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by Riverboat Flyer

Riverboat Flyer is a low stakes blackjack player. He plays the southern Ohio riverboats along with frequent trips to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica and occasionally Lake Tahoe. He has been counting cards for over ten years, using the Hi-Op, High Low and currently the Half count system.

We boarded a Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) ship for a week of fun and blackjack in the Caribbean. There were four of us on this trip: me, my blackjack-playing buddy Louie, his wife, and my wife. Louie and I are card counters; he uses the KO count, and I use the half count. Louie’s wife plays 21 but does not count cards, and my wife likes to play slots. We sailed on this same cruise ship five years ago and loved both the ship and the casino. On cruise ships, the casino is open only when they clear port and enter international waters. When you book a cruise, your fare includes the cabin, all your food, and the ship’s entertainment. Drinks and gambling are extra.

As soon as the ship got underway, we checked out the casino. There were seven 21 tables on board, offering single-and six-deck continuous shuffle games, and eight-deck shoe games. The blackjack games they offered were terrible, especially compared to our last cruise. The single deck and $5 continuous shuffle games had 6:5 payoffs on blackjack and dealer’s hit soft 17. The $15 games dealt by the continuous shuffling machine (CSM), and the $25 eight deck shoe games, paid 3:2 on blackjacks. They hit 17 on the $25 games, and stood on soft 17 on $50 and above. Each table was identical so they could offer any game at any table. A little sign located under the table limits told you insightful information, such as "the dealer stands on all hard 17s." The payoffs on naturals and hit 17 rules were nowhere to be found; if you wanted to know, you had to ask the dealer. Louie and I immediately determined the $25 eight-deck game was the only playable one in the casino.

The casino manager came over to introduce himself and wish me luck. I immediately told him...

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