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TRIP REPORT: LAWRENCEBURG, OHIO CASINOS

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 five 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 article is a first in a series of articles on the history of blackjack games in Kansas City from JPBs playing experience.

Casinos visited:

Rising Star (Rising Star, IN)

Hollywood (Lawrenceburg, OH)

(See the end of the report for a list of abbreviations.)

Introduction

On a recent trip through Cincinnati, Ohio, I had the opportunity to visit two of the neighboring casinos in Lawrenceburg, Ohio. This was my first trip to the area in many years. To an outsider like me, the geography is confusing. Although I was only traveling short distances, I found myself crossing back and forth between Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Although there were some casinos in several of the surrounding areas, such as in Cincinnati, I decided to stick to the Hollywood Casino in Lawrenceburg, Ohio and the Rising Star Casino located nearby in Rising Star, Indiana (about 10 miles away).

Rising Star Casino

This casino was a real riverboat like some of the casinos in Missouri and Iowa I visited in 1990's. There was a larger dockside facility with restaurants and shops, but the actual casino was a true three-story riverboat. Blackjack tables were located in a small room on the second floor. As far as I could determine, the Rising Star is an independent casino not connected to one of the big corporations (like Caesars or MGM). As such, I was hopeful that I would have a clean slate. I debated whether I should obtain a player's card and was optimistic that using a player's card would not trigger any alarms. And if I did play for a decent stretch of time at high stakes, I might receive some decent comps or cash coupons. However, I eventually decided to just play anonymously (even though the likelihood of returning in the next year was fairly low based on the mediocre conditions I observed).

There were only two blackjack tables open when I visited with these rules:

  • 6 deck with H17 DAS and RSA.
  • 2 deck with H17 DAS D9-11 and no RSA.
  • I was disappointed on multiple fronts. Current Blackjack News (CBJN) had indicated there were tables with S17 and LSR. Penetration was not as good as indicated in CBJN. Penetration on the six-deck game was about 4.2 out of 6.0 decks. Given the table was full, I passed on playing this game. Conditions at the two-deck game were not much better, with penetration of about 50%. At least the table was not crowded.

    Despite the poor penetration, I had an eventful hour or so of play. Especially, with double deck, you learn fairly quickly there are two categories of variations in luck:

  • Variation in running count over your playing time
  • Favorability of cards
  • The first category may not be intuitive, but any card counter that plays double-deck games has experienced round after round with poor running counts. I have played as long as two hours without ever getting a count above plus one. A good variation is when there are many opportunities where the running count is positive and ideally many times that the positive count is greater than +5. Penetration is a big determinant in this variation but the percentage of positive running counts will still vary. Being "lucky in the first category" does not guarantee a winning session. In fact, a player's biggest loss will occur when these runs with lots of plus counts occur. On the other hand, if you couple a positive variation in running counts with favorable cards (player blackjacks and 21s), this is when you are most likely going to get the big wins.

    On my visit to Rising Star, I was amazed at how many big positive counts I was seeing despite the mediocre penetration. I went through about 8-10 shuffles, and saw big positive counts on nearly every one. The variation was so significant that I started wondering if some high cards were missing from the decks (an excess of low cards will cause positive counts). But finally after this unusual run, the count was negative over two consecutive shoes, and I decided this must have just been a very unique run of cards.

    With the positive variation in running count, I was able to bet $100 off the top of the shoe and keep betting black almost my entire session. I had some decent luck to combine with the favorable running counts - enough that the pit bosses were on the phone - and I suspect my play was raising red flags.

    Fifty percent penetration with poor rules at DD is not a good game. Once I saw some negative counts, I decided to cash out and call it quits.

    Hollywood Casino

    Hollywood is located in Lawrenceburg on the Ohio River. Hollywood is very large compared to Rising Star. On the main pit there were about 10 tables of sin-and eight-deck games. At least half of the tables used Continuous Shuffle Machine (CSM). The remaining six- deck games appeared to be: H17, DAS, RSA, with penetration of about 4.0 out of 6.0 decks. The rules and penetration were bad enough, but to top it off, the tables always had at least five other players when I walked by. The main blackjack pit was the card counter's definition of "not playable".

    There was a high-limit pit where the table minimums were $50 and $100. The rules were slightly better but penetration was not good:

  • 6 deck, S17, DAS, RSA
  • 2 deck with S17 D9-11 and no DAS.
  • Penetration on the six-deck game was mediocre, at about 4.0-4.4 out of 6 decks. Penetration on the two-deck game was 50% at best, with one dealer closer to 40-45%.

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