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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Empress Joliet Woos Video Poker Players Back

19 May 2010

A few years ago, Empress Casino Hotel in Joliet angered the legion of video poker players it had cultivated by lowering the pay tables on many of its machines, including several popular banks of progressives.

Pay table structure is the most important element of video poker play. It is something that the casual player may not recognize, but students of the game know it makes a significant impact on long term expectations.

In an attempt to make amends for that controversial decision and make the games more attractive to serious players, Empress has upgraded the pay tables on many of its machines and at the same time enhanced its video poker offerings.

According to Toni Johnson, the property's vice president of casino operations, beefing up the product and making a lot of changes to the pay tables wasn't all that was accomplished with the recent upgrades.

"We shopped our competitors to make sure that what we have is the same as or better than what they are offering," she said. "I also feel that something that sets us apart in this market is the low-denomination poker that we brought in."

A majority of the quarter and dollar Double-Double Bonus video poker games at Empress will now have 9/6 pay tables, meaning that nine coins for every one wagered is paid on a full house, and six coins for every one wagered is paid on a flush. With expert play this translates into 98.98 percent payback.

Contrast this with the same game that has an 8/5 pay table and the long term pay back with expert play is slashed to 96.79 percent.

Johnson also revealed that the inventory of video poker machines at Empress was increased by 18 units, including 10 of International Game Technology's (IGT) sleek new G-20 cabinets.

Guests who prefer the low denomination games that are found at casinos in Northwest Indiana will be happy to learn Empress has penny Dream Card Spin Poker and penny Hundred Play Poker.

Nickel video poker variations include two Fifty Play Poker games and six All-Star Poker units. Even players who prefer ten-cent video poker will be happy with three Ultimate X Poker games and four Good Times Poker machines.

All of the low-denomination games are products of IGT and are the result of the gaming giant's marketing strategy to expand its video poker empire by tweaking its core family of games.

Rather than continue experimenting with gimmicky new concepts, some of which never made it past the testing stage, IGT began developing products that incorporated enhancements to the existing games.

The technology associated with the games was applied not only to single-hand machines but also to Triple Play, Five Play, Ten Play, Fifty Play and One Hundred Play formats.

Another quality the new games share is the fact they feature payouts that require "buy-a-pay" betting, or wagering one extra credit (and in some cases as many as five extra credits) per hand to qualify for the bonus.

Getting video poker players to feel comfortable betting additional money per hand to fund the bonus aspects of the games was crucial to their success.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp