman said. “They seem to be more focused on the video than on the actual game. And everybody has fond memories of the first time they saw the movie, or that they thought that Olivia Newton John was amazing, or John Travolta.”

Monday, October 31, 2011

Penny ante? Not these slots

A New Jersey reader emailed to ask about penny slots.

"There are a bunch of new machines that have 50 lines and you must play all of them," he wrote. "To me, these are 50-cent machines and no longer 1-cent because the minimum you can play is 50 cents. I assume that the payback percentages on these new machines are like other 1-cent machines, IOW, pretty low, under 90%."

I told him I'd noticed a similar thing at two Midwestern casinos, except with 2-cent games instead of pennies. The minimum bet was 50 credits, making these dollar-minimum games. And yes, these do have the low, 87-to-90 percent paybacks we see on other penny and 2-cent games.

There is a mitigating factor: The bonus rounds on video slots give us playing time without additional wagers, so we make fewer bets per hour on a video game than on a traditional three-reel slot. Still, average losses per hour will be higher when you bet a buck a spin on a 2-cent slot than a single dollar on a $1 three-reel game.

Does the entertainment value of video bonus slots make it worth your while to make the larger minimum bets that some machines now require? That's between you and your bankroll.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A new beginning

Welcome to the revamped I've converted the front page to a blog, which will make it easier to update with casino news and views. You can expect something new here a couple of times a week, rather than the once in every three or four blue moons on the old site.

For those who don't know me, I'm John Grochowski, and I've been writing about casinos and casino games since the early 1990s. I write twice weekly for Casino City Times online, weekly for the Chicago Sun-Times, and am a regular in Midwest Gaming and Travel, Strictly Slots, Casino Player, and Southern Gaming and Destinations magazines. I also write on casino industry issues for the trade publications Casino Journal and Slot Manager. I blog four times a month Down the Road in Tunica, and I do two casino tips a week for WLS-AM radio in Chicago.

To those who are looking to buy my books, thank you for your interest, but I'm out of stock. You may be able to order some from Amazon, but my supply has dried up. I'm working on a new ebook, but more on that when it's closer to publication.

Thanks for visiting, and come back soon.