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LAS VEGAS BLACKJACK REPORT: Excalibur and NY-NY Casinos by KC Brooks

I have been addicted to blackjack ever since reading Revere’s "Playing Blackjack as a Business" when I was 15. The art of blackjack is a lifetime endeavor. I went through the learning process backwards, learning Revere’s Advanced Point Count first. I found out early that the actual count system is only a small piece of the puzzle. Presently, I travel "my" Devils Triangle (Reno, Wendover, Vegas}, playing mainly single- and double-deck games. Hi Lo is my choice of strategies and "Professional Blackjack" by Wong is my bible. I worship a large spread, and have been known to wong everywhere I go. Thank God I haven’t had to register as a wonger yet, but I am sure it is not too far off. I also help fellow AP Nick teach card counting at . 

This month, I continue my review of casinos located at the south end of the Strip on or near Tropicana Ave. The two under the microscope this month are Excalibur and New York New York casinos, both MGM properties.

EXCALIBUR (3850 Las Vegas Blvd. South at intersection at Tropicana Ave.)

The Excalibur, also known as the "Castle," is connected to New York New York casino via an overhead walkway and a monorail. Like most of the big casinos, Excalibur offers the usual table games: Blackjack, Craps, Roulette, Pai Gow Poker, Big Six, Three-Card Poker, 1Crazy 4 Poker, Texas Hold-em Bonus, and Let-It-Ride. In addition, on the premise is a Race and Sports book, where you can wager on all the major horseracing tracks, as well as your favorite sports teams. Greyhound wagering is also available (i.e., dogs not the busses). A full-service keno lounge is located in the Race and Sports Book.

The Excalibur has a ten-table, smoke-free Poker Room offering a variety of games, including Texas Hold’em, Omaha, and Seven-Card Stud.

The food scene includes the Zagat award winning Steakhouse at Camelot, Buca di Beppo Italian restaurant served family-style, Dicks Last Resort, Baja Fresh, and not to forget the Excalibur buffet. The Castle Walk Food Court offers a variety of fast food options.

Entering the Excalibur on the Tropicana side, I was greeted by gorgeous girls handing out beads. I passed on the necklaces and headed straight to the gaming pits. To my right was the party pit area, complete with stage and eight blackjack tables, all equipped with continuous shuffle machines, and that nasty 6:5 blackjack pay-out posted on a sign (not a good first impression).

After scanning most of the pit areas, things did not look good as far as blackjack goes. The majority of tables (over twenty) used continuous shuffle machines, and to make matters worse, paid 6:5 for naturals (21). The house edge in those games is 1.99% (ouch!). I was surprised at all the 6:5 games. I asked a dealer if there were any 3:2 games, and was told the pit at the far right had "those games."

That pit had one double-deck game that paid 3:2 and the cards were dealt from a shoe. The dealer hit soft seventeen, you can double after splitting, you cannot re-split aces, and there is no mid-entry. I was there on a weekend so the minimum bet was $25; weekdays, I believe, it goes down to $10. Maximum bet is $1000. The house edge is 0.40% and penetration was 65-70 % dealt, about the only positive.

There were four tables of six-deck shoe games that paid 3:2, but two tables used continuous shuffle machines. The other two had these rules: dealer hits soft seventeen, $10-$1000 table limits, and you could double after splitting. Again, no re-splitting aces and mid-entry was limited to a $500 max bet. The house advantage is slightly over 0.6% and the penetration was surprisingly good at a little over five decks dealt.

Rounding out the blackjack action are four tables of eight-deck games with the same rules and limits as the six-deck games. Three of the tables paid 6:5 for blackjacks. There is one table of Blackjack Switch that used a continuous shuffle machine.

MGM should really be ashamed of...

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