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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, September 2002, #33


Welcome to the Blackjack Insider, the newsletter that will improve your game regardless of your skill level. Here are just some of the ‘things" you will learn in this issue:

1. How you know the pit suspects you are counting and what to expect (Mr. Pit Boss).

2. Tips and tricks used by an advantage player (LV Pro).

3. Latest BJ playing conditions and best games in Las Vegas (Captain John & CC Rider), Atlantic City (Alene Paone & Frank Scoblete), and the Cincinnati riverboats (Riverboat Flyer).

4. An overview of The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino (Captain John).

5. Why learning basic strategy is so important (CC Rider).

6. Why surrender is an important strategy for card counters (LV Pro & CC Rider).

7. Where to find an excellent off-strip restaurant in Las Vegas (CC Rider).

8. The schedule of upcoming mini and major blackjack tournaments.


Henry Tamburin


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

sd = single deck

dd = double deck

6d = 6 decks

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 (Ro6) = 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.

RC = Running count

TC= True count




Hello, it’s Mr. Pit Boss again. I trust that my last article (Blackjack Insider #30) gave you insight on ways to avoid being labeled a card counter. This time I’d like to give you some pointers that may let you know when you’ve been fingered (however, if you followed the tips in my previous article it should never get to this).

  • If the floor supervisor keeps a close eye on your game including watching the cards

closely (because he’s most likely counting), watching your bet movement, and not interacting with players very much, he probably suspects that you are counting.

  • If you see another floor supervisor, pit manager, or shift boss watching your game,

this can go one of two ways. Either they’re going to strong arm you out by making it very clear they know what your up to, or they will pick up the phone to call surveillance to get confirmation that you counting. The folks in surveillance will be watching your play, specifically how you bet when the count changes to confirm that you are counting. They will also have the opportunity to take a mug shot at the same time.

  • If you’re working under a "refused name" and have had a few people approach you to ask your name (either a pit manager, shift manager or casino host), they’re probably on to you and want a name to pass on to other casinos.
  • If your running down the deck on a busy day thinking you’ll have a better chance

to blend in with other players, you’re probably right. Any busy weekend or holiday is a good time to practice and utilize your skills. But, if you have a floorperson that is on top of their game (trust me, most of them aren’t) they’ll go about their paperwork but keep an eye on your bet movement. If they suspect you, they may pull the cards out of the discard rack to run down the decks. This will most likely occur on a single or double deck game. If this happens, it’s time to pack it in. They’ve probably already made the call and surveillance is getting some good pictures of you.

  • If you see the floorperson whisper in the dealer’s ear and then notice a change in the

shuffle or a decrease in penetration (e.g. they were previously cutting off half a deck and now are cutting off two-thirds of the deck), this is another indication that they are on to you.

  • If the casino has enough evidence that you are counting, you will either be "backed off" or "barred" (86’d in casino lingo). Being backed off means a supervisor will tell you that your blackjack play is no longer welcome. He or she will explain that you are still welcome to play slots, craps, or any other game and that you may still use everything else in the facility, except you cannot play blackjack. At this point a photo of you may be passed to supervisors in the pits and sometimes to other properties of that same company. If, on the other hand, you are barred they will pull you off the game and read you the trespass act. After that, you are not allowed to step foot in that hotel or you will be arrested. A photo of you will definitely be sent to other properties of that company and possibly to other casinos in the vicinity not owned by that company.
  • If you’re asked to leave or told you can no longer play blackjack, do so with dignity. Don’t make a scene and be polite. This way you will be able to put your skills back to work at a different casino. The more you draw attention to yourself, the more likely they won’t forget your face.

Just remember that if you stay low, play smart and don’t get greedy, you should be able to play hassle free and have a profitable trip when you visit Las Vegas.

Good luck at the tables from "the inside"

Mr. Pit Boss



Editors Note: At the conclusion of part 1 (Blackjack Insider Newsletter #32), LV Pro had played over 12 hours of blackjack in less than 3 days and was close to being up $1,000. He had reached the halfway point in his latest trip to Sin City and had 3-days left to try to win more before leaving town.

It was Saturday night in Vegas. The next three hours between 11pm and 2am are the busiest of the week with blackjack tables crowded with players. So I reverted to a tactic The Grifter and I once used. We'd drive to the most outlying casino we could find and hope to find playable conditions (without driving all the way out to Pahrump or Laughlin). We'd cool our heels at the outlying casinos for several hours and then after 2am we’d head back to the strip but stop at every "playable" casino along the way.

Our first stop was Santa Fe Station. The tables were fairly crowded so I sat at a $5 DD table with three other players. To my disappointment, the dealer was cutting 55%, which is typical lousy Station’s double deck penetration. I stayed for 15-20 minutes in the hopes I could influence the dealer to deal deeper, but to no avail. For once the ploppies at my table showed some smarts by leaving the table before I did. Of course they lost all their chips before departing, but I still give them some credit for not reaching in their pockets for more. Perhaps they sensed what a rotten game this really was.

I lost $100 and refused to chase my money. Since I hadn’t eaten dinner yet, I asked the pit to check my play at other Stations casinos in the hopes they would give me a comp. It took a while but finally they came across with a $15-limit coffee shop comp (this despite the fact that I had already gotten a free pack of smokes which they count against your available comp dollars).

For weeks I'd had a yen for barbecue ribs but after the waiter told me I couldn’t have them cooked medium rare, I opted for their pork rib dinner. If you ask me, I think the whole country is way too lawsuit happy when you can't even get your meat cooked the way you like it. Maybe they should have you sign a waiver that would absolve them of liability if you later come down with E. coli or some other such bacteria. Anyway, the ribs were predictably mediocre. The chocolate shake I ordered put me over the $15 comp limit so I complained to the hostess about the overcooked $7.99 shrimp cocktail. She graciously deleted the shrimp cocktail from my bill. Now I was under the comp limit and the entire meal was free. I thanked her and left the casino. However, I can't recommend the Santa Fe coffee shop to anyone even when the meal is free.

As I drove back south on deserted Rancho Drive, I wondered if there was a decent rib joint in this town. It's something I'll have to research prior to my next trip to Las Vegas.

My next stop was the Fiesta casino. The double deck game wasn't much better. I’d much prefer the single decker here but it was full so I settled in at a DD table. I bought in for $200 and got some decent cards in this 60% pen game with one other player at first base. Soon three other players joined so I decided to color out with my $200 net win. Before I pushed my chips toward the dealer, I counted them to be sure I knew how much I had.

She counted out $400 worth of chips and handed me my black chips. I tipped her my remaining $5 in silver and started walking to the cashier's cage. Suddenly I stopped, looked in my hand, and discovered she had given me only three black chips. I quickly returned to the table and brought this mistake to her attention. Fortunately the dealer as much as admitted she might have underpaid me since she remembered making a comment on how it was a smart play to double your buy-in and leave. However, the pit was bound to follow procedure, so they called upstairs for a tape review. I waited a nervous 20 minutes before the OK came back from the Eye to pay me my missing black chip. Here’s a lesson learned – always count your chips after coloring out to be sure you’ve been paid properly before you leave the table.

OK, no harm no foul, but I wonder what my recourse would have been had they decided I was trying to scam them by pocketing the black chip and claiming underpayment? I'm glad this wasn't the night I'd find out. In Nevada, where the tail wags the dog, the casinos can pretty much do whatever they like.

