My favorite slot machine… sort of
By John Grochowski
When asked about my favorite all-time slot machine bonus event, I usually take the easy way out and rattle off a long list of games I like. That’s what I did in Strictly Slots last year, spinning off an editor’s question into 10 slot bonuses that keep me entertained.
In the months since that appeared, I’ve fielded a number of emails asking me to narrow it down to a single event.
“Surely you must have one favorite,” said the latest email, written by a woman named Jess who laments that she can no longer find Betty Boop’s Love Meter. “No twisting away this time. Which one is it?”
The honest answer is that I don’t have just one favorite. I do have one among my favorites that brings back a couple of warm memories, so let’s go with that.
The event in question is the around the board bonus in Monopoly. And the memories involve my first time playing the games, and a later casino trip with my brother Jay.
Let’s take them in reverse order, because it’s Jay’s story that has become the stuff of family legend, told and retold at the merest hint of getting out a Monopoly board.
Jay and I were staying at the Tropicana on the Las Vegas Strip, just about a year after Monopoly was introduced by WMS Gaming, and we’d been out casino hopping for the morning.
I had business to attend and told Jay I was going to the room, He said he’d meet me in an hour and we’d head to the coffee shop. Then he headed to one of the first-release Monopoly nickel video slots where you could go around the game board up to three times and build houses and hotels along the way.
An hour passed, and I wrapped up my business. No Jay. Another half hour – still no Jay.
Cell phones of the late 1990s were big, cumbersome things. Neither of us brought one to Las Vegas, so I couldn’t just phone or text as I could today.
So I walked back into the casino. There was Jay at his Monopoly machine, surrounded by buckets and buckets of nickels.
A crowd was gathered around, watching him play.
I ambled up to him and said, “I take it you’ve been winning.”
He gave me a big grin and said, “Sorry to delay lunch, but I COULD NOT leave this machine.”
It was easy to see why. It was going to take a long time at the change booth to cash in all those nickels.
“I went to the bonus right after you left,” he said. “I landed on Boardwalk TWICE, and the second time I had a house on it. Then I went to the bonus again, and again.
“The other players were all cheering. After about the fifth bonus, a couple of guys in suits came over to see what was going on, and they watched for a while.”
With me watching, his luck plummeted. He lost $20 pretty quickly, and decided lunch wasn’t such a bad thing after all. I helped him carry his buckets to the booth, and he cashed in more than $500. Not a bad hour and a half on a five-cent slot.
It dwarfed even my first Monopoly experience, and that was pretty good. I’d been told by WMS that the Rio in Las Vegas would be one of the sites of the initial release, so I went to check it out. Four Monopoly games were released together, two as quarter three-reel slots and two as nickel video games. All had the Monopoly board on top, with one reel and one video slot offering a once around bonus, and one of each offering the event with up to three times around the board.
I wanted to try each bonus, so I started with a 25-cent stepper with the once around feature. Within five minutes, I won the trip around the board. I’d push a button, the dice would roll, and lights would move around the board.
The dice were hot, and I wasn’t landing on any bad spaces. No income tax, no luxury tax – it was properties and bonuses all the way.
Then it happened. I needed a five. The dice landed on a three and a two.
I had the board’s big payoff and my credit meter zoomed. A few spins later, I cashed out, and more than 1,000 quarters came pouring into the tray – and yes, they were all coins.
I moved to a nickel video slot so I could have a sample of what the games were about in both stepper and video versions.
This time, the bonus came even faster. Back to the game board, this time in the event that could take you around the board up to three times.
Again the dice were hot. And again… BOARDWALK!
I made it through the maximum three times around the board. When I cashed out, it was for more than 2,000 nickels. It took a while. I had to wait for a hopper fill when the machine ran out of nickels, then had to wait again when the hopper jammed – those who yearn for days when real coins clanked into the trays should also reflect on time waiting for hopper fills and jams.
There have been other Monopoly experiences since then, and not all encounters have been of the winning kind. On any given day, after a good win, I might have told you my favorite of all time was The Hangover, Superman, Deal or No Deal, or some other hot slot.
But with two remarkable runs, Monopoly has given me tales to tell, and that makes all the difference.