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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, October 2001, #23


The results of LV Pro’s latest attack on the blackjack tables in Sin City are described in detail in his trip report. You’ll learn how LV Pro tried to manage risk while maintaining a decent win rate, how he used casino comps to cut his expenses, how he used his fellow players to "eat" the negative cards for him, how he used the technique of watching the cutoffs during the shuffle, how he plays at the best single and double deck games in town, his hit and run playing style plus tips on good places to eat in Las Vegas and lots more solid advice. Heard a rumor about casino gambling in Atlantic City? Check out Alene Paone’s report for a list of rumors with predictions, as well as her report on the latest blackjack playing conditions in Atlantic City including the best casinos to play blackjack. Captain John, our expert Las Vegas blackjack player, reports on the playing conditions for casinos located in the south end of the Strip including the Casino-of-the-Month, the famed Tropicana Hotel and Casino. You’ll also find a summary of new blackjack games and side bets that showed up at the recent gaming conferences held in Las Vegas; answers to reader’s questions on blackjack; and our updated schedule of mini and major blackjack tournaments including a proposed year-long tournament with a million-dollar prize.

Ready, set, let’s go …

Henry Tamburin


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

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

nrs = no resplits

pen = penetration = The fraction of cards in a pack that the dealer will deal before reshuffling.

EV = expected value. Another way of stating what the player’s percent advantage or disadvantage.

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

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




Once again I set out in the middle of the night to drive to Las Vegas for a 6-day blackjack trip. Since my last trip resulted in a $1,000 loss due to our team taking a dive, I was left with a $2K bankroll. Financially this was where I started two years ago, and it's been up and down ever since. My last investor, who had put up $5K to match my own $3K investment, had changed jobs and moved to another city. Because he suffered some stock market losses, he was forced to withdraw from our partnership this past spring. Since then I had suffered 3 straight losing trips, mostly due to the misfortunes of the teams I had joined. In two of those three trips, my personal totals had been positive…that is, I had won money, but had to bail out the losing team members. So I had returned from my trips with less money than I had started with, even though I had personally won. This time there was no team. I was on my own, with my own money.

So it was back to square one. With only $2K, I had to accept a bigger risk while maintaining a decent win rate. This meant employing a $10 unit with a $10-$60 or $10-$80 bet spread, playing only the best single and double deck games. According to Auston's Blackjack Risk Manager 2000 software, my win rate was nearly 2 units ($18.50 per 100 hands) but with a lifetime risk of ruin over 33%. Since the software says I'd have to play nearly 14,000 hands before my expectation was to double the bank, and that the number of hands required to overcome one standard deviation was over 25,000, I was going to need some short term luck.

At 4 hours per day over 6 days, my expectation over 24 hours of blackjack was to win $444.

After driving to Vegas in 3.5 hours (averaging 95 mph), I checked in to my mid-Strip hotel (6 nights comped) and unpacked. I always leave a cash deposit for phone calls/room service rather than a credit card. I've heard of card counters being rousted out of the hotel in the middle of the night and their Visa cards charged for what was supposed to be a comped stay. This way, all they could possibly squeeze out of me was the cash deposit.

I played my first session at my hotel's double-decker game. Got lousy (60%) pen from all three dealers and lost $225 for an inauspicious start. After a night's sleep, I played the same table, this time winning $365 in just over an hour. Now I'm up $140. So far, so good.

Ran into Fezzik and Midnight Cowboy at the Gambler's Book Club. The Cowboy bought me a beginner’s book on sports betting, which is their area of expertise. These guys have trouble getting their bets down, as many sports books won't take their action (that's how good they are). They were scheduled to leave LV yesterday, but because of the terrorist attacks they couldn't get a flight home. Like many others, they were stranded in LV.

Because of these recent tragedies, I almost had to cancel this trip. The gal who was supposed to cover for me at work had a brother who worked in the World Trade Center. She had not heard from him since the day of the attacks and was emotionally wrung out. However, she spoke to me shortly before the trip and told me to go, since she needed to work to occupy her mind during this uncertain time. After I returned home I learned she still hasn’t heard from him.

Still, I was glad I was able to go. I think it's important for Americans to maintain their lives as before and not give the terrorists the satisfaction of knowing they made us change our ways.

Las Vegas was more uncrowded than I'd ever seen. In fact it was deserted. I had my choice of tables to open for heads up games. Minimums were lower all over the Strip. The "locals" casinos, like Terrible's and the Stations properties, were busy but the major Strip hotels were dead. The main Treasure Island double deck pit had $5 minimum signs. This was the first time I'd ever seen that.

Rarely did any ploppies sit down to clutter up my game. I'd almost welcome the company at this point, but playing alone is still the best scenario for a counter. You get more speed, which means more hands per hour to let your small 1% advantage manifest itself quicker. However I prefer to have one (and only one) other player at my table to eat negative cards for me while I go to the bathroom or answer a fake cell phone call. As you know, if you have to use your phone you must step away from the table. Some places won't let you back into the game until the shuffle, which is usually OK with me. Once the decks are negative enough to justify a Wong-out, they rarely revert back to a plus count before the shuffle.

After a nap, a shower, and dinner, I tried the single-decker heads up at Silverton but the dealer would only deal 4 rounds to me, then shuffle. I switched to playing two hands to see what would happen but he only dealt 3 rounds. Try as I might, I couldn't get him to budge on the penetration. After 45 minutes of banging my head against this wall, I had lost $50, but my two suited blackjacks had won me a couple of free car wash coupons. The car wash is open 24 hours so I used one of the coupons and drove my newly washed car back up the Strip.

There was very little traffic for a Friday night at 11 pm. Something else was different too. Suddenly I realized all the hotel lights were turned off, except for the Jumbotron screens, which were showing American flags and patriotic messages. Then I remembered. This was the "Day of Remembrance" for the victims of the Sept. 11th attacks. Still it was eerie to see the Strip without lights.

