John Grochowski

In the realm of video poker authors, Bob Dancer and Jean Scott are arguably
the most well-known individuals. Breathing right down their collective necks,
however, is an affable bearded fellow named John Grochowski.

But unlike Dancer and Scott, writing comes natural to this career journalist, giving him
the luxury of combining useful gambling knowledge with a breezy narrative.

The Life of John Grochowski

John has been entertaining fans of the written word for years, and he’s also
brought his relatable style of gambling information to the radio airwaves.
Regardless of where you’ve encountered his work, there’s a decent chance that
you’ve found yourself wanting to know more about this fellow with the glasses
and beard. Well, now’s your opportunity.

The eldest of five children, John Grochowski was born in 1952 in Aurora,
Illinois, but grew up in the Chicago suburb of Lisle. The earliest years of his
life were uneventful, and by the age of 12 he was playing organized baseball and
reading about science and dinosaurs.

He discovered music in 1964, especially the British Invasion led by The
Beatles. The young Grochowski watched their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan
Show with great anticipation, and soon he discovered the WLS radio station in
Chicago, specifically the Silver Dollar Survey countdown.

While The Beatles were the primary object of his obsession, John also
absorbed any other form of rock and roll that he could afford to add to his
record collection. Notable favorites included Gerry and the Pacemakers, The
Animals, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, Manfred Mann, and Billy & the Dakotas.

The Searchers were another favorite of the Illinois youth, and their single
“Needles and Pins” was one of the first tunes he tried to learn after getting a
guitar. While the guitar playing didn’t last, his love for the band endured, and
he’s since admitted to cranking up songs such as “Someday We’re Gonna Love
Again” and “When You Walk in the Room” whenever they come on the radio.

He played football during his teenage years, eventually graduating from Lisle
High School in 1970. Then it was off to the University of Illinois in
Urbana-Champaign, where he wrote for the student newspaper and later served as
its sports editor.

Once he secured his degree, he decided to carve out a career for himself in
the newspaper industry. The first stop found him working as a sportswriter for
the Suburban Trib in Hinsdale, Illinois. This was followed by a stint with the
Colorado Springs Gazette, before eventually taking a job as the sports copy
editor for the News-Sun in Waukegan, Illinois.

His career enjoyed a major shot in the arm in 1982, as that’s when he landed
a position as a copy editor with the Chicago Sun-Times. While working there, he
also-quite by accident-found himself on the path that would lead him to write
about gambling.

In the early 1990s, the Chicago area was seeing a great number of riverboat
casinos spring up. The paper’s managing editor solicited ideas from her staff
about the best way to incorporate casino news, and Grochowski’s proposal was the
only serious response.

This led him to write his own weekly column on casinos and casino games
starting in 1994, and it eventually grew to become nationally syndicated. It
also brought with it the distinction of being the first casino gambling
columnist to write for a major American newspaper.

Once he’d immersed himself in the world of gambling, it was natural for John
to want to release a book about his experiences. He collected a number of his
favorite stories and released Gaming: Cruising the Casino with a Syndicated
Gambling Columnist in 1996. This was the first of several books, with the author
eventually tackling games such as video poker, blackjack, craps, and slot

He would later take his expertise to the airwaves, doing a one-hour talk show
on Chicago’s WCKG-FM and one-minute gambling segments on WBBM-AM. In 2010, he
launched his well-received “Casino Answer Man” segments on WLS-AM. Chicago
listeners can still catch these one-minute slices of gambling knowledge Tuesday
through Friday at 5:18 pm (or via his podcast).

In 2012, he added to his already impressive resume by launching a weekly
Sun-Times column on the ins and outs of sabermetrics, another first in the
publishing industry. For those who are unaware, sabermetrics is the art of
statistical analysis seen in the Brad Pitt movie Moneyball.

In addition to the newspaper columns already mentioned, John has also written
for both virtual and traditional publications. These include the following:
Southern Gaming and Destinations, Strictly Slots, Casino Journal, Midwest Gaming
& Travel, Slot Manager, Casino City Times, and Casino Player.

His status as a gambling expert has also led to television guest spots on the
Travel Channel, although perhaps his most notable TV moment came as a contestant
on ABC’s Who Wants to Be a Millionaire in 2000. Besides meeting host Regis
Philbin, Grochowski answered enough trivia questions correctly to walk away with
$125,000 in cash.

Books from John Grochowski

A lot of professional gamblers try their hand at writing books, but the end
result can often be unimpressive. Luckily,
John Grochowski is an author first and a gambler second, so his books have a more professional feel than many of
the titles listed in the gambling section of Amazon. The following items are all
currently available from Amazon and other leading book retailers:

  • Gaming: Cruising the Casinos with Syndicated Gambling Columnist John Grochowski

    Written in 1996
    and clocking in at 182 pages, this paperback book collects a number of the
    more interesting newspaper columns penned by John on the subject of
    gambling. While some tomes focus on a specific game of chance, this title
    covers a wide range of options. The interview with a recovering gambling
    addict provides a sobering look at the hobby, and there are also sections
    devoted to tournament play, blackjack strategy, and how to get the most from
    your slot machine sessions.

