Video Poker Zone needs tweaking
John Grochowski email@example.com June 13, 2012 5:16PM
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Updated: June 14, 2012 8:24AM
An email from Hollywood Casino in Aurora recently touted its new “one of a kind Video Poker Zone,” and I was intrigued. Would a casino finally be offering local video poker players something of value, or would this be just the same collection of weak pay tables in a new package?
It’s the latter, and that didn’t really surprise me. The Chicago area has become mostly a video poker wasteland. There are some quarter games worth playing at Majestic Star in Gary, and most local casinos have at least one decent pay table on dollar games. But for the most part, the games available lead me to save my video poker play for Las Vegas, Mississippi, Missouri, Iowa — name a market and it has better video poker than we see here.
The Video Poker Zone is almost straight ahead as you pass through the Hollywood turnstiles, veering slightly to the right. At the back corner of the casino, you’ll find a large group of games.
With dozens of games and great variety, it looked like it should be an attraction until I started opening pay tables. The first Game King I checked had 25-cent, 50-cent and $1 games. The pay tables were weak at every denomination. Among the choices were 6-5 Bonus Poker, a 96.7 percent game with expert play, 9-6-4 Double Bonus Poker (96.4), 7-5 Double Double Bonus (95.7) and 7-5 Bonus Poker Deluxe (96.2). Average players will get a few percent less. When I see a Double Bonus game that pays only 4-for-1 on straights, as in the 9-6-4 version at Hollywood, it suggests to me that the casino doesn’t want my video poker business. It didn’t really get much better.
The best game I found within the zone was a 98.9 percent version of Deuces Wild, on 25-cent, 50-cent, $1 Ten Play Poker, and on $1-$2-$5-$10 single-hand Game Kings. Most Deuces Wild versions were far weaker. The best video poker was just outside the zone There’s a circle of six $1 machines with 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker, which returns 98.98 percent with expert play.
The Chicago area once was a strong video poker market. Players used to be able to find 9-6 Jacks or Better, 8-5 Bonus Poker, the 99.7-percent “not so ugly” version of Deuces Wild, even 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker.
Today, nearly everything available is a couple of notches below that level. I look forward to the day an operator decides to win players back with better games. Until then, areas like the Video Poker Zone feel like missed opportunities.
John Grochowski is a local free-lance writer.