During another session at my hotel, I was in for $225 but rallied to get my losses back plus a small but satisfying $210 win. Now up $460 for the trip, I checked out the 6 deck shoes at one of the Strip hotels to see if I could track the cutoffs. I walked around observing the shuffle procedure for awhile and discovered that maybe only two out of three dealers did the proper house procedure. I finally got my courage up and sat at a $5 table, counting through two shoes before I caught a minus 9 count at the shuffle. I visually followed the 1.5 deck cutoff during the shuffle. The minus 9 cutoffs got married to another 1.5 decks worth of discards whose average count was plus 3, resulting in a 3 deck block with a minus 6 count. Since the rich 3 decks were on the top, I cut a thin ¾ deck from the back, then counted through it as it was dealt. Once that first ¾'s deck was depleted, I added the +6 to my running count and dividing now by 3 decks to get my true count, I essentially played a "3 decker with 100% penetration."

I was totally elated when the 10's and aces started spilling out of the shoe right on cue. However, I bet big into the shoe for far too long and wound up getting "stiffed" way too often. I lost $260 at this session, but learned something valuable. Cut off tracking is a powerful tool, but it has to be very precise and done exactly right or you can really get killed.

Next morning after a 1.5 hour break even session at Treasure Island (I won $25) I spent the day at my buddy Stu's house, then took a nap, showered, and headed for the Rat Pack dinner. It was a smaller than usual gathering as some of the would be attendees couldn't get flights into LV. The attendees included Fezzik, Midnight Cowboy, Parker, Packrat, Old School, Becksam, Barfarkel, Northwest, Bad Cutter, and Splittin' 10's.

Fezzik queried us where he could rent a safety deposit box indefinitely with 24-hour access. Bad Cutter, who lives in Vegas, told him some likely prospects. Northwest told of his encounters with Stumpy, the head surveillance guy for the Stations casinos. Parker had good info on the San Diego area Indian casinos. Bad Cutter told of his losing streak in the last 24 hours where he dropped over $4K. And Splittin' 10's gave disguise tips and told of his encounter with FBI agents who discovered his BJ bankroll at the airport. Like Parker noted, the smaller gathering was relaxed and informal, almost like a family dinner. Everyone said it was a wonderful affair and we're going to do it again real soon.

From here, Packrat and I started hitting and running. We started at Palace Station, where I was in for a few hundred before switching tables to win it all back plus $150. Packrat won $130. He uses the same red to low green spread as me. Then we went to the Riviera to see the Lon Bronson band with his Tower of Power style horn section in the lounge. Before their set, we played one of the Riv's few remaining double deck tables. I won another $200, then after the lounge act we played another session. This time I won another $100. Packrat was scoring small but consistent wins too. Our sessions were like 15 or 20 minutes as we locked up small wins and kept moving. Next was Treasure Island where we played until the end of swing shift. I won $340 here to push my trip total up to $1,015. After a comped late night snack in the coffee shop, we called it a night.

Next morning I woke up late and after getting myself together I headed for Terrible's. They recently discontinued the late surrender option on their double deckers, but the 75% pen I got more than made up for it. I played for an hour with two others and won $285 and got a breakfast comp. I wasn't expecting much from the coffee shop, but they surprised me. Good steak, fruit was fresh, eggs cooked just right plus their own brand of steak sauce was excellent. This is one coffee shop I'd visit again.

I was now up $1,300 for the trip; I spent the day with Packrat at the sandy beach at Mandalay Bay. The wave pool was awesome. It's a huge pool (more like a small lake) that generates a two-foot swell about once a minute. Everyone scrambles to get into position then swims like mad to catch the wave. The ride is short but satisfying enough. It definitely gives the feel of bodysurfing, then deposits us, like so many beached whales, onto a concave-landing platform with a plastic-composite bottom.

We also swam in the Lazy River, which is a circular channel pool in which the current sweeps you around the circuit. Many folks had rented inner tubes, which is the way to go here. We took a few laps around, ducking under the waterfall as we traversed. For my money, Mandalay Bay has the best pool area in Las Vegas, better than Mirage, Bellagio, Flamingo, Tropicana or any others you could name.

On the way out I checked out the new double-deckers that Mandalay Bay had installed. All four tables were $25 minimum on this late afternoon. One table had two players who were doing all right, so I decided to chance it and join them, even though my small bankroll couldn't really support $25 minimum tables. Probably the fact that they offer late surrender helped me decide to play. To play right with green chips means you have to be willing to risk 40 units or $1,000 in a session. I played very conservatively for 45 minutes, winning $300. I think my top bet was $100. You can't play 2-deck games with a 1-4 spread and expect to win long term…it's too small. According to the conventional wisdom, a 1-6 or 1-8 spread is the ideal compromise between optimizing the win rate and keeping the variance to a minimum. It’s the perfect balance of risk vs. reward.

Dinner at Trilussa, the Italian restaurant at Casino Royale, was delicious with a great view of the Mirage fountains and volcano. I had scampi appetizer and a steak and salmon main course while reading the What's On magazine, searching in vain for my kind of lounge act. I have been trying to see Sam Butera for months, but he wasn't playing at present. Sam is the last active member of the old Louis Prima outfit. I was also interested in seeing the new "Frank & Friends-Our Way" which is a Rat Pack tribute at the Tropicana lounge. I found out it's dark for two weeks but would be playing during my next LV trip.

I hooked up with Packrat again and we walked to Treasure Island where each of us table-hopped until he won $200 and I won $150. At this point he's up $500 for the day and I'm up $850 for the day and $1,850 for the trip.

Then we walked through Mirage. There were several $25 DD tables. After a brief conference, we decided to play, even though our red bankrolls couldn't really support a true 1-6 or 1-8 green spread unless we got hot right off the bat. As a result, both of us bet scared. I think my highest bet was only $75 in a choppy, back and forth game. Packrat won another $200 and quit early, happy with his small win. I lost $200, my first losing session in the last 10. Realizing my mistake, I vowed to play within my BR limits from then on. I guess I was out of the habit of betting green, and was reluctant to risk my hard won $1.8K at these higher stakes. As a result, I had shortchanged myself by betting scared money, which is a sure way to lose.