I was about to drive past Texas Station because for the last few months Current Blackjack News (CBJN) had been reporting DD pen at only 50%. However, this casino had been kind to me in the past and I really missed not having it on my play-list especially when they offer low limit double deck games with late surrender (LS). The LS rule is usually rated as only subtracting 0.06% from your starting disadvantage as a basic strategy player. However, late surrender is much more valuable to a card counter. We will take advantage of this rule when the count dictates - usually in high counts when we are dealt a stiff against a dealer 10. Since we know the deck is loaded with high cards and most likely we will bust if we hit, this rule allows us to save half our max bets in situations where we'd lose many more than half of the hands in the long term. Not only does this let us preserve our playing stake but it also nicely smoothes out the wicked short-term swings in our bankroll.

But since you can’t always depend solely on published reports, I thought there would be no harm in checking the game since I was already in the area. Sure enough, I found a dealer in the pit closest to the lounge where an extremely loud rock band was blaring (I almost felt like telling the dealer, "Hey, what's with the loud music? How's a guy supposed to concentrate on the count?"). But of course I didn't, and even if I did the band was so loud he probably wouldn’t have heard me anyway.

Even though this dealer was cutting the cards only 60% - 65% into the two decks, the surrender rule made this game playable so I bought in for $200. I started getting hammered by many stiffs and lucky dealer draws while the only other player to my right was getting all the good hands and winning. I've never done this before but just on a whim, I moved from third to first base. Immediately my cards got better. I started getting some blackjacks and the dealer started busted more frequently. Now don’t get me wrong –I don’t believe you can affect long-term results by changing your seat position but in this case I had nothing to lose. I know in most cases changing seats neither hurts nor helps you, but still I can't help wondering. Though I have no mathematical basis in fact, I've suspected for a long time that the order in which the dealer picks up the discards combined with the particular house shuffle procedure may produce short term abnormalities that affect each table position differently. I know this sounds like the kind of nonsense promulgated by Patterson's Target system, but personally if I can find a way to improve things short-term - even if it's just psychological - I'll use it as long as I know it does no real mathematical harm.

I departed with my $120 winnings as soon as two drunken, giggling girls sat down at the table to play (there is no mid-shoe entry). Ironically, I didn't have a chance to surrender a single hand during the 30-minute session although I kept reminding myself of the playing option. It's easy to forget surrender since it’s rare you can do so in pitch games.

I was now up $1,055 for the trip after over 14 hours of play. I decided to check out the Wildfire and Casino Royale casinos but they were too crowded so I called it a night.

I returned to the Casino Royale the following morning and got lucky. My favorite dealer was on a lone $10 DD table and I played heads up during a two-hour session. I was finally enjoying a good low stakes double deck game with 70%-75% penetration. I believe my dealer friend is a former counter and probably knows what I'm doing although he's never given any indication of this by word or gesture. I spread $15 to two hands of $50 and won $400 before departing when the table filled.

Next, I drove to the new Palms casino to play three $10 matchplays, winning one of three to break even. I was now up $1,455 for the trip so I checked out of my hotel and moved over to the Flamingo hotel.

After settling in to my new digs, I hit the casino with several $10 matchplay coupons I'd saved from the last trip plus several new ones I obtained from staying at casinos owned by PPE (you get the matchplays in funbooks given at check-in). I moved from pit to pit, jumping in and out of $10 min. DD tables (either a 6 or 8 deck shoe or the, sad to say, many 6-5 single deckers) without any hassles from day shift personnel. I started with a $20 bill and cashed out 30 minutes later with $120. Later that evening, I played several more $10 coupons in a similar circuit and won another $125.

That evening I was invited to a comped dinner at Olives (in Bellagio) by a Green Chip friend of mine called Bigplayer (BP). BP is one of my favorite buds to hang with and I see him far too seldom. He's a big, jovial guy with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a razor sharp sense for advantage play. He can always find the hidden advantage in any gambling proposition, whether it's blackjack, cashback on video poker, slot tournaments, airfare reimbursement or anything else. He can tell you what the percent advantage is, what your dollars per hour win rate should be, and what kind of variance you'll encounter for various sized bankrolls in all different games, pay schedules, etc. He concentrates mostly on blackjack and video poker and is thus far ahead for the year.

The Olives restaurant was as good as the Santa Fe coffee shop was bad. I started with my usual Absolut vodka martini ("very cold, very dry, two olives") and it tasted just like it's supposed to - like a cold cloud. For appetizers, BP ordered the tuna tartare and I had the beef carpaccio, which was tender and light on the palate. My main course was a rack of lamb chops while BP opted for the steak. The lamb was wonderful and we were too stuffed for dessert so we just had coffee. The cost for the comped meal was close to $250 so we each threw in a $20 bill for a tip.

The meal made us sleepy so we said our good-byes. I also knew BP was bushed since he had almost no sleep the night before. He said he would crash for several hours so I decided to head back to the Flamingo where I played two more $10 matchplays and lost them both. I was now up $1,660 for the trip so I called it an early night.

I awoke early at 7am and tried to find a $10 DD table at the Flamingo, but on grave shift they were all $25 minimums. I found out it's only during day shift that they have one or two lower limit DD tables open. I know I could have played one of their decent shoe games but I decided instead to drive to Treasure Island (TI) hoping I'd find some $10 2-deck action. I lucked out and found that two of the four DD tables in the main (H17) pit were $10 minimum so I played for 90 minutes with one player and then another. This was a good session. We were getting the usual 70% cut from the guiding notch on the discard rack. I was up as high as $450 but colored out with a $225 win. My bet spread was $10 - $100 and usually my top bet was two hands of $50 each, but I felt like pushing the envelope a bit. With a monster plus count, I bet $100 on one spot and got an 8, 3 against a dealer 10 face card. I doubled down making sure that the dealer delivered my card face down (this is just a quirk of mine because I'd rather not know right away what the card is). I'm really hoping for a dealer bust so my card won't even matter. Predictably the dealer had a 10 in the hole for 20. Now for the drama of the "flop" as I held my breath and the dealer flipped my card. It was a lousy 6 and I lost the $200 (which was the single largest bet I made the entire trip).

Nevertheless $225 is a decent win and it put me within $115 of the $2K benchmark. I then drove to Terrible's to buy cartons of cigarettes and wound up in a 65% pen $10 DD game with a rather hard-bitten, tattooed gal at first base. At first I didn't like her very much because she was kind of loud and trashy and made stupid comments, but by the end of the 2-hour session I was ready to kiss her. I spread $10-$80 on one spot and hit most of my double downs (which is the key to victory in most individual sessions). I ended up winning another $450 which put me solidly beyond the $2K trip winnings benchmark. I was now at plus $2,335, which was my high point of the trip thus far.

I drove downtown to play some $25 matchplay coupons at the Plaza and I ended up losing $35. After a nap, I finally got some play at a $10 double-decker at the Flamingo. The table was crowded and all my high counts evaporated too quickly as other players were tucking 20's and turning over snappers with regularity. From my $200 buy-in I was down to only $15. I started wonging $10 matchplays and won back $60. So the session ended with "only" a $125 loss leaving me up $2,175 for the trip.

The contention from the late blackjack authority, Peter Griffin, is that one's bankroll is at an all time high only 1% of the time. This fact worried me because I wanted to come away with a $2K trip win but there was still 36 hours to go. I'd feel lousy if I was to just sit on my lead and run out the clock so I looked on the bright side and convinced myself that maybe I'll just keep on winning.

