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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, June 2002, #31


We have another jam-packed issue of the Blackjack Insider that is loaded with useful information for blackjack players at all skill levels. First, we want to welcome our newest writer, The Mayor, who is a skilled card counter and host of the popular web site The Mayor will enlighten you on the important and often misunderstood topic of "Gambler’s Ruin". Last month, Dan Pronovost proved that it was not necessary to learn different basic strategy tables for different games. This month Dan presents his analysis on a uniform strategy for card counting with a very surprising conclusion. Alene Paone brings us up-to-date on the latest blackjack playing conditions in Atlantic City and explains why her penetration report is now "finito". In Las Vegas, temperatures are rising, but blackjack conditions are cooling off. Find out why from our Las Vegas Reporter, Captain John, who also summarizes the blackjack conditions in the nearby towns of Pahrump, Jean, and Primm. Our insider, Mr. Pit Boss, offers some prudent advice to card counters who want to avoid getting banned from playing blackjack. And last, but not least, we have our updated schedule of minor and major blackjack tournaments.

But first, let’s check-in with our LV Pro and see how he made out in his recent solo attack on the blackjack tables in Sin City.

Ready, set, let’s go ….

Henry Tamburin


Reminder – We will not be publishing the Blackjack Insider Newsletter in July to give our reporters a well-deserved summer vacation. The next issue will be published in August.

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.




(Note: Part 1 of LV Pro’s report on his recent trip to Las Vegas appeared in issue #30, which is available at

When we left LV Pro, he was down $75 for the trip after having been in the hole for $1,000. He just completed six consecutive winning sessions and felt he was "in the zone". Now for the conclusion of his trip. . .

My next session found me at my hotel's double deck (DD) game, getting 75% penetration from my favorite dealer. I played an uneventful 90 minutes and lost $50…my first losing session in the last seven. It’s funny how these things sometimes seem to go in streaks.

I then went to check out Treasure Island (TI), but all the tables were $25 and busy so I drove to the Gold Coast to play the second 3-1 BJ coupon. This resulted in a $125 win to finally get me exactly even for the trip after 9.5 hours of play. I'm glad playing blackjack is not my regular job, cause at this rate I'd never be able to pay my bills. Of course I'm joking….9.5 hours is way too short a sample to determine your long term earning potential at blackjack.

After taking advantage of the breakfast comp the pit had issued (ham, eggs, cheese blintzes and coffee), I checked out of my hotel and into the Flamingo. They gave me their new funbook, which had coupons for all four Park Place Entertainment (PPE) properties. After unpacking, I glanced through it to find a $10 matchplay good on any even money bet at any table game. There was a similar looking one for the LV Hilton. Later I discovered that I could get another funbook every time I passed the registration desk just by asking. Once in a while they'd ask my room number, pull it up on the computer, and ask my name to see if they matched. Once it did, I got another funbook, and I kept getting more and more. I started by playing two matchplays at the 6-5 blackjack payoff, single deck game, one at each table until the pit shooed me away. I won one and lost one for a $10 profit. Then I straight counted one of the Flamingo's well-cut 6 deck shoe games for a half-hour, winning another $50.

Back at the room I thought about how I could play the maximum amount of $10 matchplays without making a pest of myself. First of all, each booklet had a similar LV Hilton coupon, so I'd try to pass these off first. If the dealer caught the ploy, I'd apologize and produce the Flamingo coupon. After all, they look so much alike; it looked like an honest mistake. One time a pit boss got on the phone when I laid down the LV Hilton coupon and I felt sure I'd be denied and perhaps even warned, but to my surprise he said go ahead and use it. Whew, close call. It turned out he had been calling on my behalf simply to get a ruling on whether I could use the LV Hilton coupon at the Flamingo.

There were three separate pits in which to play them, so I figured I could play one on each shift in each pit…that's nine per day. I felt that was a safe strategy as I stay at this hotel fairly frequently and don't want to poison the waters for the future.

Later that evening I headed to the Fiesta (Rancho) but only one pit was open so I was only able to play one of my two 3-1 BJ coupons. Flat betting quarters, it took 40 minutes to get my first natural. I left their 55% badly cut DD game with $125 of their money and a coffee shop comp for dinner (I enjoyed a shrimp cocktail, BBQ beef sandwich, fries and a chocolate shake on the house).

