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Best of John G. Brokopp

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Grand Vic's New Double-Deck Blackjack Rivals Vegas

20 August 2008

Average recreational gaming enthusiasts and gamblers on a budget are fortunate if they can find a $5 or even $10 blackjack game in the Chicago area. If they do, the tables use shoes containing six and sometimes eight decks of cards.

The Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin, Illinois, however, is giving high rollers the opportunity to play a double-deck blackjack game. The minimum bet isn't $25, $50 or even $100. At this game you have to play a minimum of $200 per hand with a limit of $10,000.

Any player able to afford the stakes will be rewarded with a game that's every bit as good as the way it's played in Las Vegas, and in two important categories, even better.

Double-deck blackjack games have been offered before at some casino destinations in this region, but all of the advantages of playing the game have been negated by hostile house rules, including being allowed to double-down only on 10 and 11 and prohibiting doubling-down after splitting.

At the Grand Vic's new game, players can double-down on any two cards and double-down after splitting. Aces may be split, but only once, and only one "hit" card on each ace. The dealer hits soft-17, an advantage to the house.

The house advantage on the game, assuming the player uses basic strategy, is less than half a percent, which makes it from a mathematical standpoint one of the best blackjack games you will find at any casino in the country.

"It's a 'pitch' game, meaning the cards are dealt out of the dealer's hand and the players get to hold the cards," said Mark Blackman, the director of table game operations. "A machine is used to shuffle the cards."

Experienced players will appreciate the fact that three-quarters of the 104 cards will be dealt before a new shuffle.

"We're not looking to let it go much past half a deck, 26 cards, but we will go down to that before shuffling," Blackman said.

In addition, the common house rule of "no mid-game entry" isn't in force according to Blackman: "If someone wants to come up to the table and jump in, that's fine."

The game is played in the plush new high limit area at a custom-made table with just six player positions as opposed to seven at the property's blackjack games played out of a shoe.

Is Blackman, who worked casinos in Nevada for 25 years, worried about "advantage players" moving in to try their hand at emulating the success of the vaunted MIT blackjack team?

"We always have to be on the lookout for that," he said. "Fewer cards mean it's easier to understand what's in and what's out. But they can be tough everywhere. Even on a six-deck shoe they'll crush you."

The game, which was launched on July 1, has been so popular with players that Blackman hinted it may not be restricted to the high limit room.

"One of my problems is I don't have that many people who are proficient at dealing the game yet," he told me. "We'll try and train all of our dealers. In any case, I don't believe this will be the end. I believe we're going to expand it."

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