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ST. LOUIS TRIP REPORT

By JPB

JPB has been playing blackjack and counting cards part-time since 1996. He plays throughout the country but primarily in Missouri. He has been a Green Chip member of BJ21.com for four years and one-time winner of the Post-of-the-Month. JPB is a professional engineer with three engineering degrees and works as a consulting engineer.

This trip occurred in December 2013. Casinos visited include:

Argosy

Ameristar

Hollywood

Over the past few months, I have made several trips to St. Louis to visit one or more of the six area casinos that offer blackjack. St. Louis is the third closest "large" casino market to me, and so I have made quite a few visits there over the years. The good news is that I found one casino that offers one of the best double-deck blackjack games for an advantage player of any casino in the country. The bad news is that as I have returned, I have found the countermeasures (reduced penetration and/or preferential shuffle) to be taken sooner and sooner each time. The playing conditions for this casino, as well as other St. Louis casinos, are summarized below.

St. Louis Logistics

The logistics of the St. Louis casinos is not particularly amenable to someone trying to hop around. Hollywood and Ameristar are fairly close together (within five miles) on the west side of the metropolitan area, and Casino Queen and Lumiere are also within about 5 miles of each other but they are a good 40+ miles from Ameristar. In addition, the Casino Queen and Lumiere casinos are located in areas that appear to be somewhat lacking in safety. Argosy/Alton Belle is not particularly close to any of the other casinos and it is located about 20 miles north of downtown St. Louis. River City is also off on its own about 15 miles south of downtown St. Louis.

Argosy

This casino was formerly called Alton Belle and it used to be a decent place to play six-deck games. The rules have never been good (H17, DAS, RSA, no surrender), but I remember visiting there they had as many as eight blackjack tables open. Penetration was decent, and with enough tables to hop around, it was a decent place to play.

Now, however, this casino is now part of the Hollywood brand. The conditions I observed on my most recent visit were:

  • Only six deck
  • H17, DAS, RSA for a house advantage of 0.56%
  • Penetration about 4.2/6.0 decks dealt out.
  • Table Minimum $5.00 or $10.00
  • Table Maximum $500.

These are bad conditions, but compounding them was the fact that even during weekday prime time around 9:00 PM, there were only two blackjack tables open.

In summary, if you are an advantage player, skip Argosy. It is just not worth the drive.

Ameristar in Saint Charles

When I visited, there were two double-deck tables open in the high-limit room and several more closed tabled so I assume there would be more double-deck games open during peak periods. The conditions I observed were:

Double-deck

  • H17, DAS, no RSA for a house advantage of 0.40%
  • Penetration ranging from 70-80% (One dealer was a consistent 80% penetration)
  • Table minimum $25
  • Table maximum $2000

Six-deck

  • H17, DAS, RSA for a house advantage of 0.56%
  • Penetration about 4.6-4.9 decks dealt out
  • Table minimum $25 in high limit (lower in main pit)
  • Table maximum $ 2000 in high limit (lower in main pit)

The double-deck game is...

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