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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, December 2002, #36

BACK TO THE GULF COAST

BY CC RIDER

After being backed off of my second and third casinos in recent months (both due to total cumulative win limits being reached), it became necessary for me to branch out a little and revisit the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

My prior forays have generally been positive, but this one was certainly not. The typical dealer miracle hands interspersed with bad luck resulted in a $4k total loss that almost wiped out the $4,800 win from my last trip. Iíll not discuss the details of the trip, (I do not wish to recall them!) but let me just give an overview of whatís out there to novice players or to those who may be planning a trip there.

For those that have not been to the Gulf Coast, hereís a summary of the casinos that are located there.

Casino Location

Casino size (sq. ft)

BJ Games

Phone

Casino Magic Bay St. Louis

39,500

25

800-5-Magic-5

Grand Casino Gulfport

85,000

46

800-946-7777

Copa Casino Gulfport (redone, was the former Treasure Bay in North Mississippi)

27,000

20

800-946-2672

Treasure Bay Biloxi

41,000

19

800-747-2839

President Biloxi

38,279

21

800-843-7737

Beau Rivage Biloxi

71,669

53

888-567-6667

Imperial Palace Biloxi

70,000

24

800-436-3000

Boomtown Biloxi

33,632

12

800-627-0777

Grand Casino Biloxi

134,200

49

800-946-2946

Casino Magic Biloxi

47,700

26

800-5-Magic-5

Isle of Capri Biloxi

32,500

14

800-The-Isle

New Palace Biloxi

43,500

23

800-Palace-9

 

With this many options, Iíll make a few remarks about each casino and go into more detail about those games that I view as "better" opportunities.

To my knowledge, all the games are S17. Sadly, some of the games on the coast can be sweaty at best and aflame at times. Here's my rundown, for what it's worth:

President - low rollers, locals place that will absolutely get steamy with some reasonable spreads or end-play that's typical. Does have a $5 minimum DD and $1 6D shoes (S17) if thatís your thing. No RSA on the DD and few tables make this place less than ideal. I have had reports of easy comps here, but no personal experience.

Copaócompletely redone. The SD is the best low limit game on the coast. No 6:5 blackjack payoff shenanigans here; this is a real SD BJ game, with 5 tables. Penetration looks like RO6. Good DD game as well.


Treasure Bay--they used to have a good game, with a little heat, but they have ruined it by dealing maybe 50% at DD. I have heard of improved pen lately, but didnít see it this trip. The $$ they leave in the ploppies pockets by doing this!

Isle of Capri-- penetration issues prevail, and watch out for those CSMs. Better rules on all the games elsewhere. The only real thing I had against the Isle of Capri was the penetration, which was abysmal when I was there (1.1-1.0 decks cut from a two deck pack; 3 different dealers) After about 90 minutes of this, I just got the hell out of there.

Sounds like the pen may be getting better. This happens from time to time at a property. The lower level management seems to lighten up on the heat it places on dealers, who, in absence of any demands to the contrary, would prefer dealing a little deeper. Some properties may even figure out one day that shuffling 6 times an hour costs the house less than shuffling 10 times per hour. Some may recognize that the 0.1% of us who can actually beat this game pose no threat to the take of the house, especially if they can get 5-10 more hands in per hour to the ploppies.

Biloxi Grand--will tolerate reasonable spreads, but the salon area is watched closely. At the 6D shoes, you can fire away unfettered. Anything under $100 there is invisible, even for longer sessions. Rathole your EV to stay away from cumulative win scrutiny. Beware of the SD, which is dealt all the way down, but pays even money for BJ, making this a +2% house advantage game. Good luck trying to overcome that!

Palace--used to be my favorite, but the pit paranoia has ruled supreme again. Great DD rules, with S17, DOA, DAS, RSA, but pen has deteriorated to 1.0 to 0.9 decks. The good pen there is 0.8, and is rare. Shop around here; if you get good pen, the game is good. The salon area is watched closely by the PCs. They'll sic the EITS on you if you stay a long time. The 6D game may be the way to go, with variable pen, as low as 1-1.2 decks (80-84% pen).

