Every now and then the urge hits me to venture out of my mancave and play penny slots. Why I feel the need to contribute $50 to the Las Vegas casinos is a mystery to me.
Anyway, I chose the Longhorn on Boulder Highway because it was a nice day and that casino, in the past, has been relatively friendly to payouts. Not so this day.
But it was entertaining, although frustrating.
My first decision stood tall in front of me, three giant slots – Sex In the City, Dirty Dancing and The Hangover. I chose The Hangover because I liked that movie the best and it had four screens that intrigued me.
Also, it was one of those 40 credit minimum jobs, which was affordable with my $50 budget. Well, so much for that decision. My first $20 went in a flash. After that result, I wasn’t about to test the other two.
Bad karma, I suppose.
I wasn’t ready to quit, however, and behind me stood The Munsters. Well, I couldn’t resist, being a huge fan of Herman, Lily, Grandpa, young Eddie and, of course, Marilyn from the old TV show. Herman and Lily were the biggest paying winners in the slot game, but Grandpa was the wild card that most often came up. Al Lewis was awesome playing that Dracula role and just as awesome in “Car 54 Where Are You,” where he also teamed up with Fred Gwynne (Herman).
So the big decision was how much to spend. To get any value for your buck, you need to go the full 9 lines. You had choices of playing 1 line (9 cents), 2, 10, 15 and 20. The 20 costs $1.80 per spin.
You have to play at least 10 to get into the bonus so I did just that at 90 cents a pop. I hung in for a while, got a couple of decent hits, but eventually tapped out.
With another $20 gone, I spent the final $10 on drinks. Hey, when a pretty girl sits next to you, it costs.
I wouldn’t say these particular games compare with Buffalo, but for entertainment value it was in the ballpark. Later I found out my original intention to bet Eovaldi and the Miami Marlins at plus money would have been a winner.
So expect more sports picks and less slots from me in the future. I’ll leave the penny bandits for that lady who got the drinks and a few bucks back hittiing I Dream of Jeannie.

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Station Casinos brings back one of its most popular promotions this month with “Swipe and Win.” All guests can swipe their Boarding Pass after earning five points on Fridays and Saturdays in October and instantly win from the pool of cash and prizes.
Guests can also earn drawing entries all through October for the chance to “Spin and Win” for additional cash prizes every Sunday.
Play the “$3 Million Swipe, Swipe & Spin Giveaway” at the following nine properties: Boulder Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Green Valley Ranch Resort, Palace Station, Red Rock Resort, Santa Fe Station, Sunset Station and Texas Station.
Entries may be earned daily by playing slots, video poker, keno, bingo and table games as well as with select race and sports wagers. Guests may swipe for 10 free drawing entries every day through Oct. 27, and entries earned during the week will be applied to drawings each Sunday at 4:15 and 8:15 p.m. Entries earned at one property do not carry over to the other properties; however guests are welcome to earn entries and become eligible at multiple properties.
Every Friday and Saturday, guests may swipe their Boarding Pass card at any Boarding Pass kiosk to win up to $10,000, free meals, hotel rooms, slot play, drawing entries and more. Guests can swipe at any Boarding Pass kiosk to receive their Swipe and Win prize instantly once they have earned five Boarding Pass points.
In addition, 10 guests at each property will get to participate in the Spin and Win giveaway each Sunday for an automatic $250 cash prize and the chance to increase their winning up to $5,000. While guests have up to 24 hours to claim prizes, winners must be present to be able to Spin and Win for the additional bonus cash prize. Full contest details are available at www.sclv.com or at any Rewards Center.
Boyd Gaming: Pumpkin Patch Drawings are back at Sam’s Town, Suncoast, Orleans and Gold Coast. Ten lucky winners at each property will be drawn every Friday and Saturday evening in October to pick one of the 30 envelopes on the prize board. Envelopes have prizes from $250 in cash all the way up to $10,000! Prizes may also include electronics like HDTVs, iPads and more. Check the complete details and drawing times at the B Connected club booth.
Excalibur: Dick’s Last Resort will host its very own “Dicktoberfest” Wednesday, Oct. 2 through Sunday, Oct. 6. Known as the “Shame O’ The Strip,” guests can celebrate the fun fall holiday with a selection of tasty German-style fare, beer specials, live music and more that will have unruly patrons dancing and raising their glasses just like the Bavarians.