As it then turned out, Griffin was right. I played another crowded $10 DD table at Flamingo mainly to tread water and maintain my comp status so I'd continue to get their mail offers. It cost me a $200 loss, which dropped the trip winnings to below $2K.

That night I had dinner at Onda's, the Italian restaurant at the Mirage. My Green Chip buddy, Saint, invited me to join him on a comp. While waiting for Saint to show, I had another martini at the small bar outside the restaurant. The bartender urged me to try a more expensive brand of vodka, which I really loved. It's called Ketel One. It is produced in Holland, filtered six times to remove all impurities, and it tasted smooth as silk without any harsh vodka aftertaste. It has become my new brand of choice.

Saint is mainly a sports bettor and is in LV often to make and collect bets. He also plays some solo blackjack using the Uston advanced point count and is invited to many blackjack tournaments. He usually does quite well at these tourneys but this night he had a woeful tale to tell about a recent tournament experience. In his own words:

"It's the last hand of the semi's, 4 tables of 4 people left. I'm the bankroll leader with one hand to go, ahead by $1050 and I get to bet last. Only 1 guy is close and he bets the max of $5K so I match his bet. He gets A-3, I get K-7 and the dealer is showing a 9. BR2 hits his A3 and gets an 8, hits again, and draws a 3. Now any card but a 4-6 and I'm in the finals if the dealer has 19. He hits 1 more time and gets a 5 for 20! I thought about hitting my 17, but decided to stay hoping the dealer had a stiff and then bust. But the dealer ended up with that 19 and BR2 wins and I lose. I had the dealer show me the next card and it was an ace, which would have been no help. The percentage of me losing and BR2 winning on the same hand is only 12%! (according to Wong's tournament BJ book). The final prize fund was $100K for 1st, 50K for 2nd, 20K for 3rd and 5K for 4th. I never have finished worst than 3rd on a table so I figured that hand cost me $20-100K! Such is BJ life."

Saint had the pasta fagiole while I ordered another beef carpaccio appetizer. The beef was rich pink and soft as velvet. I had a main course of lobster Milanese, which consisted of two tails covered in a buttery coating. The lobster was outstanding. Saint had his favorite; Chilean sea bass. We had coffee and tiramisu for dessert.

We then played together at a $10 Mirage shoe for an hour. Saint lost $300 and I won $20. It was satisfying to know I can now count through several shoes in succession and estimate the true count pretty well, though shoe counting can be tiresome especially when you are sleepy and full after a big meal.

After checking out a few other crowded venues, we wound up at Treasure Island where Saint started in the high limit room and then moved to the main (H17) DD pit. He wound up playing at a table next to me. I had to convince a floorman to let me play $10 minimum at an idle $25 table while Saint went the opposite route. He had the pit put a $50 minimum sign on his table to keep the ploppies away. We played for 3 hours, hand after hand, shuffle after shuffle, until the whole session became a blur in my mind. Saint was up as high as $2,600 before finally coloring out with a $1,400 win. I ended up winning $130 after all that "work" but at least I'm back over $2K in total trip winnings. I was wiped and weary after counting through an hour of shoes and three hours of face up double deck so we called it a night.

Next morning was my last full day for this trip. And just as I feared, the other shoe dropped. First, I lost all three $10 matchplay bets during my Flamingo grave shift circuit. Then I endured a session from hell at TI where the count stayed mostly negative throughout the 30 minutes. In short order that evil dealer wiped out my $200 buy-in in bet increments of $10, $15 and $20. Perhaps a change of venue was in order, so I walked to Casino Royale. Wrong. The same thing occurred. I was never ahead, the count stayed in misery-land, and the dealer made more than her fair share of 20's and 21's.

I was down $550 for the day and felt gloomy so I took a break (this is how quickly things can turn around when you play blackjack). I went to a used bookstore and bought a book about a musician reminiscing about the golden age of jazz. Then I went shopping at the Belz outlet mall to kill some time before lunch.

I used the TI coffee shop comp with an old friend I hadn't seen in 30 years. Sid had moved to LV in the early 70's. He contacted me a month ago and we arranged to meet the next time I was in town. We had a wonderful time reminiscing about the old teenage years when we used to hang out at a local pool hall, drank, smoked pot and partied every night. Sid had given up his dental practice, got married, had two kids and was now employed as a personal trainer at a local gym.

After saying goodbye, I wandered over to the DD pit where I found Saint. He used his influence to get the pit to let me play $10 minimum at his $25 table, while keeping the $25 sign in place to scare the low stakes ploppies away. Though this session wasn't as bad as the previous ones, I still lost another $100 to put me at only plus $1,500 for the trip.

It seemed as though I just couldn't do anything right today. If I hit a 12 vs. a 2, I'd get a 10 and bust. If I stood on a stiff in a rare high count, the dealer would find a low card to make his hand. I got so sick of seeing 3's and 4's turn up when the dealer uncovered my double down cards. It was like pouring gasoline on a fire. Trying to put this whole morning behind me, I went back to the hotel to hang out by the pool and Jacuzzi, and then back to the room for a nap and shower.

When I awoke refreshed, my confidence had returned. So I had a bad day, big deal. I also had four good days in a row. But did I really think my good fortune would last forever? No way. I was bucking the inevitable influence of variance and had to be prepared to ride out the bad with the good. I gave myself a pep talk as I dressed. I was hoping I could get some of that lost money back and finish strong. As I said before, I refused to sit on a lead. I'll play the string out to the end and accept whatever happens.

The nightmare seemed to continue as I seesawed back and forth at a Flamingo $10 DD table with 3 other players. Sitting at third base, I used a $10 matchplay in a mildly high count and won the hand. The count went up to plus 3 true. I had a $50 bet out and got a pair of 8's vs. the dealer's 5. I split them and got a third 8. On the first 8, I got a deuce, doubled down and got a 10 for 20. On the second 8, I got another deuce, doubled and got a 7 for 17. On the third 8 I got paint for 18. The count was still high as the dealer turned up a 10 in the hole for 15 and incredibly hit himself with the last five in creation for 20. I let out a primal "Noooo…." and cradled my head in my hands while the other players consoled me, telling me I played it just right. Somehow that didn't make me feel any better, but in retrospect it was a nice thing for them to do and I appreciate it.

It could have been worse I suppose. I lost only three of my five $50 bets - a $400 turnaround on one lousy 5. That was the key hand of this hour-long session where I wound up losing $300.

As it turned out that was the last session of the trip. Around midnight I met my buddy Fezzik for a comped dinner in the coffee shop. I've told you about Fez before. He gave up a lucrative job as an actuary for a major insurance company to move to LV last year. He now bets sports and clears way more than his straight job paid. As a solo player, that's quite impressive. He's even had columns written about him in the Las Vegas Sun newspaper.

He's also naming his picks on Wong's website. Stanford has been wooing Fezzik and finally sweet talked him into sharing his picks by convincing him that he'd help bring in all the other wise guys betting information that he'd then have access to.

Fezzik's top pick this year is the Baltimore Ravens to go under 7.5 wins, laying -155 (bet 155 to make 100). He says, "I feel this bet has over a 70% chance to win, as the Ravens have lost virtually their entire team. But people saw them win 10 games last year and they are just in denial, refusing to believe that this team is in total shambles."

Fez is also 3-0 in the "season wins" picks that have been published in Snyder's Blackjack Forum magazine in 1999-2001. This year, the Ravens are his top pick.