The next morning I started with another losing session (-$350) at my hotel's DD game. I had a bagel and lox breakfast at Treasure Island, then joined Packrat at the Mandalay Bay wave pool again. I was up only $1,300 for the trip so I spent the day bodysurfing and soaking up rays. Packrat told me that last night after we parted, he tried to talk the grave supervisor at the Mandalay DD pit to let him play $25 stakes at a $100 minimum posted table. He asked because all four tables were empty, but the pitstiff refused. Apparently the pit staff there are not as enlightened as those at the former Wynn resorts, who will usually let you play lower than the posted minimum in order to get the table action started. I told the Packrat he could have had a whole new career as a shill.

I had a brief visit from Jeff H, who is a former teammate that writes a weekly sports betting column for the Las Vegas Sun. We played a double deck table together at my hotel with Jeff anchoring the table at third base. He won $170 and I lost $200 for my third loss in a row. Now I was a bit worried. Was my positive run over? Is it all downhill from here? I considered, then rejected the notion to drive home a day early, preserving the $1,100 win. That "run out the clock" mentality is always distasteful to me. Though I resolved to play conservatively from here on out to sit on my winnings, I changed my mind and decided to play it out, take my chances, and let the chips fall where they may.

I checking out the tables at Terrible's, and saw that they were all full. That was indicative of the same thing I noticed during the entire trip. The local’s casinos were packed though not as much as usual. Only the major Strip resorts were ghost towns. I still can't get my mind around how lucky I was to have these uncrowded conditions, despite being only able to play a red spread. Had I started with $6-8K, I would have been playing a $25 unit with a true green spread and would have won $5K easily.

At midnight I drove back to Treasure Island. I bought in for $200 and played a 90-minute session, mostly heads up, then one other player joined. This was my best session of the trip. No matter what hand I was dealt, I'd hit it and prevail, or the dealer would frequently bust. I started with bets of $10, $15 and $20 while the pit ignored me. Once I started winning, my neutral bet went up to $25 and $30. The floorman then asked for my player's card again, which I cheerfully handed over. This event caused me a bit of concern, then I realized he was upgrading my rating. I colored out with my first $1,000 chip of the trip, plus a few extra greenies. I had won $875 net, with my highest bet at $80. I took out the $75 for expenses, and called it an $800 win which brought my trip total back to it's highest point; up $1,900.

Later, Packrat and I caught the Bellagio pit as they were changing from swing to grave personnel. The swing manager told us to carry our request to play $10 minimum at a posted $25 DD table to the incoming grave boss. The grave boss said OK, then added, "you're not counting cards, are you?" which took me aback. I finally said something about being hardly able to "count" my hand up to 21, but I was impressed. They're a sharp lot of Oscars at Bellagio.

So at 3 am, Packrat and I had a $10 DD game to ourselves. We seesawed back and forth but this game was much tougher than the Treasure Island double-decker. I wondered if the different shuffle procedures at each casino had anything to do with this phenomenon. As we hit and busted stiff after stiff, I remembered when the Bellagio first opened in late 1998 and I had consistent good success playing here. But then in my last 6-8 times in this pit, I had a much harder time winning. Anyway, I rallied back from almost $300 down to lose only $100 while Packrat lost $250. He was still up like $1,400 for the trip though, while I was still sitting on a $1,800 lead.

My last morning in LV I played the double-decker at my hotel. I had been avoiding day shift because of a certain pit boss that in the past had gone through the discards on me and once instructed the dealer to hide cards. Today he was nowhere to be seen, so I was able to play with no concern. I broke even after 90 minutes. Later on swing, I played another 60-minute session and won $300. Turning to Treasure Island, I played with the same dealer as last night when I had won the $800. This time it was tougher. I finally concluded what was to be my last blackjack session of the trip with a $50 win after being in for $250 and finally winning it back.

I could kick myself for getting sleepy and turning in on my last night in LV. After all, it was only 2 am, and I'm sure I'll never see blackjack conditions like this again. However, I was yawning and unable to keep my eyes open. I was up $2,150 for the trip but couldn't shake the nagging feeling that I had let Las Vegas off too easy. I had played nearly 24 hours over 5 ½ days, but felt like kicking myself for not having gone all out and played 8 hours a day. Also I could have tempted the fates and played perhaps one third of my sessions at those good Strip $25 DD tables. But hey, anyone can second-guess themselves on Monday morning after the results are in. I decided to banish the triplets "coulda, shoulda and woulda" from my thoughts and be satisfied with the trip results. After all, I had more than doubled my small bankroll in only 2,400 hands, not the 14,000-hand average the software predicted.

According to the BJRM 2000 software, the chances of this result or better was only 10.8%. My result was 1.235 standard deviations to the right (the good side). The odds of hitting this trip goal was only 22% while my adjusted expected value was to make $18.50 per hour for an average trip win of $444 in 24 hours of play.

So it was a good win and I'll take it. I might have won more by being more aggressive and taking better advantage of the unusual conditions, but things could have gone wrong just as easily. If I could double my bankroll every time out, I'd quit my job and play blackjack full time. So, for now I'll be quite satisfied with the win. We'll see what happens next time.

Thanks for reading,

The LV Pro



Bears pack in the food for the next couple of months and then go into their dens and hibernate. Casino gamblers who follow the ebb and flow of events outside their own ups and downs at the tables, stock up on rumors during this time of year to tide them over the bleak and grey days ahead. And have I got rumors for you.

Now, some of these rumors are from sources that are okay, but not one of my sources is as good as the one who told me that Trump Plaza was going to an all 4-deck casino. As readers of this newsletter know, that rumor never became reality. Trump Plaza never went for 4-deck games and, unless they are doing so as I write this, when you read this they still won’t have a 4-deck casino.

