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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, June 2003, #41



Propokerdealer has been an advantage blackjack player since 1995. He started counting with a Level 1 system, was successful with it, and since 1996 has been using a Level 2 system. He is also a professional poker dealer that works in Tunica.

A great big southern style 'hello yall' to all advantage players out there planning on visiting Tunica, MS to play our beloved game of blackjack. My last report (issue #39, Blackjack Insider) focused on the Horseshoe Casino's playing conditions. This month I will focus on Ballyís Casino located within "hollerin" distance from the Horseshoe casino.

I do want to mention one piece of information about the current playing conditions at the Horseshoe. Skilled players use to be able to back count and jump in to any of the games there but not anymore. They have stopped all mid-shoe entry in their single and double deck games. However, mid-entry is still allowed in all six-deck shoe games.

As you know if you read my previous report, the Horseshoe casino has always been my favorite place to play in Tunica or anywhere else for that matter. For good reasons like easy comps, the best buffet anywhere, and the fact that I get no heat playing as long as I donít spread my bets too much when certain pit bosses (that know I count) are around. The playing conditions are really great at the Horseshoe. I guess I'm a creature of habit. So, for the above reasons I havenít ventured to other local casinos very much in the past. But just for you (and also for me), I decided it was time to do a little venturing.

For some reason I had never set foot in Ballyís casino until recently. I kept telling myself that I needed to check this place out. But between work and playing at the Horseshoe, I just never made it there. But recently there was an entertainer performing at Ballyís that I wanted to see, and since it was a free show I decided to go. It was a night out with the wife for some free entertainment, free food, and maybe a little blackjack.

After enjoying the show, we wandered over to the blackjack tables and I began studying the action on the tables. It was Saturday night and the tables were not crowded like they are at some of the bigger casinos in the area. And to my surprise most of the table minimums were $5.00 with plenty of empty seats.

Ballyís has about 25 blackjack tables offering single, double, and six deck shoe games. There was also a $3.00 shoe game with a continuous shuffle machine but this is definitely not a playable game.. We grabbed two seats next to each other on a double deck game and my wife and I bought in for $50.00 each. The minimum bet was $5.00 and the maximum bet allowed was $200.00.

I count very well using a two-level system but the wife has not been playing very long and looks to me for help on some hands. She carries a little cheat card, the one with all the basic strategy moves on it. I really canít do my best work when Iím with her so this was just a trip to check out the conditions as far as I was concerned. It gets really tough at times keeping up with the count plus a side count of the aces plus watching everything going on at the table so as not to miss a card someone receives or their cards being gathered up by the dealer when they bust out and throw them in plus helping my wife on her hand plus deciding the course to take with my own hand. It can really be a little overwhelming at times.

We settled into our seats and waited for the shuffle up before playing our first hands. The first thing I noticed was the fact that after the dealer shuffled and a player cut the cards, no cut card was inserted into the decks for a reference for the dealer to shuffle up. Now this can be good or bad depending on the dealer. They can go a little deeper into the decks or they can shuffle up on you also. It is definitely something Iím going to check out with a few dealers in the future just to see if I can get any of them to go a little deeper for me. But this dealer was not very friendly and was not giving very good penetration before shuffling (about 50% was about it). I got lucky and won a few hands when the count was plus. I was spreading $5 to $20 on my bets depending on the count. I was up about $100 pretty quick and the wife was holding her own.

The cocktail waitress came by, we ordered drinks (coke for me, and a beer for the wife) and I continued to study the table as best I could. The relief dealer took over and was a little friendlier but the cards were not. The count jumped to +5 after the first dealt hand so I decided to push out $30. I wanted to test the waters a little and see if anyone was paying attention to my bet increase from $5 to $30. In retrospect I shouldnít have been so bold because, you guessed it, the dealer got a blackjack on the high count. Worse, the count continued to stay positive but I lost every hand up to the reshuffle.

The next round started like the last one with the count going positive after the first hand and staying very positive throughout. But the dealer kept getting all the good cards. In fact I never won a hand in two reshuffles so there went my winnings and my buy in. The wife had a few chips left so I let her play as I walked around watching the action on the other tables. Soon my wife lost her chips I she joined me scouting tables. We finally deciding to try out the free buffet they gave us just for signing up for their playerís card. We found that the buffet was very small, not a very big variety, and the desserts had been sitting out way too long and were dried out. I was not impressed by the buffet at all. I guess Iím just spoiled by some of the other better buffets in the area. But, it was free. Right, it cost me a hundred bucks!

We decided to call it a night and head for home. But I knew I had to come back by myself. The fact that there were so many $5 tables and not crowded on a Saturday night indicates there could be some good games during the off nights when there would be even less people there.

So on my next visit to Ballyís I went alone. It was a weeknight but about the same number of players seemed to be at the tables (I intend to go again in the wee hours of the morning to check it out). Of course I found fewer tables open during the week then on the weekend. I scouted the tables and watched the action making mental notes before finally settling in to a single deck table with two other players. I bought in for $50 again and started with a $5 bet (I spread from $5 to $20 depending on the count). We were getting only 2 hands between shuffles with 3 players but I was catching some good hands and winning. When the count is plus and I increase my bet I also make a dollar bet for the dealer. This has worked small miracles for me in the past because itís good to have the dealers on your side. That small bet goes a long way with them. They really appreciate it and they are pulling for you to win as much as you are. And if they recognize you as a counter, they are less likely to go running to the 'suits' telling them they think you are counting. But, if they think you are counting and you are not tipping or betting for them (because they rely on tips for their income, not even making minimum wage for their jobs) they might want to score a few points with the boss and tip them off to watch you.

This brings me to another important point I want to mention while it is on my mind. All the 'suits' in the pit arenít necessarily bosses. Most of them are dealers being used as dual rate employees. And most donít have the skills to recognize a counter. I have talked with many of them; some are pretty sharp but a lot are not. Also, casino management spreads them out pretty thin at times. It is something to keep in mind if you can find out if the one supervising your table happens to be a dealer doing the dual rate job.

After playing about 30 minutes, two more players joined the game. Thatís when I noticed that we were only getting one hand and then a shuffle. No advantage here so I colored up my $120 ($70 profit in 30 minutes) and walked around scouting other tables before calling it a night.

I definitely intend to go back to Ballyís when itís less crowded.

Here are the rules that I found on their games. For single deck there was h17 and no double after splitting but in double deck games you were allowed to double down after splits (also h17). Splits are allowed up to four times on any cards on any game except aces on a single deck game could only be split once. And of course you get only one card per split ace.

Mid-shoe entry is allowed on all games except a new version of blackjack they call 'Single 21'. This is a single deck blackjack game with supposedly very liberal player options. Here are the basics. The game is played with all cards face up instead of handheld. Players can double down on any number of cards, surrender anytime, unless the dealer has blackjack. You can even surrender after hitting and doubling down, split up to 4 times, split after hitting whenever 2 same value cards are touching and you can split the second one off and start a new hand. You can even split after doubling down but not to prevent busting. Player blackjacks always win. Suited blackjacks pay 3 to 2 but unsuited pay even money. If a player receives six cards without busting itís an automatic winner. Since I donít know the house edge in the game, I didnít play it, just watched a little. Has anyone see or heard of this game being played elsewhere? Has anyone computed the house edge? If so let me know.

Thatís it for this month. I will check out the playing conditions at another local casino and report back next month. Iíll also report on anything else I might find at Ballyís including the results of my playing sessions there.

I appreciate your feedback or any questions you might have. Also if you have any tips for Tunica blackjack players send them to me c/o Until next time, many blackjacks and double downs catching tens to you.



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