Next casino on my itinerary was Texas Station. All dealers were cutting off a full deck on the DD games, which makes this venue unplayable, even with late surrender. That’s too bad because I use to like this place for its liberal rules, decent pen and low limits. Maybe next time I'll try a different shift and hopefully the pen might be better. I hate to give up on this place because when they deal out 65% of the cards combined with the surrender rule, it's one of the better pitch games in town. But, not tonight. Another example of short sighted casino weenies shooting themselves in the foot by having the dealers shuffle so often that they reduce the number of hands per hour, which always reduces the hold and win numbers for their bottom line. The few competent counters that can present a threat to them are always more than offset by the vast majority of ploppies who lose at a greater rate when more cards are dealt out.

On the way back down Rancho Drive, I stopped at Wildfire. On my last trip here, I was spotted counting cards by a pit boss on day shift. He didn't back me off, just pointedly refused to comp me and let me know that he knew what I was doing, and that he'd instructed the dealers to cut the double deck in half. Now it was swing shift and there was no sign of him so I proceeded to buy in and play for a half-hour, winning $100. There was no heat, no scrutiny at all, and the decent pen was back at 65%.

Next, I checked out the Riviera (Riv) but all DD tables were $25 minimum. Same at TI. I sure will be glad when I finally reach my goal of increasing my bankroll (BR) to $10K. Then I can mix in a good amount of $25 table minimum play, as long as I stick to good pitch games. But for now, there's no point in playing double deck if the minimum table bet is $25 and my BR can only afford a top bet of $100. A 1-4 spread is not enough to beat those games long term.

I checked out Casino Royale but all the $5 DD tables were full. The one $10 table had two players, one of whom I recognized. It was Brother (now Abbott) Avarissa, another of those pesky Green Chippers, and a reporter for Snyder's Blackjack Forum. He was at third base playing two hands and gave me the "wink" to remain inconspicuous. I smiled and left.

Well how’s this, I visited three straight casinos and never made one bet. If anything I’m persistent in finding only playable games. So, I headed to Terrible's and played for two hours, seesawing up and down. At one point I was in for $250, then rallied to win back all but $40 of it. I copped a coffee shop comp for two, planning to save it for tomorrow's dinner, then called it a night.

I started the next morning by playing my three $10 matchplays, one in each of the three pits at the Flamingo. I managed to pass off one of the LV Hilton coupons, but the other two dealers caught the "mistake" and twice I was forced to fork over the more valuable Flamingo coupon. I ended up winning $20.

I headed to TI where I finally found a $10 DD table with four players. When third base left, I grabbed the seat and bought in for $200. This session started out well. I was up $200 in the first 20 minutes and kept playing as the table thinned out. Soon I was even, then down $100, then another $100. I pulled out another $40 to cover a double down and lost that hand so I took a break. Now I was about even for the trip again. After 15 minutes of walking around and giving myself the customary pep talk, I bought in for another $200. This time things got better and I was able to win back $200 of my losses in 45 minutes and quit with only a $40 loss and another coffee shop comp.

I headed back to the Fiesta Rancho to play the second 3-1 BJ coupon, which I was able to use at the Super Fun 21 table. Ordinarily your starting disadvantage at this game is 0.94 percent, which is more than twice as bad as the typical 0.40% h17-das double deckers I usually play. According to a friend of mine called Bigplayer, the 3-1 BJ coupon gives you a whopping 8.26% advantage at SF 21 until it is used. At the double deck game mentioned above, you eliminate the .40% disadvantage and acquire a 6.5% advantage. So the coupon is worth a total of 6.9% edge in your favor. In a typical H17 single deck game where you can double on any two cards, your usual starting disadvantage is .18%. The 3-1 coupon turns this into a solid 6.72% edge for you. These are incredible advantages. Any moron could win with edges like that.

So why was I up only $200 for the trip? Perhaps that bad start had something to do with it. Maybe I should just consider myself lucky that I had been able to dig out of that $1K hole. Thus far things weren't that bad, but I still had two days left and anything could happen.

After only breaking even at Fiesta, they comped me to lunch at the coffee shop. I had a club sandwich, shrimp cocktail and chocolate shake for lunch then headed back to the Flamingo. I played two more $10 matchplays on the way to my room, winning $20. I spotted BobbyC, another of Wong's Green Chippers, at a $25 DD table.

