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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Blackjack 'Revolution' Is a Sucker Bet

16 July 2002

There's a blackjack revolution that's raging on the Las Vegas Strip. The return of the legendary single-deck game! What's the big deal you ask? Single-deck games used to be the rule rather than the exception they are today. It was the standard by which the game was played.

Then Edward O. Thorp came out with his best seller Beat the Dealer in 1962. It forever changed casino blackjack. Thorp popularized methods by which players could give themselves a mathematical advantage by keeping track of the dealt cards. Single-deck games disappeared and were replaced with the infamous "shoes" that held four, six, and even eight decks of cards.

Multi-deck shoes are the rule today, a means by which casinos combat the skills of card counters. You can even find tables at some casinos that have continuous multi-deck shufflers, making for non-stop games and completely eliminating the card tracking skill factor. About the only weapon players can employ to combat such games is using basic strategy.

Single-deck games are making a comeback on the famed Strip, all right, but you don't even have to read the fine print to know that there's a hefty price for players to pay. It was right up in giant letters on the marquee of the Paris Hotel & Casino: "SINGLE DECK BLACKJACK! A WHOPPING 6-5 FOR BLACKJACKS!"

The Paris isn't even subtle in its marketing strategy. Everyone knows that a player blackjack (first 2-card dealt hand with an ace and 10-value card) pays 3-2. It's one of the few advantages blackjack players enjoy. A blackjack gives you $7.50 for every $5.00 that you have in the betting circle. Blackjacks can make the difference in a winning session.

At first glance, that word "whopping" on the Paris marquee catches your eye. Surely the inexperienced player might be taken in. But once you sit down at the game, hit a blackjack on your five dollar bet, and then have the dealer pay you $6.00 instead of the standard $7.50, you wake up to stark reality. It's a whopping shame.

To make matters even worse, players can only double down on 2-card totals of 10 or 11. That's yet another player friendly perk stripped away from people who play the Paris single-deck blackjack game. The ability to double down on any 2-card total, including "soft" hands against the dealer's "bust" card, is one of the big advantages of a good blackjack game.

I walked inside and spoke to a pit supervisor about the game. He explained that if gamblers want single-deck blackjack to return, then they must be willing to concede something to the casinos in order to make it economically feasible. He rationalized that players can expect to be dealt a blackjack relatively infrequently, statistically speaking, so it really doesn't add up to that much of a loss.

Baloney I say!

This insulting game is being marketed at all the Park Place-owned properties in Las Vegas. In addition to Paris, you can also find it at The Flamingo and at Bally's.

Harrah's on the Strip also has a single-deck game that pays 6-5 on blackjacks, but it's a little more player friendly because you are allowed to double down on any two cards.

There is surely something to be said for single-deck blackjack, but only if you keep some sort of mental track of the cards. In a 52-card deck there are four aces and 16 "ten" cards. If, after the first round, you observe no aces have been dealt, then you have a better chance of catching a blackjack on the second go-around and you may want to increase your bet.

On the other hand, if you observe all four aces come out on the first round, you know that blackjack is impossible during the second round, so you may want to bet the minimum. But remember that blackjacks at this particular game only pay 6-5, so the reward for your skill is drastically minimized.

There are other clues for the observant, non-passive player to look for, including a second round rich in 10-value cards. Another plus: The deck being depleted of all four of the 5-value cards, which can have a profound positive influence for the players on the second round.

But it's still not worth it to me to suffer the consequences, especially when there are an abundance of good double-deck games found at off-strip properties. At Sam's Town you can play single-deck blackjack and not sacrifice a thing!

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp