Variety of video poker reigns at AZ Charlie’s

Jul 3, 2001 2:14 AM

Locals are continuing to play video poker in record numbers because places such as Arizona Charlie’s provide the two vital ingredients for success ”” time and value.

“We are in the business of selling entertainment to the customer,” said Ron Lurie, executive vice president and general manager for Arizona Charlie’s West. “Our slots pay more hand for hand and we have to be able to back up that statement.”

Years ago gambling was broken down to table games (blackjack, craps, roulette, etc.) and slots. Now, it’s the age of video games and players have taken their love for interaction to the next level.

“The local customers like video poker more than slots,” Lurie said. “We have 80 percent video games and 20 percent slots. Hotels have 80 percent slots and 20 percent video. That’s because their customers change. Ours are loyal and we like that.”

So loyal, in fact, that if a certain machine is removed or switched in the casino, customers make it a point to immediately notify Lurie and his staff.

“It’s our business to give the customers what they want,” said Keith Yafchak, slot lead technician. “We make it a point to know who comes here to play our games. We want them to have fun and come back. At the same time, we are continuing to keep pace with the industry.”

Make no mistake, this is an industry changing by the day.

“We have a company that does a survey of 15 casinos, charting the type of games they are carrying and what the success rate is,” Lurie said. “Our job is to sell time and entertainment. We have to allow the customer to spend time on the machine. We have to give them value.”

Jokers Wild, Deuces Wild and Double Bonus Poker remain the most popular video games, but the trend is for multiple hands with various opening prices that allow the player to stay at one machine.

“It’s common to find eight games on one machine,” Lurie said. “We thought Triple Play was a good game, then Five Play was great.

Now they have games with 10 plays. Heck, we have video poker machines with 50 plays. You can play penny, two cents, nickel, dime, quarter, dollar, five dollars a hand.”

The brand new 50-play poker hands could run a customer $12.50 per play for a shot at a $10,000 royal flush.

“Everybody has their own system,” Yafchak said. “People have a certain amount of expendable income. Some spend $5 for lunch and set aside $15 for gaming. We give them time on the machine, meaning we want them to know that they do have a shot at winning. People are happy if they are able to stay a few hours. They think they got their money’s worth.”

The newest video game, Scrabble, was due to arrive at Arizona Charlie’s this week and made available to the public several hours later.

“We have six of the Scrabble machines coming in and we will see how they do,” Yafchak said. “There are plans for a Millionaire and Missing Link games. We expect to see a Survivor game. There is so much going on in the industry. We have fun trying to keep up.”

Lurie broke down people’s attraction to video games into the simplest form.

“Interaction,” he said. “Don’t let the machine dictate play. Customers enjoy having to make the decision on whether to hold, how many hands to play, how much money to invest per hand. They like machines that talk to them. They like machines that pay off. Most of all, they want to have fun and so do we.”