But rumor-mongering is fun, if you don’t take it too seriously, and you don’t injure anyone’s reputation in the process. I don’t know if I’d bet on any of these rumors actually coming into fact but -- hey, you never know!

Sands is going to end its 3-deck heads-up games or make them $200 minimums. The big rumor is that the Sands pit is driving itself nuts trying to monitor the games and that progressive-betting basic-strategy players have been short-shoed and single-betted when they started to win. I got this rumor from a player who, admittedly, dislikes the Sands management. Many other players swear that the Sands is a great place to play. In fact,
I highly recommend that card counters give this place a shot, as the games are counter friendly, though the pit is not.

Claridge is finding it hard to redefine itself since the takeover by Park Place Entertainment. It is now going to attempt to become the slot capital of Atlantic City so look for increased payouts and more video-poker machines. Rumor has it that some Las Vegas management types are packing their suitcases to come to the East Coast to fiddle with the Claridge.

Trump is going to sell the Plaza. Park Place Entertainment is interested (it seems to be buying everything, doesn’t it?) but so is MGM-Mirage which is looking to get a foothold on the Boardwalk to go along with the Borgata opening in two years. MGM-Mirage plans to run a fleet of Jitneys from one to the other to lock up player loyalty to the new boys in town.

Showboat is going to bring in "adult" entertainment, similar to Vegas casinos such as Caesars and MGM Grand. They’ll put this on the second floor, not far from the bowling alley. Showboat doesn’t have a big underage presence, even in the summer months, so it figures to position itself as the "adult" casino.

Talk in the legislature concerns casinos being allowed "off-water," such as in the heart of Atlantic City. The feeling is a few small casinos in the interior will really rejuvenate the city.

A 200-foot tall statue of Caesar is being planned for the ocean -- on a man-made island just beyond the Ocean One Mall. There will be a boat that takes patrons to and from the statue. It is expected to become a major tourist attraction, especially for the kids. No word on whether they’ll be a thrill-ride atop Caesar’s head.

Atlantic City plans to allow pitch games of the single and double deck variety where card counters will be told that if they only spread 1-10, they can play to their heart’s content. Oh, sorry, that isn’t a rumor -- that’s just wishful thinking! Happy Thanksgiving.

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 November, 2001 Atlantic City blackjack scene.

Rating system:
* * * * * = Excellent

* * * * = Very Good

* * * = Good

* * = Fair

* = Poor.

Penetration Report:
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 decided to 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: No change from last report. Penetration ranges from good to excellent in the 6-deck games in the high roller pit ($50 to $100 minimums) and one-deck to 1.5 deck cutoffs are the norm. No midshoe entry on all these games. The pit people seem to be savvy enough not to harass decent players. The 8-deckers outside the high roller pit also have good penetration but "no midshoe entry" as well. The rest of the casino is the standard AC 8-deck with penetration that is consistently more than 75
percent. 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: A]

CAESARS: No change from last issue. Six-deck games with penetration of 80-85 percent in high roller room only. Minimums $100 to maximum of $2,000/$5,000. Rest of tables are 8-deck with 75 percent penetration. The $10 tables are almost gone, especially on the weekends, replaced by $15 and $25. Early morning a $5 table was sighted -- kind of like those Yeti sightings in the Himalayas. Resplitting allowed but you can only split
aces once. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available at $10 and up! * * * * [Penetration Report: B+]

CLARIDGE: More slots and more $5 games. The 4-deck games seem to be gone, at least when I visited. The Claridge is going deep on most games in and out of the high roller room. The high roller room is 6-deck games with $25-$50 minimums most days. Penetration varies but now averages anywhere from 80-85 percent. You can resplit pairs up to four hands, including aces, in high roller room but the rest of the casino doesn’t allow resplitting. Pit people seem to be very relaxed and the place seems to be getting its
share of action. The rest of the casino is 8 decks with good to excellent penetration. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available for $10 and up. * * * * 1/2* [Penetration Report: A-]

HARRAH’S: No change from last issue. Basic Strategy players might consider this to be one of the two best games in town! The 6-deck games have poor penetration of 66 percent in high roller area -- and some players claim that they have seen 50 percent penetration. The Vegas’ Harrah’s has a reputation for being counter-crazy but if that 50 percent tale is true, why would anyone with skill play at this place? Resplitting allowed except aces. No midshoe entry. Rest of casino is 8 decks with 66-70 percent penetration. Harrah’s Table Game Guarantee: if the minimums are raised during play, you still get to play your original minimum. * * [Penetration Report: D]

HILTON: Penetration was not as good on my latest visit. Hopefully this is a quirk of the change of seasons. I did not find any $5 games but I saw a few $10 ones in the early hours. Resplitting allowed except aces. The Multiple Action and Spanish 21 also have good penetration for $10. * * * 1/2* [Penetration Report: B]

RESORTS: People have rediscovered Resorts. Good penetration on 8-deck games, consistently in the 75-80 percent zone, dealer dependent however. Plenty of $5 and $10 games during the daytime hours. The 6-deck games in the high roller pits ($25/$50 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 better casinos for blackjack in Atlantic City. Pits are not
paranoid. * * * * [Penetration Report: B+]

SANDS: Three-deck, heads-up game has minimums that are accessible at $25 to $100 (usually high on weekends, low on weekdays). These may not last too much longer. Counters can probably play these games if they look like ploppies and seem not to know exactly what they are doing. Bone up on your indices for odd plays and make the types of mistakes that don’t cost all that much, such as not hitting your 16s against a dealer 10 (which is the correct move in a high count anyway). I didn’t see the 4-deckers on this
trip but I was there late morning looking for the four-deck discard racks, which were not at the (closed) tables by the cage as they used to be. Reports say the pit has eased up on counters so now may be the time for all counters to take on the Sands. Sands is still an all 6-deck casino, with 75 percent penetration the norm. Sands also has Multiple Action Blackjack and Spanish 21. * * * * [Penetration Report: B+]

