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Blackjack Apprenticeship

BlackjackInfo News: Issue 17 - July 18, 2003

This Issue includes:

2:1 Blackjack Promotions, what a story!

The Imperial Palace casino in Biloxi, MS advertised a promotion planned for this June 15th Fathers Day holiday. They were planning to pay 2:1 for any blackjack at their six-deck games, for a 24-hour period. Paying 2:1 on blackjack instead of the normal 3:2 adds more than 2% to a player's expectation, so the Imperial Palace game would have a player advantage of about 1.9% for a basic strategy player. No betting limits were mentioned in the ads, and the IP had run a similar promo at table limits two years prior. I put my family on notice that I wouldn't be around for the holiday, and made reservations at the IP.

I documented the whole story in an article for Henry Tamburin's excellent email newsletter. Here's a link to that issue online: BJ Insider. I think it's safe to say this won't be offered next Fathers Day!

The month of June saw yet another 2:1 Blackjack promo, this one at an online casino. Be The Dealer casino offered a 2:1 payout on the first five blackjacks a player received on the promotion date. The promo applied up to the normal table betting limits of $350. I decided to flat-bet $200 per hand until I received my five blackjack payoffs. Since you receive a blackjack about once every 21 hands (that's easy to remember, eh?), my promotion was expected to last about 105 hands.

I was pretty lucky. I received my five blackjacks in only 38 hands, and with only a few losing hands in between I cashed out a very nice profit of $2600. Be The Dealer has been running lots of promos lately, and some have been quite lucrative. They've run this 2:1 promo twice now, and I'm hoping there are more to come. Playing 2:1 blackjack ruins a guy for the regular game!

Casino intimidation tactics exposed

Many casinos in Las Vegas have been getting very aggressive about harassing advantage players like card counters. There have been numerous cases recently where card counters have been backroomed and detained against their will. Card counting and many other advantage tactics are perfectly legal, although casinos have the right to refuse the action of anyone they choose. However, in recent years, the casinos have become a lot more beligerent in defending the games. Even relatively low-stakes players have been targeted for some pretty unpleasant treatment.

This type of over-the-top behaviour by casino personnel is finally getting the publicity it deserves, and the ACLU in Nevada has taken a keen interest in the situation. A firestorm of publicity was set off recently by the publication of an article in the Las Vegas Review Journal. The Sunday piece, authored by Rod Smith is complete with backroom photos recently released after a favorable court ruling. Smith followed up a few days later with another piece, where he describes the casino's tactics as "breathtakingly stupid" in an area where tourism drives the local economy.

I consider this article a must-read, and here's the link to the Review Journal article at their website: CIVIL LIBERTIES: Disadvantaged

I'll also pass along some advice on handling these situations if you are targeted. Stay calm, and don't do anything that could provoke an aggressive response. Ask the casino personnel: Am I being arrested, or am I suspected of committing a felony? If the answer is No, they have no legal right to detain you, and you should make clear, over and over if necessary, that you would like to leave the property. If you end up in a backroom, make your requests there again, since the backroom audio is likely to be recorded.

New E-Book released, including an article from me

I recently contributed an article to a new E-Book based on an interesting premise. The editor Rebecca Hagel, asked 24 gambling authorities a simple question:

You have $100 to bet at a casino. Your challenge is to double your money. How would you tackle this challenge?

The result was an interesting mix of articles, with many good ideas and approaches to the challenge. (The E-book link is no longer available.)

Single deck games online: One vanished, one appeared

For years, one of the best games available in online casinos has been MicroGaming's standard one-deck game. Although it allowed doubling with 9,10 and 11 only, and it was a European No-Hole-Card game, it still offered a very low house edge. So low, in fact, that MicroGaming has now chosen to remove it. The newest versions of MicroGaming software no longer feature a one-deck game. Instead, the standard MicroGaming blackjack game is now a 2-deck game, with the same rule restrictions. The house edge is three times as high as a result. The 1-deck game had a house edge of only 0.13%, while the new 2-decker gives up 0.39%.

