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Blackjack Insider Newsletter, Jan. 2005, #60



By LV Tournament Pro

Tournament Pro is the pseudonym of a skilled advantage blackjack player and an experienced tournament player who has won over $400,000 playing in blackjack tournaments. He recently finished first in a monthly qualifier in the Las Vegas Hilton Million Dollar Blackjack tournament and recently competed in the taped World Series of Blackjack II at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas. His peers consider him to be one of the strongest blackjack tournament players in Las Vegas.

As we close out 2004 and step into 2005, history tells us that the presiding President of the United States of America will address the nation in his State of the Union address telling us where the nation stands and what direction he wants to lead our country towards. In keeping with tradition and history I would like to give my State of the Union speech regarding the world of blackjack and blackjack tournaments, and where we as a nation of blackjack players need to be in 2005 and the direction we need to take to achieve our goals.

As 2004 came to a close rumors were high that the Las Vegas Hilton’s Million Dollar Tournament III was going to be its last after only 3 years. Just 2 ½ years ago the blackjack community thought that the tournament world was not only saved from extinction, but a new horizon was in site. We as a Nation have to realize that in order for casinos to continue to host tournaments a steady side action must be maintained or the host casino should have the ability to cover their expenses. The poker world, which has exploded in the last three years with non-stop tournaments and TV coverage, has been doing this taxation for a number of years and has not suffered from it. BJ tournament players have been spoiled; some players will only play in tourneys where 100% of all entry fees are returned as prizes or play only in the few casinos that add money to the prize package creating an overlay.

If the world of BJ tourneys is to survive and go forward BJ players must realize that in this new world of casino cost cutting and watching every dollar spent, the days of returning 100% of the tournament entry fee’s are long gone.

As an example, the Stardust Casino, which once had a steady sign up of 400 players per tourney, now has trouble getting 200 players to sign up. Their problem is not from taking too much money off the top (which they do), but from their Bullheaded Management that maintains a list of players that are not allowed to play in their tournaments. This list seems to be equal to the 200 players that can still play.

Even though every player at the Stardust is revenue for the company (because they clearly do not return all the moneys collected) they still will not open their tourneys to all players. It makes no since and worse yet is the fact that the narrow minded management from this property has successfully kept this secret from the Boyd Corporation.

When you hold a tournament where everyone pays an entry fee that generates the tournament prize pool and then each player buys in for $600 in live money, how could any Casino Executive think they are doing their company a favor by stopping players from playing? The Stardust treats Advantage Players like convicted serial killers and they need to understand that even the worlds BEST advantage player will not gain an edge over 30 hands in one round. They also need to understand that you are playing against the other players and not against the house. The dealer is just the barometer as to who gets paid and who does not on each hand. The world’s best advantage player would not double on a 17 against any dealer’s up card in live play, but in a tournament they would think nothing of making that play if it was necessary to win. This play and many other deviations from basic strategy, which happen in every tournament round, results in a huge casino edge.

If Stanford Wong, Anthony Curtis, or Ken Houston (if he was still alive) or any skilled BJ player told the Stardust or any casino that they were going to double a breaking hand against the dealers up card of a 10 for $600 any savvy casino executive should send a limo over to pick these players up. But not at The Stardust, they just say no! This, my fellow BJ players, is where we should unite and say NO!. If we as a group boycott tournaments that take a huge cut off the prize money (like the Stardust and Riviera) then they would have no choice but to reevaluate their position.

One or two people going up against a huge corporation never works, but trust me there is strength in numbers. The same goes for 6 to 5 single deck BJ games. We all know not to play this game, but that’s just not enough. The general public doesn’t know any better and the casinos are not about to educate them. I personally have my own way of dealing with 6 to 5 BJ. I walk up to a table, throw a hundred down and then ask the dealer, "what does BJ pay?" When I am told 6 to 5 I say out loud, "You’d have to be a sucker to play this game." If I can get one player to realize what a sucker they are I have done my job. As you can see acting alone would take forever but if everyone would do this just once a trip, you do the math because there is strength in numbers.

All casinos should be allowed to cut the pot to cover expenses, but the Stardust and Riviera has continued to cut off more than is reasonable. As long as players allow it to happen it will continue. Just like 6 to 5 BJ - if you continue to play it they will continue to deal it. It’s simply all about supply and demand.

There are still a few casino managers and owners who do not look upon tournament players as a threat. They are insightful enough to realize that even though most tournament players are sharp players they still will be staying at their hotels, eating in their restaurants and drinking in their bars creating revenue for them. These players almost could be considered shills for the casino, because nothing generates more play than a crowded table. With good game protection these players are not a liability, but an asset to the host property.

Tournament players should be able to walk into the casino with their heads up, for we should be looked upon as a good customer and not an undesirable. Thinking at a tournament BJ table should not be considered a crime.

2005 will be a good year for the BJ tournament world. If my sources are correct, and they have never been wrong, the word is that a well known casino with owners and managers that know how to run a gaming business will bring to Las Vegas the world’s biggest Blackjack Tournament with a prize pool in excess of 2 Million dollars! This team that is being put together will be to the Blackjack Tournament World what Benny Binion was to the World Series of Poker. Old Las Vegas is alive and well in 2005.



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