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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Blackjack Survey from the Illinois Side

28 December 2005

Because there is skill associated with the game of blackjack, the individual house rules you encounter at the different casinos at which you play can have a profound effect on your strategy and ultimately your bottom line.

Last week we took a look at the rules the properties in Northwest Indiana have in place at their tables. Today we'll examine the four destinations in the Chicago area on the Illinois Side.

The casinos surveyed were: Argosy's Empress Joliet, Grand Victoria Elgin, Harrah's Joliet and Hollywood Aurora.

Only one property, the Grand Victoria, has $5 minimum tables, available usually until 4 pm. Hollywood and Empress have a $10 minimum while Harrah's goes with $15.

This fact makes Northwest Indiana a much friendlier jurisdiction for average players because all five of the casinos offer $5 minimum games at various times.

All of the casinos deal out of six-deck shoes with the exception of Hollywood, which only offers them in the high limit room while utilizing the less player friendly eight-deck variety everywhere else.

Chopping two decks out of play after the shuffle is the norm at Empress and Harrah's, while Hollywood goes a little deeper with one and one-half to two decks. The Grand Victoria is the most generous of all with one and one-half decks, a player advantage.

The Grand Victoria has one major drawback: The dealers hit soft 17. So does Hollywood, although not in the high limit room. The dealers at both Empress and Harrah's stand on soft 17 which is a big plus for players.

None of the properties in Northwest Indiana hit soft 17.

All of the properties allow players to double down on any two cards, split any pair and double down after splitting. The option known as surrender, whereby a player can salvage half his bet before a hand is played out, is not offered anywhere.

Nor do any of the Illinois properties offer the new betting option, Casino Surrender, which is in use at the Blue Chip Casino & Hotel in Michigan City.

When it comes to splitting aces, however, give the edge to Harrah's, where they will allow you to split them up to three times. All of the others let players do it only once, which means if you draw a third ace on one of them you're stuck with a 12.

Automatic shufflers speed up the game by eliminating the break players get while waiting for the dealer to shuffle. Dealers shuffle the cards by hand at both Grand Victoria and Empress – advantage player. Hollywood uses automatics at eight of its 14 tables but none in the high limit room. Harrah's has four automatic shufflers.

Continuous shufflers not only keep the game going non-stop, they eliminate any edge a studious player may get by keeping track of the dealt cards. Harrah's has five tables with this technology, something serious players like to avoid.

CASINO NEWS: For the second consecutive year the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin was one of only 10 casinos in North America recognized in the industry's annual "Best Casino Promotions" competition. The Grand Vic won the award for its quarterly "Exclusive Renewal Cash Giveaway".

With the announcement earlier that the Majestic Star Casino was purchasing Trump Casino & Hotel, its neighbor at Buffington Harbor in Gary, gaming industry veteran Barry Morris was named Majestic's new vice president and general manager. He succeeds Troy Keeping who resigned his position to pursue other interests.

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