John Grochowski

John Grochowski

Like many of you, I have friends of longstanding I haven’t been able to see face-to-face during the healthcare crisis.

Ellen is a longtime reader who first contacted me way back in the ’90s to ask about player rewards.

In mid-May, she reached out again, this time to tell a story about what she’s been up to since the health care crisis led to shutdowns of live casinos.

“When I go to casinos, I still play slots,” she said via email. “I don’t live in one of the legal online casino states, but still, you’d think I could get my fill of free slots on the apps.

“At first, I did. I’ve dabbled in Double Down Casino, Slotomania and some others for a long time. I have them on my phone, my pad, my laptop. I play them while watching TV in the evening.

“For the first couple of weeks of the stay-at-home, I really went to town. It seemed like I was on one or another all the time. It was practically unconscious. I’d just be hitting the screen while I was doing something else or talking to my husband.

“Then one day, I just lost interest. Maybe it was just too much, going from a low-level thing to a constant activity. But I stopped playing altogether. I’m sure when things reopen, I’ll go back to my once-a-week casino trips and play for money. But for now, I’m filling my time with other things and skipping the apps.”

That left me curious about how others were filling their casino time. So I emailed several players from a list of those who have contacted me multiple times.

PAUL: You know me. I’m a video poker player, and I like to keep in practice. I’d been playing twice a month in casinos. Now I sit down for an hour or so twice a week and play on instructional software.

I set a game up for a pay table I’m likely to see in a casino, and then it warns me when I making a mistake. That seems a more productive use of casino time than just playing on an app that doesn’t teach me anything.

RALPH: Blackjack player here. I live in New Jersey, so I can play online for money. I’ve done some of that, but not as much as I went to live casinos.

Playing with a few other players plus the dealer is a superior experience to just clicking for hand after hand. At least I think so. Obviously, some players disagree. Those online casinos are pretty popular.

ELIZABETH: In live casinos, I divide my time between blackjack and slots, with maybe two-thirds blackjack. Weird combination, right? Skill game with low house edge vs. totally no skill game with high house edge.

This break, if you can call it that, really drove home to me that I think slots are more fun when you take away the money aspect. I tried playing blackjack on apps, and it was so boring!

I find I spend all my app time on slots. They’re more entertaining with no money on the line. When I get back to playing for money, I’m sure I’ll be back to blackjack.

CARL: I’m kind of with Helen. I play mostly craps live, but decided to spend a little time trying other games. Slots, of course, but also roulette and Three Card Poker, I tried some poker games like Texas Hold’em and Omaha, and I even tried a little bingo.

You know what? I’m not interested. I’ll play again when it’s the real thing.

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