Is Baccarat the New Black(jack)?

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I think I’ve found my new hero.  David G. Schwartz as his Twitter profile @unlvgaming reads ‘Directs the Center for Gaming Research , gaming & hospitality editor for . Reigning Trippie Awards Person of the Year, 5-time NPA award-winner.’

As I continue to practice and improve my blackjack play I’m also looking to learn more about the gaming industry as a whole.  I’m fascinated by the combination of marketing and analytics that go into maximizing revenues while providing an exciting experience.

The most recent stat I came across from the UNLV gaming research department was about the declining value of blackjack to casinos. According to this study blackjack has dropped from 80% of casino tables games in 1985 to approximately 55% in 2013.  Even more shocking is that baccarat has taken over the top revenue generating spot for casinos while the percent of revenue from blackjack dropped from nearly 60% to less than 30% over the same period.

So is Baccarat the new Black(jack) – I know I know it sounds like a real corny Carrie Bradshaw Sex and The City intro, but the question is interesting.  Based on these stats I’d say that blackjack may be in trouble, especially outside of the U.S.  In Macau baccarat is the primary game that built the city much like blackjack built Las Vegas.

But in the U.S., as Lee Corso would say, ‘Not So Fast My Friend’ – could you imagine movies like The Hangover, Swingers, or Oceans 11 using baccarat instead of blackjack as their primary visual when setting the scene at a casino.  Blackjack is casino gambling to most Americans.  They may not understand the odds or exactly how to play, but 21, double-down, splitting Aces & 8s and winner winner chicken dinner are all common themes most Americans immediately associate with casinos.

My new hero may have identified an increasing trend towards baccarat and other table games at casinos, but I’ve still got my money on blackjack.  My game of choice might see a slow decline, but I’m betting that there is still some life left in the game.

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Jonesin’ For a Blackjack Fix

I don’t live close to a casino, and it is driving me crazy right now.  The closest casino is over 3 hours away by car.  It’s almost easier to fly to Vegas or Atlantic City to play cards, but that isn’t realistic on a regular basis with a full-time job, family, etc.  So what is an aspiring blackjack player to do?

In my case not much and it is getting old.  I’m honestly tempted to leave my job and go work for myself so I can have more control over my time.  I’ve even considered getting a job that requires regular west coast travel so I can work in Vegas stops.

There is rumor that a casino is being built about 2 hours away, but it’s been promised for ‘next summer’ for the past two summers so I’m not holding my breath.  I’m tempted to drive up there to see it for myself, but I’m afraid that either a) I’ll be disappointed that it isn’t further along or b) I’ll realize that my blackjack obsession has gone too far while I’m driving 2 hours each way to see a pile of dirt.

In earlier posts I’ve mentioned that I won’t break the law and play at an online casino for real money, so I’m stuck.  I’m working on another trip in the next 30 days so I can get back on the tables.  I’ll keep you posted on my next adventure and please lobby your state senators to build more casinos so I can donate more money to the local economy!

Myth Buster: An Entire Blackjack Table Can Win Together

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Much like the Yetti and the stripper working her way through law school there is an urban legend that an entire table full of blackjack players can sit down and all walk away winners.  I’ve heard friends claim it happened on that ‘best night ever’ stories, but since I’ve never experienced it in real-life I assumed it was just drunk revisionist history to make themselves look good.

I’m now a believer after my last trip to my current favorite place on earth, Planet Hollywood Las Vegas.

To set the scene it was the last stand of our 48 hour gambling bender at the $25 Pleasure Pit tables at Planet Hollywood.  My buddy and I were playing together and holding our own at break even when two guys came and sat at first and third base.

The first sign that I liked these guys was that they asked if they could join us or wait until the shoe ended.  THANK YOU, a pet-peeve of mine is the guy who barges in no matter what the situation.  Our shoe was about to end so they waited a couple of hands for the shoe to end and the shuffle to take place.

Another good sign was the guys introduced themselves and had a very positive attitude.  If you’re going to try to win some money together it is nice to be able to root for each other by name and be able to share some laughs and pain.

The clincher for me was the 2nd hand in when 3rd base surrenders 15 vs. 10 showing and the rest of us win when the dealer busts.  Gotta love someone at 3rd base who knows how and when to surrender.