SHOWBOAT: No change from last report. Six-deck games are good in the high roller room with standard penetration of 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 -- almost to 85 percent. Very few $10 tables, mostly $15 and up. Multiple-action available at one table. Showboat is now a part of Harrah’s "total gold" computer network so you can use your comps at other Harrah’s
properties. * * * * [Penetration Report: B+]

TROPICANA: Can they fit any more slots in this place? Next they’ll be in the bathrooms. Six-deck games in high-roller room are $100 minimums with 66 percent penetration when they’re feeling generous. Rest of the casino is no better, except these are 8-deckers with $10 minimums and up. Ever since the Campione case several years back, Trop seems to have positioned itself as the slot-machine king of AC. Leave this place to the slot players unless you are strictly a basic strategy player, then it is the place to play as you won’t be playing as many hands. * [Penetration Report: F]

TRUMP MARINA: No change from last report. Six-deck games in high roller room ($100 minimums, $2,500/$5,000 maximums) have penetration based on the individual dealer but you can find some that give decent cuts and the pit will tolerate large spreads. Eight-deck games are now at 75 percent 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. * * * [Penetration Report: B-]

No change from last report. Needs to get its act together in more ways than one. The casino has become top heavy with 8-deck games with penetration ranging from 70 percent to 75 percent on all, 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. * * [Penetration Report: C]

TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: Six-deck games in high roller room ($100 minimum, $5,000
maximum) had bad penetration on my visit, around 66 percent. The 8-deck had penetration around 75 percent. Lowest tables are $10/$15 even during midweek -- but mornings, which I didn’t check, reportedly 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 from last report. * * [Penetration Report: C+]

WILD, WILD WEST: Still the only casino in Atlantic City that 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 80-85 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. * * * * [Penetration Report: B+]

BEST CASINOS FOR BJ IN ATLANTIC CITY: Claridge, Sands, Bally’s Park Place, Showboat, and Resorts




Las Vegas business and table action is slowly picking up in the wake of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks against the United States. Casinos are bringing back some of the nearly 20,000 employees that they laid off. Many of the large strip casinos are opening only 50% of their blackjack games during the week. On weekends most of the table games are open with plenty of dealers. It appears, however, that a larger percentage of the blackjack games have continuous shuffling machines (CSM’s) with less desirable games for the advantage player. In addition, table limits are lower than normal at this time and there are fewer high rolling blackjack players.

Las Vegas room rates are down 25 to 40% from last year at this time. Now is the time to try out that posh strip hotel that has in the past been beyond your budget. Weekday rates are as much as 50% below normal.

At the blackjack tables, dealers are very concerned about the layoffs of their colleagues. Supervisors are trying hard to keep their jobs and try to be extra friendly to the players. Security and surveillance personnel are sensitive to the increased possibility of internal theft problems as well as possible terrorists. This results in less attention to the advantage player and also to game protection.

This report will feature casinos on the south end of the Strip with the Tropicana as the Casino-of-the Month.


3801 Las Vegas BLvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109



The Tropicana has over 1800 rooms and suites. In general, the Tropicana is old but it has been upgraded and refurbished over time. Weekday room rates presently start at $45.95/night. Weekend rates start at $159 and $179. The Tropicana location is very convenient to the monorails connecting Mandalay Bay and Excalibur and also the monorail connecting the MGM to Bally’s.

The Tropicana Hotel features three pools including Las Vegas’ only indoor pool. They also have a swim-up blackjack table (seasonal).

The feature entertainment at the Tropicana is the Legendary Follies Bergere, with very sexy showgirls on stage, the Casino Legends Hall of Fame, and the Comedy Stop comedy club.

The Tropicana features an assortment of restaurants. The 24-hour Calypsos Café serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual atmosphere at reasonable prices. The Golden Dynasty offers Cantonese, Mandarin and Szechwan entrees. Pietro’s features Italian selections. Mizuno’s Japanese Steakhouse has a variety of Japanese specialties. Savana features beef, chicken and seafood with excellent service. The Tropicana also has an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet with a large variety of selections.


Tropicana offers 12 four-deck CSM games with h17, das, and ls, and table limits of $5 -$1,000; one six-deck game with s17, das, and ls, and $25 - $2000 table-limits and 1.9 deck penetration; 2 six-deck games with h17, das, and ls, and $25 - $2000 table-limits and 1.9 deck penetration; and 3 eight-deck games with h17, das, and ls, and $5 - $500 table-limits and 2.1 deck penetration. If you are a counter, be careful because the Tropicana uses the Facial Recognition System and computer evaluation of your play However, minimizing your playing time will usually keep an advantage player under Tropicana’s radar.

* * *


The Hotel San Remo is located to the east of Tropicana, across from MGM. The San Remo has 711 rooms and suites. Restaurants at the San Remo are Paparazzi Grill (steaks and seafood), Pasta Remo (Italian pasta dishes and specialties), Restorante dei Fiori (24-hour buffet), and Saizin at San Remo (sushi and Japanese entrees).

The Slot Club at San Remo is considered by many locals to be the #1 Slot Club in Las Vegas. Although not as large as adjacent strip casinos, the employees are very friendly and willing to serve the gambling public.


San Remo offers one two-deck game with 0.8 deck penetration, $5 - $200 table-limits and s17 and das; and 9 six-deck games with 1.9 deck penetration, $2 - $200 table-limits and s17 and das. Pit personnel primarily do surveillance at San Remo, therefore if pit personnel are not continually observing you, you are probably not being observed at all.

* * *


The Vacation Village Hotel and Casino is located on Las Vegas Blvd. South of Mandalay Bay. Vacation Village has 314 rooms, starting at $39 per night. There are three restaurants at Vacation Village - Roberto’s Mexican Restaurant, a buffet, and Denny’s.


