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THE CRUISE TO NOWHERE Ö

WELL, ALMOST NOWHERE.

by LV Tournament Pro

 

LV Tournament Pro is the pseudonym of a skilled advantage blackjack player and an experienced tournament player who has won over $400,000 playing blackjack tournaments. He competed in the World Series of Blackjack in 2005 and also finished first in a monthly qualifier in the Las Vegas Hiltonís Million Dollar Blackjack Tournament. He was also selected to play in the Ultimate Blackjack Tour, which pitted the top blackjack players against the top poker players in a unique blackjack tournament that will air on TV in 2006. His peers consider him to be one of the strongest blackjack tournament players.

 

The blackjack tournament scene is about to turn the corner to bigger and better opportunities for all players, no matter how skilled they are deemed to be by the ever-peering eyes of tournament directors and shift managers from around the gaming world. These were uncharted waters that, until recently, had never been sailed upon. Specifically, I am referring to blackjack tournaments sponsored by private companies, where unlike casino-run tournaments, players do not have to fear that they might get banned, or forced to give enough "side play" to be invited to play in a future tournament.

We all know what the Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT) is about to bring us, and that is blackjack tournaments that are open to all with a TV contract for the next two years on CBS TV (see my UBT article in August issue of BJI for details). But what many donít know is a company called Texas Tournaments, which in the last nine months has held multiple blackjack tournaments on two different cruise ships. The owner of Texas Tournaments, Rick Jensen, hatched this idea after seeing the tournament scene in Las Vegas, and for that matter all over the United States, literally turn into a High Roller party that if you werenít betting upwards of $400 per hand for four hours a day, you were not invited.

So with these restrictions in casino-run major tournaments, Rick decided he didnít need a casino to hold blackjack tournaments Ö he could hold them himself in International waters where there are no gaming restrictions. All he needed was a boat and a Captain that could steer straight.

Well he almost got both; he definitely got the boat, Carnivalís Celebration Cruise Ship, which left from Jacksonville, FL with a stop in Key West and another in the Bahamas. What was lacking was the Captain that could steer straight. Iíll get back to this gem a little later as itís only fitting that I save this saga for the end of my article.

We left Jacksonville on Aug. 12 with over 35 tournament players and their guests. The players came from all over the US plus three players from Germany. For the most part, they had never met in person before, but have played hundreds of times against each other in on-line tournaments. So this was not just a blackjack tournament, it was a sort of a "family reunion." There was even a group known on the Internet as the "St Louis Mafia" on board (talk about not knowing what to expect). But they were just one of our "family" once we got to know each other (talk about not living up to your name).

You see, because of all the invitational tournaments with high betting requirements imposed by casinos, the core tournament players that use to come to Las Vegas to play and socialize with each other really doesnít really exist anymore. Playing in blackjack tournaments, in addition to competing against each other, is like one big social event where players renew old friendships and make new ones.

Rick Jensen saw this as a business opportunity to bring blackjack tournaments back to the players, and while doing this, offering players a chance to renew friendships while bringing their families with them on vacation - a great idea for all involved.

So with three scheduled blackjack tournaments over a five day cruise, entry fees of $300 per tournament with multiple re-buys offered, and two players advancing every round, it was full steam ahead for a great week on the high seas.

The first tournament was held on Sunday morning after we reached International waters and all gaming restrictions were lifted. The prize pool for all the tournaments was in excess of $12,000 and it ran as smooth as could be, considering the tournaments were not run in a full-scale casino, but in a night club that was transformed into a Karaoke bar after the tournaments were completed.

Rick employed two professional dealers and two tournament players to deal the games. The professional dealers made the two tournament players, who were posing as dealers, look slow and hesitant because the rookie dealers wanted to make sure that they didnít make any errors in front of their peers.

But Rick Swogger and Joe Pane (the two players turned dealers for this cruise) got even when the dealers decided to sit down and play some sit & go tournaments that were offered in addition to the three major events. Talk about payback. It seems everyone always thinks that everyone elseís job is easy to do. However, just like Rick and Joe found out that dealing isnít as easy as it looks, the professional dealers that stepped into Rick and Joeís world discovered that playing in a tournament isnít as easy as it looks.

We arrived in Key West on Monday and spent a great day in the Southern most part on the United States, only 90 miles from Cuba, but we were still in the State of Florida. We left Key West on Monday evening and made our way back to sea for our next scheduled tournament on Tuesday morning with plans to dock in the Bahamas that afternoon.

The tournament was scheduled to end just before we docked so everyone could spend the day in the Bahamas. Players made plans to swim with the dolphins, others had scheduled tours through out the island, and some were heading to the beach to snorkel, while the rest of the gambling crowd had intentions to visit the Atlantis Hotel and Casino, the worlds most breathtaking Casino and Hotel. By the way, if you ever get the chance, go visit this casino resort because it is a sight to see.

But there was one small problem with everyoneís plans. Rick never saw it coming, nor did the shipís Captain, or for that matter no one except yours truly. Hereís what happened. As we were approaching the dock, I was sitting at one of the blackjack tables looking out of a big picture window and said to myself, "boy my eyes must be playing tricks on me, because that tree looks like it is on the ship and when is the last time you saw a live 50 ft. tree on a cruise ship?" The answer is never.

The split second after I saw this unlikely vision, our cruise ship crashed into the dock, breaking it into tiny concrete floating pieces. The ship lost a propeller and spilled about 200 gallons of some sort of liquid substance into the harbor.

After the incident, we were escorted out of the harbor and told because of the substance leaking heavily from the rear of the ship, we could not return to the harbor. So we were forced to head back to Jacksonville, Fl. with only one engine working, one prop turning, and a ship full of irate passengers that wanted to get off the ship.

However, the blackjack crowd didnít seem fazed by this mishap at all. As a matter of fact, there was plans to schedule an additional tournament since were going back out at sea instead of in port in the Bahamas.

The additional two tournaments were held without a hitch. Rick and Joe actually dealt somewhat faster for tournament 2 and 3 or was the boat just going slower which made them appear to deal faster?

All the winners from the three tournaments were from global-player.com and they were: luckygem, sirklas (from Germany), and a member of the St. Louis Mafia, who wants his handle a secret because of his affiliation with the you-know-who.

So the cruise that was suppose to go somewhere never really left the State of Florida but none of the tournament players seemed to care because what they came for was to play blackjack, meet old friends, make new friends, and laugh from morning to night (and trust me all we did was laugh and have one hell of a time, crash and all).

If you are considering a vacation, love to play in blackjack tournaments and donít want to leave your family behind, you need to contact Texas Tournaments since Rick Jensen is planning two more blackjack tournament cruises for next year. He can be reached toll free at 1-866-TEX-TOUR.

So who needs to go anywhere when you have all you want on a cruise ship including a blackjack tournament?

Until next time may all your aces have a little paint on them. See you on the next cruise (and maybe next time Iíll steer the ship).

LV Tournament Pro

 

 

 

 

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