Slots with Video Poker (1996)

Week of December 15, 2005

James Coburn

Conservative bluehairs (a group Phyllis has been lumped into from time to time) who denounce the lifestyles of promiscuous and/or thieving meth- or crackheads, then proceed to blow mad coin on riverboat slots come Saturday, are complete hypocrites. One could argue that, shy of hitting the ridiculously elusive one-armed jackpot, playing slots is actually far dimmer behavior than pounding ass while tweaking or raiding Mom's jewelry cabinet for rock. At least with risky sex and risky drugs, you come to some sort of climax. Nine times out of ten, playing slots fails to yield euphoria.

Slots with Video Poker, an hourlong video hosted by Oscar winner James Coburn, attempts to persuade the viewer that playing slots is nowhere near as stupid as smoking crack or hooking up for unprotected, anonymous sex via the Internet in the middle of an amphetamine binge. It nearly succeeds, thanks mainly to brisk pacing and the white-bearded Coburn's suave, husky voice, which slathers a sheen of historical gravitas on the uni-appendaged bandit.

But no matter how many obvious yet helpful tips you may get on how to maximize potential payoff, there's no getting over the fact that the house always wins. Always. While the same could be said for any casino game, at least blackjack, poker and craps reward a modicum of intellect, whereas slots are strictly slaves to the computer. And if you're dumb enough to play them with any regularity, so are you. Mike Seely

Each week the author treks to the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, where a staff member blindfolds him and escorts him to the movie shelves. After selecting a film at random, Seely checks it out and reviews it.

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