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Best of John G. Brokopp

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More Best Blackjack Deals in the Chicago Area

17 March 2004

Serious blackjack players should always "scout" the games before they step up to a table and risk their money. House rules can vary greatly from casino to casino. Because blackjack is a game in which good players can significantly tilt the advantage closer in their favor (depending on the rules), deciding where to gamble does make a difference.

Today I continue a series on the blackjack games available to players in the Chicago area. Last week the spotlight was on the Joliet properties, Harrah's Casino & Hotel and Argosy's Empress Casino & Hotel. This time around let's shift our attention northward to the Hollywood Casino in Aurora and the Grand Victoria Casino in Elgin.

Generally speaking, I can tell you right up front that the blackjack available at the two casinos in Joliet is superior to the games found at the Hollywood and the Grand Victoria. Here are some of the major reasons:

At both Harrah's and Argosy's Empress, players are permitted to re-split aces up to four hands. At both the Hollywood and the Grand Vic, players are not allowed to do so. The ability to re-split aces is an advantage for players. Say, for example, you are dealt a pair of aces. You split them and are dealt another ace. At Hollywood and the Grand Victoria you are stuck with a two-card total of 11. At Harrah's and Argosy's Empress you have the option of creating another hand.

Another big difference: Neither of the Joliet properties hits a dealer hand of "soft 17". Up north, the dealer hits soft 17 at all of the tables at the Grand Victoria. At the Hollywood, only the dealers at the high limit tables stand pat on soft 17. At the lower stake stables, the dealer hits.

Casinos that stand on soft 17 create an advantage for the player. When a dealer is allowed to improve upon a hand that players in many instances will be able to beat, the house garners a significant advantage.

As for table inventories, the Grand Victoria is by far the biggest in the Chicago area on the Illinois side with 24. Hollywood offers 13 tables.

Some good news for players is that both Hollywood and Grand Victoria allow players to double down on any two cards and double down after splitting (with the exception of the afore mentioned aces). This puts them in the same good standing as the Joliet properties.

A bit of bad news for Hollywood blackjack players is that the game is dealt from eight-deck shoes at the lower minimum tables, making it the only property in the Chicago area on the Illinois side to go this route. The more decks in a shoe, the harder it is for cerebral players to get an edge.

The more player-friendly six-deck shoes are the norms at Hollywood's high limit tables, and they are the only games dealt at the Grand Victoria.

Some good news that'll interest average players is the fact that the Grand Victoria is now the only casino destination in the Chicago area on the Illinois side to offer a $5 minimum game. The best time to catch a $5 table at the Grand Vic is in the mornings everyday except holidays and some weekends.

The minimum bet at the Hollywood is $10, the same as at Harrah's Joliet. The minimum at Argosy's Empress is $15.

As for shoe penetration (the number of cards dealt out of a shoe before the dealer shuffles up), both the Hollywood and the Grand Vic cut it off at about two decks, the same as Harrah's Joliet. Argosy's Empress offers the best penetration, about a deck and a half.

High rollers should note that the limits are higher at the Grand Vic, where $5 to $25 bettors can risk up to $2,000. The $25 and higher tables go up to $5,000. At the Hollywood, the limit at the $10 games is $1,000 while the high limit pit sets the bar at $2,000.

So, to sum things up over the last couple of weeks, based upon information provided by the individual properties, here are my rankings of the best casinos in the Chicago-area on the Illinois side to play blackjack: #1 – Argosy's Empress Casino Joliet. #2 – Harrah's Casino Joliet. #3 – Grand Victoria in Elgin. #4 – Hollywood Casino in Aurora.

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