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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, Feb. 2004, #49


By LV Tournament Pro

Tournament Pro is the pseudonym for a skilled advantage blackjack player and an experienced tournament player who has won over $375K playing in blackjack tournaments.

I usually focus on blackjack tournaments for the Blackjack Insider Newsletter (BJI). But I have been asked to fill in for Captain John, who normally writes about conditions in Las Vegas for BJI, while he attends to a medical matter. These are pretty big shoes to fill but I will give it my best to keep you informed during his absence.

But first a little bit of history about me. In addition to playing in blackjack tournaments on a pro level, I am also an advantage player who uses the Revere system since 1997. I have shown a profit every year since I have been a card counter, which was one of my reasons for moving to Las Vegas. Being a local player leads to more playing time and less travel time. It also forces you to play in a different mode than a visitor. For longevity I try to play under the casino radar by only moving around red and green chips. But even at this betting level, Iíve still been 86íd out of a few casinos.

So the cat and mouse game continues in this town as more and more casinos become paranoid of advantage players, no matter how small you are betting. Even though you can get away with moving your chips around a little more than local players can, you still need to be careful when you play.

Speaking of locals, this month I will be reviewing the playing conditions at five casinos on the northwest side of Las Vegas that normally cater to local players. Playing blackjack at a localís casino, rather than one of the strip casinos that cater mostly to visitors, is something that you should consider when you come to town. In fact a short ride off the strip might be something that your game needs. As you will soon read, there are some pretty darn good blackjack games off the strip.

The following playing conditions were ones that I observed and played on the weekend of Feb. 6-7 2004 so they are very current. Since I live in the Green Valley section of town (which is southeast), I donít normally go to the casinos located on the northwest or opposite side of town. But after seeing some very good blackjack playing conditions in several of the northwest casinos, Iíll probably will be driving over to that side of town more often to play blackjack.

My first stop was Texas Station on Rancho Drive where I observed 22 blackjack tables, with 12 tables offering 6-deck shoes with a 75% penetration. Rules include late surrender, double after split, Aces can be split up to three times, hit soft 17, and mid-shoe entry allowed. Betting limits were from $5 and $10 minimum bet up to $500 maximum bet. There were also three double decks games offering a 60% pen, double after split, and hit soft 17. The lowest betting limits on Friday night were $25-1,000 with some tables at $100-1000. There was only one floor person assigned to watch eight games. So there was very little heat from the floor since he had too many other things to do other than watch all the games (gotta keep Stationís stock UP!).

Last year when they had surrender on their double deck games, the floor paid more attention to the games. Now it seems with Stations management cutting back on staff the floor supervisors are overwhelmed. How can any floor person watch 8 games and do fills, write comps and do other floor persons tasks? If the games were better it would be Christmas every day there for advantage players. But unfortunately the DD games are so- so.

They also offer two Super Fun 21 games with a betting limit of $5-500 and five single deck games paying 6 to 5 on blackjacks. Why, I thought, would any local player play these horrible games? I mistakenly believed that the casino suits only thought that tourists were naive enough to play blackjack when it only pays 6 to 5 but they had me fooled! When I asked a patron why they were playing a game that only paid 6 to 5 their response was "it really didnít matter because they donít get that many blackjacks anyway." The casinos are fleecing the public as long as these folks keep playing the 6 to 5 blackjack games. I guess itís all about supply and demand. I left Texas Station scratching my head.

I crossed the street to Fiesta Rancho and guess what I found? I discovered a rare gem, a single deck game paying 3 to 2 on blackjack. Welcome back to the good old days! This game also featured double after split, split aces up to three times, 60% penetration, and a betting range of $10-200 which is a small spread but more than enough for what an advantage player needs when playing red or green chips. Fiesta offers nine tables including four double decks with 70-75% penetration, no mid shoe entry, and hit soft 17. They also have 2 Super Fun games with a $5-500 betting range and two 6-deck shoe games with no surrender.

When I saw what I thought was one of the better double deck games around town (this one had a 70-75% penetration), I grabbed a seat and played for about 45 minutes using a $5-35 spread. I picked up a quick $75 profit and then left. Because Iím a local player, playing for short time periods is mandatory if I intend to play on a regular rotation. A lot of small wins are so much better than a few big wins. The latter draws heat and there is enough heat in this desert without creating any more. Heed this advice: If you want to return there to play another day and eat in their restaurants via comps earned from your play then itís imperative you play for no more than 1 hour and not be greedy.

I was back in my car heading north on Rancho to the Santa Fe casino. If you have not been to the Santa Fe in a while the casino is totally changed and I might add they did a nice job in the facelift. They offer 16 Blackjack Tables of which six are double decks with these rules: hit soft 17, double after split, and resplit aces three times. Betting ranges were from $5-500 to $25-1000 with no mid-deck entry. The double deck games offer a 60 % penetration. Their were also two Super Fun 21 games with a betting range of $5-500.The shoe games were 6-decks with 75% penetration, no surrender, double after split, resplit aces up to three times, and mid shoe entry allowed. I observed seven shoe games on Friday night. For the uneducated player they had one single deck with blackjack hands paying a whopping 6 to 5. Since I didnít see any games that were worth my time playing, I was back in my car heading over to Summerlin

When I arrived in Summerlin I found the best double deck game west of the Atlantic Ocean at the Suncoast casino. I observed 28 Double Deck tables with a penetration of 80% (yes I said 80%, thatís not a typo) with no problem getting a seat even on a Friday evening. You can even play heads up if you like in this marvelous game! The rest of the casino has six shoe games (all machine shuffled) with betting ranges between $3-200, $5-200, $5-500 and $10-1000.

I had put on my baseball cap when I entered the Suncoast casino because I was thrown out of there about 10 months ago. I sat down uncarded, played the double deck game for about 25 minutes, and picked up a $150 profit with a $10-50 bet spread. In this casino you need to trim your bet spread since they really sweat the money like most Coast casino do. So, if you venture out to Summerlin to play at the Suncoast keep a low profile and a low bet spread unless you have no intention of ever returning there to play. But if the latter is the case, then go ahead and bet it up when the count gets good and I will almost assure you that you will be escorted to the parking garage. Trust me, Iíve been there and done that. In fact, I felt kinda special getting escorted out the door since most players were wondering who I was that needed all those bodyguards!

My last stop on the trip was at the Rampart, which is right next door to the Suncoast. If you are ever want to stay off the strip, this is definitely the place to go. The hotel and grounds are breathtaking. If you want a special place to stay with your significant other then plan to spend a few days here and trust me, you will not be disappointed. As far as the blackjack conditions go, they have 13 double deck games offering 60-65% penetration with a betting range of $5-1,000 and double after split aces only once. There was one Fun 21 game and two shoe games with surrender and 70-75 % pen. Their blackjack games are OK but the hotel and grounds are the drawing card so be sure to go out by the pool and have a drink (you will definitely enjoy it and think you are somewhere other than Las Vegas). Over all I played about 1 ľ hrs and ended up with a $225 profit, not bad for a small win.

I hope you can use the information in this article to build up your bankroll and make your time in Las Vegas worth its weight in gold. Till next time, keep them Aces coming with a little paint on them.

Good Luck,

Tournament Pro

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