John Grochowski

John Grochowski

A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I have a question about the Mississippi Stud strategy at

After you’ve seen four cards and are making your last bet before you see the fifth, the weakest hand it says to raise on is three mid-cards provided you’ve made at least one 3x bet.

Mid-cards are 6s through 10s, and if you pair one of them up, you get a push.

When there’s only one more card and the best I can do is push, is it really worth my making another bet? That seems like a loser.

A. In any strategy-oriented game, sometimes a play is designed to win, and sometimes it’s designed to mitigate losses.

This is one of the latter. Let’s say you anted $5, made one $15 bet – the three times your ante provision – and one $5 bet. You already have $25 on the table.

The strategy at recommends one more $5 bet to protect that $25. Given that your only possibilities are lose or push, your average result is going to be losing money. However, by making that one last $5 bet and making sure any push lets you keep not only that $5 but the previous $25 in wagers, the average loss is less than the $25 it would cost you to fold.

It’s not an ideal situation, but it’s your best option under the circumstances.

Q. Illinois has become the latest state to legalize sports gambling, and I read they were adding new casinos, too, including one with 4,000 gaming positions in Chicago. My father-in-law lives there and said the 4,000 positions could be more than 4,000 seats at slots and tables. Can you explain?

A. Under Illinois regulations, a gaming position and a seat are different things. A slot machine is nine-tenths of a gaming position and a seven-seat blackjack table is 5.7 gaming positions.

The reason has to do with the state’s limit of 1,200 gaming positions per license and dates back to the 1990s, when legal casino gaming was new in Illinois. The casino then known as Empress in Joliet – which later morphed into Argosy and today is Hollywood Joliet – approached the Illinois Gaming Board and asked if the intent of the limit was to ensure no more than 1,200 people were gambling at once in a given casino.

When the response was affirmative, Empress suggested that at any given time, people are walking between games while deciding what to play, getting something to drink, looking for the restrooms or doing some other thing besides playing. That left seats empty, so if there were to be 1,200 people playing, there needed to be more than 1,200 seats.

The board responded with the formula. That’s why according to the May revenue report, the board shows Rivers Casino in Des Plaines with 983 electronic gaming devices as well as 58 gaming tables – nearly 1,400 seats or spaces to play.

The new law in Illinois does far more than legalize sports betting and a Chicago casino. It expands the number of gaming positions at existing casinos to 2,000, allows for five new 2,000-position casinos, legalizes slots, table games and sports betting at thoroughbred and harness racetracks and allows for one new harness track with gaming in Chicago’s south suburbs.

Whether all those potential gaming positions are actually used is a matter for conjecture. Several of the current casinos don’t use all 1,200. Some business has been redirected to restaurants, taverns, restaurants and service clubs, where video gaming with up to five machines per license was legalized several years ago. There are now more slots in those venues than in Illinois casinos.