Vacation Village offers 11 six-deck games with 1.7 deck penetration, $2 - $200 table-limits with h17 rules; and 1 eight-deck shoe game dealt as a two-deck hand-held game with $5 - $200 table-limits and h17. Games at Vacation Village are not desirable for the advantage player. Pit personnel sweat big action since the shift surveillance person on duty is usually not monitoring the BJ table action.

* * *


Silverton is located 2 miles south of the Las Vegas Strip at I-15 and the Blue Diamond exit. The Silverton has 300 rooms and suites, starting at $35 per night. The Fireside Café offers 24-hour breakfast, lunch and dinners. The All-American Buffet offers a variety of entrees. Entertainment is provided at Rattlesnake Ricky’s Saloon.


Silverton offers 2 single-deck games with 0.5 deck penetration, $5 - $500 table-limits, and h17 and das; 4 two-deck games with 0.9 deck penetration, $5 - $1000 table-limits, and h17 and das; 2 six-deck games with 1.7 deck penetration, $5 - $500 table-limits, and h17 and das; and 1 eight-deck shoe game, dealt as a two-deck hand-held game, with $5 - $1000 table-limits, and h17 and das. Pit personnel sweat big action by calling on surveillance to observe and report on suspected advantage players.

* * *


The Holiday Inn and Boardwalk Casino is located on Las Vegas Blvd. adjacent to the Monte Carlo Casino. The Holiday Inn has 654 rooms and suites from $43 per night. The property has a Buffet, Coffee shop and Italian Restaurant.


Boardwalk offers 1 two-deck game with 0.8 penetration, $5 - $500 table-limit, and h17 rules; 8 four-deck CSM games with $3 - $1000 table-limits, with h17 and ls; and 7 six-deck games with 2.0 deck penetration, $3 - $200 table-limits, with h17 and ls. The Boardwalk has a small casino, doesn’t have a large surveillance team, and therefore it must rely on pit personnel to monitor table games.

* * *



The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is located at 4455 Paradise Road, 1-mile east of the strip. The Hard Rock has 668 rooms and suites and the worlds largest Hard Rock store. Restaurants at Hard Rock include Mr. Lucky’s 24-hour coffee shop, NOBU, The Pink Taco, A.J.’s Steakhouse and Mortoni’s. The Hard Rock caters to the younger generation.


Hard Rock offers 4 two-deck games with 0.7 deck penetration, $10 - $2000 table-limits, and h17 and das; 5 five-deck CSM games with $5 - $2000 table-limits, and h17 and das, 6 six-deck games with 1.9 deck penetration, $5 - $3000 table-limits, and s17, das, ls and rsa; and 45 six-deck games with 1.5 deck penetration, $5 - $2000 table-limits, and h17 and das rules. Facial recognition system is used at Hard Rock. Limited surveillance personnel are available; therefore, pit personnel usually do observation of table games.



This month I had the opportunity to attend the two largest gaming conferences that were held in Las Vegas – the Global Gaming Expo and the World Gaming Congress. From the blackjack players perspective, here’s a run down of some interesting games and/or side bets that were being promoted by different vendors to the casino industry. Some of these games/side bets have already made their way to the casino floor while others are still in the prototype stages and may never make it. I haven’t had time to analyze the math of all of these games and probably won’t until I know for sure whether they will be available to the general public.

Ultimate Blackjack

This game does not involve playing blackjack against a dealer, rather it involves wagering on the best blackjack hand that can be made with 4 cards. You can wager that the highest hand will be a blackjack, 21, 19, 18, or 17-and-under. Payoff odds are blackjack (4 to 1), 21 (3 to 1), 20 (1 to 1), 19 (8 to 1), 18 (35 to 1), and 17 or under (30 to 1). After players make their wagers, the dealer will deal 4 cards on the layout and determine which combination of the four cards makes the best blackjack hand according to traditional blackjack rules. For example an ace-2-3-6 would be a 20 (consisting of ace-3-6). An 8-K-9-4 would be a 21 (8-9-4) and 2-3-10-2 would be classified as a 17 or less (i.e. all four cards play). The vendors claim the game is the "fastest version of 21". However, I thought the game was dull.

3 Way-Action

How’s this – you get to play blackjack, war, and poker on the same hand! The game works like this. You make three bets – on war, blackjack, and poker. The first bet – on war – is decided when the dealer gives you one card face up and deal’s her upcard. High

card wins the war bet (simple). Then the dealer deals you and her the second card. You play out your hand per traditional blackjack rules (it is blackjack after all). The one caveat with the rules is that if a player draws a 6 card 21-or-less hand, the player automatically wins the bet. After the blackjack hand is decided, the dealer will deal the player the remaining cards for a 5-card poker hand (like Let it Ride). There is a posted payoff table (I don’t remember the payouts) and if you have at least a pair or higher you win the posted payoff odds. Pretty soon we’ll be able to play 10 games with one blackjack hand. I’ll pass on this one.


This is regular blackjack with an optional 3-Card Poker side game. You wager on the blackjack hand and if you like you must wager an equal amount on the 3-Card Poker Hand. Your first two cards and the dealer face up card make your 3-Card Poker hand. If you have a flush, straight, three-of-a-kind, or straight flush you win at 9 to 1 payoff odds. This game is not bad from a math standpoint, as the casino edge is less than 3%.

Hit and Win

This blackjack game pays based on the spread between your hand and the dealer hand. if you beat the dealer by 4 you win at 4 to 1 payoff odds. Win by 3 and the payoff is 3 to 1, by 2 it’s 2 to 1 and win by 1 and it’s a 1 to 1 payoff. Also, if you and the dealer push with 17 you automatically win at 1 to 1 payoff odds. However, a 21 and BJ vs. dealer 21 or BJ is a push. Who wants to push with a blackjack hand, anyway ???

