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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, April 2002, #29

A WORD FROM HENRY

 

In order to answer a subscriber’s question on the efficiency of the K-O Count in single deck games, blackjack expert Fred Renzey ran 2.8 billion computer simulated hands to compare the performance of several unbalanced counting systems against the balanced Hi/Lo Count. The results of Fred’s study may surprise you. Alene Paone updates the blackjack playing conditions in Atlantic City with her recommendation on the best and worst casinos to play blackjack. Captain Jack gives the low down on the "different" single deck games you’ll find in Las Vegas and offers his expert advice on how to play them. Our mid-west reporter, Riverboat Flyer, reviews the current blackjack playing conditions on the Cincinnati area riverboats (not so good) and also reports on a recent trip he made to the casinos in Tunica, Mississippi. You’ll also find the updated schedule of mini- and major blackjack tournaments including a recommended cyberspace blackjack tournament.

Ready, set, let’s go ….

Henry Tamburin

Editor


Abbreviations used to describe playing rules and conditions in the BJ Reports

h17 = dealer hits soft 17

s17 = dealer stands on soft 17

das = double down after pair splitting

rsa = resplit aces

sr = surrender

ls = late surrender

d4 = double down on first four or fewer cards

d9 = double down only on two card 9 or more

d10 = double down only on two card 10 or more

doa = double on anything

nm = no mid game entry

nrs = no resplits

csm = continuous shuffle machine

pen = penetration = The fraction (or percentage) of cards in a pack that the dealer will deal before reshuffling. Usually the pen is designated as a percentage (for example a game in which the dealer deals 4.5 decks out of 6 decks has 75% penetration). Sometimes, however, the penetration is stated as just the deck(s) of cards that are not put into play. For example, "a 0.8 penetration in a 2-deck game" means 1.2 decks are played out prior to shuffling and the penetration is 60%.

EV = expected value. The amount (expressed in dollars or percent) a player should win (or lose) based on the player’s statistical advantage (or disadvantage).

Rule of 6 = In single deck blackjack games, 6 – n rounds will be dealt to n players.

Wonging = A term used to indicate back counting and playing only when the count is favorable.

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COMPARING THE PERFORMANCE OF BALANCED vs. UNBALANCED COUNTING SYSTEMS

BY FRED RENZEY

When "unbalanced" card counting arrived on the scene about fifteen years ago, it opened up the door for a multitude of losing blackjack players to become winners at the game. These new "contenders" for the casinos' money were players who until then just couldn't quite master the full rigors of traditional card counting.


It wasn't that adding and subtracting points for high and low cards were so tricky. And it wasn't that memorizing how much to bet at various counts was too much to handle. No! What knocked 90% of the would-be successful card counters out of the box was converting the "running count" to the "true count". For most, this was just too much mental gymnastics! First, you had to keep a running count of high vs. low cards. Then you needed to divide that running count by the number (or fraction) of decks that remained before playing your hand and sizing your next bet. And finally, you had to revert back to the running count and update it once the dealer began dealing the next hand. That was the problem!


Then in the early 80's, Arnold Snyder of Blackbelt in Blackjack fame introduced his Red 7 Count. For its first dozen years, it never received the recognition it deserved. It just seemed like a " squirrelly" concept. I mean, why would you want to count only the red 7's and not the black ones? Snyder had an excellent reason.


By unbalancing the traditional Hi/Lo Count to include the red 7's as low cards along with all the 2's through 6's, the player had himself a built in, reasonably accurate true count calibrator. Using the unbalanced Red 7 system, the "running count" was in fact a close approximation of the "true count"! That meant no more converting to play your hands or to bet your chips. All was done strictly by the running count!


It wasn't long before other unbalanced count variations followed. But until the advent of home blackjack analysis software in the 1990's, it wasn't clearly known that unbalanced counts were a legitimate item and could actually cut the mustard. That's when unbalanced card counts became a hot commodity. Today, another unbalanced system, the KO Count challenges the old tried and true Hi/Lo Count for most widely used count system in play.

SPLITTING THE HAIRS OF PERFORMANCE
So what about it? If unbalanced card counting can win at blackjack without the tedium of true count converting, just how well does it perform next to its balanced counterpart? As it turns out, the answer lies in how many decks you're using.


You see, unbalanced card counts merely estimate your true count. The fewer cards that are involved, the more inaccurate (proportionally) they become. An unbalanced counting system's Achilles' heel, if it has one is the single deck game. Being only approximately accurate there is a tangible flaw -- but not a fatal one.


To learn just how these two types of card counts fare against each other, I ran 2.8 billion simulated blackjack hands with Stanford Wong's Blackjack Count Analyzer. 200 million hands each were run with three different single level unbalanced counts along side the standard balanced Hi/Lo Count in single deck play. This exercise was then repeated for double deck, and finally another 300 million hands each were run with the six-deck shoe. The three unbalanced systems were Snyder's Red 7 Count from his Blackbelt in Blackjack, Fuchs and Vancura's KO Count from their popular Knockout Blackjack and the StageII Black Ace Count from my own Blackjack Bluebook. All four of the systems tested are described below.

COUNT COUNT C A R D T A G S RANKS BET PLAY
NAME TYPE 2 thru 6 r7 b7 8 9 10 bA rA COUNTED CORR. EFF.

Hi/Lo balanced +1 0 0 0 0 -1 -1 -1 10 97% 51%
Blk Ace unbal. +1 0 0 0 0 -1 -1 0 9.5 93.5% 55.5%
Red 7 unbal. +1 +1 0 0 0 -1 -1 -1 10.5 97% 53%
KO unbal. +1 +1 +1 0 0 -1 -1 -1 11 97.5% 55%

The Hi/Lo Count tracks five low ranks of cards (2's thru 6's) and five high ranks (10's thru Aces), thus it is a balanced card count. The Black Ace Count mimics the Hi/Lo, but drops the red Aces right out of its count, thereby unbalancing it for "auto-calibrating" purposes. The Red 7 Count goes the opposite direction by shadowing the Hi/Lo, then throwing in the two red 7's as low cards to accomplish its unbalancing objective. The KO Count takes it one small step further by tracking all 2's thru 7's against the 10's and Aces. In doing this, it unbalances its count by one full rank of cards.


Whether a single level unbalanced count should be "offset" by a half rank or a full rank of cards can be argued, but I believe a half rank offset takes better advantage of the reason you unbalance a count to begin with. Here's the reason for my stance. All unbalanced counts are perfectly accurate at having their running count indicate the true count at one particular point -- and at that point only. As their running counts stray away from that particular point, inaccuracy begins to set in and increases the further away you get. With unbalanced counts that have a half rank offset, the running count will indicate to perfection whenever you have a true count of +2. Unbalanced counts with a full rank offset are perfect at telling you when your true count is +4.


In short, when using the Red 7 Count (half rank offset) in a two deck game, whenever your running count has risen four points above your starting count, you'll have a true count of exactly +2 -- regardless of how many cards have been played out. But a running count eight points above your starting count won't necessarily be +4 true. It may be +5 true or even +7 true depending upon your current depth into the deck.


Conversely with the KO Count (full rank offset), a running count eight points above your starting count will always be exactly +4 true. But a running count 4 points above your starting count rather than being +2 true, could be +1 true and maybe even -1 true, again depending upon where you are in the deck.


Since +2 true is near the threshold of where your player edge begins and since it occurs much more often than +4 true, that's the point I'd want to be more sure of. Also, a greater number of basic strategy departures kick in around +2 rather than at +4 true. For these reasons, I believe a half rank offset makes better use of what unbalanced counts do best.

