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Blackjack Apprenticeship

BlackjackInfo News: Issue 23 - July 19, 2004

This Issue includes:

Casino Merger Madness

The last two months have brought news of the largest casino mergers in history, in a development that will surely have huge consequences for casinos nationwide. First, MGM Mirage made a takeover bid for their rival operator Mandalay Resort Group. That merger would result in the largest casino company in the world, and would bring a total of 28 casinos under the same corporate umbrella. The Las Vegas strip would host a staggering number of the combined companies' properties. Starting at the South end of the Strip, consider this list: Mandalay Bay, Luxor, Excalibur, MGM Grand, New York New York, Monte Carlo, Boardwalk, Bellagio, Mirage, Treasure Island, Slots A Fun, Circus Circus. Intimidated yet?

The newsprint had barely dried on that blockbuster story before it was eclipsed by a larger merger in the news. Harrah's Entertainment made a successful bid to take over the Caesar's Entertainment casinos. That new company would control a massive 56 casinos, spread all over the country. One of the areas most affected by this merger will be Tunica Mississippi, where the combined company would then control five of the area's nine casinos.

In my opinion, these two mergers will have a very noticeable impact on casino patrons. The lack of competition that may result from these mega-mergers cannot be a good thing for the quality of the games offered. We've already seen blackjack conditions deteriorate in many markets, and I'm afraid we'll continue to see more of the same. Only time will tell.

Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament

The second year of the Las Vegas Hilton's Million Dollar Blackjack event finished up in May 2004, and a new blackjack millionaire was crowned. Eric Kiel was the big winner, collecting a million in cash after beating 199 opponents in the final event.

Later this summer, the Travel Channel will be airing a four-show series of the event, with three semi-final tables plus the final table each edited into a one hour show. Projected broadcast dates are late August to early September. This should create some extra interest in blackjack events, and I'm looking forward to seeing the coverage. It appears that this year's production will be much more impressive than last year's.

My own participation in the event was exciting, but I came up one hand short of making the final table. Look for me on the Travel Channel, as I agonize over a difficult decision on the 29th hand of the 30 hand semifinal round. I ended up surrendering a hard 14 vs a ten in a difficult spot. The dealer went on to pay both of my opponents, putting me in last place going into the final hand. Still, I had a nice shot at advancing. All I needed to do was win a double-down. I was dealt a 12 against a dealer's deuce, but busted when my double down card was a ten. So ended my hopes at winning this year's million.

The fate of this two-year old event was in question due to a transfer of ownership of the Las Vegas Hilton. Previously a Caesars Entertainment property, the property now belongs to Colony Capital. The new owners postponed the decision over whether there would be a third year of MDBJ all the way to the last minute. However, at the eleventh hour, the decision was made to continue the event for a third year. The monthly qualifying rounds started in May 2004, and will continue until the final event is held in May 2005.

Omni Casino named Casino Player's "Best Online Casino 2004"

I'm pretty picky about which online casinos I'll post ads for, and there's been one particular group of casinos that I've always considered the Best of the Best. That group is Peak Entertainment, a group that includes four online casinos and a poker room. My long-standing number one recommendation is Sands of the Caribbean. However, Omni Casino is another casino from the same management group, and their reputation is equally spotless.

Omni's recognition by the readers of the most popular casino gambling magazine is well-deserved. If you choose to check them out, be sure to try out the multi-player blackjack game, which is one of only a handful of blackjack games on the Internet that does not shuffle after every hand.

Something really off-topic

While this has nothing to do with blackjack, I figured some of my readers may find it useful nonetheless. When I needed to replace my cellphone battery, I quickly found that there are very few retailers who sell cellular phone accessories at reasonable prices. In particular, batteries tend to be quite expensive. I don't recall how I found this site, but at some point I discovered CellPhoneShop.net. When I saw their prices, I actually didn't trust the site, figuring they couldn't be for real. Still, I ordered, and to my surprise, everything arrived promptly.

Batteries start around $12.50, and other accessories are similarly cheap. In my last order, I bought three belt clips, at $2.60 each. Recommended.

A mistake on StickySoft's Blackjack Strategy cards

A site visitor recently pointed out an error in the laminated strategy cards from StickySoft, which we sell in the online store at BlackjackInfo.com. (Editor's note: The store now carries our own design of cards instead.)

On their card for a single deck S17 game, they indicate you should stand with (A,8) vs dealer 6. The Strategy Engine at BlackjackInfo correctly indicates instead that you should double this hand. The difference is slight, but doubling is a more profitable play here.

Just how important is this error? Not very. Let's look at the numbers...

Doubling (A,8) vs 6 in this game is worth +0.482626 of a bet.
Standing (A,8) vs 6 is worth +0.482354 of a bet.
Doubling wins .000272 of a bet more.

Now, how often will you be dealt this exact hand? About once every 1036 hands. And, since the difference between the two strategies is small, there's not much cost to using the wrong play here.

In fact, for a high-roller betting $1000 on each hand, and playing a quick 100 hands per hour, the cost of using the wrong strategy here is a pretty affordable 2.6 cents per hour!

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