Digital 21

This is an interesting way to play blackjack without any paper cards. It’s you against a live dealer except the digital cards are delivered to the player’s LCD screen which sets right on the layout. The system also includes a virtual shoe/shuffler, a sensor that knows when a player has made a wager (to activate his screen), automatic totaling of the players hand (hey, in this game you don’t even have to know how to count), and even a casino optional suggested playing strategy. The border for each player’s LCD screen also changes color and design to instantly notify the dealer of a winning hand, a losing hand or a push (actually the dealer doesn’t even have to check the player’s hand – they can payoff off or collect losing wagers by the color of the player’s border). I learned that Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, located in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains in the western part of North Carolina, will be installing a bunch of these tables in the near future (no table games are allowed by state law, only video games of skill, however, the state has decided to classify Digital 21 as a video game of skill). Digital 21 has been tested at several Las Vegas casinos over the past year, refined, and in my opinion will soon be playing at a casino near you in the not too distant future.

Double Pay Blackjack

Another variation of Digital 21, this game also uses the same Digital Card System but offers the blackjack player the opportunity to play two hands on each round. Here’s how it works. Player makes two bets and the first two electronic cards dealt to a player are common cards that are used for both hands (sort of like the cards dealt in 5 and 10 times video poker machines). Each hand can be played differently. The only caveat is that the first two cards are your starting cards for both hands. You could end up with a great hand and a lousy hand (or even bust) depending on what the draw cards are. Or you can lucky and get a blackjack hand, which will win both hands. I played the game for quite a while and got to like it especially the electronic cards (there’s a video display in front of each player which shows the electronic cards).

Bonanza Blackjack

This is traditional blackjack with a $1 side bet that could win a player up to $25,000. The game is played with digitized cards (like Digital 21) and players communicate with the dealer by using the appropriate hit/stand/double/split decision button on their player screen (or the casino can remove the buttons and just let the player use traditional hand signals). A player wins the $1 side bet if the player’s first two cards total 20 and the dealer’s upcard is a 10 value card. Depending on the suit and rank of the player’s first two cards and whether the dealer’s card matches, the player can win anywhere from $10 (if player’s 20 is different suit or rank and dealer has any 10 upcard) up to $25,000 (the player’s 20 must be same rank and suit and the dealer’s first two cards are matching). I found understanding the winning hand combinations a little confusing but I did like the music and sound effects when a player won a Bonanza Jackpot (music from the original Bonanza TV show).

Super Fun 21

Billed as ‘not a new game, but a more fun and exciting way to deal single deck blackjack". There are a lot of player bonus payoffs (double down on two or more cards, surrender is allowed even after hitting splitting or doubling down, and so forth) but the price you pay is even money for your blackjacks (except 2 to 1 if you get a blackjack in diamonds). This game is already being played in a bunch of casinos in Las Vegas. Casino’s edge is about 0.7% for basic strategy player if dealer stands on soft 17 and 0.9% of he hits soft 17. I’d stick to traditional blackjack, which has a lower house edge.

Blackjack Switch

This is an interesting variation of traditional blackjack. Each player plays two hands simultaneously except the player has the option to switch the two top cards from one hand to the other. This allows the player some interesting playing options as you must determine not only the strength of your two hands as dealt but you must compare it with the strength of the two hands after you switch the top cards to determine whether a switch is warranted or not. The game is quite interesting and with skillful play (knowing when to switch and when not to) it’s possible to cut the casino’s edge to about 0.

Continuous Shuffling Machines & Facial Recognition Technology

There were several vendors touting their CSM’s as a way to thwart card counters and shuffle trackers while also getting 20% more hands dealt per hour. One of the new models, by VendingData Corporation called the Continuous Random Ejection Shuffler, works by having most of the playing cards remaining in the random ejection shuffler in a continuous shuffling mode except for a small batch (i.e. one or two decks) used by the dealer during play. After play, the batch is returned to the continuous shuffler and a new batch of cards is used for play. From the player’s perspective the game looks like a hand held one or two deck game but it is essentially a 6 or 8 deck continuous shuffled game disguised as a single or two deck game (how’s that for fooling the gaming public). The folks at Biometrica told me they have sold a ton of their facial recognition software to the casino industry around the world. The software allows the casino to compare the photo of anyone playing blackjack (the eye in the sky will be alerted to take your picture while you are playing blackjack) to a database of known card cheats and even professional card counters and shuffle trackers. The company was also promoting the installation of their system at entrances to casinos so undesirables including terrorists could be spotted immediately.



"When you split two aces and draw two tens are the two hands counted as 21 or as blackjack hands?"

The two hands are 21’s not blackjack hands. A blackjack hand is a two-card 21 from the initial two cards dealt to you. In the above example the initial two cards were the pair of aces. Splitting and drawing tens give you a 21 hand and a 1 to 1 payoff (assuming the dealer doesn’t have a blackjack hand or a 21).

"What do you mean by soft 19, soft 13, etc?"

A soft hand in blackjack is any hand that contains an ace counted as 11. For example an ace-6 is a soft 17 and ace-4-5 is a soft 20. Hands that do not contain an ace or those that contain an ace counted as 1 are known as hard hands (e.g. 10-7 is hard 17; 4-7-ace-3 is hard 15). Sometimes a soft hand will convert into a hard hand after a draw. For example, suppose you are dealt an ace-5, you hit, and draw a 9. You converted a soft 16 into a hard 15.

"Why do casinos cut off the dealing when approximately one deck remains?"

They do this to prevent card counters from wiping them out. The more cards they deal from a freshly shuffled pack of cards, the greater is the counter’s edge. By cutting off one or more decks, they reduce the counters potential edge in the game. Counters look for games with good penetration (i.e. games where at least 70% or more of the cards are dealt prior to the shuffle).

"I recently returned from Las Vegas and wanted to let you know that the Rio no longer has the Blackjack Blitz machines that you recommended".

