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By Joe Pane

Joe Pane is a skilled advantage blackjack player and an experienced tournament player who has won over half a million dollars in blackjack tournaments including his recent first place finish at the IP in Biloxi. Besides competing in tournaments around the country and on the Internet, Joe was recently hired by the Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT) as the Assistant Director of Tour Operations, as well as the Team UBT Coordinator. His peers consider him to be one of the strongest blackjack tournament players on the circuit.


There are a million reasons to both love and hate this tournament.

As most readers of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter know, the ability of skilled tournament players to actually find a casino to welcome their tournament play is drying up as quickly as a shallow lake in the middle of the Las Vegas desert.

The current state of affairs for blackjack tournaments is bleak to say the least, and if you are a known advantage player, and a skilled tournament player to boot, you might as well look for a cold drink in Death Valley because you are not wanted or welcomed in most Las Vegas casinos.

Back in the beginning of this decade, the Las Vegas Hilton casino came under the watchful eyes of Jimmy Wike, a casino manager that was respected by the players and the casino staff. Unlike the current blanket policy at the Las Vegas Hilton, which throws out or bars just about anybody who even resembles a card counter or skilled tournament player, Jimmy knew how to protect his games and his mindset was this: if a skilled tournament player wants to come to the Las Vegas Hilton and play in his tournaments that was just fine as long as they respected his wishes, which were you are welcome to play the tournaments but do not play on his blackjack tables (which, by the way, is the only table game that can be beaten with skillful play).

The players honored that request and everyone was welcomed to play during the first three years of the Hiltonís Million Dollar Tournament. Then Jimmy left to become manager of table games at Caesarís Palace just prior to the sale of the Hilton to the Colony Group (who also own Resorts Casino in Atlantic City). The end was near for skilled tournament players when Jimmy left and Scott Hager took over as the new casino manager. Soon the ax was virtually placed in the back of all skilled tournament players. The Hilton tournaments become a collection of qualifying tournaments with side play required to gain entry, and they included the Mulligan rule in their tournament (see below), which just about all the players had to purchase to compete on an equal level (the fee for the Mulligan was $100). With an anticipated thousand players qualifying for these events, the players were actually putting up the entire prize pool. Many believed the Hiltonís Million Dollar tournament was lost forever. Or was it?

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