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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Wrapping up the Northwest Indiana Blackjack Scene

7 April 2004

Let's swing back into "blackjack mode" today and wrap up our grand tour of the games available at Chicago-area casinos by analyzing the situations at the Trump Casino & Hotel and Majestic Star Casino in Gary, Indiana, and the Blue Chip Casino & Hotel in Michigan City, Indiana.

Since blackjack requires a degree of skill to play successfully, deciding where to bet your money does make a difference. Rules and playing conditions can vary from casino to casino. Even the most subtle difference can tip the sensitive scale that exists between players and the house.

Collectively, the properties included in today's analysis share some fine player-friendly qualities. The dealers at all three casinos stand on soft-17. Players are allowed to double down on any two cards, and, with the exception of the one double-deck game at the Blue Chip, players may double down after splitting.

The Blue Chip is the only casino among today's trio to offer a two-deck game played out of a shoe. Penetration (the number of cards dealt before shuffle-up) is about half, which, with some rare exceptions, is an industry standard. The penetration at the casino's six-deck game is a very generous 83 percent, which means play proceeds until about a deck and a half remain in the shoe. That's outstanding.

While on the subject of the number of decks, be aware that both Trump and the Majestic Star have the less player friendly eight-deck games in addition to the more acceptable six-deck variety. They're easy to spot at the Majestic Star. Only the tables in the high limit "Monte Carlo Room" use six-deck shoes. All of the tables on the main gaming floor are eight-deckers.

The Blue Chip doesn't play an eight-deck game, but with that bit of good news there comes some bad. Unlike the Trump and Majestic Star, where all of the games are hand shuffled, the Blue Chip has some automatic shuffling machines, and, worse yet, four continuous shuffling machines.

Machine shuffling speeds up the game and increases the amount of time a player subjects his bankroll to risk. Continuous shuffling machines are the worst. They make for non-stop action, where the casino can derive most benefit, and they make it impossible for skilled players to utilize any form of card tracking system.

Players who favor the more advantageous $5 minimum games will be happy to learn that they are always available at the Blue Chip. The best time to catch a "nickel" game at the Majestic Star is on weekdays from 5:00 a.m. until noon; however the casino will increase that time to 5:00 p.m. based on business volume. Trump features "Table Fever" which makes $5 minimum tables available Monday through Thursday before 7:00 p.m.

None of today's casino subjects allow players to re-split aces, a player-hostile restriction. The Majestic Star compounds the hostility by permitting players to split pairs only once. Both the Trump and the Blue Chip give players the option of splitting three times up to a maximum of four hands.

Table maximums, a factor that only interests high rollers, vary among the three properties. The Majestic Star is the high limit leader. Players can bet up to $10,000 at the $100 tables, $5,000 at the $25 and $50 tables, and $500 at the lower limit tables.

On the promotion side of things, the Majestic Star has an ongoing $60,000 Blackjack Tournament Series in progress. The tournaments consist of three preliminary rounds and a championship round with a prize structure of $5,000 to 1st, $2,000 to 2nd, $1,000 to 3rd, $750 to 4th, $500 to 5th and 6th and $250 to 7th. Entry fee is $100. Call VIP services at 219-977-7800 for questions or to make reservations.

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