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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.

Casinos visited in this two-part report include:

Tunica: Gold Strike, Fitz, Tunica Roadhouse, Horseshoe, Hollywood, and Resorts

Biloxi: Beau Rivage, Hard Rock, Palace, Boomtown, Treasure Bay, and IP

Editorís Note: I recommend at least a 1 to 8-10 aggressive betting spread for card counters playing a six-deck game and at least a 1 to 4-5 spread in a double-deck game in order to get a healthy advantage. Some low-stakes counters, including Riverboat Flyer, prefer a more conservative betting spread. This decreases the bankroll swings but at the expense of a lower edge over the house.

Part 1 of this trip appeared in the October BJI.

The Beau Rivage (Biloxi) offers some attractive games with deep penetration. They had $25 single-deck games, dealt down to 0.4 decks. This looked too good to be true and it was. The Beau, like many other casinos, does not print the natural payoff on the table felt anymore. One key is the table limit sign that says something to the effect, "Players may not ask for even money on a blackjack". Since a blackjack pays only 6 to 5, even-money insurance payoff would be a losing bet for the house. They had $100 double deck games, dealt down to 0.3 decks, and six-deck games dealt down to one deck. Almost all the games I saw in Biloxi hit soft 17. I tried a $10, six-deck game. The penetration was excellent. Unfortunately, the table stayed full so the advantage was minimized. At one point, I had a 16 vs. a dealer 10 up. I asked, "Do you offer insurance". The dealer replied, "As a matter of fact, we do offer insurance". Over the next three days, I took insurance a number of times and never saw another player ever ask for it. I played four hours and came away ahead four units.

I started day 7 before breakfast, at a $10 six-deck game at the Beau Rivage. I had some early success in this session when I hit one of those hands that make or break you. I was dealt a pair of 7sí, against a dealer 6 up. Naturally, I split and wound up with four hands, including one double down, the highest of which was a 17. After drawing a lot of small cards, the count went up. The odds of the dealer busting were increasing. Unfortunately, she beat all my hands, with a three-card 18. Ten units lost on one hand. However, the count stayed high and I was able to make a slow comeback. I finished the session up 19 units.

This was only my second trip to Biloxi, so I am still just getting to know the BJ conditions. After breakfast, we went to the Palace Casino, which bills itself as, "The only non-smoking casino on the Gulf". The Palace was clean and spacious; the BJ tables had comfortable leather seats. I saw two- and six-deck games. The double-deck rules were: double on 9, 10 or 11, re-split aces, and double after split. All the games hit soft 17. I tried a six-deck game with similar rules, except you could double on any two-card hand. All of Biloxi seems to have good penetration. This game was cutting off one deck. My one-hour session was basically a wash ... I lost one unit.

We then tried the IP, where my wife wanted to play in a slots tournament. All the tables in the main casino limit mid-shoe entry to $100 maximum bets. The high-limit area has no mid-shoe entry. The rules mirrored the other Biloxi casinos: hit soft 17 and re-split aces. The single-deck game with a 6-5 payoff for a natural was not open. In fact, there were only a few blackjack tables open. I waited for a seat to open at a six-deck game. Penetration was at roughly one deck. I was able to spread 1 to 5 units without anyone taking notice. One shoe, with a high positive count, did me in. I lost the last four hands in a row betting three to five units a hand. My session ended down 13 units.

I missed a major blackjack development while playing at the IP. I only caught it after a player at the Beau mentioned it and I went back specifically to look for it. The IP has...

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