Later I met Fezzik, Uniman and Bad Cutter for dinner at the Terrible's coffee shop. My $30 comp was able to cover most of our three prime rib dinners (Cutter only had the chicken wings appetizer). I've mentioned Fezzik before. He's one of the most successful sports bettors in Vegas, clearing over $100K per year. Bad Cutter switched from blackjack to sports betting. Fez is mentoring him along and Cutter is doing great.

Fezzik went nuts over the PPE funbook that I showed him. He found several more coupons that could yield advantages other than the obvious $10 matchplays. He was all set to get 6 or 8 of them from me and head over to the Hilton to stand outside the Benihana restaurant and sell those "$20 off meals at Benihana" coupons to waiting diners for $10 or $15 apiece. Finally he bought 5 of the Hilton $10 matchplays from me for $20. He wanted to know every detail about how to get more funbooks without being a guest at the hotel.

Later Fez and I played blackjack at a $25 DD table at IP. This was the only $25 minimum table I played all week. At first I didn't want to play above my head but Fez insisted. The guy is such a money making machine, I thought, the vibes were right, so I sat. We played through one shuffle only. The count went through the roof and I was soon making max bets of $100 while Fezzik bet $200. I won $200 and Fez won $400. This put me up $360 for the trip so far.

After Fezzik left, I found a $10 game at TI and played for an hour. Another one of those sessions from hell where I'd bust every stiff I hit and the dealer was making 20 and 21 left and right. I lost my $200 buy in, then another Benji, then another. In the hole for $400 I shook my head in disgust and quit for the night. Now I was minus $40 for the trip. I vowed to really try harder tomorrow, my last day in town.

I started at Casino Royale the next morning, playing alongside a young fellow who was quite obviously counting. He had all the noticeable moves; spreading to 2 hands in plus counts, leaving the table on negatives, betting one unit when the count tanked, etc. Ordinarily I'd be pissed off when another counter leaves the table to let me eat the negative cards for him, but I was only mad that I hadn't thought of it first. Actually I was amused at his antics. He made me wonder if I acted this obvious when I started out as a card counter. Fortunately the pit ignored both of us. I wound up winning $100 to put me back in the black, but only by $60.

Then I walked down the strip to the Imperial Palace but all double deck tables were $25 minimum and full except one where a full time pro I know named AJ had a table to himself. He was spreading with black chips and I knew he didn't want any company so I walked back to the car and headed downtown.

I had two more of those Golden Gate "BJ's pay 2-1 for one hour" coupons so I'd play one of them and then maybe check out the single deck at LV Club. I sat down at an empty $3 DD table. Except for one ploppie playing one hand one time, the table remained empty for the entire hour. Flat betting $25, I couldn't lose a hand. The dealer busted so often I started feeling sorry for the poor gal. She was dealing a decent 65% pen. I got an above average number of blackjacks during the hour, each netting a $50 payoff, and was up as high as $450 before coloring out with a solid $300 win.

Now in a groove, I walked across the street and sat at one of the Las Vegas Club's $5 single deck tables with two other players who soon departed. I spread from $10 to 2 hands of $40 with no problem. I was getting 5 or 6 rounds playing alone and 3 rounds to 3 when other players joined the game. After an hour I was up another $250 and colored up. Now up $610 for the trip, I headed back to the Flamingo where I hit the pool and Jacuzzi for a nice relaxing afternoon. On the way up to the room, I played a few more $10 matchplays, winning another $40, then took a nap.

I had been saving the last few 3-1 BJ coupons for Sunset Station and Fiesta Henderson (the old Reserve) since I knew I was going in that direction anyway for dinner with my buddy Stu and his family on my last evening in town. We had a yen for Mexican food so Stu took us to a new restaurant in the area (unfortunately I forget the name). I had the nachos and wet burrito plus one of those cinnamon/rice Mexican beverages while Stu had the enchilada plate and Alex, the 5-year-old, had cheese quesadillas. I was too stuffed and sleepy to play right after dinner so we went back to Stu's house where we watched some TV and I caught a brief nap.