TEST METHODOLOGY
To be sure of comparing apples to apples in my computer runs, a major criterion was to keep the hourly standard deviation at the same level for all four counting systems. That is, I wanted to ensure that we were risking the same amount of bankroll dollars in all cases. This necessitated using a slower betting ramp in systems with a higher betting correlation due to their more frequent recognition of advantageous deck compositions. The net effect was that each system reached its maximum bet the same percentage of times and at about the same percentage of net advantage -- though not at the same true count. (This makes sense when you think about it since a +3 true count with the Black Ace system yields a greater edge than a +3 true count with the KO system, although the KO system will produce a +3 true count more often. This is true because more expansive count systems track more cards, therefore finding more advantageous situations. However, its extra tracked cards are generally the less important ones so that a shortage of six 2's thru 7's matters less than a shortage of six 2's thru 6's. Still, the overall betting spreads remained identical with all systems, as did the average bet size.)


Table I compares the performances for single deck play.

TABLE I
SINGLE DECK PERFORMANCES


COUNT SYSTEM HI/LO BLK. ACE RED 7 KO
BETTING SPREAD $25-$75 $25-$75 $25-$75 $25-$75
AVERAGE BET $49 $49 $49 $49
STANDARD DEV./HR. $461 $461 $461 $461
NET GAIN % 0.95% 0.80% 0.82% 0.83%
HOURLY WIN (100 hands) $47 $40 $41 $41
40,000 HAND WIN PROB. 98% 96% 96% 96%

Rules for the test were; S17, DOA, NO DAS, NO SR. The shuffle point came when 25 or fewer cards remained. The standard error for the percentage gain of each system was less than 0.01%. All systems were played at a three-handed table and the counter bet $50 off the top of each deck, then went to $25 or $75 depending upon the count. The Hi/Lo Count employed strategy departures at all true counts from -4 to +8 (using 61 index numbers). All three unbalanced counts used 22 hand calculated indices -- the most negative of which was 12 against a 6 and the most positive being 16 against a 9 -- and all were activated strictly by the running count. The bottom column in the table, "40,000 Hand Win Probability" represents the players chance to be ahead of the game after roughly 400 hours of play.


There's one last significant point I need to bring up. In analyzing half rank offset unbalanced counts (such as the Red 7), Wong's software forces you to count all the 7's as +0.5 rather than half the 7's as +1. In essence then, it's actually testing a system with 98.5% and 54% efficiency ratings rather than the 97% and 53% ratings that the Red 7 actually carries. Similarly, the Black Ace Count actually brought 95% and 56.5% ratings into its simulation test rather than its true 93.5% and 55.5% strengths. Realizing this, I reviewed the relative performances of several different half rank unbalanced counts and correlated their performances with their efficiency ratings. Doing this revealed that for every percentage point you increase betting correlation and playing efficiency among the same species of system, its performance tends to improve by about 0.02%. Consequently, the net percentage gains reported in Table I for the Black Ace Count and the Red 7 Count have both already been adjusted downward by 0.03% to account for their probable decreased performance had they been tested in their literal forms. Their reported net dollar earnings and 40,000 hand win probabilities have also been decreased using similar extrapolations.


SINGLE DECK SUMMARY: Although the balanced Hi/Lo Count clearly outperformed all of its unbalanced counterparts, it didn't do it by a remarkable margin. The thing to keep in mind is that single deck play is the most demanding blackjack of all. Realistically, no human can play it as accurately as a computer since you're always estimating how many fractions of a deck are left and your true count division efforts are always rounded off. Whereas the computer plays each unbalanced system strictly by the running count, the same as any human would. One has to wonder after all the remaining deck estimations and division-rounding errors are factored in, how much difference would actually be left in the real world. One fact must be true: Only if the particular human using the balanced count did a more accurate job at true count converting than does an unbalanced structure, could there been anything left over at all! This I must admit even though I myself have been using a multi-level balanced count for the past 25 years.

Table II states the performances of each of the four systems for double deck play.

TABLE II
DOUBLE DECK PERFORMANCES


COUNT SYSTEM HI/LO BLK. ACE RED 7 KO
BETTING SPREAD $15-$90 $15-$90 $15-$90 $15-$90
AVERAGE BET $33 $33 $33 $33
STANDARD DEV./HR. $468 $468 $468 $468
NET GAIN % 0.74% 0.69% 0.74% 0.74%
HOURLY WIN (100 hands) $24 $22.50 $24 $24
40,000 HAND WIN PROB. 85% 84% 85% 84%

Rules were the same as for the single deck test. The shuffle came with 44 or fewer cards remaining. The player always came off the top with a $25 bet, and then moved upward or downward according to the count. No next bet was ever increased or decreased by more than a factor of three. Again, the Black Ace and Red 7 yields shown above have been lowered from 0.72% and 0.77% respectively in an effort to represent their actual performances most accurately (hourly wins were also adjusted upon the same basis).


DOUBLE DECK SUMMARY: Note how the performances of balanced vs. unbalanced counts here have bunched together. That's presumably because errors in unbalanced estimates of the true count are proportionally smaller and matter less when you're drawing from a larger supply of cards.


Through all of this, the fact remains that the vast majority of blackjack games are dealt from a shoe -- hence, Table III. The rules for the multi-deck shoe test were modified to allow doubling after splits -- all else remained unchanged. The shoe was shuffled with 94 or fewer cards remaining. The bet off the top of each shoe was $25 (6% of all hands). Also, as is advisable for shoe games, at any true count lower than -3 each player’s wager was $0. This occurred 7% of the time. Because of the wider betting spread, 300 million hands with each system were needed to get the standard net gain error down to 0.01%. Finally, remember that 0.03% has already been deducted from the stated net gain percentages of the Black Ace and Red 7 Counts.

TABLE III
SIX DECK PERFORMANCES


COUNT SYSTEM HI/LO BLK. ACE RED 7 KO
BETTING SPREAD $10-$100 $10-$100 $10-$100 $10--$100
AVERAGE BET $26 $26 $26 $26
STANDARD DEV./HR. $464 $464 $464 $464
NET GAIN % 0.68% 0.63% 0.67% 0.65%
HOURLY WIN (100 hands) $18 $17 $18 $17.50
40,000 HAND WIN PROB. 79% 78% 79% 78%

All in all, I guess I'd have to say that unbalanced counts, if they're done right cut about 40% of the work out of card counting while retaining about 95% of the benefit.


Editor's Note: Fred Renzey is an "advantage" blackjack player and author of the critically acclaimed "Blackjack Bluebook", a clearly detailed 188 page strategy manual for casino "21". For your copy, send $16.99 to Blackjack Bluebook, P.O. Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL 60009.

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ATLANTIC CITY BLACKJACK REPORT

BY ALENE PAONE


SANDS SUCCUMBS TO SLOTS’ LURE
Karl Icahn was going to make Sands a "Vegas-style" casino. And he has! However, most of us thought that what was meant by "Vegas action" had to do with table games with better odds and lower edges. Instead, the Sands crew at the top has redesigned the casino to become just like a downtown Vegas slot joint -- maybe they should rename the place "Sassy Sandy." That’s right, according to Sands’ president Herbert Wolfe who was quoted in The Press of Atlantic City, the move is to "reduce costs that you don’t need
and enhance revenue opportunities." He thinks making the Sands the slot joint of Atlantic City will make the decaying property "a lot more profitable."


He’s probably right. With Borgata now putting up its facade, the AC properties must reposition themselves. Sands is just the first to do so. Sands will get rid of as many table games as the law allows (only 90 percent of AC casino space can be used for slots) and it will fill up on those infernal machines. This means a laying off of approximately 150
people. Cynics hope that among these will be the paranoid Sands blackjack pit folks who made the gaming experience of many card counters/basic strategy winners/ and progressive betting winners so miserable when the property offered its four and six deck games.  No one will miss them.
   
