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by John Grochowski

John Grochowski is casino gambling expert and a well-known and respected columnist. His syndicated casino gambling column appears in the Denver Post, Casino City Times, and other newspapers and web sites. Grochowski has written six books on gambling including the "Answer Man" series of books ( He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WLS-AM (890) and podcasts are available at your question to Grochowski at

The Chicago area has not been immune to the decline in video poker pay tables that has been apparent in most of the United States.

This once was a VP oasis with some of the best play east of Nevada. There were 99-percent games galore, and the casino formerly known as Empress Joliet even had 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker (DDB, at 100.17 percent with expert play) on both quarters and dollars. In fact, the dollar games had a fast-moving progressive jackpot.

Some reasonably high-payer games are still on casino floors today, but for the most part, you're going to have to shell out the big bucks to play them.

If there's a signature game for the region, it's 9-6 Double Double Bonus Poker (98.98 percent), and it's reserved for dollar players at several area casinos.

Higher-paying games mostly are on $5 and up denomination machines, sometimes on Triple Play and other multi-hand games. Even if a game pays 99.8 percent or so, it takes some bankroll to play $5 Triple Play.

Some casinos have no single-hand quarter video poker at all, and others have only low-payers along the lines of 9-6-4 Double Bonus (96.38) and 6-5 Bonus Poker (96.87).

If you count the two Majestic Star casinos in Gary as one operation --- they share a land-based pavilion with entrances to the dockside boats just across a corridor from each other --- then there are eight casinos within the Chicago metropolitan area. Five are in Illinois: Grand Victoria in Elgin, Harrah's and Hollywood in Joliet, Hollywood in Aurora, and Rivers in Des Plaines. Across the border in Indiana are Majestic Star, Horseshoe in Hammond, and Ameristar in East Chicago.

Let's look at the best games in each casino, starting with Illinois...

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