Later I drove to Sunset Station where I was able to play both of my 3-1 BJ bonus coupons in the one open BJ pit. That took a bit of nerve though. The first play was at a $5 DD table where we got a shallow 60% cut while I flat bet quarters. It took 15 minutes to get the snapper and I colored out with a $125 win. I was about to leave but instead sat at the bar overlooking the pit and tried to find a way to play the second coupon. I finally decided to chance it and sat at the Super Fun 21 table. A new floorman looked at the coupon, oked it and wandered off. We were getting 3 rounds to 3 players. Here I had to wait 30 minutes for the natural while players to the left and right of me were turning them over with regularity. That tends to make you a bit anxious, but I hung in there, flat betting $25 chips at all counts until I hit it. Only problem was I was down $100. So, against my better judgment, I kept playing to win it back. I know it wasn't smart to keep playing a game with a 0.94% disadvantage, but I was in a stubborn frame of mind and didn't want to accept a loss. I don't recommend this to anyone, much less myself, and I know it was a mistake but fortunately I won a few hands in a row and got back nearly to even and quit with only a $30 loss. Combined with the $125 I'd won earlier, these two coupons helped me win a net of $95 at Sunset Station.

At Fiesta Henderson, I had no problem playing the first coupon at the Super Fun 21 table. You are required to state your intentions and show the dealer the coupon book with the 3-1 coupon still in the book, and then you have to tear the coupon out in front of the dealer. They'll let you keep the coupon itself (but not the whole book) on the table. Usually, but not always, the dealer will inform the floorman of the coupon play that is pending. So that's what happened here. I was half expecting the floorman to tell me they can't accept those coupons at the SF21 table, as I've read several posts on the blackjack websites where advantage players reported that they were prevented from using the coupons at SF21. Thankfully that was not the case tonight. Again flat betting quarters, we got 3 rounds to 4 players until first base tapped out and left, then we got only 3 rounds to 3 players. I got the snapper in 10-15 minutes, then prepared to leave with my $75 win. On a whim I told the floorman I had one more coupon to play and it was my last night in town. He said, "Sure, go ahead and play it."

Taken aback, I gratefully accepted the invitation and kept on playing. The moral here is to be careful what you wish for…you may just get it. The dealer started pulling hands and refusing to bust. By the time I got the second blackjack, I had lost back the $75 and was exactly even. Now up $745 for the trip, I got back in the car and headed for the Strip.

I checked out TI, but all tables were still $25 minimum, so I headed to another Strip casino where I found a $10 DD game with only two other players. I was up $125 or so when I heard a voice behind me boom loudly, "let me sit down at this table cause I like playing alongside ugly people". I turned around to find Saint, my Green Chip-Rat Pack buddy. I'd thought that New York accent sounded familiar. I had no idea he was even in town though we communicate by email and chat regularly. We had a noisy reunion right there at the table so I guess the entire pit staff got the idea we knew each other pretty well. After this, Saint tells me that an hour before, he bought in with $300 and proceeded to take this store for $3,700 while the pit guys were running around agitated and fretting. Now he tells me, I thought ruefully. It kinda put me on the spot because now the pit knows I'm friendly with a very visible guy who might be counting or he might just be lucky.

Oh well, it was too late to try to cover anything up so we just acted innocent and continued to play, just like any two long lost gambling buddies who were surprised and happy to have each others company again. I must say the dealer could have been more cooperative and not made so many hands to the disappointment of the table, but I guess he had no empathy for reunited friends like us. I came away with only a $50 win while Saint won another $300.

It was now 3 am and I was bit bushed so I gave Saint and his friends a ride back to their hotel. We checked out the newly reinstated one table of $5 double deck at the Trop, but it was full so we had a few drinks at the bar and said goodnight. I made a mental note to include the Trop on my play list for the next LV trip since we observed players having fun at a fair and decent game

On the way up to the room, I played my final two $10 matchplays of the trip, losing both to put my final trip total at plus $775 after playing 26 hours of blackjack over five days.

According to my BlackJack Risk Manager program, I should have earned $19 per hour times 26 hours or $494. So I wound up a bit ahead of expectation. My lifetime risk of ruin was 16.55% which is a bit too high for my liking, but that's what you have to accept when you increase your betting spread. The probability of this result or better was 43%.

All in all, I had a great time this trip with plenty of drama and excitement. I indulged in lots of good food and met some of my good friends. The thing I was proud of was that I overcame my early disasters and hung in there without getting too discouraged, and had prevailed at the end. Of course it could have gone either way, but a win is a win so I'll gladly take it.

And of course I'm already planning my next trip. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading,

The LV Pro




NOTE: This article is now part of the Best of Blackjack Insider e-book publications. CLICK HERE for more information on our new e-book containing this article.