Gulfport Grand--I think this place may be fine, but I haven't played here in over a year. I had no problems with aggressive play last time, and had a stupendous outing. I'm not sure why I haven't returned, other than the distance from Biloxi. Beware of the two gadget games there, fake DD and even money SD BJ.

Sort of the poor stepchild of the Biloxi Grand, about 15 miles West of the BRiv on HWY 90. This place isn't bad--spread $25-150 with minimal heat, good rules, decent pen (65-70%) which was somewhat influenced by tipping, and got an offer after 30 mins of full RFB for a subsequent weekend. There is a salon area here for $50-$100min, but I stayed away because it looked like the PCs were perched like vultures over the $50min tables and ignoring the $10min DD, where I sat and immediately began spreading $25-150 with no pit heat at all. (they were all in the salon).

Imperial Palace--it was on my dead-list when the table maximums were $50, but they have increased them to $200. Typically IPs are considered heaty, but the low maxs may make it playable. I would defer to someone who has been here recently.

Casino Magic, Biloxi - nothing to right home to Momma about, as far as games go, but I haven't heard much bad news about heat. Not much firsthand experience, though. Beware of the fake DD game there. Decent pen on the 6D shoe from time to time.

Boomtownóworst pen on the coast, stay away until they wise up.

Casino Magic, Bay St. Louisódecent, not great games, with 50% pen at DD (but good rules), and 75% pen at 6D. It is a LOT closer to New Orleans, but thatís the best thing I can say about it. They have decent entertainment from time to time.

The Beau (Rivage)---they definitely watch the DD closely. Stay out of the Salon area, because they have independent (not PC initiated) surveillance on the big money games ($100 and up). The 6D games are the best this side of Las Vegas. 1.2 deck pen, LS and RSA. Spread 1-12 red and you're invisible. Spread 1-12 green and play short sessions and you'll be fine. Don't do this at DD, however.

The Beau has a slot that, if the cards are pushed back by the dealer all the way against the back of the shoe and held there while the card is inserted, gives about 235-240 card penetration. I had my non-playing buddy count this down on four occasions. 312-235=77, or just about 1.5 decks. MANY dealers just put the cards in, don't push the pack against the back of the shoe and put the CC (cut card) in. I once saw 261 cards dealt before the CC, or 1.0 deck. So, even though there is a slot, the slot is "variable".

Room at Grand: That action, if well camouflaged/good act should get you RFL, or maybe even RFB.

The Beau is pretty tolerant, especially for "new" players. Once they are on to you, they rewind tapes, and will back you off for:
1. Cumulative win (need multiple sessions)
2. Obvious talent
3. Greed
4. Rubbing it in their faces

Beau Rivage pen at DD is slightly better, at about 0.8, but with intermittent heat. No taps this visit, attributable to short (and profitable) sessions.

In summary, the 6D shoe at the BRiv is, IMHO, the best game on the coast: much less heat, 1.2-1.3 pen, S17, RSA, LSR, DAS.

One last thing about the games (Iíll write about the property as my feature later): the Beau has a BJ checker, which has a slot for the dealerís down (hole) card to slide into and buttons for the dealer to push. This creates a potential for dealer error that can be exploited, if youíre vigilant. Let me tell you what happened to me.

The dealer places the X or A with the down card under it into a slot and presses the A if it's an A or the T if it's a 10 or face. One dealer checked his Q and hit the A instead of the T and the T lit up!!!! He has a 20! He quickly caught his mistake and hit the T and of course, the Deal light came on. I had 17, so of course I had to hit. He looked at me funny. I looked at him and said, "if you say nothing, I say nothing." He proceeded to tacitly deal me an 8 to bust me, then turned over his 20.

The message here is, "pay attention"...I was the only one at the table that caught this slip. This time, it didnít pay off, but hole card information is quite powerful.

