Northern Cyprus Trip Report
OK, I just came back from Northern Cyprus. Overall, I found that blackjack is not very popular on the island. Most tables were completely shut down (as in, they donít open it even if thereís an interested player), or were deserted. People are crazy about stud poker, and roulette, but not blackjack at all. So, if you like heads up games, this might be a nice location for you. However, keep in mind that they will ask you to play 2 boxes minimum if youíre playing heads up. So, if the table minimum is $10, in reality itíll be $10x2.
All the tables Iíve seen were USD (except at Dome Hotel, which used Turkish Lira). You can buy in with Turkish Lira, Euro, or USD. They convert it to USD at reasonable rates, and use the exact rate when you convert it back. So, you donít pay any exchange rate commission or anything.
Table minimums were $10, $15, $25. I couldnít find anything better, except the Lira table at Dome Hotel, which was 10TL (about $6.70). The places Iíve found $10 tables were Merit Crystal Cove, Mercure Hotel, Oscar Resort, Cratos Premium (brand spanking new, very nice place indeed) and some other smaller establishments. Malpas, Rocks, and Jasmine Court had $15 tables. Usually $25 tables are in the same places with the $10 tables (i.e. the place has only two tables, one at $10, and one at $25). I havenít seen any rule variation with the table limit going up. By the way, my trip was not on weekend, so over the weekends, these minimums will likely go up, as lots of Turks flock in from the mainland, to get their gambling fix (casinos are banned in Turkey).
OK, coming to rules, I confirmed pretty much all the rules above, except there were some variations to those. All tables are 6D/8D, S17, DAS, DOA, ES10, ENHC, no RSA. The only difference from what I knew before was that you are able to double soft hands as well. Pen is mostly terrible, as bad as 50% at some places. All hand shuffled, no ASM/CSM. They burn 5 or 6 cards after each shuffle. There was a weird rule at one place (maybe others had it too, but I didnít observe the situation), where if you donít like the one card to your double, you can put extra one unit and get another card. So you actually triple down, but you usually do this after you know that you have a stiff, so Iím not sure at all about the value of this rule. In one instance dealer showed a 5, and I got a 7 on my doubled 9, for a 16. So, on this one I didnít ask for this option of course. But, in one instance dealer showed 8, and I got a 3 on my doubled 10, for a 13. In this case I wasnít quite sure what to do, so didnít take the extra double. I kinda thought that this would be throwing good money after bad money, given that my 13 would very likely bust and Iíd be losing an extra unit. But, if any of you know the math behind this rule, Iíll appreciate your comments. Also, if you know the proper play for this rule, thatíll be nice too.
An important thing to note was at one location, there was a banner at the entrance that promoted two new rules on their blackjack: 1) You can now split your Aces up to four times 2) You can now surrender on dealerís Ace as well! First one is RSA, but the second one sounded to me as Full ES, which is extremely valuable. The table limit at this location was $15, so I didnít actually play since I cannot stomach negative variance on a $15 game. However, if this is true, and if I was a professional AP, Iíd be heading to this location in a heartbeat, since the game is probably slightly positive from the get go! And as I mentioned earlier, the blackjack table was empty, so itíll be all yours. If youíre serious about this location, send me a PM and Iíll give you the name of the casino. But, I also think you should confirm the Ace surrender thing, maybe on the phone, before you travel all the way there.
At two places, I played (didnít need to check at others), there were loss rebates. One place had 10% rebate, if you lost $1,000 or above. One place had 15% loss rebate if you lose anything at all. In the latter one, I won about 7 units the night before, and the night after I lost 20 units. I asked whether they had any loss rebate, and they said thereís 15% loss rebate, and paid me 3 units back. So, in other words, they didnít check whether I had a winning session from earlier. If you go there and play 10 sessions, say 6 winning, 4 losing sessions, seems to me you can get loss rebates for all of your losing sessions regardless of your total win/loss situation. When you buy in at the tables, the PC puts your name down on a piece of paper (no ID, you just say your name), and puts your buy in amount. And they didnít check my ID, when I got the loss rebate either. I just told my name, and they said OK youíre eligible to get back X dollars. However, the places are small, so if you play 10 sessions, they will for sure know you and they might say that youíve had enough loss rebates. So, play at your own risk, and PM me if youíd like to know the name of the casino.
By the way, Northern Cyprus is a nice vacation destination, on Mediterranean, hence if you ever want to go there, you might take your family/spouse or a friend, who might not be into blackjack. For them, I recommend roulette, because throughout the island roulette is all single-zero, and the minimums are about 1TL ($0.67) on live tables, and as low as 0.20TL on semi-live roulette stations. These community roulette tables are very popular and you can find them at every casino. Slots are usually a pretty bad experience, since you need a handpay at every single amount. No TITO, and not all machines except cash. So, youíll need to wait for someone to open credit, and to close credit. If your friends/family is interested in slot machine hopping, itís a very painful thing to do in this location as you wait 5-10 minutes each time you need a manual transaction.
Casinos are mostly elegant and they have OK dress code regulations. T-shirt and jeans are mostly fine, and flip flops, sandals, and shorts are mostly a big no. There were exceptions (whether they know you well, or whether itís afternoon vs. night etc.). The places are usually tiny, compared to any Vegas casino, so that might be quite a disappointment. But, I guess, Europe is usually like this anyways. Giant casinos seem to be a thing of U.S. and Asia. The only problem with a small casino is that you can not go unnoticed in any one of them. Once you walk into the table game area, all the eyes will be all over you, so all the PC will likely recognize you. Not a great cover potential. But, on a positive note, there are more than 20 casinos, within not so bad proximity to each other, so you can play short sessions at each and manage a nice 5-6 day trip this way. The beaches and pools are very nice too, so Iím sure youíll like the place in general. PM me if you have any questions.