Editors Note: Dan Pronovost is the owner and President of DeepNet Technologies, makers of a wide range of blackjack training products and software. Dan recently released a new e-Book, "Blackjack Count Master", which uses a series of exercises based on his software to teach readers how to master card counting in blackjack. Their web site is:



NOTE: This article is now part of the Best of Blackjack Insider e-book publications. CLICK HERE for more information on our new e-book containing this article.

Editors note: The Mayor has been beating casinos since 1966. He uses "Wong Halves" at the low green betting level, and play’s mainly double deck and shoe games in Las Vegas, making 6-8 trips a year. Formerly a Professor of Mathematics in the Midwest, he now works in Computer Science in California. The Mayor hosts the web site, which contains his "Card Counting Computer" and Blackjack essays.




I have decided to forego the usual penetration report because a curious thing is happening in Atlantic City. More and more dealers on my last trip seemed to have individualized their cutoff points. For example, at Showboat one dealer was cutting about a deck out of an 8-deck shoe and right next to him, another dealer was cutting over two decks from her 8-deck game. I found this phenomenon, though not always to such a great extent, all over
Atlantic City -- with the arrival of the hot weather, the shuffle points are all over the place. So it’s getting harder to say a particular casino rates a "B" or "A" for it’s shuffle points overall.

However, I will report the penetration as I SAW it when I visited. Here again, you must understand that a tremendous latitude exists between this dealer and that dealer, at least for now, in Atlantic City. This is probably a good thing, if individual players are willing to do a little scouting just before they play.

"The all new, all cool Sands." That’s what the advertisements had been saying but the "new" new Sands is kind of sad. Not only were three different carpets battling it out on the floor, but the entire table game area has now been shoved back to the former high roller pit; the cage has been combined with the coin redemption area and the few remaining table dealers are almost suicidal. I spoke to one young woman who said she didn’t know from day to day whether she had a job. That can’t be good for morale.

It took awhile but the new mustard-yellow-red (and a host of other colors) carpet has now been installed at Bally’s. This 1970s pattern replaced the "festive" black "party" colored carpet circa 1950s fashion that had been there since Bally’s opened some two decades ago. In the opinion of this reporter -- yuck! The old one was nauseating and the new one is vomit producing.

The thing that makes Atlantic City wonderful in summer is the beach. The ocean was clean and clear when I visited. The view from Ocean One Mall is spectacular -- and free! At night, you can see the entire city lit up like Christmas. I recommend you take some time out from you gambling to check out this great location. It's on the parking level in the back.

My husband, Frank Scoblete, took in the Holyfield-Rahman fight on June
1st. He said the joint was rockin’ by the time of the main event and he thinks that maybe there will be a revival of big-time boxing in the city.

Here’s the rundown of the current Atlantic City blackjack scene.

Rating system:
* * * * * = Excellent

* * * * = Very Good

* * * = Good

* * = Fair

* = Poor

They’ve ditched that long shuffle. Penetration is getting better in the 8-deck games and the 6-deck games in the high roller pit ($100/$200 minimums with only $2,000 maximums!). 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 and I saw no $5 games -- this was a Thursday mind you. Weekends are $15 and up, mostly up. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 are also available for minimums of $10/$15. Always crowded. * * *

CAESARS: No change from last report. Getting better on their 6-deck games with penetration of 80 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. Resplitting allowed but you can only split aces once. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available at $10 and up! * * *

CLARIDGE: A creeping paranoia was evident on my last visit to this casino. In the high roller room, with minimums of $50 and $100, the pit seemed very concerned with any spreads whatsoever. We had three pit folks hunched over our table as we played. We didn’t stay long. Even the Claridge doesn’t have as many $5 games. 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*

HARRAH’S: This place was backsliding when we took a cursory look. The 6-deck games now have penetration of 66 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. * *

HILTON: Still the best place to play for AC card counters. Penetration was 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 or even $15 games. Resplitting allowed except aces. The Multiple Action and Spanish 21 also have good penetration for $10. * * * *

RESORTS: No change from last report. Continues to offer a decent game. 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. * * * *

SANDS: As they start the changeover to a slot venue, the tone of the place has deteriorated. People are not happy working here, at least that’s how it appeared to me when I visited. Maybe, if they offer really high slot paybacks this place can thrive but it seemed deadly dull on our last visit. No stars.

