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LAS VEGAS BLACKJACK REPORT:

LUXOR REDUX

By Ted Salveson

Ted Salveson is an experienced blackjack player and a scratch golfer. He gets Ďweakí when his casino host uses the words "Las Vegas" and "golf tournament" in the same sentence. He is a dice controller "in training" and currently learning Speed Count for blackjack.

Editors Note: This is a follow up to the Luxor Report that Salveson wrote in the November issue of BJI. The observations of playing conditions for this report were taken the first week of December.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

They say things are always changing in Vegas, and not always for the better. For 12 years, and up thru September of this yea, the Mandalay Group properties had in my opinion some of the best and most liberal blackjack games in town. But it seems that in October Luxor was assimilated into the MGM/Mirage Players Club (as was Mandalay Bay before them) and everything changed. In an effort to achieve what MGM calls "uniform rating" for all their properties they have instituted a mandate of imbecilic proportions.

On my last trip in September there were up to eight double deck games and all of the shoe games utilized six decks. Not with the MGM buffoons in charge. Not only have all but ONE of the double deck games disappeared (the High Limit Room still has the one) but the shoes in all but one area have gone back to eight decks. Pit 6 has slightly higher table minimums and still uses only six decks. On my September trip they had six of the dreaded single deck games that pay 6 to 5 on untied BJs. Incredibly they now have 14! They converted all of Pit One to entirely this abomination. And whatís more amazing are the tourists who flock to these tables, oblivious as to how badly they are being ripped off. Sadly, I walked over to Mandalay Bay and found generally the same conditions there.

There may be some hope, however. One casino supervisor Iíve known for years confided that while the bodies are at the tables, the drop is down 20%. The only person playing this game now is the $5 player. Their serious players have all disappeared in the past two months. This has not gone unnoticed. Another executive told me to be patient because "other changes were in the offing."

Needless to say on this most recent trip I only played two sessions of blackjack in a week. Both were $10 minimum shoe games where my best buddy in the casino was working as the floorman. It gave us a chance to kibitz some and took all the pressure off while continuing to learn Speed Count. Thankfully, I discovered it is decidedly easier than the old high-low we all used for years. And this time the cards and the count cooperated with each other. I managed to win three hands I absolutely needed to, a $100 split, and a $100 and a $150 double down.

I also spent a great deal of time at the craps table. And this week I seemed to have found a rhythm and touch from somewhere and managed to make some nice scores. The Golden Touch guys would have been proud. I would say to Frank Scoblete (as Patton said) "I read your book!" I understand the concepts of the controlled throw. But sometimes, like in golf, translating theory into practice doesnít always work out as planned. Nice when it does though.

And speaking of golf, this was the reason for the trip. They had a golf outing for several invited guests. They took us out to the Lakes course, which they own, at the Primm Resort. Itís a beautiful Fazio design. It reminds me a lot of his work at Shadow Creek. Unfortunately, a cold front moved in and it never got above 50, with a steady 20 mph wind. But there were other compensations. The gift bags included a nice lined dual jacket to keep us warm, a dozen Titleist balls, and promotional chips. I told our host that Iíd like to see this course again, in 80 degrees. I managed to win $800 at golf, combined with another $800 at blackjack and $2,500 at the craps table to make this one of the better trips Iíve had to Vegas in a while.

There is a lot of renovation construction currently taking place inside the Luxor. The lobby bar is being expanded. A new High Limit room is being built. The existing High Limit area will soon become a circular bar in the center of the casino. Their nightclub, Ra, will also become twice as big and renamed LAX. And they are following the current trend by bringing in a celebrity chef to operate what used to be the Isis restaurant. Now, if we could just get the blackjack games back to where they are playable because right now, they arenít. I already have my reservations for Super Bowl week. I will be curious to see whatever changes are in the works by then. As we have all seen, they are sudden and without warning.

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