Holiday specials include $10 menu items, such as Bratwurst Hoagies, Sauerkraut Link Hoagies, Giant Pretzels and Garlic Fries. The restaurant also offers a wide selection of 12 domestic and international brews on tap. The holiday special will offer 2-for-1 beer specials such as the 12 oz. Strong Bow Cider and Heineken drafts regularly priced at $8.
“Taco the Entertainer” will host beer stein holding contests and punching bag match ups as he gives away Heineken and swag to the lucky brew-drinking winners.
Until next week…good luck, good eats and good gaming!

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It’s holiday season for those of us in the casino and gaming industry. The annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E) just took place in Las Vegas and we were able to preview some of the new games that will be coming to casinos in the near future.
Most of these new games aren’t available just yet and will slowly begin rolling out to casinos in the near future. You’ll see some previews of the new games in Gaming Today.
The best news is there seems to be a concerted effort by the game creators to cater to smart players looking to play games with a minimal house advantage.
Slot machine manufacturers, like WMS Gaming, have carved out a segment of their new games to include multi-denominational games for casinos. As we all know the higher the denomination of a slot machine the lower the house advantage. It’s nice to see new slot machine games focusing on this segment of casino customers.
Many table games and side bets that have come out recently seem to be more focused on giving the casino a larger house advantage than giving the player a good time. When a house advantage is larger your buy-in will tend to be lost faster. Straight Edge Poker was introduced by SHFL (formerly Shufflemaster) and has a great payback rate of 98.44%.
Many games on display at G2E only have a long shot of making it to the casino, but because Straight Edge Poker is a SHFL creation it has a good chance to make it. SHFL has a great track record with casinos and is best known as the company that created 3 Card Poker. 3 Card Poker is one of the most popular games to hit casinos in the past five years or so.
According to Wizard of Odds the house edge for 3 Card Poker is anywhere from over 3% to over 7%. The large house advantage makes 3 Card Poker a very profitable game for the casino but it’s also one of the most popular games for players. There are now almost as many 3 Card Poker tables on the casino floor as craps and roulette tables.
Straight Edge Poker plays similarly to 3 Card Poker so it could very well catch on and likely replace one of the other poker variants in the casino with a higher house advantage offered by SHFL.
You’ll certainly find me playing Straight Edge Poker and some of the newer mid-higher denomination slot machines when they are available.

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I spent two days last week walking the halls of the Sands Expo at the Global Gaming Expo. If I had to pick one word to describe the event, it would definitely be “SLOTS.”
Like last year, I think they dominated the show. For those who have been reading me for years, you know my thoughts on slots from a player’s perspective. But, I do give the slot manufacturers a lot of credit for creativity. This year, they kept it up, not only in the games being developed, but in terms of the marketing.
There were zombies everywhere. I’m not sure if there was only one manufacturer who had a zombie-themed game or if there was more than one. But there were a lot of zombies in some really good make-up all over the halls.
As much as I write about video poker in my column, my real love is table games and that’s what I’m at the show to really see. This year brought a particular trend to its apex (or perhaps more appropriate, its nadir).
Besides the three big table game companies (SHFL, Galaxy and DEQ), there were virtually no new table games. I did see a couple of other new games, but they were almost afterthoughts from gaming companies involved in other aspects.
I saw exactly ZERO small independent game inventors showing any new games. I recognize the cost of a booth at the G2E is not cheap and could easily wipe out the budget of a small inventor, but I always found it fun to talk to someone new about their game. I didn’t get a chance this year.
I did get introduced to a few inventors who did not have booths at the game who wanted to talk to me about their ideas. I find most ideas seem to fall into two categories. The first is the rather “far-fetched” category. These are ideas that aren’t necessarily bad, but I have to wonder about their odds of commercial success.
One inventor remarked to me about how all the casino games are poker-based. He found this to be problematic. I find this to be indicative of what is likely to be successful commercially.
It is NOT that games that are not poker-based haven’t been invented and tried, it is that none have ever had staying power in the casino. Some might be fun and social for a few hours, but they don’t seem to have the ability to create repeat customers the way poker-based games do.