While waiting to order, Fez told me he's completely changed his lifestyle. He now works out 4-5 times a week and is on a strict diet. He won't eat red meat, dairy products, or most starches (bread, potatoes, etc). He's lean and mean and feels great. He told me I should follow suit and I'd have a lot more energy like him. I should quit eating so many high calorie/high fat content foods, quit smoking and resume working out. It makes sense and I know he's right, but I'm not ready to change just yet.

While ordering I mentioned that I might have the steak and eggs special, but a disapproving look from Fez made me switch. Perhaps the prime rib I mused, but another glare from him made me change yet again to the salmon dinner, which is what he ordered. While we ate, Fez tried to school me on the basics of sports betting. When I'd ask how you went through the process of making the decision on what to bet, inevitably it came back to research, homework and long hours of analysis. This is what takes up much of Fezzik's time. Personally, I wouldn't know where to begin so in the future, if I want to bet a game, I'll just call him for a recommendation.

While driving home the next day, I reflected on the past week. I had started out strong with a few small wins, then a few larger ones. I was never in the hole. I won steadily for the first 4 ½ days, then hit one bad patch of five consecutive losing sessions on the last day. I won $1,200 net in 27 hours - a win rate of over $44 dollars per hour while my EV should have been $24.00 per hour for a net win of $648. So overall I ended up ahead of normal expectation.

But I can't help thinking about what might have been. If I was only able to keep winning that last day, or just break even, I would have come away with a $2K win. My blackjack bankroll would be $7,600 instead of the $6,600 it is and I'd be 3/4ths of the way to my ultimate goal of $10K, instead of 2/3rds of the way.

Oh well. It just means I might have to play at this betting level for one additional trip. I should count my blessings and be glad for a nice $1,200 win. After all, I'm in this for the long haul and it doesn't pay to get impatient. I've increased my $2K starting stake to $6.6K in six trips by playing a red chip spread and I’ve learned a lot along the way. Slow and steady does it.

Here's hoping my next trip will be as successful. That might be real soon. Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading,

The LV Pro




Casino managers are fighting a record loss for the year. Even though hotel occupancy is back to near normal, the profits are not. Their easy answer is to blame the advantage blackjack players and get tough on them. So they are spending money on any security system that claims to catch those "cheating card counters". The bar has been lowered and $10 and $25 players are now within the casino’s radar. Penetration is also changing at major casinos on the strip. Treasure Island recently moved the slot on the discard tray up by 10 – 15 cards, resulting in a change from 0.6 decks to 0.8 and 0.9 decks cut out of play in their double deck games. Venetian now cuts at 1 deck on their 2-deck games and the Horseshoe penetration has changed to 0.5 decks in their single deck games.

The casino advantage over the basic strategy player on the average, mid-strip casino blackjack game has increased by 63% in the past two years.

Managers have tried continuous shuffling machines (CSM’s) as the answer to get rid of advantage players. A year ago, 23% of the mid-strip casino blackjack games were CSM’s. It is now down to about 17%, but the non-playable 6 to 5 payoff single-deck games have increased to almost 10% of the games offered.

In my opinion, the casinos are slowly killing the popularity of blackjack. Tables are no longer crowded except on weekends. The lower limit tables are getting most of the action by novice players. Few players are going away winners, and most will never return to a blackjack table. Advantage players are traveling to new casinos throughout the US, taking advantage of novice mistakes and procedures while Las Vegas players are taking advantage of coupon offers (often limiting their play to only coupon use).

Blackjack in Las Vegas can still be profitable, but due to the above changing conditions, the advantage player must change his methods of play. Play only good games and limit your playing time. If the playing conditions are good, leave at the first sign of heat from the pit. Otherwise, play aggressively if you know the casino will not pass information to their sister casinos and you will not return. Play different shifts. Minimize playtime at crowded tables by playing early morning and weekdays if possible. Check out the out-of-the-way casinos for sloppy dealers or procedure violations that you can use to better your game. Be observant for dealers flashing hole cards (there are still some dealers who do this) but you have to be observant and pay attention to the game.

Casino of the Month

The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino

3355 Las Vegas Blvd. South

Las Vegas, NV 89109


This year I had the opportunity to visit Venice, Italy. It was a great experience to go back in history and view the architecture of the Renaissance. Venice is a city built on the Adriatic Sea with a Grand Canal, or "Canalazzo" dividing the city. There are canals everywhere that are used as streets for delivery and transportation. About 400 small walkway bridges cross the more than 100 canals. To get to Venice you must take a water-taxi or the train. Many features of Venice have been replicated in fine detail when they built the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas. In this report, I compare the Venice of Italy to the Venetian of Las Vegas.

Doge’s Palace

Venice – Built in the 14th Century as a residence and government building.

Venetian – The main entrance of the Venetian from Las Vegas Blvd. Many of the floor patterns have been duplicated from the originals found in Venice, which give an outstanding 3-D effect.

Rialto Bridge

Venice – Constructed in the 16th Century over the Grand Canal to connect the two parts of Venice.

Venetian – The Bridge, with moving walkways, connect Madame Tussaud’s with the main casino building.

The Ca’d’Oro

Venice – A "House of Gold" built on the Grand Canal in the 15th Century.

Venetian – Structure to the left of the main entrance between the Clock Tower and Doge’s Palace.

Clock Tower

Venice – Built in the 15th Century on St. Marks Square.

Venetian – Under the Venetian sign adjacent to the walkway across Las Vegas Blvd. Also found on the 2n level at St. Mark’s Square.

Bridge of Sighs

Venice – Small walkway-bridge built between Doge’s Palace and the prison.

Venetian – Bridge to the right of the main entrance connecting Doge’s Palace to the Palazzo Contarini-fasan.

Entrance Columns

Venice – Two columns from Constantinople in the 10th Century located adjacent to St. Mark’s Square.

Venetian – Columns at the entrance of Venetian from Las Vegas Blvd.

Campanile Tower

Venice – Built as a guard tower in the 8th century. Located in St. Mark’s Square.

Venetian – Tower located at the end of the Rialto Bridge adjacent to Madame Tussaud’s.

Grand Canal Shops

Venice – Small shops and restaurants located along the many canals and public squares of Venice. Beware of dive-bombing pigeons.

Venetian – Small shops and restaurants located along the Grand Canal on the 2nd floor and throughout the Venetian. Thank God no pigeons.

Gondola Ride

Venice – Authentic ride in Gondola through the canals of Venice, complete with dirty water and odors.

Venetian – Ride in Gondola through the sparkling blue water of the Grand Canal while being serenaded by a gondolier.

St. Mark’s Basilica

Venice – Beautiful historical Basilica located at St. Mark’s Square.

Venetian – No replicas found.


Venice – Water-taxi or train is only access to Venice.

Venetian – Valet parking or self-parking convenient to shops and casino. Exiting the parking garage is like finding you way through the streets of Venice. Try to follow exit signs for best results.


Venice – Small patio restaurants along the Grand Canal and Squares offering limited menu selections.

Venetian – Excellent variety of restaurants providing authentic Italian Cuisine as well as other traditional favorites.

Guest rooms

Venice – Small European rooms complete with 2ft. x 2ft. showers.

Venetian – 3036 plush spacious suites. No 2x2 showers. Priced at $129 to $1,000 per night.

Restroom Facilities

Venice - Pay-As-You-Go public restrooms

Venetian – Only two available on 2nd level, way at the back. Three available from the casino, again in the back.

Guggenheim Motorcycle Museum

Venice – Venice is a museum. No motorcycle museum, however.