Featured Casino - The Beau Rivage

Truly an enjoyable place. A bit of old time Grand Southern ambience mixed with some Las Vegas glitter. A scaled down Bellagio, built by the same people (Steve Wynn et al.) The amenities and rooms are similar to the Bellagio, but of course, there is no dancing fountains, $24 million dollar art gallery, or a Wolfgang Puck-ish restaurant ensemble.

Check-in. The I-110 loop off of I-10 Exit 46A will almost put you at the front door of the BRiv if you take the Ocean Springs exit. I found it easy to simply take a right into the free parking garage rather than mess with valet parking. I'm getting about sick of coming back to my car and finding my console gone through, seats and mirrors adjusted, etc. after having someone else park my car. From the garage, simply take the elevator to the casino floor and walk about 175 yards to the front desk. Check-in was polite and efficient, despite the place being jam-packed. Even numbered rooms face the street (Hwy 90), odd numbers face the Gulf of Mexico and the pool complex, if that's important to you. Check out took 20 seconds.

Rooms. Are nice; marbled tile baths, adequate bedroom space, no mini-bars, enclosed toilet, separate shower, double vanity, etc. I can only imagine that the suites are nice as well.

Casino. Nicest floor on the Coast, similar in size and decor to Venetian, MGM, Bally's, maybe not quite as plush as Bellagio. Most BJ tables are 6 deck shoes with standard rules, but they do allow late surrender! The tables at the rear of the casino are DD with a $25-$300 minimum, depending on activity level. There is also a salon area in the rear with $100-$1,000 minimum BJ tables, some DD, some 6D.

PCs. Most seem cordial and non-threatening, at least at the level I was spreading ($25-$150). NOTE: These guys are NOT dumb. Keep your sessions short if you are playing aggressively. Table hopping is fairly easy here. Several offered comps to me for the Buffet and Cafe without asking at that level. The other restaurants are good, especially La Cucina (Italian), and Coral. The Chinese Noodle is also tasty.

The Game. DD, 55-70% pen (somewhat influenced by tips), DAS, Resplit all but As, no surrender on DD, no need to play 2x min on multiple hands, S17, and checks for BJ with a gadget that looks like this:

A T

Deal

Clientele. By far the classiest clientele in the area. This place simply does not cater to low-rollers, but there are nickel slots there!

In general, there are some decent games on the Gulf Coast. I'll rate the games for the following level players:

Blackchippers: BRiv clearly the best both in accommodations and game appeal. You probably will survive bigger spreads for longer here than anywhere else on the Coast. Next, in order of my preference of places to play, and based on many factors, from ease of parking to heat to favorable rules to amenities, would be as follows: Palace, GGrand, BGrand, Copa Treasure Bay, President.

Greenchippers can find good games at all of the above places and some better comps at the ones down the list.

Redchippers can find good games but rare DDs at the first 4 places, and probably no comps of substance at any of those.

And finally, a good ploppie story. I hope it gets to your funny bone the same way it got to mine.

This happened recently at a New Orleans/Gulf Coast area property (how specific is that?). I laugh about it every time I recall it. This story is dedicated to those ploppies who try to correct mistakes, announce your "misplay", or are just absolutely obnoxious. Enjoy.

With only one card left before a well cut DD, S17, DOA, DAS game with a "No-mid-shoe entry" sign, I had no heat, no pit calls, PC distracted, and a beginner dealer whose only call to the PC was "shuffle up!" With a TC of +10 and five As remaining, I did what I preach not to do routinely, spread to 2x6. The ploppie at 1st base (the only other player) tells the dealer as he was beginning to pitch, "He can't do that, that's mid-shoe entry. It'll mess up the cards." The dealer then asked me to pull back one hand. Instead, I piled the two together (12 units) and the dealer dealt J, 10, 9, 7, A, K.


The dealer then said, "Look, if you would have let him play two hands, I would have given you the blackjack. Instead, he got it and you lost."
The dealer and I laughed our asses off (me much more overtly) and the bitch got up and changed tables. I flipped the dealer a green and felt that it was worth every penny.

Until next time, when Iíll report in a more detailed way on the brand new Copa, good luck, good cards, good pen, and may your double down always be followed by a dealer bust.

CC Rider

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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.

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