Thanks for the information. I was in Las Vegas two weeks ago and confirmed that the Rio removed the machines.Too bad because these machines had good rules plus it was a good way for players to rack up points on their slot card for cashback and comps.



Editors note: If you are new to tournament blackjack and want to learn the basics check out the article on tournament blackjack by Andrew Glazer in Blackjack Insider #7 at

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 so that we can update the information in our schedule.


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)

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

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

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)


Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170); The Regent (1-877-869-8777); Texas Station (1-800-754-8804)

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)

Kenner, LA: Treasure Chest (1-800-298-0711)

Reno, NV: Peppermill (1-800-648-6992)

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)

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)

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

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)


Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170); Golden Nugget (1-866-346-5336)

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

Carson City, NV: Carson Station (1-800-501-2929)

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

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

Biloxi, MS: Casino Magic (last Wed. each month) (1-800-562-4425); 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)

Clinton, IA: Mississippi Belle II (1-800-457-9751)

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

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

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

Tower, MN: Fortune Bay (1-800-992-7529)

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)

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

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

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

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

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

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


Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170); The Regent (1-877-869-8777)

Henderson, NV: Reserve (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)

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: Casino 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)
Granite Falls, MN: Firefly (1-800-232-1439)

Tower, MN: Fortune Bay (1-800-992-7529)

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

Biloxi, MS: Boomtown (1-800-627-0777)

Lula, MS: Isle of Capri (1-888-330-5825)

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

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


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)

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

Mesquite, NV: Si Redd’s Oasis (1-888-346-4055); Virgin River (1-800-346-7721)

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

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

Wendover. MN: Silver Smith (1-800-354-3572)

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

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


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)

Crystal Bay, NV: Tahoe Biltmore (1-800-245-8667)

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

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

Deadwood, SD: Miss Kitty’s (1-800-668-8189)

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

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


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)

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

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

Christmas, MI: Kewadin (1-800-457-9975)

Saulte Ste. Marie, MI: Kewadin (1-800-539-2346)

Saulte Ste. Marie, ONT: Salte Ste. Marie (1-800-826-8946)

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

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)



The following is a schedule of blackjack tournaments through Dec. 14. There are several tournaments with total prizes at $100,000 (and some even higher). Sign up early if you are interested in playing.

The 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.

I had the opportunity to meet Stanley Sludikoff (aka. Roberts) and Rick Stoff, who have relaunched Gambling Times Magazine, at the recent World Gaming Congress. They informed me they were developing a year long World Casino Games Tournament that will take place on land, at sea, and over the internet with a million dollar top prize for the grand prize winner. There are six games in the tournament: blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat, Pai Gow Poker, and video poker. Entry fees are $90US and buy-ins are $100US. Ninety percent of the entry fees will be returned to players in the form of cash prizes. For more details about the tournament send an email to

(note: Information on prizes for several tournaments were not available as we went to press).

Date Location Entry #Decks Prizes More Information

Oct. 31 Grand $75 six $12.5K/$5K 1-800-626-5825

Onamia, MN

Nov. 1 Bally’s free six $10K/$5K 1-800-572-2559

New Orleans, LA

Nov. 2-4 Treasure Island $750 * six $125K/ 1-800-944-7444

Las Vegas, NV

Nov. 2-4 Eldorado $500 * six $50K/$25K 1-800-648-5966

Reno, NV

Nov. 7 Sunset Station free six $3K/$1K 1-888-808-7717

Henderson, NV

Nov. 9-10 Chinook Winds $100 single $10K/$5K 1-888-244-6665

Lincoln City, OR

Nov. 9-11 Cactus Petes $200 * single $50K/$20K 1-800-821-1103

Jackpot, NV

Nov. 9-12 Imperial Palace $150 six $25K/$10K 1-800-436-3000

Biloxi, mS

Nov. 13-15 Sam’s Town $500 two $54K/$20K 1-800-456-0711

Robinsonville, MS

Nov. 14 Shooting Star $65 six $9.5K/$4K 1-800-453-7827


Nov. 16-18 Tropicana $500 six $50K/$25K 1-800545-4989

Las Vegas, NV

Nov. 16-18 NY NY free * six $40K/$20K 1-888-469-6958

Las Vegas, NV

Nov. 18 Mississippi Belle free * six $10K/$5K 1-800-457-9975

Clinton, IA

Nov. 23-25 Reno Hilton free * six $25K/$10K 1-800-648-5080

Reno, NV

Nov. 24 River Palms $99 two $10.5K/$5K 1-888-298-2242

Laughlin, NV

Nov. 27-29 Bally’s free * six $100K/$50K 1-800-634-3434

Las Vegas, NV

Nov. 27-29 Bally’s free * six $100K/$50K 1-800-634-3434

Las Vegas, NV

Nov. 30-Dec 1 Grand free * six $100K/$50K 1-800-946-4946

Robinsonville, MS


Dec. 3 Club Cal Neva $50 single $1.5K/$1.5K 1-877-777-7303

Reno, NV

Dec. 3-6 Stardust $375 * two $170K/$100K 1-888-271-1777

Las Vegas, NV

Dec. 5 Riviera $200 six $28K/$12.5K 1-800-437-7951

Las Vegas, NV

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

New Orleans, LA

Dec. 7-9 Sunset Station free * six $12K/$5K 1-888-808-7717

Henderson, NV

Dec. 7-9 Sundowner $150 single $3K/$3K 1-800-648-5490

Reno, NV

Dec. 8-9 Flamingo $49 six $12K/ 1-800-662-6004

Laughlin, NV

Dec. 9-11 Edgewater $129 single $20K/$10K 1-800-289-8777

Laughlin, NV

Dec 14-16 Pioneer $200 single $25K/$11K 1-800-634-3469

Laughlin, NV

Dec. 14-17 Harrah’s free * six $43/$20K 1-800-392-9002

Las Vegas, NV


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.



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.

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 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 and has his own web site at 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.




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