TAX ON COMPS? SAY IT AIN’T SO, JIM!   
Taking a page out of the "class-warfare" Democratic party playbook, New Jersey governor James McGreevey (or is it McGreedy?) has decided to "tax the rich" by putting a tax on the comps given out by casinos. That means that the casinos will have to come up with the money to pay the taxes on all the discounted/free rooms, meals, shows, etc. This is a simple solution to the New Jersey budget crisis. But it’s not really simple, just
simpleminded. High rollers will not pay for the tax; nor will the casinos. Who will pay will be those poor schnooks who get $5 match play or two-for-one buffet coupons. The droves of low-rolling bus people will find that instead of $20 in quarters, they’ll get $10 or $15. Oh, the tax will be paid all right. But the rich won’t pay them.  Nor should they or anyone.


Politicians love to tax us; they live for it. If families did their budgets the way politicians do theirs, everyone would be broke or bankrupt. Tax comps? I guess the politicians are all telling us that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Except that we keep feeding them, don’t we?
   
THE PENETRATION REPORT
To beat blackjack, penetration is the key variable for the card counter. It is essentially meaningless for the basic strategy player and, in fact, BSers might want to consider playing at crowded tables with poor penetration in order to have a slower game with more shuffle time. Casinos have not yet realized, nor will they ever realize it seems, that deep penetration, while it helps the handful of card counters, causes the Basic Strategy player to lose much, much more and that the Basic Strategy losses more than make up for any card counter wins.


So I am going to continue to do the penetration report. There is only one problem with my report, as I stated in previous issues, and it is this: It is possible that I might give a casino a good grade for penetration and that when you go, you find something different. That is always the problem with reports on dynamic activities such as penetration -- things can change from day to day and, in some cases, dealer to dealer. So take my ratings with a grain of sea salt and always do your own scouting when you go to the
casino to make sure you are getting the best of it. Again, Basic Strategy players might consider playing at the casinos that I have rated the worst for blackjack since what’s good for a card counter is bad for a Basic Strategy player and what’s bad for a Basic Strategy player is usually good for the casino.

The rules for Atlantic City are pretty well standardized. Players can double on any first two cards, split pairs (some casinos allow resplitting), double after splits, and the dealer stands on all soft 17s. Insurance is offered and pays 2 to 1.

Here’s a rundown of the May 2002 Atlantic City blackjack scene.

Rating system:
* * * * * = Excellent

* * * * = Very Good

* * * = Good

* * = Fair

* = Poor.

Penetration Report:
A = EXCELLENT for most dealers; beatable game for a counter spreading at least 1-12 in 6-deck game or 1-16 in 8-deck game;
B = GOOD for most dealers; game is somewhat beatable with above spreads.
C = FAIR for most dealers; game is only beatable with larger spreads than above.
D = POOR for most dealers; game is not really beatable unless you can go minimum to maximum without counter measures.
F = AWFUL for most dealers. Go play craps if you’re stuck in this place.

I have also put "no change from last report" for those casinos where there was "no change from last report" so that those who are keeping close watch on these listings won’t have to scour the report to find anything new. If it says no change, there’s NO change.

BALLY’S PARK PLACE: They’ve ditched that long shuffle, hallelujah! Penetration is getting better in the 8-deck games and the 6-deck games in the high roller pit ($100 minimums).  No midshoe entry on all the 6-deck games and high-stakes 8-decks as well.   You can resplit for a total of three hands, but aces can only be split once. You will be hard pressed to find many $10 games, much less $5 games. Weekends are $15 and up, mostly up. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 are also available for minimums of $10.
Always crowded.  * * *  [Penetration Report: B+] 

CAESARS:  No change from last report. Improvements have been seen in their 6-deck games with penetration of 75-80 percent in high roller room only. Minimums $100 to maximum of $2,000/$5,000. Rest of tables are 8-deck with 70 percent penetration. The $10 tables are almost gone, especially on the weekends, replaced by $15 and $25. Resplitting allowed but you can only split aces once. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available at $10 and up! * * 1/2*    [Penetration Report:  C+]
 
CLARIDGE:  Even the Claridge doesn’t have as many $5 games as it used to. The high roller room is 6-deck games, with some 8-deckers, with $25-$50-$100 minimums most days. Penetration varies but now averages about 75 percent. You can resplit pairs up to four hands in high roller room but the rest of the casino doesn’t allow resplitting. The rest of the casino is 8-decks with better penetration than last report. Multiple Action and
Spanish 21 available for $10 and up.  * * 1/2*   [Penetration Report: C+]

HARRAH’S:  No change from last issue. Games continue to improve.  The 6-deck games now have penetration of 75 percent in high roller area. Resplitting allowed except aces. No midshoe entry. Rest of casino is 8-decks also with 75 percent penetration the norm. * * *  [Penetration Report: B-]

HILTON: The best place to play for AC card counters. Penetration was a solid 80 or more percent throughout the casino. High roller room 6-deckers are $100 minimums with 80 percent or more penetration as well.  You will be hard pressed to find $10 games after the morning coffee hour. Resplitting allowed except aces.  The Multiple Action and Spanish 21 also have good penetration for $10.  * * * * [Penetration Report: A-]

RESORTS:   Good penetration on 8-deck games, consistently in the 75-80 percent zone, dealer dependent however. Plenty of  $10 games during the daytime hours ($5 games are becoming scarce). The 6-deck games in the high roller pits ($50/$100 minimums and up) are good, coming in at 80 percent penetration. Resplitting is allowed at all tables. Casino also offers multiple-action blackjack and Spanish 21 at $10 minimums. Still one of the
best casinos for blackjack in Atlantic City. Pits are not paranoid. * * * * [Penetration Report: A-]

SANDS:  Read what I wrote last issue and realize that my ESP is working! "A mud hole.  Has been positioning itself as a slot place and is succeeding nicely as it has the best slot payouts of any AC casino -- which means the casino edge is anywhere from five to eight percent on those poor slot players. Went from the best BJ in AC to the worst in less time than it takes to say: 'Bad table-game management.' Basic strategy players should even pass this place by. No stars." Need I say more? [Penetration Report: F]

SHOWBOAT:  No change from last report. Six-deck games are good in the high
roller room with standard penetration of 75-80 percent and $50/$100
minimums, $2,000/$5,000 maximums. No resplitting allowed. Eight-deck games have 75-80+ percent penetration but some dealers have been going deeper – about to 85 percent. Very few $10 tables, mostly $15 and up.  Multiple-action available at one table. Reports are they have loosened their comp requirements. * * *1/2* [Penetration Report: B+]

TROPICANA:  No change from last report, except now they have dinosaurs as well as chickens. Can they fit any more slots in this place? I think I saw one in the bathroom! If playing a game of tic-tac-toe against a chicken is your idea of gambling, go for it. I prefer to eat them. Six-deck games in high-roller room are $100 minimums with 66 percent penetration the norm. Thought I also saw some 8-deckers in there, but it was so smoky the night I entered I had a hard time seeing anything at all. Rest of the casino is
8-deckers with $10 minimums and up. *  1/2* [Penetration Report: D]

TRUMP MARINA:
   Getting better, at least in the daytime when I scouted the place. Six-deck games in high roller room ($100 minimums, $2,500/$5,000 maximums) have 80 percent penetration. Eight-deck games are now at same mark, with about a half dozen shuffle machines on these. Has the new Streak Bet -- avoid it. One table of Multiple Action available at $10 and up. Games are mostly $15/$25 and up, especially on weekends. * * * 1/2* [Penetration Report: B] 

TRUMP PLAZA:  No change from last report. Penetration ranging from 70 percent to 75 percent on all games, depending on the dealer.  No midshoe entry on 6-deck games but you can find $25 (a few) to $50 minimums on these. Allows resplits, except aces. Most 8-deck tables are $15 and higher. This place has seen better days.  * * [Penetration Report: C]

TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: Six-deck games in high roller room ($100 minimum, $5,000
maximum) continue to improve with penetration to around 75-80 percent. The 8-deck also had penetration around 75-80 percent. Much of the penetration is dealer dependant, so scout around. Lowest tables are $10/$15 even during midweek -- but mornings midweek have $5 games as well.  No resplits. Multiple Action, Double Exposure and Spanish 21 are available at $10/$15 minimums and up. Casino has improved in two straight reports. * * * [Penetration Report: B-]

WILD, WILD WEST:  No change from last report and that is a good thing! I like the atmosphere in this place; it has that Vegas feel. They have added more slot machines but the table games are still packed and the place is jumping all day and all night. They still go deep! Consistent 80 percent penetration throughout the casino but all games are 8 decks. Many more $5 tables in evidence. They tolerate very large spreads but, again, 8 decks are rough. Resplits allowed, except aces. Great atmosphere for gambling. * * * 1/2* [Penetration Report: B+]

BEST CASINOS FOR BJ IN ATLANTIC CITY: Hilton and Resorts for the fourth
month in a row. Bally’s/WWW coming on strong.

Editors Note: Alene Paone runs Paone Press , a mail-order business that sells gambling books and tapes at discounted prices. She also writes for a number of gaming publications and contributed chapters to several books. For a free catalog call: 1-800-944-0406 or write to: Paone Press, Box 620, Lynbrook, NY 11563.

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LAS VEGAS BLACKJACK REPORT

BY CAPTAIN JACK

Table game action in Las Vegas is slow at this time. Many blackjack tables are closed during the week. Casinos are offering promotions and tournaments to lure players to Las Vegas. "Casino advantage" single deck games are increasing in numbers at many casinos. This takes away playable single deck games for the advantage player. Horseshoe Casino’s famous poker tournament is starting with many players going after the nearly $2 million in prizes.

This month report will feature single-deck blackjack games in Las Vegas.

Single-Deck Blackjack Games in Las Vegas

In the past 3 months the number of single-deck blackjack games have doubled. There are three types of single-deck games offered by Las Vegas casinos: SuperFun 21 (SF21), 6 to 5 blackjack payoff, and the normal (or traditional) single-deck game.

SuperFun21 is a variation of regular blackjack with more opportunities for double-downs and surrender but with an even payoff on blackjack (editors note: See BJ Insider #27 for a detailed analysis of this game). 6 to 5 blackjack payoff is regular blackjack but the casinos only pay 6 to 5 for player’s blackjack hands instead of the normal 3 to 2 payoff. Normal single-deck is still played with various rules being offered and the game has an approximately 0.3% casino advantage. Penetration at most single-deck games is approximately ˝ deck cutoff. Better penetration may exist, depending on the dealer or shift. The "Rule of six" is normal for most Las Vegas games with one or two players.

Advantage play at SuperFun21 is only obtained by using a very aggressive spread and slight modifications to basic play. 6 to 5 blackjack payoff games give the casino an advantage of 1.5% or more. Normal single-deck games that are offered are very playable by advantage players, however casino personnel closely monitor these games.

Royal Match and Bonus Blackjack side-bets may also be found on normal single-deck blackjack games, but these side bets slow the game down considerably. Most single-deck games (SF21, 6 to 5 and normal) are offered with low table limits.

SuperFun 21 games are offered at these casinos: Arizona Charlie’s, Fiesta, Fremont, Golden Nugget, Green Valley Ranch, Harrah’s, Lady Luck, LV Hilton, MGM, NYNY, Palace, Palms, Rampart, Sam’s Town, Santa Fe, Speedway, Stardust, Stratosphere, Sunset, Texas and Wildfire.

6 to 5 blackjack payoff single-deck games are offered at: Bally’s, Boulder, Caesars, Flamingo Hilton, O’Shea’s and Paris.

Normal single-deck blackjack games are offered at: Barcelona, Circus Circus, El Cortez, Four Queens, Golden Gate, Gold Spike, Horseshoe, Lady Luck, LV Club, Silverton, Slot-a-Fun and Western.

When playing single-deck blackjack in Las Vegas, I recommend the following:

  1. When possible, play at casinos that offer the best rules. (avoid SF21 and 6 to 5)
  2. When possible, play at tables with the best penetration.
  3. When possible, play heads-up or no more than one other player at the table.
  4. If above conditions are not available, find another casino or come back later.
  5. Limit your playing time to no longer than 30 minutes or leave after an aggressive bet spread (greater than 1 to 8).
  6. Don’t use a player card at single-deck games, unless your bet size is $25 or more and you are not using an aggressive spread.
  7. Leave at the next shuffle after a maximum bet.
  8. Avoid getting barred from casinos that share player information or offer good rules and penetration. Don’t get aggressive or greedy. Enjoy any good playing conditions and keep your welcome open.
  9. Low stakes playable games may be found at Circus Circus, El Cortez, Western, Gold Spike and Four Queens.
  10. The Horseshoe may tolerate the high-limit player using the above recommendations.

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CINCINNATI AREA RIVERBOATS REPORT

BY RIVERBOAT FLYER

The Cincinnati area Riverboats (Argosy, Grand Victoria Rising Sun, Belterra and Caesars) are located on the Ohio River between Cincinnati and Louisville. I would rate their blackjack games as middle of the road. The games are getting worse as the boats are getting more popular.

Belterra once offered the best blackjack games with $50 single deck games and $25 double deck games but the single deck games have been eliminated. The double deck rules at the Belterra (and at Caesars) have also been changed to double on 9, 10 or 11 only, and split pairs only one time. Stanford Wong estimates the house advantage against the basic strategy player increased from 0.19% to 0.36%. At both locations the tables are still packed despite the rule changes. I would now rate Caesars as having the best games based on the deeper penetration on their double deck games. (But for accommodations, the Belterra has the nicest hotel rooms).

Caesars riverboat has been selling out on weekends and turning players away to comply with coast guard regulations. They bill themselves as the world’s largest riverboat with four large decks and over 60 blackjack tables. But full tables and crowded conditions put counters at a disadvantage because sold out boats tend to make management change blackjack rules and conditions, and offer games that are less favorable for players.

The number of blackjack tables at the Belterra and Grand Victoria has been slowly declining over the past year. On all the boats you will almost always find crowded conditions. If the tables are not full, management will send dealers home and force players into fewer tables. Also, tables are close together and have seven betting spots. On a crowded weekend you can expect plenty of second hand smoke and that sick feeling you got as a kid when you rode the scrambler.

The Argosy has remained fairly constant. All their games are six decks and the recently removed the continuous shuffle machines on their blackjack tables. The penetration in their high limit room remains very poor with 2.5 decks cut-off out of 6 decks. The good news is that you can order a fresh made sandwich in their high limit room while you are playing. This gives you something to eat during the frequent shuffles.

The bottom line on the Cincinnati area riverboats is that they are better than the Las Vegas nights that you’ll find at the local K of C hall however, if you are planning on traveling to a gambling destination you can find better games and conditions elsewhere.

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TUNICA TRIP REPORT

BY RIVERBOAT FLYER

Tunica is a relatively new gambling destination located in north Mississippi about a 20-minute drive from Memphis, Tennessee. The area features ten casinos, good blackjack games, and easy room and meal comps.

Recently five of us (3 blackjack and 2 slot players) drove to Tunica for a week of gambling. I try to take at least one slot player on all my gambling trips because my wife gets very annoyed if I leave her home plus the comps she earns usually is enough to pay for my trips. I count cards using the half count and usually play at low limit tables. My bets on this trip ranged from $5 to $45. My friend Louie also card counts and uses the KO count.

