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by Riverboat Flyer

Riverboat Flyer is a low-stakes blackjack player, who usually uses a small bet spread to reduce sort-term risk while taking advantage of casino comps. 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 Hi-Op, High Low, and currently the Half-Count system.

This trip occurred in June 2013. Casinos visited include:


Gold Strike


Beau Rivage
Treasure Bay

Mississippi in June

The time had come for another eight-day trip, first to Tunica, then Biloxi, and then back to Tunica. In Tunica, all the casinos I played in had the same blackjack rules: dealer hits soft 17, split three times, double after split, and double any two cards. Most casinos allow you to re-split aces. Surrender was not offered.

Gold Strike

The trip started at the Gold Strike casino in Tunica. I was surprised to find a $5 table available on a Saturday evening. I sat down at a six-deck, shoe-dealt game. For four hours, I battled the dealer, spreading 1 to 5 units. In the long run, I just could not overcome the numerous dealer hands of 20 and 21 that she was getting. Bottom line: I dropped 39 units before calling it a night. This was certainly not the start I was hoping for on this trip.

Early next morning, I sat down at an empty six-deck game. Unfortunately, the table did not stay empty for long. I had a real friendly dealer, who was also very slow. So slow, in fact, that I had a difficult time keeping the count because he was talking to me non-stop. On this session, I hit some blackjacks and double downs. After 1.5 hours, I broke for breakfast, up 33 units.

My wife and I ate at the remodeled Gold Strike buffet. The restaurant looked nice; however, the food was so-so. In fact, I thought the prior buffet had better food.


The next stop was the Hollywood casino. I like Hollywood, but Iíve had a difficult time winning there lately. I played for two hours at a six-deck game and dropped 40 units, spreading 1 to 4 units. I never did get any real high counts, despite a generous penetration of one deck or less. The cards just were not falling my way. (On a Saturday afternoon, only four 21 tables were open in the main casino.)


The Fitz casino was up next. I usually get real friendly dealers and generous cuts at the Fitz. This time I got two dealers who just dealt the cards as fast as they could, with no personalities. I guess it was inevitable that these unfriendly dealers would eventually show up at the Fitz, once they dropped their policy of dealers keeping their own tokes. As often happens, a winning or losing session came down to one hand. With three units bet, I was dealt a pair of 7s, against a dealer two up card. I split the sevens and drew a third seven, which I split again. Two of the hands gave me double down opportunities. When it was over, I had a double down 21, a double down 18, and a 17. With the double down 21, I figured the worst that would happen, would be a loss of one unit. The dealer flipped over a ten in the hole and hit with another face card for a three-card 22. I won fifteen units on this one hand and I ended the session with a 5-unit win.


I tried the Horseshoe casino next. On a Saturday night, there were plenty of 21 tables open. With only five player spots per table, I always feel less crowded and more comfortable at their tables. Penetration was at one deck or less. I was at a table of all novice players, who were having fun, while losing their bankrolls. The dealer was giving them blackjack lessons and using my play as examples of how they should be playing. Unfortunately, my doubles were not working, and I dropped eight units in one hour. We returned to Gold Strike.

Gold Strike

Back at the Gold Strike, I was sandwiched in with six other players at a six-deck game. The crowded table and smoke bothered me, I quit after one hour, down 17 units. In the morning, I hit the shoe games at the Gold Strike again. This time the cards fell my way, and in one hour, I won 18 units.

It was now time to head to Biloxi. The drive took seven hours from Tunica. For about 45 minutes, I drove through heavy rain. The first stop was the Beau Rivage.

Beau Rivage

The dealers at the Beau hit soft 17. They also have single-deck games, with restrictive rules and 6 to 5 natural payoffs. Two things I like about the Beau are that they have six player spots per table and they offer surrender. I doubt if 1% of their players ever use the surrender option, but it is there if you are savvy enough to use it. Table limits are $10 to $10,000. Except for surrender, the rules are identical to most of the Biloxi casinos: hit soft 17, double after split, split three times, including aces.

My first session at the Beau netted me a 44-unit win in 1.5 hours. Fortunately, the cards were falling my way when the count shot up and I had large bets out. Penetration was at 1 to 1.5 decks on a six-deck game.

