Sometimes there’s nothing like a game that’s built to last – Slot
by John Grochowski
Talk about lasting popularity. Blazing 7s has been with us since the 1970s, when Bally Gaming (now Bally Technologies) was based in Chicago.
If you’re a slot player, you know the drill. A hot new game catches your eye. You give it a try…and you like it. You like the game play, you like the bonus rounds, maybe you have a couple of pretty good wins. So, you start seeking out the game every time you go to the casino. You become old friends.
And then one day it’s gone, replaced by some flashy new slot with new bells and whistles.
Some slot machines, however, transcend that. They don’t disappear in a few months, or even a few years. IGT’s Double Diamond spins on and on and on, So does Wheel of Fortune, WMS’ Jackpot Party and Monopoly, and Bally’s Blazing 7s. If you’ve played slots, chances are you’ve experienced these themes in one or more of their variations and incarnations. I know I have, and I’d like to share a few of my recollections of playing these timeless classics.
DOUBLE DIAMOND, IGT: It was near the end of a day on a Chicago-area riverboat, and my brother Jay–who’d been sticking with quarter video poker–put some money in a $1, three-reel Double Diamond machine. “The first Double Diamond came up, then the second,” he said later recalled. “So then I was thinking, just give me anything but a blank on that third reel, and I’ll go home happy.”
Even if he’d just gotten a single bar, he’d have gotten four times the payoff for three single bars. But he wound up with much more than that. The first Double diamond doubled the payoff once, and the second doubled it again. Then came the third Double Diamond, along with the biggest payoff he’s ever had in a casino. Dinner was on him.
WHEEL OF FORTUNE, IGT: I was in McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, and a woman I’d met at a convention was playing a Wheel of Fortune progressive. “I don’t know why I play here,” she said. “Glutton for punishment, I guess.”
She hadn’t even finished her sentence when the symbol that gives you a spin of the top-box wheel landed on the payline. “This gets me $40 every time I spin,” she said of the game’s famous bonus round, smiling and shaking her head.
Only this time, it wasn’t. The wheel stopped on a $250 space. And that brought a big smile.
“I’m going home a winner!” she exclaimed. And she promptly cashed out.
JACKPOT PARTY, WMS: Nowadays, we’re used to seeing Jackpot Party on video, and touching the video screen to open gift boxes that reveal bonus awards, or how party-stopping Poopers. It’s an enduring format that has garnered a large following. Additions to the franchise have included Jackpot Party Progressives and the recent Jackpot Block Party, which has four party grids on the screen, the first three of which include keys to unlock the next party.
The first Jackpot Party game was a three-reel mechanical released in the 1990s. It had the orange Dotmation screen in the top box, the same format WMS used in its early hit Piggy Bankin’. The bonus round was played out with a grid of Dotmation rectangles hiding the bonus credits.
I remember mentioning to a WMS exec how much I liked the game, and she said, “Just wait till you see it in video. It’s even better.”
She was right. Jackpot Party was truly made for video, where at this rate it looks like it could last forever.
MONOPOLY, WMS: Here’s another story involving my brother. We don’t go to casinos together often, but when we do, something memorable always seems to happen.
This one was in Las Vegas, in 1998, around the time that the first Monopoly slots were released. I needed to take a break and do a little work before lunch. Jay headed for a nickel Monopoly video slot and told me he’d meet me in about 45 minutes.
I got my work done, and 45 minutes passed. And an hour. And an hour and 15 minutes. No Jay. Cell phones at the time were huge, unwieldy things. I kept one in my car at home, but didn’t have one with me. Neither did Jay. I had to go looking for him.
When I found him, a crowd was gathered around him, watching him play the Monopoly game. “I know I was supposed to meet you, but I was NOT leaving this machine,” he told me excitedly.
He had buckets and buckets of nickels. “I’ve been to that board, what, eight times? Nine times?”
“At least that,” an older woman in the crowd chimed in.
It was another 15 minutes before things cooled down enough to drag him to lunch. There have been dozens of games added to the Monopoly series since then. The versions with trips around the Monopoly board always bring back that Vegas memory.
BLAZING 7s, Bally: Talk about lasting popularity. Blazing 7s has been with us since the 1970s, when Bally Gaming (now Bally Technologies) was based in Chicago. It was developed as a rapid-hit jackpot game, with 7s symbols on fiery backgrounds and a volatility that proved so appealing to players that Blazing 7s, in various incarnations, has remained a Bally staple–through electro-mechanical games, to reel-stepper slots with microprocessors, to today’s video slots.
It’s not a big million-dollar progressive. The top jackpot starts at $1,000 on a dollar game. But big hits can be frequent, and that’s the main appeal of the game.
It was definitely appealing to me one fateful day in Las Vegas, when I was taking a beating on my usual games of choice–video poker and blackjack. I was down $400 almost before I knew it, and went for a walk. Then I spotted a Blazing 7s machine with a jackpot near $1,500, and slid $50 into the bill validator.
I didn’t win the progressive, but I did hit three double Blazing 7s. That was worth a quick $500. Suddenly I was back in business!
Things don’t often work out that neatly, but on that day, I sure was glad some slots hold on year after year, decade after decade. Aren’t you?
Forever Favorites – Slot.