SHOWBOAT: 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/$25 and up. Multiple-action available at one table. Reports are they have loosened their comp requirements. * * * 1/2*

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*

TRUMP MARINA: The talk is that Trump is looking to unload this 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. One table of Multiple Action available at $10 and up. Games are mostly $15/$25 and up, especially on weekends.

* * * 1/2*

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. * *

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 dependent, so scout around. Lowest tables are $10/$15 even during midweek -- but mornings and afternoons midweek have $5 games as well – but they are seas of humanity! No resplits. Multiple Action, Double Exposure and Spanish 21 are available at $10/$15 minimums and up. Casino has improved in two straight reports. * * *

WILD, WILD WEST: I still 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 $10-$15 tables in evidence; saw NO $5 tables when I visited, early evening. They tolerate very large spreads but, again, 8 decks are rough. Resplits allowed, except aces. Great atmosphere for gambling.

* * * 1/2*

BEST CASINOS FOR BJ IN ATLANTIC CITY: Hilton and Resorts for the sixth
month in a row. Bally’s/WWW in second place.

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.



Las Vegas is warming up. Expect temperatures in the 100+ for the next 3 months. Blackjack conditions, however, are cooling down.

Many of the casinos have gone to the single-deck game with a 6 to 5 pay-off on a blackjack. Some of the favorable 2-deck games are gone. In most casinos the Continuous Shuffle Machine (CSM) games are hanging-on except for the Aladdin, which replaced all the CSM games with 6 to 5 pay-off single-deck games.

Has this ever happened to you? You’ve been in Las Vegas for a couple days, and one of the following occurs:

1. You are getting too much attention from the pit bosses at your favorite game and casino

2. You are finding all the favorable games crowded with players

3. You travel across town to find the recommended games full, or table-limits beyond your bankroll or

4. You just need to get away for any reason.

My recommendation is take a break and take a scenic ride to Pahrump, located an hour from Las Vegas to the west. If you are driving, go south on I-15, turn right at the Silverton Casino and follow Highway 160 to Pahrump.

If you don’t want to drive, a shuttle is available from the Silverton casino, Belz Factory outlet, or the Transportation Center downtown. But if you drive, a stop at the Mt. Springs Saloon on the pass is a must. It is a piece of the old west with very friendly people.

Blackjack in Pahrump is offered at three major casinos: Terribles, Saddle West and Nugget.

Terribles offers single-deck games with very good penetration and $3 –$300 table limits. Penetration is subject to change quickly if you are suspected of counting or taking advantage of the good game. Double-deck and four-deck games are also available with good rules and low table limits.

Saddle West offers double-deck and six-deck games with good rules and good penetration. Tables are usually not busy during the day, however many locals play in the evenings and weekends.

Nugget offers double-deck and six-deck games with h17 and das rules.

Restaurants at all three casinos have very good prime rib and steak specials.

If your appetite is not for the adventure of the west, then a short trip south on I-15 to Primm and Jean may be more to your liking.

Primm is located at Stateline and has one of the highest roller coaster rides around. You will find that casinos in the Primm and Jean area are larger (approximately 20 blackjack games per casino) than in Pahrump. Single-deck blackjack (3 to 2 blackjack payoffs) is offered with average penetration. Double-deck and six-deck games are also available as well as CSM games. Table limits are usually $5 minimum and even lower when not busy.

The roller coaster is recommended to take your mind off the not-so-good blackjack games.





Hello again, this is Mr. Pit Boss. I hope you enjoyed my last article on comps and ratings. This time I thought I’d cover something for the more experienced card counting or advantage players. For those who are unclear on the basics of this, you need to memorize basic strategy and practice your card counting. The basic card counting system that is used by the majority of card counters on the Las Vegas strip assigns these values (or tags) to the cards:

      1. +1
      1. 0

10-A -1

Whether you’re counting a single deck, double deck, or shoe, you use the same system.

If you aren’t solid on basic strategy, most casinos sell a basic strategy card in their gift shops for a buck or two. Buy a card and memorize it. This will help you become a better blackjack player and improve your odds of winning.

Once you’ve sharpened your skills to the point that your getting the casino’s attention, here are some key points that casinos look for in catching card counters that could get you backed-off or even banned from playing blackjack.