If you play MicroGaming casinos, be careful even with the old software. Some players have reported that the old software also now deals from two decks instead of one.

However, balancing that bad news is good news from Cryptologic casinos. Intercasino, the flagship site of the Cryptologic brand, has just introduced a new VIP Single Deck Blackjack game. The rules are decent, except for the dealer hitting soft 17. You can double any first two cards, and double after split. I ran a simulation with Statistical Blackjack Analyzer, and came up with a house edge of only 0.09%. The table is a $25 minimum bet. Sands of the Caribbean has also added this game, and according to their website, the dealer stands on soft 17 there! I haven't had a chance to confirm that yet, since I just discovered it. If true, that game will have a player advantage with basic strategy. I'll be adding a page at BlackjackInfo soon, where I plan to list the casinos online that offer single-deck games.

I'm backed off from an online tournament

I had a great run of success recently at Golden Palace online casino, where they were holding free tournaments every weekend. The game varied from week to week, but the prize money was the same each time. $1000 for first place, 10 $200 second place prizes, and 10 $100 third place prizes. A total of 21 spots "in the money". I competed in their events, and finished in the money for 9 consecutive weekends, including two first place $1000 wins.

These events required a player to play at least 100 hands of the chosen game, at a $5 minimum per hand. After the weekend was over, the players were ranked by percentage of hands won, and the prize money was paid into the winners' accounts.

After my 9th straight win, I received an email from the casino, stating that they had noticed that I only played during their tournaments, and since the tournaments were intended as promotions for their regular customers, I would no longer be eligible to participate. Oh well, I was disappointed, but I can't say I blame them.

Since I'm no longer on the gravy train, I'll share a little of my winning methodology with you. My favorite tournament was Caribbean Stud. My strategy there was extremely simple, but brutally effective. Since the tournament is won by percentage of hands paid, I never folded. No matter if I held a hand of 2-3-4-5-7 offsuit, I'd call. Whenever the dealer didn't qualify, I got paid anyway. That was enough to guarantee I would do better than most players who used a more conservative strategy at this game.

The strategy of staying in for every hand is an expensive one, because you often lose both the Ante and Call portions of your bet, while when you win, it's frequently just the Ante portion that gets paid. No matter though, with $1000 available as a first-place prize, you can afford to play "poorly". I'll sure miss those extra paydays.

Despite their differences with me as a player, Golden Palace is now one of the sponsors of the site. They've recently switched to PlayTech software, and you can download it from their site, here: Golden Palace

Global Player tournament jackpot ripe

If you've been putting off participating in the blackjack tournaments run every few weeks at Global Player casino, now's the time to remedy that. This weekend starts the tournament qualifying period, and the first prize amount has ballooned to $3000. Each tournament features a final round, where a single player goes head-to-head against the GameMaster. In the prior two events, the GameMaster has won, so the $1000 first-place money has rolled forward for this event.

Unfortunately, I won't be competing in this tournament, because of a schedule conflict with the finals next Friday. So, one of you subscribers needs to carry the BlackjackInfo banner into battle. The GameMaster is a heck of a nice guy, but I'm hoping one of you will take away his title next week.

Excellent new MicroGaming casino sponsor

BlackjackInfo has another new sponsor, running MicroGaming software. 32Red Online Casino is managed by a group with a great deal of casino experience, both land-based and online. With proven customer service and the ability to wager in dollars, Euros, or British pounds, this site is worth a visit. Of course, a nice signup bonus never hurts! In an interesting twist, their sultry dealer's voice is that of Patsy Kinset, an English actress from Lethal Weapon 2 among other movies.

Card Counter interviewed on MarketPlace radio

MarketPlace, the financial news radio show that airs nationwide on Public Radio, recently had a short spot featuring a card counter who describes his plans to visit the newly opened Borgata casino in Atlantic City. The 3-minute audio clip can be heard by clicking here: MarketPlace audio clip. Enjoy.


That's it for now. Best of luck, online and off! -Ken-


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