We arrived around dinnertime on Day #1 and head straight for the Grand Casino, which just happens to be the first casino heading south from Memphis on Highway 61. I was down $11 after a two-hour session at a $10 double deck pitch game but I received a buffet comp for two (comps were easy to come by at all the casinos in Tunica). Penetration was consistently at 1 deck all week at the Grand double deck game. I enjoyed the non-crowded conditions and friendly dealers.

After dinner I was ready to take on the casino for a big win. Unfortunately the casino was ready for me as well and I ended up losing $360 against five different dealers at single and double deck games. At every table they kept coming up with pat 20s’ (sounds familiar?). It seemed like the only time the dealer’s up card was not a 10 it was an ace. I decided to turn in early and plan my strategy for the next day.

Day #2 starts off with an $11 loss at the Grand Casino’s six-deck shoe game. One thing I noticed about Tunica is that the dealers sometimes offer playing strategy advice to players that is usually suspect at best especially on soft doubles, splits and hitting stiff hands. I also observed dealers from other casinos playing at nearly every table at the Grand. Unfortunately, none of them seem to understand the game they spend hours dealing five days a week.

For example, one particular dealer was trying to help two young men who were playing blackjack for the first time. These poor guys were clueless and couldn’t tell a club from a spade. The dealer was using me an example and explaining to them how I was making mistakes when I hit 15s' and 16s’ against a 7 or higher! Another dealer was keeping track of how many consecutive hands I busted. I remember once busting on four successive hands then on the fifth hand I managed to draw a 5 to a hard 16 for a 21 (and the dealer started tracking my "losing streak" all over again – why I don’t know). And yet another dealer was absolutely bewildered and couldn’t believe why I didn’t take even money on my blackjack hand when he had an ace showing. When it happened a second time (and he had blackjack both times) he tried to help me out by suggesting "you might want to change your philosophy on that play". Little did I realize at the time that this was to become a reoccurring theme. I was constantly used as an example to show new players how not to play even while I was making correct basic strategy plays and card counting to boot. As long as I kept playing according to basic strategy nobody in Tunica even suspected that I knew what I am doing much less counting cards.

A short trip to the Isle of Capri casino brought me better luck. I won $110 in 1 ˝ hours on a double deck game that did not allow mid shoe entry. My friend Louie, who always looks for every advantage, asked the dealer during a shuffle if he could switch from playing one hand to two hands. The dealer thought about it for a moment and said, " No, because that would be mid shoe entry". I chastised Louie saying, "Why do you ask? Just do it and they may never notice." Of course when I tried to spread from one hand to two when the count gets favorable, the dealer (who probably remembered my friend Louie’s question) told me I couldn’t do it. By now Louie realized that I gave him good advice so for the rest of the trip he pulled off the move whenever he wanted. In fact, by talking non-stop Louie had them so confused that they never notice what he was doing (i.e. card counting).

The next stop was Sam’s Town casino. I sat down at a shoe game and doubled or split on about six of my first twelve hands and somehow managed to lose every one of them. Changing tables didn’t help either. After 1-˝ hours I lost $114.

We returned to the Grand where I found a $10 shoe game with only one other player. After 2 ˝ hours with only one other player most of the time, I still lost $240. I started to wonder if I should take Max Rubin’s (author of Comp City) advice and play only at crowded tables taking frequent breaks. I figured that approach would bring me a small long-term loss and plenty of comps as opposed to the large short-term losses I was currently suffering.

I got up early on Day #3 and before conditions got crowded played on a double deck $5 table heads-up (just what I was hoping for). I started playing two hands against the dealer and lost both hands from the get go. After a short while Louie showed up and sat down at the same table. We were joking around but steadily losing money. It was one of those situations where the dealer pulled four and five card 21’s and never busted. On my side of the table it seemed like every 12 brought a 10 and every double down on 11 brought an ace. On one round with four hands being played the true count was at plus 3 and the dealer had an ace up. We compared hands and not one player had a ten in his hand so Louie and I took insurance. Would you believe the dealer did not have blackjack and in fact, she managed to subsequently deal four tens in a row busting everyone’s stiff hand. Somehow, I managed to lose only $125 during the session

A trip to the Horseshoe casino brought a humorous session (which I sorely needed). Louie and I sat down with two other players at a $10 double deck game. Louie sat at 3rd base and was immediately put on notice by the other players that only an "experienced player" was allowed to play 3rd base at this table. Of course with his blackjack skills questioned, Louie immediately took the offensive and stated that he knew how to play 3rd base and that he could play shortstop as well. After only two hands, Louie offered to switch seats with the lady to his right. She refused to switch places because all she wanted to do was to criticize the play of the 3rd base player. For the next two hours she and another player did nothing but complain about every move the 3rd base and the other players made (the only time they didn’t complain was when a player stood on a blackjack). The dealer went along with this even though they were obnoxious because they tipped well.

On top of their complaining about the play of others, the two players played a side game that seemed to be popular in Tunica. I don’t know what the locals refer to it, but I call it, "what could have been". After every round they would reconstruct the hands to determine who screwed up causing them to lose. The conversation went something like this: "If he hadn’t hit on the 13 I would have gotten the deuce, they you would have stayed on the 9 and the dealer would have got the 10 to bust". Apparently the must have thought that the cards were arranged so that the dealer should have busted every time and the reason he didn’t was because somebody at the table played their cards wrong and screwed up the order of the unplayed cards. Most of the time Louie played 3rd base but sometimes I did. These characters would reconstruct hands into the next shuffle if necessary to figure how the dealer should have busted. It was a real adventure playing with this pair but the bottom line was that I was down $174 playing $10 to $25 a hand after two hours. Of course, if you believe these guys I didn’t have much of a chance of winning anyway with a jerk playing 3rd base. Fortunately, I asked and received 2 buffet comps and was presently surprised that it was one of the best casino buffets I had ever eaten. My recommendation is to go to the Horseshoe buffet when you play in Tunica.

We went on to the Sheraton casino to catch up with our fellow slot players. My wife informed me that the Horseshoe casino had the worse selection of nickel slots in Tunica, which is why she was trying her luck at the Sheraton slots. I tried a six-deck shoe game going heads-up with the dealer. When the count went negative I switched to another table with a rookie dealer. It must have been his first hour on the job and he did not make any payoff or playing mistakes that benefited me. Despite being able to vary my bet and spread to two hands at will, I still lost $34. My results are starting to get very consistent no matter where I play.

We went back to the Isle of Capri where I had never had a losing session in three previous trips. But this time my winning streak came to an end. The double deck game was full, so we played a 6-deck shoe game. After only an hour I was down $40 with a bet spread of $5 to $45. As was the case on this trip, I lost whenever I made a large bet.

It was back to the Grand for two more hours at a $10 double deck pitch game. I was ahead $50 right away but by the time I quit playing I ended up losing another $64. The trend of bad dealer advice continued. Of course, I never ask for advice and make deliberate hit and stand signals to try to let other players know that I do not need their help. At most places I have played blackjack, dealers will give fairly good advice usually with the disclaimer, "It’s your money, play it the way you want". In Tunica they give consistently bad advice with no disclaimers. Dealers here simply do not understand basic strategy. Hitting a 12 against a 2 or a soft 18 against a 9, 10 or ace will bring a rebuke from them.

At another table a young guy sat down who was obviously new to the game. He was friendly and rooting for his fellow players to win. He was dealt a pair of 8s’ when the dealer showed an ace. Louie and another player immediately told him that he had to split "or the world would end and he would lose his manhood". He was reluctant to do so because his initial bet was $75, which was obviously more that he wanted to risk at his skill level, and the thought of betting another $75 on the split 8’s made him sweat. It turns out he took our advice, bit the bullet, put out another $75, but ended up losing both hands.

