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Rivers Casino review: Something for everyone, especially high rollers

Gropening new Rivers Casino DesPlaines brought thousands be part  history making day.   |  Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

Grand opening of the new Rivers Casino in DesPlaines brought thousands to be part of the history making day. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: July 19, 2011 2:08AM

With maximum wagers up to $100,000 in baccarat and $25,000 in blackjack, Rivers Casino in Des Plaines made it clear right from the start that it’s giving its all to attract high rollers.

But those with more modest bankrolls will find plenty to do. With a by-invitation grand opening Sunday and a public opening Monday, Rivers rolled out tables with minimum wagers of $5 on games including roulette, Mississippi Stud Poker, Three Card Poker and Texas Hold’em Bonus Poker, and $10 on blackjack, craps and mini-baccarat.

For slot players, the 1,050 electronic games include penny and 2-cent machines, though you can’t play just a cent or two at a time. A stop at a 2-cent Vegas Hits machine found that players must wager on all of the game’s 20-paylines, making the minimum bet 40 cents.

How good are the games? A few observations:

Blackjack: On the main casino floor, all games are machine-shuffled, while those in the high-limit room are hand-shuffled. Machine-shuffled games mean you play more hands per hour. Another big difference is that on the main floor, blackjack dealers are required to hit soft 17 — 17s in which Aces are counted as 11, such as Ace-6 or Ace-2-4. In the high-limit room, dealers stand on all 17s, a rule that trims the house edge. If you’re planning to play $25 a hand on up, you’re better off in the high-limit room.

Craps: Players may back pass-line bets with additional “free odds” wagers of up to 100 times their original wager. There is no house edge on free odds, the house edge on a pass bet with 100x odds is only two-hundredths of a percent, making it a very attractive play for high rollers.

Video poker: The best video poker games in the house are the versions of Double Double Bonus Poker (99.0 percent return with expert play) and Deuces Wild (98.9) on machines of dollar denomination on up. Below dollar level, games have lower pay tables and are on multiple-hand games such as Triple Play Poker and Super Times Pay.

Slot machines: Most three-reel games are dollars on up, although there are a few quarter games, including Wheel of Fortune. Following industry trends, a large share of space is devoted to video slots, including penny Jewels of India, and the new 2-cent Dirty Dancing, which with all its paylines has a $1 minimum bet.

In all, it’s a varied, something-for-everyone approach. But the best deals are had by those with the biggest bankrolls.

John Grochowski is a local free-lance writer.

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