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COUNTERPOINT ON BLACKJACK HAND-FEES

by Kevin Brown

Note: Mr. Kevin Brown is the Executive Director of Table Games at Resorts Atlantic City Casino. Mr. Brown took issue with the article that appeared in the April issue of BJI on the hand-fees on their $2 blackjack games. This is his unedited response to questions that we sent him.

Can you explain how the $2 minimum blackjack game with the quarter fee per hand works?

$2 Blackjack is played exactly like our regular Blackjack tables; all Atlantic City rules remain the same. Unlike low limit Blackjack in other jurisdictions there are no payoff shortfalls or restrictions on DD or splitting when wagering the low limit. The $.25 fee charged prior to dealing the cards allows us to offer the players the same game they will see when they graduate to higher minimums. The fee is collected by the dealer and change is made as needed right out of the "rack". We collect the fee on all $2, $3, $4 and $5 wagers. The maximum on the table is $20 and wagers above $5 are fee "free". Keeping the maximum low has allowed us to offer these seats to beginner players on a more frequent basis. This game is not designed to attract an experienced BJ player but to introduce new players that are intimidated by table games to the experience at an unintimidating price point.

How many $2 minimum bet tables do you have and when can customers expect that be open?

We currently offer 2 tables on weekdays and 3 tables on weekends 24/7 even on Holidays. The fee permits us to offer the game during peak times since it mirrors the revenue of a $10 minimum game. Customers have been surprised to find us offering this option at peak times since most low limit games historically are raised up as soon as a casino gets busy.

What was the reason that Resorts implemented this game?

Casino personnel all over the city will tell you the most requested option by players and callers is low limit Blackjack and Craps tables. The challenge has always been to generate enough revenue to service this clientele and introduce new players to the table game experience while covering expenses. Slot machines offer 1 cent, 2 cent and 5 cent slots for the same reason and have been doing so for many years. Table Games needed a way to take the intimidation out; learning Blackjack on a $10 game can be costly, scary and in fact for a first time player…not much fun. This offering has created a new clientele for our property and it is one that may not have visited Resorts otherwise.

What has the response been from your customers toward this game?

We announced the offering 2 weeks prior to President’s Day weekend and have not stopped taking calls since. Couples sit down together and play their own hands as opposed to the $10 game were only the guy might sit down and the woman would watch or go play slots. We have groups come up and play together, people teaching each other how to play and we have even had a marriage proposal on the game. The dealer pushed out the ring as a payoff.

In Krigman’s analysis of this game (April issue of BJI), he brings up the point that the quarter hand-fee per round for a $2 bettor increases the house edge to effectively 13.50%, and with a $40 bankroll, the player chance of surviving 100 (or 200) rounds of play slightly decreases compared to the same game without a hand fee. How do you counter the mathematical fact that a $2 bettor stands to theoretically lose more money per hour with a hand-fee game compared to a traditional game with no hand fee?

This is where I have my differences with Mr. Krigman. Granted we are on different sides of the table and I acknowledge that many people make their living critiquing the Blackjack offerings around the country but there is no comparison to be made with the traditional game. There is no comparable $2 game offered without some radical rule change like Blackjack paying even money or DD on 9, 10 and 11 only. While analysts throw around big numbers like 13.5% it is actually 13.5% of $2! People understand that the house makes a profit in the long run. We actually had a $40 buy-in win $700 just last week on one of these games. The fact is this game makes the same revenue as a $10 game and approximately as much as a $2 / $4 Texas Hold’em poker table in a day. You can wave the 13.5% advantage all you want but you need to see the player’s reaction to this offering prior to panning the idea…and I still think he should.

What do you say to a player who feels a casino that charges a fee on every hand just to play blackjack is screwing him?

Hasn’t happened…next question.

What is the future of the $2 hand-fee game at Resorts? Are there plans to open more tables?

We look forward to the next few months as the weather improves and think this is a great way to introduce customers to our property. Additional tables are a possibility for July and August based on demand. There is a lot of competition coming in the Mid Atlantic region this summer and we think offerings like lower limit BJ helps add value to a visit to Atlantic City.

Does Resorts have any plans to open a $5 minimum bet table with a quarter hand-fee?

No need to since the $5 bet is included in our current offering, note that this $2 - $20 game will NOT be increased when the casino gets busy, even on the 4th of July!

Any other comment you wish to make to the subscribers of BJI.

I understand that BJI is an experienced Blackjack player’s publication that gives the heads up on profitable and unprofitable playing conditions around the country. Heck I even read it to see if our conditions are accurately represented. But before a player can understand penetration, splits, DD and surrender options (and subscribe to your classes and magazine) they have to sit down and know what it feels like to play a live table game. It may be a distant memory for many of your readers but it is a challenge for a lot of others. I’ll get back on my side of the ropes for now…thanks for the opportunity to answer some questions…and good luck!

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