During the shuffle I quietly explained to him that he had made the right move. I further explained why starting with 2 eight’s was better than starting with one 16 and that even though both hands were losers, he would lose less in the long run by splitting. He nodded and actually seemed to understand. Then he said to me "I know one thing for sure. I am never going to split 8s’ again with $75 up". Right then it dawned on me that the world’s best card counter would be lucky to make 1% of what the world’s worse casino owner would make this year. These players are almost begging, "please take my money". It seems most players would rather lose to a superior dealer hand than do anything that might cause them to bust their own hand.

Day # 4 was my last day and it started out as usual. I got up at 6 am to get some quality playing time with uncrowded conditions. I began playing two hands heads-up at a double deck table. Before I know it I’m down $180 after 45 minutes of play. It was one of those runs where I lost two 20s’ to a dealer blackjack followed by a 19 and 20 against a dealer 20. I switched to a 6-deck shoe game and lose only $20 over the next two hours. After breakfast I managed to get ahead $75 at a $5 shoe game but was driven off the table when five little old ladies on a junket descended on my table with cigarettes in hands.

A short ride over to Harrah’s brings a $25 winning session at a double deck game. The dealer cut off 0.7 decks but the table was full so we migrated next door to Hollywood where I found a less crowded double deck game. After a lot of volatility I leave up $25 and switched to a $5 shoe game. I got good penetration and a good run of cards going up another $75 before meeting my party. Louie stayed at the shoe game and had a fit when a double down on his last hand caused him to have a losing session. I tell him how sorry I feel for him in the car when he stated that he was up only $200 for the day.

Another session at the Grand brings me more of the same results I have been having all week. One hour at a 6-deck, $5 shoe game ends up in another $180 loss. Losing that much at a $5 shoe game in a short period of time can mean only one thing. The count was sky high, I had them right where I wanted them, I spread to 2 hands with raised bets, and viola I get creamed.

On this trip, we did have an enjoyable, fully comped dinner at the Sky Steak House. Unfortunately it is scheduled to close by the time you read this.

After dinner I had one more chance to try to get even (I have already given up hope on getting ahead). Two hours at a $10 shoe game had me winning all my splits and double downs. It also brought 2 humorous incidents (at least I thought they were humorous). I had been hitting my soft 18’s against a dealer 9 and 10. But when I signaled for a hit against a dealer ace, the dealer had all that he could take and announced, "that makes dumb move number 12". Everyone at the table agreed, except for one person in my party who remained silent. Guess what? I pulled - a 2 for a 21 and the dealer subsequently had to draw twice and busted. I then said loudly, "it looks like I just saved the table".

A short time later I split 4’s against a dealer 6 and this cemented my reputation as the "village idiot". Never mind that I doubled on one split and won three bets when the dealer busted. I was almost expecting the casino manager to arrive and offer me a suite for a week. It seems that everybody in Tunica (except for me) believes that you should NEVER split anything that begins with an F: fours, fives or faces. However, even with this success, I was down a meager $1.50 after 2 hours. So, I decided to switch to a double deck game and bet aggressively. After an hour, I was down another $88 (so much for that strategy) so I called it a night. After all a guy can only have so much fun in one day.

The average blackjack player might be discouraged by my results. But I am not. Louie was playing at the same table as me on many occasions and he had winning sessions while I lost under the same conditions. To put it simply the cards just did not come my way. I had won on my last trip to Tunica a few months ago and I plan to return again. After all, my wife loves the slot action and everything was comped (except tokes and gas).

Would I recommend Tunica for card counters? Yes, and with ten casinos in competition for players, I suspect that this will force the casinos to maintain the favorable playing conditions. I would also suggest if at all possible, you visit Tunica during the week where you will most likely find uncrowded tables compared to the weekends.

READER’S COMMENT

"I used to work at the Riviera (Las Vegas) until not too long ago. I worked in the slot host department for approximately two years. When I started, their comp policy was not too tight. However, by the time I left (which incidentally was pre 9/11) their comp policy had tightened up considerable. Unless you are a high roller, don’t expect much".

(Note: Captain Jack, our Las Vegas blackjack reporter states that the reader’s comment is probably correct.  "I have not tried for comps there, as it is not that great of a place and barring is frequent.  I never give my name there, and have not heard of anyone that stays there comped".

If you have a comment about comp policy or blackjack playing conditions that you would like to share with subscribers, send them to HTamburin@aol.com.

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BLACKJACK MINI-TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Most mini-tournaments (also known as fun tournaments) have entry fees of $50 or less and nonnegotiable tournament chips are used for betting. Player entry fees are pooled and returned as prizes to players.

Casinos that offer mini-tournaments do so on a regular basis (mostly weekly). The following is a summary of mini-tournaments offered by casinos throughout the US for each day of the week. Call the casino for tournament times and entry fees.

If you know of recent changes to any tournament listed, please pass it along to www.bjinsider.com so that we can update the information in our schedule.

Monday

Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn Casino (1-702-435-9170)

Mesquite, NV: Si Redd’s Oasis (1-800-621-0187)

Reno, NV: Sundowner (1-800-648-5490)

Sparks, NV: Baldini’s (1-800-845-7911)

Laughlin, NV: Colorado Belle (1-877-460-0777); Pioneer (1-800-634-3469); Riverside (1-888-733-5946)

Biloxi: President: (1-800-624-3000)

Dubuque, IA: Diamond Jo (1-800-582-5956)

Tama, IA: Meskwaki (1-800-728-4263)

Hinkley, MN: Grand (1-800-472-6321)

Prior Lake, MN: Little Six (1-800-548-8536)

Kansas City, MO: Ameristar (1-800-499-4961)

Albuquerque, NM: Sandia Pueblo (1-800-526-9266)

Willamina, OR: Spirit Mountain (1-800-760-7977)

Tuesday

Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170); J. W. Marriott (1-877-869-8777); Terribles (1-800-640-9777)

Laughlin, NV: Avi (1-800-284-2946); Colorado Belle (1-877-460-0777); Pioneer (1-800-634-3469); Edgewater (1-877-972-7222)

Mesquite, NV: Eureka (1-702-346-4600)

Stateline, NV: Harveys (1-800-553-1022); Tahoe Horizon (1-800- 683-8087)

Minden, NV: Carson Valley Inn (1-877-783-7711)

Reno, NV: Peppermill (1-800-648-6992); Siena (1-877-743-6233)

Biloxi, MS: Imperial Palace (1-800-436-3000); Treasure Bay (1-800-747-2839)

Greenville, MS: Jubilee (1-800-946-6673)

Tunica, MS: Sam’s Town (1-800-456-0711)

St. Joseph, MO: St. Jo Frontier (1-800-888-2946)

Clinton, IA: Mississippi Belle II (1-800-457-9975)

Michigan City, IN: Blue Chip Casino (1-888-879-7711)

Harris, MI: Chip’s-In Island: (1-800-682-6040)

Cass Lake, MN: Palace (1-800-228-6676)

Morton, MN: Jackpot Junction (1-800-946-2274)

Prior Lake, MN: Mystic Lake (1-800-262-7799)

Albuquerque, NM: Sandia Pueblo (1-800-526-9266)

Greenbay, WI: Oneida (1-800-238-4263)

Turtle Lake, WI: St. Croix(1-800-846-8946)

Toppenish, WA: Legends (1-877-726-6311)

Alpine, CA: Viejas Casino (1-800-847-6537)

Jackson, CA: Jackson Rancheria (1-800-822-9466)

Lincoln City, OR: Chinook Winds (1-888-244-6665)

Toppenish, WA: Legends (1-509-865-8800)

Marysville, WA: Tulalip (1-888-272-1111)

