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My Last Column

14 January 2024

By John Grochowski
Blackjack Bob never was one to beat around the bush, so the first words out of his mouth as we sat down to a late-December breakfast were, "So what's this nonsense about retiring?"

I'd alerted him earlier that after just about 30 years, I was ending my weekly syndicated casinos column. Full retirement? No, not yet. I'll still be writing an article or two a month for magazines and/or a blog.

But I'm jumping off the weekly deadline dash. This is the last in a series of columns that began in early February, 1994, in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Bob shook his head. "Well, at least you're not walking away altogether. But 30 years? We've seen some changes."

Indeed we have. What we play has changed, and so has where we play with the spread of casinos coast-to-coast as well as online play.

When I started all this, video slots were just a gleam in game makers' eyes. Player rewards programs were in their infancy. Comps had long been reserved for table players, the rise of slots brought early "slot clubs" to track play and reward players. Primitive early clubs developed into today's sophisticated rewards systems.

"Don't forget our favorite, blackjack," Bob said. "When we met, it was still easy to find games where the dealer stood on soft 17, and it wasn't all that rare to find even single- and double-deck games with favorable rules. And don't even get me started on 6-5 payoffs on blackjack. That abomination hadn't started yet."

Yes, I said, blackjack rules are tougher than they were 30 years ago. On the other hand, players are better. When I started all this, I used to include soft 17 as one of the hands players misplayed most. Now, I rarely see a player stand on soft 17. Players hit, stand, split and double closer to basic strategy than they once did.

"True enough," Bob said. "Why do you think that happened?"
The easy availability of information on the Internet was a game changer, I think. Anyone who's really interested in improving their game can find strategy tables online. We've seen software that enables players to practice and that warns players when they make mistakes. Now, such practice is available online.

That's a far cry from when I learned basic strategy. I dealt myself hands with a physical deck of cards and checked my plays against a basic strategy table in a book.

"Hah!" Bob said. "I did the same thing.

"I don't think I've ever asked you. How did you start writing about gambling in the first place."

I'd done a couple of Las Vegas travel articles in the Chicago Sun-Times in the early 1990s. Late in 1993, the managing editor sent a memo saying there were suddenly several riverboat casinos in the area, and asking how we could get consumer information about gambling in the paper.

My response was, "this is what you should do and this is how you should do it." I found out later they had talked with someone outside the paper to do a weekly column, but they decided to go with my ideas, provided I could sustain a column through a six-month ad contract. Turns out the column expanded to twice a week for about half its run, and I wrote more than 2,000 of them.

"Let's get to the important bit," Bob said. "Does this mean we part ways now?"

I laughed and told him of course not. We can still play blackjack together and have our chats and meals. I just won't be writing about him anymore. Except for this one last time.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

 

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John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski