It’s been 30 years or so since I first set foot in a casino, and that’s meant 30 years of change.

There are things I miss about days of yore. I miss better blackjack rules, where nearly all multiple-deck games had the dealer stand on all 17s, one- and two-deck games with decent rules were not difficult to find and no one had ever heard of 6-5 payoffs on two-card 21s. I miss the days when players — or at least player friends like the late Lenny Frome — had a better handle on video poker math than casinos did and it was easy to find high-paying games.

Other players miss things such as slot machine payoffs by coins rather than tickets, or the preponderance of three-reel slots.

And then there’s Matt, a reader to say his nostalgia reaches back only a few years.

“ Is it too soon to be nostalgic for the pick’em bonuses?” he asked in an email. “Those are what really drew me into the video slots. I always mostly played blackjack and messed around on quarter slots. My wife got me to try that Reel ‘Em In. How long ago was that, 15, 20 years ago now? That was kind of fun, but the one that really reeled me in was Jackpot Party, and also Fortune Cookie, where you got to make lots of picks.

“Bonuses like that are still around, I guess, but not as many as there were. Now everywhere you look the bonuses are free spins. I miss pick’em bonuses just like some players miss three-reel games.”

Matt’s yearning is understandable. With the rise of penny slots, gamemakers have relied more and more on free-spin bonuses.

The purpose is to add volatility to the games and make large wins possible. The potential for large bonus wins has to be balanced by bonus events with very small wins or no wins at all, such as when my wife Marcy told me she’d just had 10 free spins on a slot and won zero credits.

That will make you nostalgic for pick’em events in a hurry.

What else makes players nostalgic? Let’s look at a couple of more responses received after I asked my email list of slot regulars for the things they missed most.

Denise: I still miss the coins. It was exciting to see and hear them pour into the tray when you won. Everybody around you knew when you’d won big, and you’d get smiles and congratulations.

I used to collect those plastic cups. I still have them somewhere, but my husband and I used to make a display of it at home. It reminded us of all the places we’d been. Every casino we played in, we’d take a cup home. On casino-hopping days, sometimes that was five or six cups in the same day.

Steve: The bonuses are the big event now, and that’s made everything more fun. I miss the chance at bigger jackpots. Maybe you bet more on penny machines than you used to on quarters, but I used to win jackpots of $1,000, $1,500 on quarters and I don’t think I’ve ever done that on a penny machine.

Jen: Haywire. Remember that? Sometimes you’d get a win like three bars or double bars and the reels would start shaking and it would all go Haywire. They’d spin and spin and spin without you making another bet, and every time they’d land on that same win. I remember getting the double bars once and getting them again five more times. That gave me goose bumps.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).