Verona, NY: Turning Stone (1-800-771-7711)

San Filipe, NM: Hollywood (1-877-529-2946)

Wednesday

Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170); Terribles (1-800-640-9777)

Henderson, NV: Green Valley ranch (1-866-617-7770)

Laughlin, NV: River Palms Resort (1-800-835-7904); Colorado Belle (1-877-460-0777); Riverside (1-888-733-5946)

Reno, NV: Atlantis (1-888-551-7007)

Incline Village, NV: Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe (1-775-832-1234)

Biloxi, MS: President (1-800-843-7737)

Gulfport, MS: Grand (1-800-946-7777)

Philadelphia, MS: Silver Star (1-800-557-0711)

Bettendorf, IA: Isle of Capri (1-800-724-5825)

Council Bluffs, IA: Ameristar (1-877-462-7827)

Fort Madison, IA: Catfish Bend (1-800-372-946)

Florence, IN: Belterra (1-888-339-3369)

Baton Rouge, LA: Argosy (1-800-378-6000)

Hinkley, MN: Grand (1-800-472-6321)

Morton, MN: Jackpot Junction (1-800-946-2274)

Prior Lake, MN: Little Six (1-800-548-8536)

Walker, MN: Northern Lights (1-800-252-7529)

Thief River Falls, MN: Seven Clans (1-218-681-4062)

Mahnomen, MN: Shooting Star (1-800-453-7827)

North Bend, OR: Mill (1-800-953-4800)

Anacortes, WA: Swinomish (1-360-293-2691)

Jackson, CA: Jackson Rancheria (1-800-822-9466)

Towaoc, CO: Ute Mountain (1-970-565-8800)

Holton, KS: Golden Eagle (1-888-464-5825)

San Filipe, NM: Hollywood (1-877-529-2946)

Quebec, Canada: Casino de Montreal (1-800-665-2274)

Thursday

Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170); J. W. Marriott (1-877-869-8777); Fiesta Rancho (1-888-877-5108); Terribles (1-800-640-9777); Fiesta Henderson (1-888-899-7770)

Henderson, NV: Fiesta Henderson (1-888-899-7770); Sunset Station (1-888-808-7717)

Laughlin, NV: Avi (1-800-284-2946); Colorado Belle (1-877-460-0777); Pioneer (1-800-634-3469); Edgewater (1-877-972-7222)

Reno: Siena (1-877-743-6231)

Mesquite, NV: CasaBlanca (1-800-459-7529)

Carson City, NV: Pinon Plaza (1-877-519-5567)

Sparks, NV: Silver Club (1-800-905-7774)

Stateline, NV: Lake Tahoe Horizon (1-800-322-7723)

Pahrump, NV: Terrible’s Town (1-888-845-7911)

Rock Island, IL: Juner’s Rock Island (1-309-793-4200)

Fort Madison, IA: Catfish Bend (1-800-372-2946)

Clinton, IA: Mississippi Belle II (1-800-457-9975)

Suttons Bay, MI: Leelanau Sands (1-800-922-2946)

Carlton, MN: Black Bear (1-888-771-0777)
Tower, MN: Fortune Bay (1-800-992-7529)

Red Wing, MN: Treasure Island (1-800-222-7077)

Lincoln City, OR: Chinook Winds (1-888-244-6665)

Gardena, CA: Normandie (1-310-352-3400)

New Orleans, LA: Bally’s (1-800-572-2559)

Biloxi, MS: Imperial Palace (1-800-436-3000)

Lula, MS: Isle of Capri (1-800-789-5825)

Friday

Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170)

Laughlin, NV: River Palms Resort (1-800-835-7904); Colorado Belle (1-877-460-0777); Pioneer (1-800-634-3469); Avi (1-800-430-0721); Riverside (1-888-733-5946)

Boulder City, NV: Hacienda (1-800-245-6380)

Mesquite, NV: Virgin River (1-800-346-7721)

Sparks, NV: John Ascuaga’s Nugget (1-800-843-2427)

Stateline, NV: Harveys (1-800-553-1022)

Wendover: Pepermill (1-800-648-9660)

Biloxi, MS: Isle of Capri (1-800-843-4753); Treasure Bay (1-800-747-2839); President (1-800-624-3000)

Alpine, CA: Viejas Casino & Turf Club (1-800-847-6537)

Inglewood, CA: Hollywood park (1-800-888-4972)

San Filipe, NM: Hollywood (1-877-529-2946)

 

Saturday

Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170); Boulder Station (1-800-981-5577); Sante Fe Station (1-866-767-7771)

Laughlin, NV: Colorado Belle (1-877-460-0777)

Sparks, NV: Baldini’s (1-800-845-7911)

Deadwood, SD: Miss Kitty’s (1-800-668-8189); First Gold (1-800-274-1876)

Towaoc, CO: Ute Mountain (1-970-565-8800)

Alpine, CA: Viejas Casino & Turf Club (1-800-847-6537)

Sunday

Las Vegas, NV: Silverton (1-800-588-7711)

Mequite, NV: Eureka (1-702-346-4600)

Laughlin, NV: Colorado Belle (1-877-460-0777)

Robinsonville, MS: Hollywood (1-800-871-0711)

Biloxi, MS: Isle of Capri (1-800-843-4753)

Fort Madison, IA: Catfish Bend (1-800-372-2946)

Deadwood, SD: First Gold Hotel (1-800-274-1876); Silverado Gaming (1-800-584-7005)

Lincoln City, OR: ChinookWinds (1-888-244-6665)

North Bend, OR: Mill (1-800-953-4800)

Gardena, CA: Normandie (1-800-946-637)

Towaco, CA: Ute Mountain (1-800-258-8007)

Christmas, MI: Kewadin (1-800-539-2346)

Hessel, MI: Kewadin (1-800-539-2346)

Manistique, MI: Kewadin (1-800-539-2346)

Ontario, Cananda: Kewadin (1-800-539-2346)

St. Ignace: Kewadin (1-800-539-2346)

 

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BLACKJACK MAJOR TOURNAMANT SCHEDULE

Looking to enter a blackjack tournament in cyberspace? Ken Smith, a veteran tournament blackjack player and host of www.blackjackinfo.com, recently took first place in a blackjack tournament on the Golden Reef Casino’s web site. Cost to enter the weekly tournament is $75 ($25 entry - $50 to prize pool) and Ken won $500 for finshing first plus another $202.50 in table winnings. Ken was impressed with the format of the tournament and recommends it to subscribers on his site. You must be a member of their player’s club to enter the tournament. For more details go to www.goldenreefcasino.com and click on Player’s Club.

The following table lists the date, name and location of the sponsoring casino; the fee for entering the tournament; the number of decks of cards that will be used during play; the total prizes that will be offered including the amount for finishing first; and a telephone number to obtain more details. Since tournament dates and prizes can be changed or canceled sometimes at the last minute, please call and confirm.

Note: The entry fee for most tournaments includes a free or discounted room and meal(s) – check with the sponsoring casino for details. The prizes listed below included the total to be given out followed by the amount of money that can be won for finishing first (e.g. $40K/$20K means a total of $40,000 will be given away with $20,000 going to the first place winner). Tournaments that are starred (*) require an invitation from the participating casino; however, check with the casino tournament coordinator if you could still enter. Some free tournaments are only open to players who are members of the casino’s slot club. Prizes for Canadian tournaments are in Canadian currency.

 

Date Location Entry #Decks Prizes More Information

May 2 Bally’s free* six $10K/$5K 1-800-572-2559

New Orleans, LA

May 3-5 Peppermill free* single $18K/$6K 1-800-648-9660

West Wendover, NV

May 3-5 Kewadin $150 six $5K/$2K 1-800-539-2346

Manistique, MI

May 5 Rainbow $50 six $10K/$4K 1-800-746-2486

Nekoosa, WI

May 5-7 Edgewater $129 single $20K/$10K 1-800-289-8777

Laughlin, NV

May 6 Turning Stone $25 six $8.4K/$2.5K 1-800-771-7711

Verona, NY

May 8 Casino Montreal $25 six $5K/$2K 1-800-665-2274

Quebec, Canada

May 10-11 Las Vegas Hilton $1K six $64K/$20K 1-800-457-3307

Las Vegas, NV

May 10-11 Grand $500 four $105K/$50K 1-800-472-6321

Hinckley, MN

May 14-16 Foxwoods free* six $30K/$10K 1-800-752-9244

Ledyard, CT

May 15 Grand $20 six $4.2K/$2K 1-800-946-7777

Gulfport, MS

May 15 Casino Montreal $25 six $5K/$2K 1-800-665-2274

Quebec, Canada

May 16 Jumers free six $5K/$2.5K 1-800-477-8946

Rock Island, IL

May 17 Shooting Star $75 six $10.5K/$4K 1-800-453-7827

Mahnomen, MN

May 17 Cactus Petes $200* single $50K/$20K 1-800-821-1103

Jackpot, NV

May 17-18 Fitzgeralds $399 single $20K/$8K 1-800-431-3134

Reno, NV

May 22 Casino Montreal $25 six $5K/$2K 1-800-665-2274

Quebec, Canada

May 22 Turning Stone free* six $30K/$10K 1-800-771-7711

Verona, NY

May 24 Ho-Chunk $50 six $10K/$4K 1-800-746-2486

Baraboo, WI

May 29 Casino Montreal $25 six $5K/$2K 1-800-665-2274

Quebec, Canada

June 1-2 Bally’s free* six $135K/$100K 1-800-634-3434

Las Vegas, NV

June 3 Casino Montreal $250 six $52.5/$15K 1-800-665-2274

Quebec, Canada

June 3 Turning Stone $25 six $8.4K/$2.5K 1-800-771-7711

Verona, NY

June 6 Bally’s free* six $10K/$5K 1-800-572-2559

New Orleans, LA

June 7-8 LV Hilton $1K six $64K/$20K 1-800-457-3307

Las Vegas, NV

June 7-9 Treasure Island $1.5K* six $100K/$100K 1-800-944-7444

Las Vegas, NV

June 7-9 Grand $1K six $300K/$120K 1-800-550-4473

Robinsonville, MS

June 7-9 Kewadin $150 six $5K/$2K 1-800-539-2346

Christmas, MI

June 12 Grand $20 six $4.2K/$2K 1-800-946-7777

Gulfport, MS

June 15-16 Flamingo $79 six $12K 1-800-662-6004

Laughlin, NV

June 21 Casino Niagra $100 eight $17K/$10K 1-888-698-3888

Ontario, Canada

June 21-23 Pioneer $200 single $25K/$11K 1-800-634=3469

Laughlin, NV

June 23-25 Edgewater $129 single $20K/$10K 1-800-2898-8777

Laughlin, NV

June 29 River Palms $99 two $10.5K/$5K 1-888-298-2242

Laughlin, NV

July 4-6 NY NY free* six $40K/$20K 1-888-469-6958

Las Vegas, NV

July 12-13 LV Hilton $1K six $64K/$20K 1-800-457-3307

Las Vegas, NV

July 12-13 Reno Hilton free* single $25K/$10K 1-800-443-3105

Reno, NV

July 14-16 Peppermill $250 single $15.7K/$8K 1-800-648-9660

West Wendover, NV

July 16 Cactus Pete $200* single $50K/$20K 1-800-821-1103

Jackpot, NV

July 19-21 Sam’s Town $500 two $100K/$50K 1-800-456-0711

Robinsonville, MS

July 26-28 Imperial Palace $150 six $25K/$10K 1-800-436-3000

Biloxi, MS

Future dates for the satellite tournaments in the $1MM blackjack tournament at the Las Vegas Hilton (1-800-457-3307) are:

Aug. 8-10

Sept. 12-14

Oct. 10-12

Nov. 14-16

Dec. 19-21

Jan. 9-12, 2003

Feb. 6-8, 2003

March 6-8, 2003

Final round: April 10-12, 2003

 

Tip: Try to play in blackjack tournaments in which all the player’s entry fees are returned in prizes. If unsure, ask the host casino if this is the case.

*************************************************************************************

BLACKJACK INSIDER EXPERT REPORTERS & COLUMNISTS

Alene Paone is an East Coast expert blackjack player that frequently plays in Atlantic City. She is the CEO of Paone Press. Alene has contributed chapters to The Experts’ Guide to Casino Games and 109 Ways to Beat the Casinos, both

edited by Walter Thomason. Her Q&A column, Just Ask AP, appears in several magazines. Paone Press sells gambling books and tapes at discount prices. For a free catalog call: 1-800-944-0406 or write to: Paone Press, Box 610,

Lynbrook, NY 11563.

Captain John lives in Las Vegas and is an experienced blackjack player. He has been studying and playing blackjack for over 30 years including attending classes on how to evaluate different games and how to identify the weaknesses in the pit. He uses a 2-level, advanced card counting system and limits his play to only advantage games. He plays about 30 hours a month and finds that playing blackjack is a good way to supplement his retirement income.

CC Rider lives in the Deep South and plays blackjack in the casinos in Mississippi and Louisiana. He has been studying and playing blackjack for 10 years, averages 2-8 playing sessions each month (40-60 sessions annually), and has managed to make playing blackjack a lucrative sideline. He uses the high low counting system with an ace side count and has only been backed off once. He recently has begun training for blackjack tournament play.

Fred Renzey lives in the Chicago area, is an experienced blackjack player, and author of the popular Blackjack Bluebook. He also writes a monthly column on poker for Midwest Gaming & Travel magazine. To order Blackjack Bluebook, send $16.95 to: Blackjack Bluebook, PO Box 598, Elk Grove Village, IL 60009.

LV Pro is a serious recreational player who started with basic strategy in 1996 and learned the Silver Fox count by the end of 1998. Has been counting since early 1999, starting with a 2K bankroll, and slowly building it with red play over the last 150 hours of actual casino play. He started playing a low green spread on the last few LV trips. He gets to LV 4-5 times a year and has some limited team experience.

Riverboat Flyer is a low stakes blackjack player. He plays the southern Ohio riverboats along with frequent trips to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica and occasionally Lake Tahoe. He has been counting cards for over ten years, using the Hi-Op, High Low and currently the Half count system.

Michael Shackelford, a.k.a. "The Wizard of Odds", has twenty years of computer programing experience and thousands of hours of casino gambling experience. His mathematical analysis of casino games is accurate and reliable. He has also extensively reviewed blackjack offerings on different Internet sites. His "Wizard of Odds" column appears monthly in Casino Player Magazine and he hosts the popular Internet site for casino players at www.wizardofodds.com. Shackelford has written a book "May the Odds Be With You". His game of choice is blackjack and his gambling philosophy is to bet big when he has the edge and small when he doesn’t.

Henry Tamburin is an expert player and author of 6 books including Blackjack: Take The Money & Run. For over a quarter of a century, he has been playing and winning at blackjack and teaching the masses of blackjack players how to do the same in his books, articles, seminars, gaming school, and TV/radio appearances. He is a featured writer for Casino Player magazine, Chance magazine, Midwest Gaming & Travel magazine, and Jackpot. He hosts the blackjack page on www.bjinsider.com and has his own web site at www.smartgaming.com. For a catalog of his products and those he recommends call 1-888-353-3234 or write to: RSU, PO Box 19727, Greensboro, NC 27419.


Casino Player Magazine

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