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by Riverboat Flyer

Riverboat Flyer is a low-stakes blackjack player. He plays the southern Ohio riverboats along with frequent trips to Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica, and occasionally Lake Tahoe. He has been counting cards for over ten years, using the Hi-Op, High Low, and currently the half-count system.

My wife is a big Wayne Brady fan and he was scheduled to appear at the Gold Strike casino (Tunica) in September. Coincidentally, it was also time for us to leave our home base in the Midwest and take a trip to Mississippi. We planned our trip for September but were concerned that Hurricane Irma may be affecting this area during our trip. Thankfully it didn't.


I'll begin this report with the Tunica casinos. In general, they are on the decline. The Grand (Harrah's) and Isle of Capri have closed along with the outlet mall. You can see the effect of fewer tourists all over town. Almost all the blackjack games in Tunica have the same rules: dealers hit soft 17; re-split three times (including aces); double after splitting is allowed; and you can double down on any two cards.

GOLD STRIKE (100 Casino Center Dr.)

My first stop was the Gold Strike casino. When Wayne Brady stepped on the stage, you felt like you were at a taping of "Whose line is it anyway." He brought great energy to the stage and interacted with the audience very well. It is easy to see why he is so popular.

My play at the Gold Strike was unremarkable; however, my fellow players were colorful.

At my first session, a player at first base caught my attention right off the bat. I try to ignore the bizarre plays of other players and concentrate on playing my hands correctly. As soon as I sat down, I observed him standing on 13 against a dealer 7 up card. Of course I have seen this poor percentage play many times before, but not too often from players betting $100 a hand. A few hands later he stood on a 12 against a dealer ace up, again with a black chip wagered. It turned out he had a reason for these bizarre plays. He was playing a "dealer bust" side bet called "Lucky Stiff." If you stayed on a stiff hand and the dealer busted, you would win at 5 to 1 payoff odds on the side bet, which is why he never hit a stiff. I usually get a laugh out of the weird side bets that casinos come up with. It blows my mind that someone would always stay on a 12 against a dealer Ace up and think that he has a chance of coming out a winner in the long run making side bets.

Side bets rule in Tunica. On one shoe, a lady managed to put $600 in chips in her purse at a $5 minimum table. All of it came from betting on...

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