Venetian – Excellent museum located on the casino level.

Canyon Ranch Spa Club

Venice – Does not exist.

Venetian – Health, Spa and Salon Services Resort providing unsurpassed service in a very relaxing setting.


Venice – First casino in Italy required patrons to wear masks to hide identity.

Venetian – Very large casino area offering all casino games and many slots. Advantage blackjack players are not allowed to wear masks.

Blackjack at The Venetian

The Venetian offers six two-deck games with das, h17 and 1.0-deck penetration; one high-limit two-deck game with s17, das and 1.0-deck penetration; four 6-deck games with h17 and das with 2.0-deck penetration; and fifty-five 8-deck games with h17 and das. Table betting limits are from $10 minimum to $5,000 maximum. The Venetian uses facial recognition technology to identify advantage players. Occasionally a dealer will provide better penetration, but in general penetration is not good for the advantage player.



(Editors Note: CC Rider normally reports on blackjack playing conditions in casinos in the South. This month he reports on what he found on a recent trip to Las Vegas).

Having a week off from my day job and eager to have some varied blackjack venues where I was actually welcome to play, I took my better half and set out for Sin City. I honestly think my wife was more excited about the meals we had planned than anything else (she’s a gourmet cook and loves to eat out.)

We arrived at McCarran in the early afternoon and checked in to the hotel. I immediately went to check out the Bellagio, since it had been three years since I had been backed off there. I stopped by the player’s club and got a player’s card, but was told by the clerk that it was only good for slots; if I wanted to play table games, I would need to show ID at the tables! So, I nuzzled up to a $25 DD table and bought in for $200.

My suspicions were correct. The floorperson didn’t even approach me for such a "meager" buy-in. Fortunately, I had a good run at the beginning, and after buying in for another $200, began watching the pile of chips grow. There appeared to be absolutely no interest in me by the floor. It really was the damnedest thing. I was able to have some good end play on some nicely penetrated packs (0.6-0.7). Now, at DD, I rarely spread more than 1-6, but with the PB snubbing me, and being anonymous, I thought, "What the hell!" I began spreading $25-300! At the end of my designated time (50 minutes), I colored up for $2,255. I just love the look on the floorperson’s face when he/she realizes that he dropped the ball.

I then walked through the shops to Caesar’s Palace. CP was incredible- they have this SD 6:5 blackjack game which is almost a 1% house advantage off the top. EVERY TABLE WAS PACKED! But, the 6D shoes were comparatively empty.

I have had a metamorphosis over the past year, partially as a result of numerous backoffs at DD. I had completely given up SD, due to the heat resultant from any type of spread. I then went to DD, and thought that the heat would be much less. After learning the hard way, I now almost exclusively play well cut, good rules 6D shoes.

Why, you may ask?

Let me use the Caesar’s Palace 6D shoe as an example of why I changed. The rules there are as follows:
S17 = Dealer must stand on 17 or greater
DOA = Double on Anything
DAS = Player may Double after Split
RSA = Player may Resplit Aces
LSR = Player may Late Surrender (i.e., after the dealer checks for blackjack)

Now, what is the house advantage of this game? Even if you don’t count?

Perfect Basic Strategy players (non-counters) start off a 6D shoe (without DAS, RSA, and LSR) with a 0.52% disadvantage to the house. The addition of these player-friendly rules lessens the house advantage over the player slightly, but significantly:

house advantage = -0.52% for the player
DAS = +0.14% for the player
RSA = +0.08% for the player
LSR = +0.07% for the player
Total = -0.23% for the player

What this means to the novice, is that the house, in its benevolence, relinquishes over half of its advantage over the players by allowing these rules. It is incumbent on players seeking to maximize their expected time at the tables, or even better, maximize their winnings, to seek out these games and patronize these games, rather than some of the crappy games being offered.

As you can see, the 6D game at Caesar’s Palace offers the player a game with about a

-0.23% expectation against the house, even without counting. In simpler terms, the $10 bettor, playing 100 hands per hour and perfect Basic Strategy (Go to for the tables), can expect to lose $2.30 an hour! If you have one complimentary drink per hour, or the nearly ubiquitous buffet comp from the pitboss, you’re playing an even game.

Note that CBJN (Current Blackjack News) calculates this game to be a -0.26% game, so call it about one quarter of one percent house advantage, and you’d be close enough.

So, players with about 2 hours of memorization and practice can approximate an even game at the casino. Why do they not at least memorize basic strategy?

There are estimates that up to 90% of blackjack players do not know and/or follow basic strategy. Industry standards point to the 18% hold on blackjack games as being what is expected from a well-run BJ game. In other words, out of every $100 brought to the table, $82 is paid out. Although I recognize that other factors play a role, the disparity between the actual "odds" of the game and the house "take" is strikingly obvious. People obviously won’t or don’t play according to basic strategy, making the game far more profitable for the casinos than it needs to be.

Now, for the semi-villainous, despicable Card Counter, the numbers become even more compelling. There are probably two dozen described counting systems well recognized by advantage blackjack players. There are no doubts that some systems are superior to others. Zen, Hi-Opt II, Red Seven, Hi-Lo, Halves, and K-O, are some just to name a few. Statistical analyses and simulations have been run that identify the best counting system for the particular game offered.

If I had to remember different counting systems for different games, I’d go crazy. I have gotten to the point using Hi-Lo where I can count a deck of cards in 20 seconds with 99+% accuracy. At the tables, keeping a side count of Aces is a snap. As such, I stick with Hi-Lo; it works for me.

Sweet Surrender
Employing just Hi-Lo and making only four index playing decisions changes (the Fab Four surrender) will increase the value of late surrender from +.07% to +.19%, and make the aforementioned game a -0.11% game, essentially even without bet variation. In other words, counting just to determine whether to surrender a 15 vs. 9 (+2), 15 vs. 10 (0), 15 vs. A (+1), and 14 vs. 10 (+3)-(The FAB FOUR) and playing basic strategy (including always surrendering 16 vs. 9, 10 and A) will make you EVEN with the casino (almost). If you vary your bets from 1 to 6 (usually well tolerated in most 6D shoe games), and you get a mediocre 1.5 deck remaining penetration, you can expect a player advantage of
~+0.8%, a very respectable $ ~40/hour EV if playing Green, averaging $50 a hand and 100 hands per hour. This spread at a six deck shoe will be tolerated at most places for long periods, especially if you rathole your EV.

Let’s take this a bit farther. Let’s say you find a dealer that cuts off only one deck from six, and the pit ignores a 1-12 spread. If you count, and if you use the"Illustrious Eighteen" indices to alter your basic strategy decisions, along with the "Fab Four" surrender indices, you can expect a 2.25% or greater advantage over the house, until you get thrown out.

And, to boot, employing surrender, with the Fab Four indices only not only accrues to the advantage of the player monetarily by decreasing the house advantage, but also has the simultaneous advantage of decreasing risk. Since late surrender is rarely, if ever offered in a DD game, the 6D shoe has become my preferred game.

As such, I find it easy to have made the move. I feel that the combination of low minimums, better penetration (1 deck is common), pit apathy, better rules and the generally held notion that card counters like single and double deck make the 6D shoe "My Way". (Sorry, Frank)

Back to the trip:
At Caesar’s, I looked for DD and didn’t find a single DD game open when I was there. CBJN says there is one, but I’ll be damned if I could find it. The 6D shoes were not crowded, but the packed 6:5 SD tables were the mystery of the trip. I left without playing, and went on to the Mirage.

