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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, Jan. 2004, #48


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.


Itís the holiday season and that means itís time for my year-end blackjack sojourn to Tunica, Mississippi. This year Iím up slightly. Coincidentally Iím playing much less at the southern Indiana riverboats close to my home because the casinos are crowded and have poor penetration. Instead Iím spending more time at places like Tunica that offer conditions more favorable to card counters like single and double deck games, less crowded tables and generally more favorable rules. Before you start selling your stock in Tunica area casinos, let me report that there are so many poor blackjack players in Tunica that it is difficult to imagine any well-run casino not making money here.

There are four of on this trip including Louie our resident comedian and my blackjack-playing buddy. I use the half count while Louie favors the KO count. After a long drive we stop at The Grand Casino. After 1-Ĺ hours of double deck, Iím up $117 spreading my bets from $10 to $30. It was one of those sessions where my doubles seemed to work out well and the blackjacks came when I had my high bets out. As is usually the case in Tunica, a dinner comp for two was easy to come by.

After dinner I head back to the same $10 double deck table for more blackjack. I am eking out a small win when Louie comes over to give me an update on his play. It seems he was down $1,400 playing at a $25 double deck table. The pit boss then raised the minimum to $50 and Louie hung in there to pull out a $1,700 win for a net $300 profit. Spreading from $50 to $200 did not seem to raise any concerns in the high roller pit.

Day two started at the Grand at a $10 double deck game. Penetration at the Grand was fairly consistent at a mediocre one deck. My dealer was friendly and pulling for the players. Little did I realize that Norma did not know how to bust. She kept pulling 5ís to fifteens and sixteens wiping out just about everybody at the table. Unfortunately I knew that I had the long-term advantage in this game and that it was only a matter of time before the cards would change. I finally discovered that it would take more time than I had. The session ended with a $140 loss.

A short trip to Harrahís brought some outstanding conditions. I started at a six-deck shoe game, which was dealt down to one deck. I then switched to a double deck game dealt down to half deck. At one point Louie came over to announce that he had just lost 16 hands in a row. I was just doubling a 10 against a dealer 4. The dealer turned over a 7 in the hole and proceeded to give himself a 10 for a 21. I lost the hand and blamed Louie for my loss. I told him he couldnít be satisfied with loosing 16 hands in a row; he had to bring his bad luck over to my table to make it 17 hands in a row. Louie replied, "I thought you didnít believe in luck, mister random number generator". I explained that my play had nothing to do with luck, but that his bad luck was legendary and would he please take it back to the other table. Unfortunately I could not win at either game and dropped another $161 before walking over to Hollywood.

At Hollywood I sat at a $10 double deck game spreading from $10 to $30. After an hour I was down $10 and our group took a break for dinner. I was able to get two Hollywood buffet comps after playing only about 15 minutes.

We headed back to the Grand where I sat down at a $10 double deck game. Finally the cards started turning my way. It seemed that my double downs were working out and my blackjacks came when I had larger bets out. One ploppy did amuse me. She had a fit when the guy at third base spread to two hands and the dealer wound up with an Ace up. She lost the hand when she stayed on a 15. Of course in her mind staying on a 15 had nothing to do with her loss. It was the guy at third base that screwed up the table.

Day three started with another double deck session at the Grand. I was down around $200 early but hang in long enough to go up $39 for the session, spreading from $10 to $30. Penetration at the Grand double deck games continues to be poor.

A short trip to Fitzgeralds brings the best blackjack conditions I have encountered in several years. At Fitzgeralds dealers keep their own tokes and they are famous for good penetration and friendly dealers. Two different dealers cut off about 22 cards on a double deck game so when you finally get a good count, it last for several hands. After 1 1/2 hours I am up $192 spreading from $5 to $30 dollars. Bet spreads at the $5 tables do not seem to bring any concern from the pit and the dealers are definitely pulling for the players. The only problem is finding a seat at these popular 21 games.

After a very pleasant comped dinner, itís back to the Grand double deck game. As usual comps throughout Tunica are easy to get even by lower level bettors. Of course it helps that my wife is a slots player and the casinos will do just about anything to entice her to play. The evening turns out to be uneventful. Bouncing up and down at a full table I give up after 3 Ĺ hours, down $100.

In the morning I once again take on "no bust" Norma at the double deck table. She must have had a crash course in busting last night, because today she is busting and the cards are finally going my way. I win $240 spreading from $10 to $30. Once again the Grand cut off 1 deck on the double deck game.

A short session at Ballyís brings a $26 win and then it is back to Fitzgeraldís for some good playing conditions. Another dealer is cutting down to Ĺ deck and I win $110 in 2 hours spreading from $5 to $30. A short session at the Gold Strike brings a $31 win at their six-deck shoe game. After taking in a show, we head back to the Grand.

Louie and I try a $10 double deck game. Our dealer is hot and keeps drawing 20ís. Louie gets mad and storms off, after which the dealer bust 3 hands in a row. I call Louie on his cell phone to give him the good news that without him at the table the dealer is busting. He canít decide weather to throw his cell phone at me from across the casino or laugh. The reprieve is short lived as the dealer pulls 2 naturals in a row on the first two hands of the next shuffle, one of them pushing my natural. She follows that with 2 more naturals on the next shuffle, one with a true count of Ė5. I decide to try another table. Louie finds me a few minutes later and mentions that I seem to be at another table. I am forced to admit that Louie wasnít the problem after all; it seems the dealer was just hot. I leave shortly thereafter with a $204 loss.

Our last day starts with an $84 loss at a double deck game at the Grand. As is common in loosing sessions at one point I was up around $100 before a combination of bad cards with a high count did me in. To add insult to injury the pit boss tells me I am not playing strong enough for the comp I want. Our party hits the road and winds up at the Sheraton. I loose $138 at a double deck game. Louie is sitting right next to me and wins $114. Splitting 8sí four times with one double down against a dealer 10, I loose all 5 bets which hurt my chances of any kind of win in a short one hour session. The environment at the Sheraton is pleasant. The tables are less crowded with only 6 player spots and a generally less crowded and smoky casino. They even let you resplit aces.

We walk across to the Gold Strike where I manage a $104 win at a double deck game in 1 hour. Louie sitting right next to me again wins only $17. Penetration is a little more than one deck.

Back at the Grand all the low limit double deck games are crowded, so I try a 6-deck shoe game. In a half hour I am up $150 spreading from $10 to $25. Knowing that I prefer the double deck game Louie seeks me out to let me know he is saving a spot at a $10 double deck table for me. Now that I have my preferred game I am ready to gamble. An hour later I am down $83, spreading from $10 to $25.

This was my last session for this trip and it netted me a $395 profit. Not bad by my standards considering the most I risked on any one bet was $40. More importantly I end up for the year on the plus side, reversing a two-year negative trend. Next month I will give Vegas a try. Stay tuned.

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