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13/7/2003 Edition No.31

Las Vegas Casinos


White Knight has spent the last eight months, on and off, travelling through Nevada testing out the blackjack waters. We played mostly double-deck with some single and six deck games thrown in for variation or when the situation warranted it. Over 1000 hours of playing time meant that an accurate "long-term" view of profits and problems was achieved, as well as a good comparison with Australian conditions:

1. Number of Decks used and Penetration.

Single deck games still exist in Reno, some smaller Nevada towns and parts of Las Vegas (beware of the 6:5 Blackjack and Super Fun 21 variants). No cutting card means shuffling is at the dealer’s discretion, so you often find fewer rounds dealt out in positive counts and more in the negative, a poor situation for counters and gamblers alike.

The double-deck game with cutting card giving more than 50% penetration is a more common and superior game. There are enough rounds to allow a steady increase in bet size to your maximum so as to not draw attention to your play. Six deck shoe games of around 80% penetration abound, a situation rare in Australia.

Another difference in Nevada is that casinos will use a different number of decks or set of rules for blackjack from one table to the next under the one roof!

2. Heat.

Casino personnel in Nevada are quicker to react to those using blackjack advantage play when compared to those working in Australia. A supervisor may stop your play within a few hours if he or she has any suspicions. In Australia the call is always made from the eye-in-the-sky after a few weeks' worth of surveillance.

It is recommended that card counters (especially those playing green or black) keep moving constantly between casinos, move after a win or loss in the order of 10 maximum bets and use some level of camouflage to their play.

In Australia, a week-long trip to a casino, using no camouflage, without asking for comps, once a year is relatively heat-free.

3. House edge and rules.

In general, the house edge in Nevada is slightly lower than the one in Australia, despite rules that might be inferior! Of course this is due to the one and two deck games. These pitch games often have the dealer taking a card on soft 17 (H17) or no double allowed after split. However, nearly all games, including shoe games, allow double on any two cards and split to make four hands (not common options in Australia).

Although not always advertised, players should also be on the lookout for the surrender and repeat split of ace rules. The popular Australian tactics of wonging and back-betting are difficult in Nevada due to many ‘No Mid-Shoe’ entry tables and no provision for ‘rider’ bets.

4. Table availability and other players’ bet sizes.

Most casinos in Nevada have only one or two pits for blackjack. Tables are not overly crowded and bet sizes vary enormously. Crown and Star City can be compared in size and average bet size to MGM and Mandalay Bay on the Las Vegas Strip. But there is no comparison to the low-roller joints found in Downtown Las Vegas, the massive betting at the opulent Bellagio, the huge friendly Station casinos made for locals or the towns that have sprung up on the borders of gambling-starved Utah and Arizona.

Best of Betting!

News 23/9/2002

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