I won $120 at the DD game there (I haven’t given it up yet), then went back to our hotel to rest and take notes for this report. We had reservations at Tremezzo at the Aladdin. The food, service, and wine were world class. I had the best veal chop I have ever tasted, topped off with a bottle of Chateau DePez. I was a bit disappointed when the listed 1995 vintage was presented as the 1996. (The 1995 is a far better vintage.) When I related this to the waiter, the sommelier was summoned who apologized and offered me the 1996 for $30 ($60 in wine list). It was still excellent.

Day #2
After a good night’s rest, I went back to Bellagio, Monte Carlo, Mandalay Bay & Aladdin. I’ll briefly rate the games:


All these games are excellent. DD is among the best in LV and I think the 6D is the best, considering lack of heat, ability to spread, and player-friendly rules. Penetration could be better, but ain’t bad.

Monte Carlo

DD is H17 and penetration is 1.0 deck. Need I say more?

Mandalay Bay

DD is H17, but penetration is about 0.8, and fairly consistent. I was almost invisible at the $25 table until I got to a $300 bet, and the dealer yelled "checks play." The PC came over and I was dealt 9,9 against a 7 with a +5 TC and split them. The dealer said "Are you sure you want to split them? The PC stared at me. I said to him, "What should I do?" The PC said, "Well, the book says to stand." I put up another $300 and said "What the hell, that’s why they call it gambling". I get dealt 2, then double and get a T, then get
an A on the last 9. The dealer dutifully turns over her T for 17 and I pull 18 black
off of the table. Seeming like the best time ever to leave, I do.


I really, really want to say something nice about this place. The restaurant there, as stated above, was simply divine. The London Club is simply the nicest ambiance to play in (or should I say BE in) of anywhere I have been in Las Vegas. The only place I can compare with this is the Grand Casino in Monte Carlo. But, I didn’t have a pitboss sitting in my lap the whole time in Monte Carlo. The heat at the Aladdin would boil antifreeze. I had a winning session there, but not because of my play. There is NO DD game here, and all
the shoes in the main casino are 8D. The 6D shoes in the London Club have about 1.5 deck pen, and seemed to get worse as they watched.

If you like beautiful female dealers in elegant evening wear, male dealers in tuxedoes, your own personal cocktail waitress, drinks that include such niceties as complimentary Dow 1980 vintage Port and Veuve Clicquot Champagne, this may be the place to play. The tables routinely have a $25 minimum and empty seats. At times, however, the scrutiny, both from the pit and the eye, make me too uncomfortable. Cost of camouflage becomes an ingredient in your expected win recipe. With the plethora of better games on the Strip, unless the Aladdin goes back to the Bill Zender philosophy (the ex-director of gaming at the Old Aladdin), they are likely to continue to struggle. I really hope they make the games more playable, I would really enjoy writing an extensive piece saying that the London Club has the best blackjack in Las Vegas. Sadly, they are nowhere close at this time. And the heat is oppressive to the point of not even wanting to play there. I played with a guy who absolutely was not counting, and he asked the PC to quit breathing on him! All that did was make the PC more paranoid, and he put the eye-in-the-sky (EITS) on the player. I had to get up and leave at that point, of course. I did manage to get out of there with a crisp little $2,125 win. So far, so good on the trip.

Day #3

Woke up and drove to the Palms. There has been an abundance of posts on relating the backoffs at this place. I encountered no heat, but as the saying goes, losing is the BEST cover. Down $1,950 total for two separate 90-minute sessions on different shifts, marked by multiple dealer miracles. Telling myself over "You win some and you lose some; let them post your losses!" I moved on to the London Club again and had another good session that drew some heat, winning $1,300.

Then came the highlight of the trip. I had sought out some non-property restaurants to try in Las Vegas from the members on BJ21. I got this recommendation from toro papa about a place called Lotus of Siam.


Don’t be turned off by the location. This world-class Thai restaurant is in a shopping center off Sahara and is surrounded by multiple other ethnic restaurants, wig shops, ethnic groceries, etc. Just ignore this and walk in. We had a marvelous sausage and crispy rice appetizer, and my wife got a beef & garlic dish that was scrumptious. We also tried a dish called Pad thai-a noodle and chicken dish that was delicious.

The fun part of the meal came when we were introduced to Bill, the owner. Bill is an affable Asian-American who REALLY knows his German/Alsacian wines. After we struck up a conversation and told him how much we enjoyed the meal, he began pouring the dessert wines for us to taste. The first, a 1999 PJ Valckenberg beerenauslese was incredible. Crisp, somewhat spicy with a not overly sweet fruity finish. He then poured the von Hovel 1999 Oberemmeler Hutte Resling Spatlese. Spectacular! After promising to return, we went over to the Mirage for the requisite pilgrimage to see if there were any Siegfried and Roy or Danny Gans tickets available. Surprise......both were sold out.

I meandered over to the tables there and lost $700 at Mirage, basically on 1 big bet on a high count with another dealer miracle. With the wife’s urging, we walked to Caesar’s so she could go to the Forum Shops and I could try the 6D shoe there. Managed a nice $1200 win, then the wife came up to me just as the count got to RC -12. Seeing this as a wonderful time to color up, I did.

Day #4
The ambiance of the London Club lured me back. My perception of mega-heat at a prior visit was justified. Calls to the EYE followed my arrival, and the PC was watching every play. The session was a short and ugly -$7600. I employed the heat-deflecting Ultimate Gambit (a la Ian Andersen) and it did quench the fire, but some more dealer miracles made this a painful session. And again, losing IS the best cover.

After a couple of glasses of Port, and an hour of craps, I walked over to the Bellagio for one last session. This further reinforced my opinion of the Bellagio pit bosses and management as being arrogant, snooty full-of-themselves snobs. I found an empty 6D $10 minimum shoe that was being cut 1 deck. I bought in for $300 and pulled out my slot card and gave it to the dealer, who called the PC over. I wanted to see whether he would make me a BJ card from the slot card. I had $20 up on the first hand, and the PC tells me, "I’m sorry, but here at the Bellagio, we don’t rate players unless they bet at least $25 a hand." Now, he DID say it nicely, but the attitude!

You’ll love this, but not as much as I did. As soon as the PC walked away, I bought in for $300 more, and started firing away. The first shoe turned positive early and I worked my way up to two hands of $300 without even a peep from the dealer. No "checks play", no "black in action", NOTHING! I made it through the entire, beautiful shoe with TCs varying between +2 from the get-go to +8 near the end of the shoe. The dealer dealt me four BJs to one for him, gave me a face on every double down, and busted about half the time. At the end of the shoe, the PC was dutifully going over some play cards at his station. I told the dealer to color me up. When the dealer shouted "Coloring up $4,425!" I thought the PC would break his neck coming over to see what was going on. He watched
the color to verify, then tells me, "Sir, if you give me that card now, I can back up your play."

I just smiled and said, "well, maybe when I work my way up to $25 a hand, I’ll ask you to rate me." As I was walking away, I threw the dealer a green and noticed the PC whispering to the dealer. I overheard the dealer say, "He TRIED to give you his card!"

That was enough BJ for me for the trip.