My second session at Beau started well. I was up around 35 units after 1.5 hours. Then the night shift dealers showed up. I got a young Vietnamese dealer, who dealt very fast. At the same time, the table filled up. My bankroll started going down and I when I finally quit, I ended up 10 units and retired for the night

An early morning session at the Beau started well but then the dealer got hot and won 7 or 8 hands in a row. I finished down 32 units when I broke for breakfast. Penetration was around Ĺ deck, at a six-deck game. The cards were up and down. The Beau buffet is always busy and crowded; therefore, we opted for a sit down breakfast at the Terrace café. They have a limited breakfast menu with excellent food.

Treasure Bay

The next stop was Treasure Bay, which has the best blackjack rules in Biloxi. They stand on soft 17, you can re-split pairs (including aces) three times, and double after split. However, they limit mid-shoe entry bets to $100. Penetration was very good at about one deck on the six-deck games. They also offer double-deck games with standard rules, and single-deck games with 6 to 5 natural payoffs.

In two hours at a six-deck game, I never had more than two other players at the table. The first dealer liked my play and proceeded to tell me that he and I were the only two people in southern Mississippi that knew the proper play for a deuce against a dealerís 3 up card. He noticed all my "unusual," correct basic strategy decisions. I was concerned that when I varied strategy based on the count that he would spot me for a counter. Fortunately, he was the relief dealer and he dealt for only 15 minutes. I spread 1 to 5 units and netted a 75-unit win. I could have kept playing but I wanted to visit other casinos and did not want to ruin a good thing, so I moved on.


Margaritaville was up next. They offered the more standard Biloxi rules: double any two cards, split pairs up to three times, and double after split. They also allowed you to re-split aces. In addition, they just started dealing blackjack at two tables outside and next to the gulf coast on weekends. There were only three tables open, a double-deck and two, six-deck games. I wanted to play double deck, but the tables already had four players and I knew that there would not be many hands dealt between shuffles. There was only one seat at a six-deck game, which I took; however, I didnít stay long at that table. The dealer was lightning fast and then proceeded to cut off more than two decks after the shuffle. I waited for a seat at the other table with a slower dealer and cut down to 1.5 decks.

To me, Margaritaville seemed like a grind joint. An example: I had a $17.50 bet out and hit a blackjack. The dealer broke the bet down and paid me $22.50 for the $15 (which was correct) and $3.50 for the $2.50 pink chip. I pointed out to her that she short-changed me as $3.50 was not 1.5 times $2.50. She really did not understand the math and called the floor person over. The floor person understood the math and said, "That how we do it." Since it was only a quarter, I let it go.

When I asked for a food comp, I was told the floor people no longer were authorized to issue comps and I should swipe my card in a kiosk. However, the kiosk I was directed to did not work for comps. The place just doesnít have their act together. I netted a five-unit win in 1.5 hours, spreading 1 to 4 units.


Next, it was back to the Beau. Things were going very well when I ran into one of those hands that all blackjack players have nightmares over. I had six units bet and was dealt two 9s against a dealer 2 up card. I split the 9s and got an ace on the first 9. I was then dealt another 9 and split again. Next came a 10 and then a 7. I was sitting on a 20, 19, and 17 against a dealer deuce. The dealer turned over a 10 and then a 9 for a three-card 21. Eighteen units lost in one hand. After three hours, I quit down one unit.


The first stop the next day was the IP. The IP is always clean and bright. Standard Biloxi rues were once again in effect, including hitting soft 17 throughout the casino and allowing the re-splitting of aces. I sat down at a six-deck game. The count went up right away. Spreading 1 to 7 units, I won 38 units from four different dealers. For some unknown reason, the dealers at my table kept changing every 15 minutes, which made it easier for me to rat-hole chips. I won several large bets in a row to lock in my win. After 2 hours, we headed out to our next stop, the Palace casino.


The Palace bills itself as the only non-smoking casino in the Gulf. The casino is clean and refreshing. There is plenty of room between the tables and slots. The typical Biloxi rules were in effect here: hit soft 17, re-split pairs (including aces up to three times), and double any two cards. They offered six- and double-deck games.

I started on a six-deck game and had my worse session of the year...

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