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NEWS FROM THE G2E

by John Grochowski

John Grochowski is a blackjack expert and a well-known and respected casino gambling columnist. His syndicated casino gambling column appears in the Denver Post, Casino City Times, and other newspapers and web sites. Grochowski has written six books on gambling including the "Answer Man" series of books (www.casinoanswerman.com). He offers one-minute gambling tips on radio station WLS-AM (890) and podcasts are available at http://www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069Send your question to Grochowski at casinoanswerman@casinoanswerman.com.

Note: The G2E is the casino industryís annual trade show held in Las Vegas. This show gives vendors of new games the opportunity to demonstrate their new inventions to casinos.

In the ebb and flow of the introduction of new blackjack games and side bets, this was one of the busier years at the annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E) at the Sands Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. Partly, itís because this was a busy blackjack year for Scientific Games, in its second expo with Shuffle Master under its corporate umbrella.

But the expo also featured a third blackjack twist from CRE8TV Games, which last year gave us High Hand Blackjack and the Suit íEm Up side bet. And this yearís expo, which ran Sept. 29-Oct. 2, brought the return of Joe Awada, the former World Series of Poker seven-card stud champion, who for many years brought table games innovations to the show. Awada had been out of action the last few years, but returned with a new blackjack bet at the Genesis Gaming booth.

Hereís a sample of blackjack variations that will be available to casino operators in the coming year.

Double Draw Blackjack (Genesis Gaming)

Awada has previously marketed a game called Double Draw Blackjack, but this is a new, simplified version. In addition to their regular blackjack bets, players may make a Double Draw side bet that must meet the table minimum. If youíre playing at a $10 table, then the Double Draw bet must be at least $10, just as the blackjack bet must be at least $10.

The Double Draw bet is a wager on whether or not the dealer will bust. One good part for the player, and something that makes this different from past dealer bust games, is that the bet is only in action if the dealer has to draw. If the dealerís first two cards make a standing hand of 17 to 21, the Double Draw bet is a push. Itís the dealer turning his hole card up plus taking another card that makes this a Double Draw.

One thing that makes Double Draw unique is that itís the first side bet with a double down opportunity. For example, if you have an 11 and the dealer has a 6, you might double down on both your blackjack hand and on the Double Draw.

Caribbean Blackjack (CRE8TV Games/Aces Up Gaming)

Hereís a novel idea Ė a game with a built-in toke for the dealer. When you win, so does the dealer.

The base game is blackjack, except you play two hands at once. As set up at G2E, the tables accommodate only four players, but since each is playing two hands, eight hands are in action, one more than at a full seven-player table for regular old 21.

Thereís an optional five-card bonus bet. It pays off on five-card poker hands consisting of the first two cards in each of your two blackjack hands, plus the dealerís up card. You push if you have a pair of 2s through 9s, and then get paid even only on higher pairs, 2-1 on two pair, 3-1 on three of a kind, 4-1 on straights, 7-1 on flushes, 25-1 on full houses, 50-1 on four of a kind, 150-1 on straight flushes and 250-1 on royal flushes.

If you bet $5 or more on the five-card bonus, an Action Bonus kicks in for both the player or dealer. In addition to the pay table return, youíll get an extra $25 for a full house, $50 for four of a kind, $100 on a straight flush and $250 on a royal. The dealerís Action Bonus is $5 on a full house, $10 on four of a kind, $20 on a straight flush, and $50 on a royal.

Free Bet Blackjack, (Scientific Games)

Already on casino floors in Las Vegas, Free Bet Blackjack lets you double down or split pairs without making extra wagers. You can split for free with any pairs except 10 values, and can resplit for free, too, if you get another card of the same denomination. Your double downs are free with any two-card hard totals of 9, 10 or 11.

Thereís a tradeoff, of course. Dealer 22s donít bust, they push any bets you have on action. Player blackjacks are paid before the dealer plays, so they still win, but your original bet and any splits or doubles just push.

(Note: See BJI 189 for more details on this game.)

Picture Perfect (Scientific Games)

In a six-card game, the object is to get more picture cards than the dealer. A special deck is used Ė Aces, 2s and 3s are removed and replaced with Jacks, Queens and Kings to yield a 52-card deck with 24 picture cards.

Players start with an ante and a Faces bet, and may also make an optional Picture Perfect bet. After you see your cards, you can either fold or stay in action with a Play bet equal to your ante. If the dealer doesnít qualify with two faces, at least King high, the ante pushes. If the dealer does qualify, then the player hand must have more picture cards than the dealerís hand to win.

A different wrinkle in this game is that the Play bet stays in action regardless of whether the dealer qualifies. If you beat the dealer, you win. To win the Faces wager, you must beat the dealer with four or more pictures. If you beat the dealer with three pictures, Faces pushes, and with two or fewer, Faces loses, regardless of hand outcome.

The Picture Perfect side bet pays off if you have three pictures of the same suit, or pairs or better of the same rank and suit. Three Queens of different suits would be a winner. So are two Queens of the same suit. But no matter what, when you open your hand, you want to see lots of faces staring back at you.

Zappit Blackjack (Scientific Games)

No doubt youíve suffered through a blackjack session with stiff hand after stiff hand, been dealt yet another 15, and felt like youíd just like to zap it. Thatís just what Zappit does. If youíre dealt a two-card 15, 16, 17 or 18, you can toss the hand and get two new cards from the shoe.

Obviously, youíre not always going to want to zap those 17s and 18s, but the chance to upgrade 15s and 16s is intriguing. There is a cost, of course. Just as in Free Bet, dealer 22s donít bust, they push any bets still in action.

Jackpot Party Blackjack (Scientific Games)

The mergers of slot machine giants Bally Technologies and WMS Gaming and table games leader Shuffle Master into Scientific Games is showing its influence in names of side bets on the tables. Last year, we saw a Blazing 7s progressive wager for blackjack, playing off Ballyís Blazing 7s slots. This time, itís Jackpot Party Blackjack, named for the popular WMS slots.

There are no gift boxes or party poopers here, as in the slot machine. The Jackpot Party side bet pays off whenever your hand is a 20, or includes at least one Jack of spades. Payoffs start at even money for a single Jack of spades, and rise to 600-1 for two Jacks of spades plus a dealer blackjack.

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