CC’s Analysis:
Caesar’s Palace--Still tolerant of black unless you get greedy, though less so than before. A very good 6D game, all SD is 6:5 BJ. Avoid the SD.
Mirage-- I love this place, but have really not been bothered by the heat here. I probably am overdue. Excellent DD game.
Mandalay Bay--tolerant of big bets, decent DD.
Aladdin--poor games, great atmosphere for gambling, but overall, unless they change their game structure, not a place I can recommend.
Palms--Supposedly sweltering heat here, but I didn’t feel it, possibly because I was taking a bath the whole time there. Decent 6D shoe game with good pen.
Bellagio--possibly my new favorite place; they didn’t even mind that they had already backed me off there. Great 6D game and an excellent DD. Take black action well.

Until next time, I wish my fellow BJI subscribers good luck, good card, good pen, and may every double down be followed by a dealer bust.

And, try Lotus of Siam on your next trip, and ask Bill to do the wine flight.

CC Rider




(Editor’s Note: We welcome Frank Scoblete’s contribution to the Blackjack Insider. Scoblete is the #1 best-selling gaming author in America and the author of "Best Blackjack").

The Most Successful AC Casinos Offer the Best Blackjack Games

Last issue we mentioned those games that are good for card counters, that is, games with good penetration, are also games that are good for casinos. The reason is obvious -- the deeper the house goes into the decks, the more hands are played; the more hands that are played, the more basic strategy and bad players lose, but the more card counters can win. Since the overwhelming majority of AC (and Vegas, and Mississippi, etc.) players are not even playing basic strategy properly, the legions of the long-run losers overwhelmingly outnumber the long-term winners and they are playing against edges of one or more percent. As we stated last issue, savvy casino executives are aware of this and are rather tolerant of card counters at their good games because they know the losers more than compensate them for the few pennies per dollar the counter can come away with.

With the latest AC statistics in our hands, we have noticed a curious thing – the gaming revenue in AC directly reflects the type of blackjack games given at many casinos. While this should come as no surprise to the astute readers of this newsletter, the numbers are stunning, especially for casinos that have tinkered with their blackjack games in the last few months, and every casino executive should look closely at the stats and consider making their blackjack games "more beatable" so that their casinos can make more money!

We have been touting the Resorts BJ game for several issues now – ever since they went to fairly deep cuts in the spring. Have these relatively new deep cuts helped the bottom line? We think they have. A look at the July, 2002 AC statistics sees Resorts showing a whopping 13% increase in revenue over July of 2001. Let’s check the flip side; the very worst AC blackjack is now found at the Sands, where they have few tables (maybe six to eight), all of them eight deck with shallow cuts. Sands has become a slot casino, like Sassy Sally’s. And what has happened? Their revenues are down an incredible 23.9%. Another awful game is found at Tropicana, shallow cuts, overreacting pit personnel, and revenues down by almost 9%.

Of the casinos that we rated three stars or more for August, only two, Bally’s and Hilton, have seen a decline in revenue, a mere 0.7% for Bally’s – probably due to the fact that they reduced the number of blackjack tables recently – and 3.3% for Hilton, whose cuts in July were not as deep in 2002 as they were in 2001 when it had the best game in all of AC!

Of the other AC casinos, those whose games have remained consistently mediocre or bad, some have seen increases in their revenues due to slot holds, etc. Obviously, revenue percentages take into account more than just blackjack. Yet, the casinos that have seriously fiddled with their blackjack games have seen an immediate impact on the bottom line – awful in the case of Sands; excellent in the case of Resorts.

Here are our ratings for September, 2002.


Rating system:

***** = Excellent

**** = Very Good

*** = Good

** = Fair

* = Poor.

BALLY’S PARK PLACE: Penetration is excellent on the six-deck games in the high-roller pit with standard one-deck cutoffs. The paranoia level is not great here and the pit is friendly. The rest of the casino is the standard AC eight-deck games with penetration that varies but is consistently more than 75-80 percent. Some tables have been changed to Let It Ride and Three Card Poker. 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 lately, much less $5 games. Weekends are $15 and up. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 are also available for minimums of $10. Always crowded. ****

CAESARS: Improvements have been seen. The six-deck games have penetration of 80 percent in high-roller room. The rest of the tables are eight-deck with 75 percent penetration. The $10 tables are almost gone, at least for now, 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: Park Place Entertainment is firmly in control. The blackjack is still very good by AC standards. The rest of the high-roller action was six-deck games with $50 minimums most days, higher on weekends. Penetration varies but averages above 80 percent. You can resplit pairs up to four hands, including aces, in high-roller room but the rest of the casino, all eight-deckers, doesn’t allow resplitting. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available for $10 and up. In my opinion, actually deserves the title "friendliest casino in town" although it doesn’t use this moniker in its advertisements anymore. One caution: some tables have recently been removed to make room for more slot machines, yuck! ****

HARRAH’S: The six-deck games are improving, but we only saw a couple of these on our last perusal. The rest were all eight-deck games. Penetration now ranges from 66 percent to 75 everywhere. Resplitting allowed except aces. No midshoe entry. Harrah’s Table Game Guarantee: if the minimums are raised during play, you still get to play your original minimum. **

HILTON: Declining, though gradually. Hilton used to have one of the best games in AC but now it’s in the second tier so to speak. Generally has decent penetration -- in the neighborhood of 75 percent, sometimes more -- from the six-deckers in the high roller room to the eight deckers on the regular floor. Resplitting allowed except aces. The Multiple Action and Spanish 21 also have good penetration for $10. ***

RESORTS: Resorts is doing everything right (okay, they took out a bunch of tables to put in slots – hasn’t anyone learned from the failed Sands experiment?) and you’ll find good penetration on eight-deck games, consistently in and above the 80 percent zone, dealer dependent, however. Most of the $5 games have become $10 games, even midweek, but this is still a bargain by AC standards. The six-deck games in the high-roller pits are good, coming in at 80-85 percent penetration. Resplitting is allowed at all tables. Casino also offers multiple-action blackjack and Spanish 21 at $10 minimums. Pits are friendly. ****

SANDS: Let’s do the same lament as last issue, shall we? A little over a year ago Sands was the best place to play blackjack in Atlantic City -- maybe ever! It had a few four-deck games and the rest of the casino was six decks -- all with deep penetration. Now the management of Sands has decided to make this the Sassy Sally’s of the East Coast and has converted 90 percent of all its floor space to slots (90 percent is the most allowed by law). Now, Sands has a half dozen BJ tables, all eight decks, all with poor penetration. For slot players this place might rate; for table-game players, it’s like walking into a funeral home. Paranoia and poor management might cause this place to close. It’s bleeding money.*

SHOWBOAT: No change from last issue. Showboat is a good casino for AC BJ players. It is also a bright and cheerful place to play. Six-deck games in the high roller room have standard penetration of 75-80 percent. No resplitting allowed. Eight-deck games have 75-80 percent penetration. Very few $10 tables in summer, mostly $15 and up. ***

TROPICANA: No change from last issue. Six-deck games in high-roller room are $100 minimums with 66 percent penetration. Rest of the casino is no better, except these are all eight-deckers. Another slot heaven or hell, depending on how you view the one-armed bandits.*

TRUMP MARINA: Summer heat has loosened the games somewhat. Six-deck games in high roller room and eight-deck games on the main floor have penetration of 75 percent mark. You might be getting letters from this place even if you’ve played only a few times here and way in the past. They are aggressively marketing the place. Games are mostly $15/$25 and up, especially on weekends. ** ½*

TRUMP PLAZA: No change from last issue. Once one of the best games in town, now just average. Six-deck blackjack games in high limit area have 70 percent penetration, sometimes slightly higher. The casino has become top heavy with eight-deck games with penetration ranging from 70 percent to 75 percent on all, depending on the dealer. No midshoe entry on six-deck games but you can find $25 (a few) to $50 minimums on these. Allows resplits, except aces. Most eight-deck tables are $15 and higher. **

TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: This place can drive you crazy! We visited twice in the past couple of weeks, at different times. The earlier time saw deep penetration on some games. The later time saw average penetration throughout the casino. Maybe the combined average of penetration was 75 or 77.53288917 percent (just want to drive you a little crazy, too)? Lowest tables are $10/$15 even during midweek. No resplits. Multiple Action, Double Exposure and Spanish 21 are still available at $10/$15 minimums and up. ** ½*

WILD, WILD WEST: No change from last issue. The closest thing to Vegas in Atlantic City! Consistent 75-80 percent penetration throughout the casino but all games are eight-deckers. Most tables were $10/$15. Resplits allowed, except aces. Great atmosphere for gambling. ***

THE BEST BLACKJACK IN ATLANTIC CITY: Bally’s Park Place, Claridge, and Resorts.