  1. Variation in bets (such as spreading from $10 to $100) will raise suspicion.
  2. Attire - so a ball cap and sunglasses is not recommended.
  3. Try not to direct other players on how to play their hands. Change tables if other players have little or no knowledge of basic strategy.
  4. Card counters are notorious for being "stiff" that means they don’t tip. Therefore, a good deterrent to avoid a dealer notifying a busy supervisor that you may be counting is to tip the dealer.
  5. Ask questions even though you know exactly how to play the hand. If you have a supervisor watching your game ask how "the book" tells you to play the hand. By doing this, it may take some attention away from your play.
  6. Card counters are also known to be non-drinkers. Order a beer and make it last. You’re there working, not having fun.
  7. This is most important thing to remember - don’t be greedy! If you’ve had a profitable session and haven’t drawn attention to yourself, get up and leave (the longer you play the more likely your play may be scrutinized).

As a card counter or advantage player, you know that there are many casinos, many games, many dealers and many different supervisors. You have many choices so better to go unnoticed than end up having to be asked to leave.

Good luck at the tables from "the inside",

Mr. Pit Boss

Edito’s Note: Mr. Pit Boss is a seasoned veteran who has worked in the casino industry for over a decade on the Las Vegas strip. He has experience in all casino games.



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)

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)


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)


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)


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)


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); 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)



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)


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)




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

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

Niagra Falls, Ontario

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 23-27 Lady Luck free* single $15K/$7.5K 1-800-634-6580

Las Vegas, NV

June 28-July 1 Harrah’s free* six $43K/$20K 1-800-392-9002

Las Vegas, 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 5-8 Bally’s free* six $50K/$50K 1-800-634-3434

Las Vegas, NV

July 11-13 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 12-14 Tropicana $500 six $50K/$25K 1-800-545-4989

Las Vegas, 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 19-21 Royal Oasis $199 six $20K/$10K 1-800-432-2294

Freeport, Grand Bahama

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

Biloxi, MS

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

New Orleans, LA

Aug. 2-4 Kewadin $200 six $30K/$12K 1-800-539-2346

St. Ignace, MI

Aug. 3-4 Silver Legacy free* six $10K/$10K 1-800-687-7733

Reno, NV

Aug. 4-6 Edgewater $129 single $20K/$10K 1-800-289-8777

Laughlin, NV

Aug. 4-6 Bally’s free* six $100K/$50K 1-800-634-3434

Las Vegas, NV

Aug. 5 Turning Stone $25 six $8.4K/$2.5K 1-800-771-7711

Verona, NY

Aug. 8 Jumer’s free six $5K/$2.5K 1-800-477-8946

Rock Island, IL

Aug. 8-10 LV Hilton $1K six $57K/$20K 1-800-457-3307

Las Vegas, NV

Aug. 8-10 Beau Rivage free* six $125K/$85K 1-800-760-3354

Biloxi, MS

Aug. 16 Shooting Star $75 six $10.5K/$4.2K 1-800-453-7827

Mahnomen, MN

Aug. 17 Atlantis free* six $50K/$25K 1-800-752-9711

Paradise Island, Nassau

Aug. 23-25 Grand $1K six $300K/$120K 1-800-550-4473

Robinsonville, MS

Aug. 24-25 Hyatt Regency $275 six $30K/$10K 1-702-567-6181

Henderson, NV

Other planned tournaments:

Oct. 21-24 Stardust, Las Vegas (1-888-271-1777)

Nov. 9-12 Imperial Palace, Biloxi (1-800-436-3000)

Dec. 2-5 Stardust, Las Vegas (1-888-271-1777)

Dec. 5-6 New Frontier, Las Vegas (1-800-421-7806)

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

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.



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.

Dan Pronovost is the owner and President of DeepNet Technologies, makers of a wide range of blackjack training products and software. Dan recently released a new e-Book, "Blackjack Count Master", which uses a series of exercises based on his software to teach readers how to master card counting in blackjack. Their web site is:

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.

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, Midwest Gaming & Travel Magazine, The Gambler magazine, Gaming South 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.

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 programming 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.

Mr. Pit Boss is a seasoned veteran who has worked in the casino industry for over a decade on the Las Vegas strip. He has experience in all casino games.

The Mayor has been beating casinos since 1966. He uses "Wong Halves" at the low green betting level, and play’s mainly double deck and shoe games in Las Vegas, making 6-8 trips a year. Formerly a Professor of Mathematics in the Midwest, he now works in Computer Science in California. The Mayor hosts the web site, which contains his "Card Counting Computer" and Blackjack essays.

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