John Grochowski, Gaming Guru

Casino players do not live by odds and strategies alone. Most play for fun, and what's fun for one can be a crashing bore for another.

That's why we have the array of tables and electronic games, cards and dice, video and reel-spinning slots. Players can choose their own good time.

I asked players at several different games why they like their chosen games. Where do they find the fun in gaming?

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Eileen, craps: It's just so exciting, isn't it? My husband taught me … he was my boyfriend back then. It was my first time at a casino, and he said, "Come on, I'll show you the best game in the joint." At first, I didn't understand what was going on, and he was telling me what to bet and trying to explain how it worked. We had pretty good luck, and by the end of an hour I had a good idea of what's what. Pass and the odds confused me for a while, but I finally got it. I suppose any game is exciting when you win and not so much when you don't., but there's a special feeling when the shooter makes a couple of points and everybody's cheering together. It's like a party, and everybody's friends while they're there.

Gio, video slots: The bonuses are the most fun of anything in the casino. You can win some good coin on the free spins, and the other bonuses, where you make picks and things like that, are like you're playing a different game. There are new games all the time, and there's always something there to surprise you.

Jared, blackjack: It's the best game in the house, the one where you can beat the dealer. You know, I read that book a long time ago, "Beat the Dealer" [by Edward Thorp]. I never learned to count cards like it says in the book, but I did learn basic strategy and I do OK. I like the feeling that I have some control, that my strategy matters, and that if I know enough, I can at least cut the casino's take down to the bone.

Mike, Caribbean Stud: I like playing cards, and I like big jackpots. So I play a little Caribbean Stud. I wouldn't really say it's my favorite game. I'm a Hold'em guy, and I spend more of my day in the poker room. You know how it is with poker. There's a lot of strategy, and you have to keep your head in the game. I even won a bad beat jackpot once, $8,000 when my Aces up full house lost to a straight flush. At Caribbean Stud, the biggest hand I've ever had was four of a kind, and I've had a few of those.

Jen, video poker: I used to be a slot player all the way. My brother-in-law kept touting video poker, but I didn't think you could win enough there. The game that turned me around was Deuces Wild. The first time I played, it was a quarter game, and I was dealt four deuces without even having to draw. It was back before ticket printers, and a THOUSAND QUARTERS came pouring out. I filled buckets and buckets of quarters. Then a little while later, I hit the 2s again. They had to come fill the machine. I was hooked. The more I got into it, the more I like making the decisions, the strategy. I still play Deuces, but also some Double Double Bonus Poker and other games.

Gambling author and columnist John Grochowskis weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.

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