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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Entertaining Games Come with a Price for Players

5 January 2005

This columnist has never been a fan of gimmicky variations of blackjack. Give me the traditional version any day. With that caveat in mind, the Trump Casino & Hotel recently added a game called "Blackjack Attack" to its table games inventory. At present, the game is a Trump exclusive in Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area.

Blackjack Attack is a kissin' cousin of Spanish 21, one of the older blackjack spin-offs. The game is played out of a shoe using eight decks of cards with all of the "tens" removed. The first twist is that players, after making their initial wager, have the option of placing an additional bet after seeing the dealer's "up" card.

Players then have the option of doubling down on both bets on two or more cards up to the amount of the original wagers. If the player chooses to split, the wager must equal the amount for both bets.

Another betting option is called "bust it". Players may wager that the dealer will break in three cards. The pay table, based on the value of the "bust card", is 3 to 1 if it's a 10; 6 to 1 if it's a nine; 8 to 1 for an eight; 10 to 1 for a seven; and 15 to 1 for a six.

Bonuses for "bust it" winners are 50 to 1 on their wager if the dealer breaks with three eights of the same color (eights in hearts and diamonds or eights in spades and clubs). A super bonus of 200 to 1 is paid if the three eights are suited.

Players may surrender half of their wager at any time the dealer does not have a blackjack, even after hitting, splitting and doubling down. Insurance pays 5 to 2 at Blackjack Attack as opposed to 3 to 2 at standard blackjack. One of the big drawbacks, however, is blackjack pays only even money.

Even though there is entertainment value in Blackjack Attack, especially for casual players, it comes at a heavy price. Being paid 3 to 2 for a blackjack in the traditional "no frills" version is a big advantage for players. Reducing it to even money just increases the house edge.

My advice is that if you're a serious player who enjoys the one casino game where the odds continually fluctuate and where skillful, educated play can tip the advantage closer in your favor, stick to "real" blackjack the way it was meant to be played. If you only make occasional casino outings and are looking for some added excitement, Blackjack Attack may be worth a try.

Meanwhile, Harrah's East Chicago has jumped on the penny slot craze that's sweeping casinos nationwide. It recently added a bank of 15 "Lucky Duckies" two-cent machines that will be linked to a progressive seeded with $1,500. It has been installed in the foyer on the second level of the vessel. The popular "Betty Boop" quarter progressive that previously occupied that space has been relocated to the first level.

To refer to this genre of slot machines as "penny games" is a misnomer. Even though plays are made in increments of one cent, the multi-line/multi-coin aspect of them means that in reality you can wager upwards of dollars on every spin. If you want to be eligble to win the progressive, you have to play the maximum number of coins per spin.

By their very nature, penny and nickel slot machines carry a much higher "house advantage" than their quarter, half-dollar and dollar counterparts. The percentage of the money played on lower denomination games that is "held" by the casino as part of their adjusted gross revenue (AGR) is very frequently double that of the hold on dollar units.

There's no doubt the penny games are fun to play, but just remember that if you find yourself investing a dollar or more on every play, you may be better off statistically playing that same money in a stand-alone higher denomination machine.

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