Alene Paone is the CEO of Paone Press, which sells gaming books and tapes at discount prices. She also writes for Her husband, Frank Scoblete, is the #1 best-selling gaming author in America and the author of Best Blackjack. Frank’s books and tapes have sold over a million copies. For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406 or write: Paone Press, Box 610, Lynbrook, NY 11563.



The Indiana Gaming Commission now allows dockside gaming for the Indiana based riverboat casinos. The good news is that all the Indiana riverboats have elected to stay dockside. No more boarding times or cruising on the river. The Cincinnati to Louisville based boats all extended their hours of operation. Current hours are:

Argosy (Lawrenceville, Indiana) and Caesars (near Louisville):

9:00am to 5am seven days a week.

Grand Victoria (Rising Sun, Indiana) and Belterra (Vevay, Indiana):

Sunday through Thursday 8:00am to 4:00am

Friday and Saturday 8:00am to 5:00am

The bad news is they are all offering poor games with lousy penetration and mediocre rules.

The Argosy remains fairly consistent with all six-deck shoe games with an average penetration of about 2 decks. You can occasionally find a dealer going down to 1 ½ decks. A while back they eliminated their continuous shuffle machines. The problem with the Agrosy is that the blackjack tables are always crowded. During the week when the crowds are lighter they close most of their BJ tables. Finding a game with only 1 or 2 other players is difficult except on the high limit tables. They also still charge admission and are very tight on comps.

The Grand Victoria in Rising Sun, Indiana has turned into a burn joint. It is obvious that management is trying to discourage any informed blackjack players from visiting the casino. They have two, six and eight deck games. The double deck game recently went to cutting off 1 ½ decks. With an almost full table that means they are dealing only 2 rounds before shuffling much of the time. It is like playing against a continuous shuffle machine.

Amazingly the game is usually full, often with players waiting to join as soon as someone leaves. Their other games have poor penetration and their maximum bet is $500.

The Belterra had a decent game earlier this year. Unfortunately things have changed. The single deck games are gone. Their double deck tables cut off 1 deck and allow doubling on 9, 10 or eleven only. With the exception of two six-deck games in the high limit room all the other games are eight deck. If the high limit room is closed look for a two deck game being dealt at a table near the cage with an eight-deck card return rack.

Caesars keeps setting new attendance records since they opened their hotel. Unfortunately that has made the blackjack games more crowded and less playable for the advantage player. They have also gone to doubling on 9, 10 or 11 only for their double deck games. Penetration is a little better here, but not much. You can occasionally find a double deck dealer going down to about 0.8 decks. The norm is 1 deck cut off on a double deck game. Right now the rest of the games are all six-deck shoes. They have in the past switched back between six and eight deck shoe games. This is one riverboat that now sweats heavy action with bets up to $2,500.

For the average player the southern Indiana riverboats offer low cost (i.e. $5 minimum tables) entertainment, with decent food and comfortable hotel rooms. Throw in occasional big name entertainment and you have a much better situation than we had 6 years ago. I would rate the games better than Atlantic City. For the advantage player they offer very little. If you are serious about making money playing blackjack I would advise that you travel to Tunica or Las Vegas where the competition forces the casinos to offer better blackjack 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: 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)

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

Longview, WA: Cadillac Ranch Casino (1-877-773-5874)

Tacoma, WA: Emerald Queen (1-888-831-7655)

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


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

Henderson, NV: Fiesta (1-888-899-7770)

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)

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

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)

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)

Tacoma, WA: Emerald Queen (1-888-831-7655)

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

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


Las Vegas, NV: 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)

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

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)

San Felipe: Hollywood (1-877-529-2946)

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)

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

Longview, WA: Cadillac Ranch Casino (1-877-773-5874)


Las Vegas, NV: Longhorn (1-702-435-9170); J. W. Marriott (1-877-869-8777); Fiesta Rancho (1-888-877-5108)

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)

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

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)

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


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

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

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

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

Deadwood, SD: 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)

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)

Gardena, CA: Normandie (1-880-994-6637)

Sault Ste. Marie, Ont: Sault Ste. Marie (1-800-826-8946)




Congratulations to Ken Smith, host of the popular blackjack site, for making it into the finals of the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar championship round.

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

Sept. 13-15 Casino Magic $250 six $50K/$25K 1-800-562-4425

Biloxi, MS

Sept. 13-15 Royal Oasis free* six $20K/$10K 1-800-432-2294

Freeport, Grand Bahama

Sept. 20-21 Bally’s $500 six $125K/$50K 1-800-382-2559

Robinsonville, MS

Sept. 21 River Palms $99 two $10.5K/$5K 1-888-298-2242

Laughlin, NV

Sept. 22-24 Edgewater $129 single $20K/$10K 1-800-289-8777

Laughlin, NV

Sept. 22-25 Bally’s free* six $60K/$25K 1-800-634-3434

Las Vegas, NV

Sept. 24-26 Foxwoods free* six $30K/$5K 1-800-752-9244

Ledyard, CT

Sept. 26 Silversmith free* single $5K/? 1-800-354-3672

West Wendover, NV

Sept 30 de Montreal $250 six $52.5/$15K 1-800-665-2274

Montreal, Quebec

Oct. 7 Turning Stone $25 six $8.4K/$2.2K 1-800-771-7711

Verona, NY

Oct. 10-12 L.V. Hilton $1K six $57.5/$20K 1-800-457-3307

Las Vegas, NV

Oct. 11 Silversmith free* single $5K/? 1-800-354-3672

West Wendover, NV

Oct. 11-14 Harrah’s free* six $43K/$20K 1-800-392-9002

Las Vegas, NV

Oct. 17-20 Beau Rivage free* six $75K/$50K 1-800-760-3354

Biloxi, MS

Oct. 25-27 Imperial Palace $150 six $25K/$10K 1-800-436-3000

Biloxi, MS

Oct. 26-27 Jackpot Junction $200 four $50K/$25K 1-800-946-2274

Morton, MN


Other planned tournaments:

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)

Dec. 20-22 Pioneer, Laughlin (1-800-634-3469)

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

Nov. 14-16

Dec. 19-21

Jan. 9-12, 2003

Feb. 6-8, 2003

March 6-8, 2003

Final round: April 10-12, 2003

To enter or for details call 1-800-457-3307.


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. He gets to LV almost monthly 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 Shackleford, 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 Shackleford has written the soon to be published book "Casino Gambling 102". 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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