The second common category of games is the copycats. People look at a game like Three Card Poker, which is undeniably the most successful proprietary table game (both financially and in terms of number of tables) and try to emulate it in some way.
Now, many table games have some form of patent protection on them (many do not!). But I am not talking about copying to the point of patent violation. I’m simply saying people look at Three Card Poker as some magic formula and try to replicate it. You know this is happening when they begin describing their game with “It is just like Three Card Poker but…”
For the past several years, the casinos have been going through a Texas Hold’em craze. While I think it has peaked overall, it has still left a lasting impression. Games that might have been developed as 7-card Stud games are being developed with 5 community cards in Texas Hold’em style.
After the dust settled, there are currently two very successful Texas Hold’em table games. The first is Texas Hold’em Bonus Poker – developed by Mikohn/PGIC and purchased by SHFL Entertainment a few years ago, and Ultimate Texas Hold’em – developed directly by SHFL.
I did the original math on UTH for SHFL. It was by far the most challenging game I had ever worked on to that point and perhaps since.
It was also one of the most rewarding because of the success it has become. It is generally acknowledged as the second most successful game of all-time with several hundred tables in the market place and is the only game on the horizon that has any chance to knock Three Card Poker out of the No. 1 spot.
Like Three Card Poker, one of the surest signs of the success of UTH is how many times I have heard the phrase in the past few years from an inventor, “It is just like Ultimate, but…”
There is an old saying that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. I guess if everyone is trying to create a game just like UTH, then UTH must be a pretty darn good game.
Is it possible to improve upon Three Card Poker or UTH? I suppose it is possible. But, 15-20 years after the invention of Three Card Poker, it is not a minor improvement to Three Card Poker that might take it out of the top spot. It is a game that, while still poker-based, introduces many new concepts. It is a game that has more uniqueness to it than similarity to Three Card Poker.
I think if someone wants to knock UTH out of the No. 2 spot, it won’t happen because someone tweaks UTH. It will happen because someone comes up with a new and better idea.
To all the inventors out there, don’t think of new ways to flatter the existing games by imitating them. Come up with new games with new ideas if you want to make your mark.

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The Irish get St. Patrick’s Day. Now it’s German Oktoberfest time!
There’s a variety of events and good German food and beer to celebrate this month at casinos throughout the valley!
Boyd Gaming: Every Wednesday in October for the regular Wednesday dinner buffet price (with your B Connected card) guests can enjoy special German dishes, including bratwurst, knockwurst, sauerkraut, jager snitzel, and beef roladen at The Orleans, Gold Coast, Sam’s Town and Suncoast buffets. Guests over 21 years of age can also get a complimentary German beer.
Golden Nugget: The downtown resort will host an Oktoberfest Pool Party on Saturday, Oct. 19, at The Tank from 1-7 p.m. Admission is free. There will be over 150 different international and American craft beers for sale plus live music, brats, pretzels and more great food.
Silverton: The Seasons Buffet will feature an Oktoberfest menu every Friday from 4-10 p.m. for $19.95 with a Rewards Club Card ($21.95 without). Guests will enjoy German classics at this Oktoberfest feast, including favorites like spätzle, sauerbraten, sauerkraut and apples, and grilled beer sausage. Juniper maple smoked salmon or salt crusted prime rib will be at the carving station. Also available are assorted German pastries, cookies and pie.
Silver Sevens: Oktoberfest Thursdays will be from 4-9 p.m. throughout the month. For $10.99 with A-Play Club Card, the special buffet includes bratwurst with sauerkraut, smoked brisket, apple strudel, and much more. A free Beck’s Beer is included in the price.
LVH: Oktoberfest specials are available in select restaurants and at any casino bar. Slots and table games will allow players to earn drawing tickets for a chance to win free beer. Receive one drawing ticket with a Warsteiner Beer, Bavarian entrée purchase or one drawing ticket after earning $5 in comps from tracked slot or table play. You have a chance to win free beer for a year, free beer for a half year or free beer for a month. The drawing will be held on Oct. 31 at 9:45 p.m. at the player’s club. Winner does not have to be present to win.
Additionally, half-priced authentic German Warsteiner beer will be available at Fortuna and any casino bar. Authentic Bavarian specials will be served with free Warsteiner beer, available inside Paradise Café and at the Superbook Deli.
