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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, May 2003, #40


by Alene Paone and Frank Scoblete

Borgata. Those are the words on everyone’s lips, as the opening of this hopefully stellar casino will usher in a new era for Atlantic City, the beginning of the Queen of Resorts becoming an actual resort destination and not just a day-trippers paradise.

What things indicate this long longed-for dream could come true? Well, many East coasters are eschewing airplane travel and sticking closer to home. That means vacations have to be within driving distance and what better place for a four or five day sojourn but by the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful sea?

Of course, Borgata is not by the sea, it is by the bay and some distance from that as well. But why quibble? It’s a tremendous structure…

But it has problems. The color, which should be gold, looks more like burnished iron. It’s actually dull looking. The inside is, from what we were able to see on a superficial inspection, is much more spectacular than the outside.

Will Atlantic City be rejuvenated by its opening? Maybe. It’s just as likely that it will cause a huge war to get the bus crowd. Whether it will draw in those intrepid souls who just love Las Vegas remains to be seen.

For blackjack players, the opening of Borgata will probably mean more 8-deck games. Frank had a discussion with a Boyd Gaming executive and when Frank mentioned that they might want to be really daring and have an all four-deck casino or an all six-deck casino, the executive looked at him, paused, and said: "Why?"

Why indeed? There is no answer to that question, not so long as AC’s patrons continue to shell out good money to play those 8-deck monsters. With summer on the horizon, the games will be $10 and up, mostly up, especially on the weekends.

As our old college professor said before a bus hit him: "We shall see what we shall see." We think the bus is still going to trump the plane as the main vehicle for bringing AC players into town…for a day trip to Borgata or wherever.

Here are our ratings for May, 2003.

Rating system:

***** = Excellent

**** = Very Good

*** = Good

** = Fair

* = Poor.

BALLY’S PARK PLACE: Penetration has diminished somewhat to 1.7 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 about 75 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 on the weekend, much less $5 games. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 are also available for minimums of $10. ***

CAESARS: The six-deck games have penetration of 80 percent in high-roller room. Big action seen there recently. Rest of tables are eight-deck also with 80 percent penetration, sometimes more if you get certain dealers. Resplitting allowed but you can only split aces once. Bright, clean casino. Multiple Action and Spanish 21 available at $10 and up! *** ½*

CLARIDGE: The blackjack is starting to fade. 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) but penetration about 70 percent when we visited. 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: Improvement seen on all games. Penetration now ranges close to 75 percent, the best we’ve seen in a long time. 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. **1/2*

HILTON: Lately has had great penetration -- in the neighborhood of 85 percent, sometimes more -- from the six-deckers in the high roller room to the eight deckers on the regular floor. Resplitting allowed except aces. Pits have been quick to jump on suspected counters, so be wary. The Multiple Action and Spanish 21 also have okay penetration for $10. ****


RESORTS: Resorts has cut back on the penetration on both six and eight-deck games, to about 75 percent. Most of the $5 games have become $10 games, even midweek, but this is still a bargain by AC standards. Resplitting is allowed at all tables. Casino also offers multiple-action blackjack and Spanish 21 at $10 minimums. Pits are friendly. ***

SANDS: Blackjack games are all eight deckers, shallow penetration 60-66 percent. Tables are squished in the back. NO STARS.

SHOWBOAT: 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. They announce them with a big sign during slow times. *** 1/2*

TROPICANA: 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. Going through renovations of its façade, but could use serious renovations of its blackjack games. *

TRUMP MARINA: Six-deck games in high roller room and eight-deck games on the main floor have penetration of 75 percent mark, but you won’t find any dealers going much deeper. Games are mostly $15/$25 and up, especially on weekends. **1/2*

TRUMP PLAZA: Six-deck blackjack games in high limit area have improved to about 80 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 is being 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. **1/2*

WILD, WILD WEST: Penetration has deteriorated in the last couple of months to about 75 percent on all games. Still a good place to play, atmosphere wise. **1/2*


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. His websites are and


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