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Best of Henry Tamburin

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Best Mississippi blackjack games

21 August 1999

I'm often asked about the differences in blackjack games between two of Mississippi's largest gaming areas -- the Gulf Coast and Tunica. After having visited both areas, here is my assessment.

In general, you'll find more single-deck blackjack games in Tunica with better odds for the basic strategy player, but overall the Gulf Coast casinos have more player-favorable multiple-deck games.

This conclusion is based on an analysis of the different blackjack playing rules and number of decks being used to determine the casino's edge. The lower the casino's edge, the better the blackjack game for the basic strategy blackjack player.

I found that in all but one of the Tunica casinos, the blackjack dealers must HIT soft 17, whereas in the Gulf Coast casinos dealers STAND on soft 17. This may seem like a trivial point, but the fact is that the dealer will tend to improve his hand on average when hitting soft 17 compared to standing on soft 17. This results in players being at an additional disadvantage when the dealer hits soft 17 (statistically the soft 17 rule increases the casino's edge by about 0.2 percent). From a playing strategy standpoint, if the rules specify the dealer must hit on soft 17, then you should make the following three modifications to your basic playing strategy:

  • Double down on hard 11 when the dealer shows an ace.
  • Double down on ace, 8 (soft 19) when the dealer's up card is a 6.
  • Double down on soft 18 when the dealer's up card is a 2.

Because single-deck blackjack games inherently have a lower casino edge than multiple-deck games, casinos usually are not too liberal with their playing rules. This was the case for the majority of the Tunica casinos except for the Gold Strike. Surprisingly, they offered a single-deck game ($25 minimum bet) in which they allowed players the option to double down after pair splitting (DAS). This rule coupled with the dealer hitting soft 17 rule results in a casino's edge for this game of only 0.06 percent (that's as close to an even game as you will get). This was the best single-deck game in both regions.

The second best playing rules in single-deck games that I found were in four Tunica casinos that had these rules: dealer hit soft 17 and players allowed to resplit aces (casino's edge 0.18 percent). I found the best single-deck game among Gulf Coast casinos at the Copa Casino in Gulfport, where the rules specify the dealer must stand on soft 17, late surrender is allowed, but players are allowed to double down only on hard 10 (casino's edge 0.23%).


Single-Deck Games
Best Gold Strike (Tunica)
   Second Best    Grand (Tunica)
Hollywood (Tunica)
Horseshoe (Tunica)
Sheraton (Tunica)


You'll find more double-deck games in the Gulf Coast casinos compared to casinos in Tunica. The rules for double-deck games are also for the most part more player favorable in the Gulf Coast casinos. Most of the casinos there offer two-deck games with these rules: dealer stands on soft 17, double after pair splitting is allowed, and aces can be resplit (casino edge 0.14 percent). The Copa Casino offers late surrender instead of resplit of aces with the same casino edge.

The best double-deck game in Tunica is at the Grand, which offers the same rules as its Gulf Coast properties (casino edge 0.14 percent). The next best double-deck game is at four casinos that offered these rules: dealer hits soft 17, double after pair splitting allowed and aces can be resplit (casino edge 0.35 percent).


Best Double-Deck Games
Beau Rivage (Biloxi)
Casino Magic (Biloxi)
Copa (Gulfport)
Grand (Biloxi, Gulfport, & Tunica)
Palace (Biloxi)
Treasure Bay (Biloxi)


When it comes to six-deck blackjack games, for the most part the Gulf Coast casinos offer better rules. The very best six-deck game can be found at the Beau Rivage casino, where the rules specify that dealers must stand on soft 17, double after pair splitting is allowed, as well as late surrender and resplit of aces (casinos edge 0.26 percent). The second best six-deck games offer rules that include the dealer standing on soft 17, double after pair splitting, and resplit of aces (or late surrender).


Six-Deck Games
Best Beau Rivage (Biloxi)
   Second Best    Copa (Gulfport)
Casino Magic (Biloxi & Bay St.Louis)
Grand (Biloxi, Gulfport, & Tunica)
Palace (Biloxi)
Treasure Bay (Biloxi)


Which casinos offer the least player favorable blackjack rules (excluding specialty games like Spanish 21)? In the Gulf Coast area it's the 8-deck games at the Isle of Capri and Casino Magic -Bay St. Louis (casino edge 0.43 percent) and the 6-deck games at the President, Boomtown, and Imperial Palace casinos (casino edge 0.41 percent). In the Tunica market, it's the 6-deck games at Fitgerald's, Gold Strike and Sam's Town (casino edge 0.63 percent).

Keep in mind that casinos can change the rules, which in turn could alter their edge. Therefore, it pays to understand which blackjack rules and games are more favorable so that you can scout a casino's blackjack tables and quickly determine which games are best. And don't think that a single deck game is always better than a 2- or 6- deck game. Case in point is the Copa Casino. They offer single-, double- and six-deck blackjack games with slightly different rules. The result is that their double-deck game is a better game for a basic strategy player than their single- or six-deck game.

Recent Articles
Best of Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

> More Books By Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

Winning Baccarat Strategies

> More Books By Henry Tamburin