In the modern world of slots and video poker, I’ve come to really like ticket in, ticket out payouts. There’s no waiting for coin jams or hopper fills, and my hands don’t look like I’ve been making mud pies after handling a few rolls of quarters. Friends have had buckets of quarters and dollar tokens stolen while they play, but none has reported a ticket theft.
Nonetheless, I’ll admit to a certain nostalgia, and a gap on the souvenir front. Atop the book case in my home office there are several plastic coin buckets, and each sparks a story.
HARRAH’S ATLANTIC CITY: It was 1998, and 15 winners from throughout the United States were whisked away on the Harrah’s Biggest Nights Dream Tour for six nights in Atlantic City, Reno and Las Vegas. I was invited along to write about the event and got a taste of the high life, just without the cash and mega-shopping trips that went to the winners.
We were on a jet that had been fitted for an NBA team, but painted with the Harrah’s logo for this trip. Think better than first class, every seat with more than double the leg room you’d find upfront on a commercial flight. There were tours, gifts, terrific meals and up-close seats in Las Vegas for an all-Gershwin show with Rosemary Clooney, Michael Feinstein and Linda Ronstadt.
The bucket I brought home was a reminder of my own biggest night, playing dollar video poker. WMS Gaming at the time had a game that featured periods of enhanced flush paybacks with extra returns for collecting cards in the designated suit.
On that night, I was on fire. I launched the special feature over and over again. The wins kept coming, the hopper had to be filled and refilled, I shared a handful or two of coins with a newfound tour friend – it was glorious. My winnings of more than $700 filled four coin buckets, and one of them is on my shelf.
BALLY’S LAS VEGAS: The first time my wife and I ever went to Las Vegas together was in 1989, and we stayed at Bally. We didn’t play there very much. As extreme low-rollers, we spent a lot of time playing nickel slots of the old three-reel, one-payline variety across Flamingo Road at Bourbon Street.
The Bally bucket comes from the start of a trek up and down the Strip, casino hopping through nickel and quarter slots and quarter video poker. We didn’t draw any royal flushes or three-7 jackpots, but we did manage three triple bars at Bourbon Street, four of a kind at the Flamingo, a straight flush at the old Holiday Casino and a couple of more four of a kinds at the Sands.
By the time we got back to Bally, we were $65 to the good. Given that our gambling budget for two for the whole three-night trip was only $300, that was huge.
HORSESHOE, HAMMOND, Ind.: I’d been hired as a speaker to tell a convention group a little about how to play the games. It was a nice event, and I hadn’t planned it as a big gambling evening.
But I did have time to play a little once my Q-and-A session was over. I chose dollar 9-7 Double Bonus Poker, and bought in for $100. I was down to $45 on the credit meter when the deal brought me three 4s. I held them, hit the draw button, and up popped the fourth 4. The $400 payoff augmented my speaker’s fee nicely, and gave me another souvenir for my shelf.
FIESTA, LAS VEGAS: For a number of years, Marcy and I used to make a point of getting together with Lenny Frome, the pioneering video poker analyst and friend to players, and his wife Rhoda. On this night, we were to meet the Fromes at a restaurant at the Fiesta, and the casino was packed with great video poker.
There were a couple of banks of full-pay Deuces Wild games, which pays 100.8 percent with expert play. On the rare occasions I have access to full-pay Deuces, that’s my game of choice.
The Deuces were kind to me. I drew four 2s, and 1,000 quarters poured into my tray. We still had 15 minutes before meeting the Fromes, so I kept playing. And wouldn’t you know it, I drew the Deuces again. Marcy walked over to see if I was ready to go just as the coin-dropping sputtered to a halt. The hopper was empty, and needed a fill with more than 600 coins remaining in my payout.
She asked if there was anything she could do, and I told her to start cashing in buckets of coins. I filled buckets while waiting for a fill, and she cashed them in. The Fiesta was efficient at filling the hopper, thank goodness, and when it resumed, I told Marcy to go find the Fromes, and I’d cash the last bucket myself once the hopper stopped.
I was less than 10 minutes late for dinner, the Fromes understood completely, and I had one more souvenir.
Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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