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MINNEAPOLIS TRIP REPORT

by JPB

JPB has been playing blackjack and counting cards part-time since 1996. He plays throughout the country but primarily in Missouri. He has been a Green Chip member of BJ21.com for four years and one-time winner of the Post-of-the-Month. JPB is a professional engineer with three engineering degrees and works as a consulting engineer.

Introduction

It was had been less than a month since my last disastrous trip to Tunica. When I visited the casinos around Minneapolis a month later, I had almost forgotten what a good run was like. I had previewed the Minneapolis area casinos and knew that most of the casinos were fairly low stakes. After getting hammered in Tunica, I was thinking any finish in the black (even just a few hundred dollars) would be a success. Fortunately, I found some decent low stakes game in Minnesota for a card counter, and even with the low stakes, I was able to make up about half of my huge loss in Tunica.

Logistics

There are four casinos listed in Current Blackjack News (bj21.com) in the Minneapolis area: Treasure Island, Mystic Lake, Little Six, and Canterbury Park. I visited three of the four casinos in September.

Treasure Island

Treasure Island is located near Red Wing in Hastings. I would suggest using a GPS if you are not familiar with the area. Signage is fairly limited. Conditions were mediocre … 4 and 6 deck with H17, DAS, and no surrender. The max bet on the main floor was $195. Table max in the high limit pit was $500. Penetration was decent but nothing to get excited about - around 4.5-4.8 out of 6 decks dealt out and around 2.8-3.0 out of 4 decks dealt out. Tables were generally crowded on the main floor. Even the high-limit tables had at least one player, making it difficult to jump in at the front end of the shoe. Dealers were slower than average. Table conditions are summarized below.

Overall, this is a very mediocre place to play. I spent nearly two hours and did not get a true count of better than + 2. Finally, I found a decent 6-deck shoe where the true count shot up to over +5. I was gradually raising my up and hit the table max of $500 at the +5. I lost my first big bet but the count was still at least +5 and it appeared to be only one round left before the shuffle. I threw down $500 on two spots. The dealer had a 4 showing. I got a 5-6 and 7-7. The 5-6 looked pretty good when I doubled and pulled a 9 for a 20. I wound up splitting the 7s and doubling both split hands with but ended up with stiffs. So I had $3000 riding on this hand and I would lose at least $1000 without a dealer bust. The way things had been going, I would have been satisfied with my 20 holding up and losing the other bets for a loss $1000. However, to my pleasant surprise, the dealer busted and I was able to leave Treasure Island with a decent gain. What could have been a $3000 loss turned into a $3000 win - a $6000 swing on one dealer card!

Mystic Lake

Mystic Lake is a large casino by most standards. Even on the slow weeknights I was there, I observed at least 20 open blackjack tables in the main pit plus about ten more in the high-limit room. In addition, tables were pleasantly uncrowded and the dealers reasonably fast. The tables on the main pit included about six double deck, about six four deck, and a bunch of six deck games. The rules for the double deck were H17, no DAS, and RSA. DAS was allowed on the four- and six-deck games. Penetration on the two deck was typically around 60-65% but was better with some dealers. Penetration on the four- and six-deck games was about 75-80%. There were plenty of open double-deck tables, and so I stuck primarily to the double deck games.

The table max was $199 in the main pit. The table max in the high limit pit was $1000. Late surrender is offered on all the tables in the high limit pit, even the double deck. Late surrender is a big plus for the card counter, and finding double deck with surrender is pretty rare. With the higher table limits and late surrender, the high limit double-deck tables are the obvious choice for the card counter. However, sometimes the obvious choice is not the best choice. I had played the high limit pit about a year ago and barely lasted an hour before being told I could only bet the table minimum on every hand. I was hoping the play in the main pit would be scrutinized less than the high limit pit. My theory appeared to be correct. The casino apparently (and reasonably) has decided that the risk from a card counter playing a maximum bet of $199 is pretty low. Fortunately, one can play two hands and switch to two hands in the middle of a double-deck shoe. Playing two hands at $199 provides a decent expected win rate, and unlike my Tunica trip, my actual results were well above my expectation.

Little Six

Little Six is a short distance from Mystic Lake and under the same ownership. I knew if one of the casinos did not like my play, it would be over for both. But I liked having the opportunity to play a short stint at Mystic Lake and then move over to Little Six to avoid camping out for too long at one casino. With these short sessions and playing without giving a player’s card, I was able to avoid unwanted attention. Little Six also had some decent conditions: H17, DAS, and RSA. There were no two-deck tables, but there was one three deck, one four deck, and about 6 six-deck tables. Penetration varied but was very good. Penetration on the three deck ranged from about 2.2-2.5 out of 3.0 decks. Penetration on the four deck looked like about 3.0-3.5 decks out of 4.0. Penetration on the six decks was reasonably consistent at about 4.8-5.0 out of 6 decks. The 3-deck was generally empty or had only one player – ideal conditions. Table maximum was $195. I played the 3-deck primarily, but I slid over to the 4-deck or 6-deck table when the 3-decker was depleted of 10s and Aces. Similar to Mystic Lake, they appeared to be reasonably tolerant of a card counter betting less than $200.

Canterbury Park

Canterbury Park is a short distance from Mystic Lake and Little Six. CBJN had indicated the penetration at this place was not as good as Mystic Lake and Little Six - so this place was on the bottom of the list. Furthermore, given the solid games I found at Mystic Lake and Little Six, I did not have time to visit Canterbury Park.

Conclusions

The Minneapolis area proved to offer...

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