Now we’re off and running.  Everyone is drinking, cheering, and most importantly, winning.  3rd base is a good player, but erratic bettor.  One hand is $25 and the next is $150 without any rhyme or reason.  This doesn’t affect our play so it makes things interesting to watch.  After shoe 1 I’m level, 1st base is up a couple hundred, my buddy is up a couple hundred and 3rd base is up at least 500.

In shoe 2 is when we know this is going to be good – 3rd base splits a $150 bet with 3s against a 3.  First hand is a 13, 2nd hand another 3, split with hand 2 a 13 which is hit to get to a 19 and then hand 3 is an 8 for a double which the dealer deals down.  He has $600 on these three hands and the dealer turns a 5 – next card is a 10.  The rest of us win, push, lose, but we don’t care.  3rd base is tied and looking at $300 riding on his face down double card.  Dealer turns it over and we go nuts – King – 21 – winner!

Now we are off to the races.  We play through several shoes, a few of them are pushes, but most are winners for everyone.  We are getting drunk, having fun and winning some serious money.  At one point a guy hovers thinking about sitting in the one vacant seat, but we all give him the silent stink eye treatment and he wanders away.  If he had sat we all would have left.

After one more great run, my friend is about to fall over drunk so we all declare that the end of the shoe is the end.  The shoe ends uneventfully, we shake hands with our new best friends and we all head our separate ways.  This might be the first and last time we all experience the Yetti of blackjack tables.

‘I’m Going to Punch That C–t in the Throat’

This post title is a direct quote from one of my travelling companions on my last Vegas excursion.  And I edited the c-word since it is almost as ugly to read in print as it is to hear.  The crazy part is that if he had punched the dude (yes he used the c-word to describe a guy) in the throat, most blackjack players would have called it justified based on the scenario I’ll describe for you here.

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To set the scene, me and two friends were early into day 2 of a 48 hour drinking and blackjack binge and had decided to start out at Treasure Island since none of us had been there before.  One of our crew was stuck on work conference calls so two of us found a $15 table, a stunningly exotic cocktail waitress, and started our day.

The table we chose had a vanilla looking couple who were probably in from Missouri or Oklahoma.  We took up positions at 1st and 2nd base with the guy to my left and his wife anchoring the table at 3rd base.  The play started out without any noticeable issues, the wife was doing better than the future-c-word husband, and the good guys were floating around even.

Then the first warning bell rang.  The wife just sits out two random hands.  No reason, no run of bad cards, not the start of a new shoe, no explanation, just decides to sit and watch for a couple of hands.  Okay, everyone is a bit different in how they play and my buddy is up a few bucks so we keep going.

Then a big red flag goes up.  The c-word-to-be stands on a 14 against the dealer’s 9.  Are you f-ing kidding me.  His wife takes a card, gets a King and busts, the dealer turns over a 6 and gets a 5 which beats the entire table.  I’ve now raised this guy to d-bag status – he definitely isn’t counting cards and he didn’t give anyone an explanation or even apologize.  I’m good with everyone playing their own game, but if you are playing at a $15 table with several people you better have a good reason for not making a basic play.

Two hands later the air horn sounds.  This bouche pulls the same basic crap of staying on a hit hand with the dealer holding a strong up card and to add insult to injury this time he wins while his wife took a bust card.  So not only is he an ass he doesn’t mind tanking his wife in the process.

I immediately pick up my remaining chips and take off.  My buddy saw it as well, but he was winning and didn’t immediately take offense so he decided to stay.  This is when I took my talents to the $50 table and quickly turned my fortunes around to a nice afternoon payday, but that’s not relevant to this story other than to make me feel better about the experience.

Back to the c–t.  15 minutes later my buddy joins me at my table after being cleaned out.  This happens and at first he is a little ticked at his change in fortunes, but as he starts to talk about the situation it becomes clear that this was more than just a bad run.  He begins to realize how bad the Missoklahoma dude was and how much his terrible play hurt his chances for winning.

The slow burn started to bubble into a boil as the more we discussed, the more it became clear that one bad player had tanked the table.  My buddy has less experience at the tables than I do and this was his first run-in with a truly horrendous player.

Our third friend finished his work calls, joined us, the exotic cocktail waitress brought us a round and that is when the lightbulb went off in my buddy’s head.  ‘That guy doesn’t deserve to sit in a casino, he is a horrible human being.’  We laugh and drink and then the line of the weekend…’I’m going to punch that c–t in the throat!’

With that we knew that no matter how many times the waitress returned it wouldn’t make TI any better so we grabbed our drinks and headed down the strip to put some distance between us and worst player we’d meet this trip.