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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, February, #38



The Dead of Winter

It’s been brutally cold on the shore this winter. Even the Boardwalk bums, a hardy and cantankerous breed, have taken to the shelters, and only the most courageous citizens walk the boards as the wind howls and the sand whips. The gulls and pigeons, fat and glossy, seem content; they own the Boardwalk this winter.

The Atlantic City games themselves show very little change from one season to another, except in terms of their minimums. In the winter you can find more $5 and $10 games, although the move to replace table games with slots is still continuing. There are, of course, plenty of blackjack players in AC and, of these, the small percentage of basic strategy players are actually getting "good" games as the rules are liberal. For basic strategy players such things as penetration, minimum to maximum bets, types of shuffles are largely irrelevant.

The Borgata is up and looks impressive. It remains to be seen if its addition to the Atlantic City mix this spring will actually help the players or will Borgata just be another AC snake pit for card counters and other advantage players, only newer and more flamboyant.


Here are our ratings for February, 2003.

Rating system:

***** = Excellent

**** = Very Good

*** = Good

** = Fair

* = Poor.

BALLY’S PARK PLACE: Penetration remains at 1.5 decks cut off on the six-deck games in the high-roller pit. The rest of the casino is the standard AC eight-deck games with penetration that varies but is consistently more than 75 percent. Some tables have been changed to Let It Ride (seems to be getting a big, big following) 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 on the weekend, much less $5 games. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 are also available for minimums of $10. Always crowded. ***

CAESARS: Starting to get the feel of the old high-roller days of the 1980s. The six-deck games have penetration of 75 percent in high-roller room. Big action seen there recently. Rest of tables are eight-deck with 75 percent penetration. Resplitting allowed but you can only split aces once. Bright, clean casino. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available at $10 and up! ***

CLARIDGE (note-recently merged with Bally’s): The blackjack is good by AC standards. The high-roller action was six-deck games with $50 minimums most days, higher on weekends (you might even find some $25 tables at really slow times). 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. *** 1/2*

HARRAH’S: No change from last report. The six-deck games are improving, and there are more of them in the high roller area. The rest were all eight-deck games. Penetration now ranges from 66 percent to 70 in 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: No change from last report. Has hit a plateau and the games have stabilized but not anywhere near as good as they were just a year ago. Hilton used to have one of the best games in AC but now it’s in the second tier. 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 okay penetration for $10. More paranoia being exhibited by the pit personnel. One "progressive player" – who played with no edge over the house --was reportedly short shoed there during a lucky streak. ***

RESORTS: No change from last report. Resorts is still doing everything right 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: They now have about 15 blackjack tables, as opposed to 6 a few months ago, but they don’t have a high roller room per se. Sands has got to get an identity or its going to go belly up. Their blackjack games are nothing to write home about. *

SHOWBOAT: Showboat is improving – a lot. It is also a bright and cheerful place to play. Six-deck games in the high roller room have standard penetration of 80 percent. Resplitting now allowed up to three hands. Eight-deck games have 80 percent penetration. Can now occasionally find $25 games in high roller room. *** ˝*

TROPICANA: No change from last issue or the issue before that ad nauseum. 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: No change from last report. Marina was hopping this past summer; attracting a younger crowd. Six-deck games in high roller room and eight-deck games on the main floor have penetration of 75 percent mark. They are aggressively marketing the place. Games are mostly $15/$25 and up, especially on weekends. ***

TRUMP PLAZA: Six-deck blackjack games in high limit area have 70-75 percent penetration, sometimes slightly higher, with $100 minimums. Sometimes when it’s slow, they will honor a request for $50 minimum. The eight-deck games have penetration ranging from 70 percent to 75 percent on all, depending on the dealer. No midshoe entry on eight-deck games outside high-roller pit but you can find $25 (a few) to $50 minimums on these. Allows resplits, except aces. Most eight-deck tables are $10 and higher. **

TRUMP TAJ MAHAL: No change from last report. Decent game with 70-80 percent penetration, dealer dependent. New "Blackjack Switch" game was tested here. Several $5 minimum games in the morning on weekdays. Multiple Action, Double Exposure and Spanish 21 are still available at $10/$15 minimums and up. ** ˝*

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. *** ˝*


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.


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