  • The Video Poker Answer Book

    This 2004 book devotes a generous 277 pages to the subject of video
    poker. Most of the leading games are analyzed in-depth, and the author
    approaches each chapter with a question and answer format. Whether you’re a
    beginning or intermediate VP player, you’re certain to find something within
    these pages to help your overall game. And just like with all of his “Answer
    Book” series, Grochowski manages to relate his information in a style that’s
    both educational and conversational at the same time.

  • The Casino Answer Book

    You may not realize it, but all casino games have a built-in mathematical
    advantage over the player. Fortunately, this 237-page book is meant to help
    shave off as much of the house edge as possible while playing blackjack,
    video poker, and roulette. As with other books in the series, the author
    imparts his information by posing a question and then delivering the answer.
    Published in 1994.

  • The Slot Machine Answer Book

    The second book in John’s “Answer” series, this 1999 release
    delivers 150 pages on the subject of slot machines. While it doesn’t deliver
    any insider secrets on how to beat the slots (which isn’t possible, anyway),
    it does provide a solid overview for those who are new to the hobby. In
    addition, the author covers some of the leading slot manufacturers and looks
    at how modern machines function.

  • The Craps Answer Book

    Released in 2003 as part of his successful “Answer” series, this 127-page
    book serves as a worthwhile introduction to the game of craps. Each chapter
    presents the reader with a quiz to test their knowledge, and it covers
    useful topics ranging from bankroll management and odds to craps lingo and
    why gambling systems are nonsense.

  • Winning Tips for Casino Games

    If you’re taking a trip to Las Vegas but aren’t sure which
    games to play, this 128-page book should help point you in the right
    direction. Rules and strategies are covered for all of the following: video
    poker, slots, baccarat, roulette, blackjack, bingo, craps, and keno. In
    addition, this 1995 release looks at the etiquette for each game, including
    tipping the dealer and dealing with fellow gamblers.

Gambling Advice from the Casino Answer Man

In this section, I’ll be passing along some of the wisdom found in various
articles from John Grochowski. And in keeping with his Answer Man format, I’ll
first pose a question and then follow it up with John’s (paraphrased) response.

How can I tell if someone at my blackjack table is using basic strategy?

Assuming you’re playing at a multi-deck game, watch for any of the following from a player: Hits on a soft 18 when the dealer shows a nine, ten, or ace; hits on a 12 when the dealer shows a two or three; consistently hits on a hard 16 when the dealer displays a seven; splits aces or eights even when the dealer has a 10 showing; and never stands on a soft 17.

Can roulette dealers make the ball land wherever they want?

No. When the roulette wheel is spinning, there are simply too many variables to overcome. Not only does the ball spin in the opposite direction, but it also bounces around before coming to a rest in one of the pockets. In a fair game, even the most experienced dealer couldn’t hope to control such forces.

Is it better to play live or machine keno?

It depends on what you want to accomplish. If you’re only interested in the overall payout, then machine keno is better thanks to state mandated minimums that apply to all gambling machines. For those who just want to pass the time, the slower nature of live keno should result (on average) in a lower risk per hour.

I’m taking a trip to Las Vegas. Is it better to play on or off the Strip?

For Sin City rookies, staying on the Strip and taking in the sights is a must. If you’re on a budget, though, it might be more prudent to stay just off the Strip and walk to the more popular tourist destinations. For those who are only concerned about gambling, the smart players tend to work the area outside the Strip. Since most tourists don’t congregate there, you can consistently find better payback percentages on video poker, blackjack, and slots.

How can I improve my odds of hitting a winning combination on a slot machine?

You can’t. If a game is programmed to provide the player with a 1 in 15,000 chance of winning each spin, the odds are always going to be the same. Even if you just hit a giant jackpot, the odds of winning on the very next spin are still 1 in 15,000.

Which type of player reward is better: free plays or cash back?

I prefer the cash back option, as it affords the customer the opportunity to spend their money however they like. In the case of free plays, the money goes right back into the machine and will probably wind up returning to the casino.

I’d like to win some money at the casino. Which games give me the best chance of doing that?

Video poker and craps are among the best options for casino patrons. Most video poker machines carry a low house edge, and some can even present the player with a mathematical advantage under the right set of circumstances. Assuming you stick to the best possible wagers, craps can also give players one of the best shots to win in the casino (free odds, pass, and come bets).


If you’re looking for gambling advice that’s functional without being too
cerebral, then John Grochowski makes for an excellent read. He has a number of
books on the market, and his take on various games of chance can also be located
on the Internet and radio. When he’s not making the lives of Las Vegas
executives more difficult, he can often be found following his favorite sports
teams, reading a good sci-fi novel, or blasting tunes from the British Invasion.