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by "Reload" Joe Freda

Joe Freda has been an avid gambler and writer for the past two decades, covering casino and sports wagering. His efforts include several years of articles at Sportsbook Review and Don Best Sports, while enjoying trips for blackjack and poker throughout North America and the Caribbean. Freda can be reached at or through Twitter (@ReloadSports).

After some sour times with the blackjack tables in Connecticut and Rhode Island, I decided in June to head north for a new experience. Oxford Casino in Maine jumped out as just the right place to regroup, and my weekends at the property helped fill my wallet like a stuffed lobster.

Background on the Oxford Casino (777 Casino Way)

Oxford is located less than 20 miles from the Maine Turnpike (I-95), bordering Poland Spring and reachable in under one hour's drive from the Portland area. The property has yet to add any lodging, but you have your choice of nearby inns featuring their share of New England hospitality.

Upon entering the small casino, I quickly picked up on its share of unique touches. A self-service Douwe Egberts coffee machine is available for complimentary use by guests, along with a variety of soft drinks. The facility is entirely non-smoking, and only individuals 21 years old and over can enter any part of it.

Oxford Casino is owned by Churchill Downs; unfortunately, this did not mean free mint juleps for everyone. Local laws prevent alcoholic drinks from being given away; however, the usual variety can be purchased from the lovely waitresses making the rounds.

The main casino floor offers blackjack, Spanish 21, craps, roulette, mini-baccarat, and a handful of other table games. Minimums ranged from $10-25 at most spots, while craps stayed at $5 until a full crowd gathered. A high-limit area for blackjack was tucked away, with a pair of $50 minimum tables and the maximums set at $1500.

Slots are plentiful and you can obtain some free credits by joining the Oxford Player Rewards Club. I won $15 as part of the "New Member Game," with the initial reward ranging up to $1000. Other promotions included a variety of hourly cash drawings and occasional giveaways.

All blackjack tables in the casino use eight decks and have the same rules, regardless of the minimum bet: dealers hit the soft 17, splitting is allowed up to four hands, doubling down is permitted on any two initial cards, and surrender is not allowed. The tables all have seven spots and you may play up to three initial hands. Mid-shoe entry is freely allowed, except for the high-limit room.

Penetration generally reached 6.5 decks out of 8, and side bets such as the "21+3" and "In Between" were popular with guests on several tables. As the current dealing shoe was being used another was being auto-shuffled off line, resulting in a quick changeover.

My First Trip

My first visit to the property was a day trip, looking to kill a few hours before heading out to Old Orchard Beach's "Mr. Goodbar" for some nightlife. I played two hands of blackjack on the main floor, with bets ranging from $50-200 on each based on the count. The first hour was promising, but I quickly found myself down.

As the casino became crowded, the tables became packed but it was helping me out. My choices to take insurance lucked out on four straight occasions, preventing some bigger bets from being lost. Eventually, the final two shoes of my session sent me on the plus side and I bailed out with a profit,

I asked the Pit Manager for a dinner comp and was given a $25 comp to the Oxford Grill Restaurant. Although a point system exists for complimentary's in this restaurant, they still have to be requested and approved by the pit crew in more of an old-fashioned way.

My choice for dinner was the chicken and broccoli Alfredo, with some shrimp added for an extra six dollars. While eating, I noticed a sign promoting a special Father's Day buffet for the following weekend and it got my wheels turning about coming back again.

Back to Oxford

In my return visit, I decided to stay overnight and make more of a weekend out of the trip. The first day started as well as expected, winning money in most of the first six shoes. I was about to leave but an empty table in the high-limit room was calling out to me.

Since I was ahead of the game, I figured going heads-up and mixing in some higher wagers (based on the count) was worth a shot...

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