Fremont Street: The Experience will once again transform itself for the Fifth Annual Oktober FrightFest, combining Oktoberfest and Halloween for the ultimate street party, taking place now through Oct. 31. The festivities include free performances from the popular stage production show “Frank & The Steins,” Viva Vision light and sound shows themed to “Time Warp” and “Monster Mash,” and the Fourth Annual Fall Beer Festival at Golden Nugget.
“Frank & The Steins” will perform on the First Street Stage nightly at 8:10, 9:10 and 10:10 p.m. (dark on Oct. 10, 17 and 24).
Until next week…enjoy Oktoberfesting!

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It was just over 10 years ago that I started writing for GamingToday. I have to be honest, that really blows me away.
That means I’ve written roughly 500 columns when I take into account off weeks and the fact that for the first six or nine months, my column was bi-weekly.
I remember when I wrote my first few columns I would wax poetic about how my father (Lenny Frome) had written nearly 1,000 columns for a variety of different publications. I remember when I hit column number 100 and remarked how far behind I was.
Now, my total count is probably about 600-700 columns and I can almost see myself someday surpassing my dad’s total. That said, I definitely don’t plan on taking steroids or PEDs to get me there.
Part of what is so amazing about having written 500-plus articles is I have somehow managed to come up with that many things to write about. I’m not really sure there are 500 unique subjects.
I have to remember that if I borrow a subject from 2005 there is a strong likelihood if someone reads it today, they didn’t read that article from eight years ago. So, in that spirit, I’m going to start back at the beginning today and discuss some basics about video poker.
Video poker is truly a unique game in the casino. Far too often it is lumped together with slots, but there is little in common except for the technology. I don’t think of a video blackjack machine as a slot machine and the same is true for video poker.
As the world starts turning more to online gambling, the separation will no longer be about the technology. Instead, it should be about the essence of the game.
Video poker is a game that is based more on skill than almost any other game in the casino. This doesn’t mean luck doesn’t play a part, especially in the short run. But, if I were to challenge a random player to a slot competition, there would be no way to gain an advantage.
If I were to challenge a random player to a video poker competition, I’d like to believe I would have a distinct advantage. The longer the competition runs, the more strategy and skill will rule the day and the less luck will impact the results.
How is video poker a game of skill? Because the player must make a decision that will clearly impact his results. This decision is frequently NOT of the “no-brainer” variety.
Technically, in the game of Casino War, the player must make a decision whether or not to go to War when the player and dealer tie. But, the proper decision is the same all the time – to go to War. So, while technically, there is “strategy,” I doubt very many people get this one wrong.
In Three Card Poker, there is one strategy decision – to Play or Fold. The decision is also relatively simple. If the player has Q-6-4 or better, he should play. As simple as this sounds, many players don’t follow this rule (and I don’t mean they go with Q-6 or Q or better), and as a result they give up a larger portion of their bankroll to the casino than they need to.
Video poker strategy is far more complex than this. First of all, the decision is not one of Fold or Play, but rather which cards to Discard. There are 32 ways a player can make each of these decisions, ranging from keeping them all to discarding them all.
Granted, many of these possibilities will fall into the brainless category. If you are dealt Three of a Kind and two off-suit kickers, which cards to discard is pretty obvious. If you are dealt a Straight, then you don’t have to discard at all. Oh wait, what if it is also a 4-card Straight Flush or a 4-card Royal? What is the proper play?
If you are dealt the following: 4-diamonds, 4-spades, 5-spades, 6-spades, 7-clubs, the decisions get a bit more complex. You might keep the Pair of 4’s, or the 4-card Straight or maybe the 3-card Straight Flush.
These are 3 of the 32 ways the hand can be played. The other 29 are quickly discarded, so there isn’t a need to go through 32 possible decisions for each hand. Obviously, in this case, you’re not going to keep the off-suit 4-7.
Unlike table poker, which involves even a higher level of skill, the strategy in video poker is based strictly on math. You don’t play hunches and you’re not trying to beat another player. You don’t have to worry that you might pull your Straight and he might come up with a Flush.
All that matters is the likelihood (aka probability) of each final hand and how much that hand pays. But, I’ll leave that for next week. For now, I’ll be happy if I’ve convinced you just a little bit that video poker is not slots.

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