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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Phone ahead to reserve a table - blackjack, that is

2 May 2007

One of the drawbacks for recreational gamblers in a market like the Greater Chicago area is a lack of $5 minimum gaming tables. At many of the properties, $10, $15 and even $25 games are the norm, a price which is out of reach for many folks who'd like to play but simply can't afford it.

High minimums at the tables are the reason many casino guests must gravitate to the slots. It's a simple case of supply and demand. Space is at a premium at many of the properties, and as long as the seats are occupied at the high minimum tables there's really no good business reason for the casino owners to change things.

When a $5 game is open, it seems the table is always filled. Onlookers stand nearby waiting for a spot to open. Even some above average gamblers appreciate the flexibility a $5 minimum game offers, especially when it comes to weathering cold streaks.

Hollywood Casino Aurora, Illinois has a compromise solution to the dilemma. Since early March the property has been offering "Reservation Blackjack". It gives gamblers the opportunity to phone ahead and reserve a seat at a $5 minimum table for the date and time they wish to play.

The service charge is $20 per person for each hour of play. This fact complicates the economic dynamics of the game for serious players who, depending on their level of skill, can keep the theoretical house advantage on blackjack down to around one and a half percent or less.

But aside from that, there is something to be said for the convenience of knowing not only will you find a $5 minimum game, but your seat will be ready and waiting for you when you arrive. There are some casual players who will gladly take Hollywood up on its offer.

The casino launched Reservation Blackjack with one table using standard house playing rules. Reservations up to 30 days in advance may be made on the hour by calling 630-801-1234. A major credit card is required at the time the reservation is made.

The service is especially attractive for its unique social appeal. It makes organizing blackjack parties among friends easy and convenient. Hollywood makes planning ahead for a session of blackjack at a budget-friendly game as easy as a dinner reservation or a movie time.

The value of Reservation Blackjack depends on how much $20 per hour is worth to the individual for the "privilege" of gambling. It's certainly not meant, nor is it feasible, for casino regulars or serious blackjack players who spend hours at the tables.

Having to pay just to play is a concept that wouldn't fly in a lot of gaming jurisdictions around the country. The built-in advantage the house has on the games guarantees the casino owners a profit to begin with. Tack on a $20 per hour "service charge" and it puts playing blackjack in an entire new gambling category.

Of course, the best case scenario is to have fun playing and walk away from the table a winner. If making a night out at the casino an affordable entertainment option for casino neophytes and occasional players was Hollywood's goal with Reservation Blackjack, then it's a good bet they've succeeded.

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