New Mower Backfire & Hard Start

I bought a new mower (Poulan Pro 18.5HP 42"), but it was last year's model. It is hard to start usually. If it doesn't start on the first try, it takes another 10-15 tries to start usually. And almost every time I shut it off, it backfires. I read a post about the backfire, so I'm thinking to throttle it all the way down and let it die that way instead of shutting off the key, to see if that helps. Usually I turn it off at half throttle, but it still backfires.
As for the starting issue, I wouldn't be surprised if it's being flooded, but why is it being flooded? Where should I start?
BTW, the store that I bought it from was closing, so I can't take it back for them to check out. I can probably get it to a service center, but if there is something simple I can do, I would much rather do that then trying to get it to the service center.
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Deffinately throttle back all the way and be sure the choke is operating properly. When You choke to start then back of the choke as soon as and as much as You can as it warms up..Is it a twin cylinder? I do'nt know as I do'nt own a twin(yet) but would guess there could be a timing issue if all else is in order. Dean
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The backfire could be sign of an exhaust leak near the engine perhaps the gasket is hot where the pipe joins the block. She may have a flooding problem and that maybe why she cranks so much. What brand is the engine perhaps Kohler ?? Kohler always cranks a lot before starting so this maybe normal. Does she smell rich ? Does she show black smoke out of her exhaust. By the way the warranty is not just for the store where you bought it from the poulan warranty is good for any service area that carries Poulan.

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