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Robert's Rules of Gambling
Blackjack Strategy for Atlantic City
by Stanley Roberts

Perhaps the first thing that strikes you as you enter the Atlantic City area is the incredible amount of construction. All about are some of the largest cranes in the world, working on giant skyscrapers for the new Atlantic City. There are many different hotels in the process of being built andremodeled, and construction workers, construction huts, and the typical hardhat scene is all about you. Much work is at a feverish pace; some of them are in the process of "fast-tracking," which is an accelerated construction technique. Two and three shifts are very common. The reason is that every day that one of the new casinos fails to open, they're losing nearly a half million dollars in gross winnings. Naturally, bonuses of a million dollars or more have been offered to these contractors to get the jobs done.

At present, there are only two casinos in operation. That's as of the date of this writing, which is mid-September. The first casino, Resorts International Hotel on the Boardwalk, has been in operation for over a year. The results of that operation have been yielding over $20 million a month. The gross win is a new record for the gambling industry. Opened just a few months ago was the Boardwalk Regency Hotel, which is a division of Caesars World. Both places enjoy capacity crowds, with long lines to get into the casino on weekends and a long wait to get a seat at the tables, particularly the lower range tables, the $2 and $5 minimum tables where you may wait as long as two or three hours to get a seat. And it's very difficult to move around in these casinos in the evenings, because the crowds are packed three-deep around the tables. Further, Atlantic City does have an interesting rule with regard to betting, and that is you may bet on another person's hand; however, the person who sits at the table has the right to control the outcome of the hand, even if your bet is hundreds of dollars more.

The third casino expected on the scene is that of the Bally Corporation through their subsidiary company, Bally of New Jersey. The hotel will be called Park Place. I suppose now that we have the Boardwalk and Park Place on the Monopoly scene, we can now expect somebody to come up with Marvin Gardens and Connecticut Avenue as well. In fact, the Boardwalk Regency has a restaurant called Marvin Gardens; however, we've yet to hear of a casino that is anticipating using that name.

In observing the dealers at both casinos, one who has experience in Vegas or Reno can't help but feel that they are still somewhat amateurish in their behavior, but, on the whole, they're not bad. Of course, the worst thing they do is give advice, as dealers are prone to do to players who seem to be lost as to how to play their hand, and the advice they give in Atlantic City is very bad; so, we advise you that whenever a dealer tells you how to play your hand, don't pay any attention to him.

Parking is a major problem in Atlantic City and is setting people off in a very distasteful way. Many high rollers will be discouraged by this particular aspect. A number of the parking lots charge $10 and up for one day's parking, which is not anywhere near the casinos. I heard a rumor, although I haven't seen the place, that there was one parking lot charging $26 a day for parking. If you check in as a guest at the Boardwalk Regency, they will charge you a $5 parking fee for one day. As far as high rollers are concerned, I think most would be discouraged at the current time from mingling with the crowds in Atlantic City. I couldn't help but feel that anybody who is recognized as a high roller would still be better off in Las Vegas, Reno, or Tahoe where they'll get a lot better treatment, including more in the way of comps. I overheard several people who are obviously in this class, regular customers of Caesars, and who were in line before me to check into the hotel-casino complaining bitterly about the way they were treated. It just isn't quite the same as Caesars in Las Vegas.

The casino personnel seem to be of a high caliber. They are relatively relaxed in their attitudes. And they should be, the casino is winning incredible sums of money. Many of these executives are experienced former Nevadans and naturally, they are accustomed to handling themselves in a casino. Although I know that most of the New Jersey casino managements are interested in promoting their dealers to the floorman and pitboss levels as soon as possible, this takes a lot of experience, and that can only be gained by dealing.

The minimum table anywhere is $2. And it's very hard to find a seat at a $2 table. In fact, it's very hard to find a seat at a $5 table. Resorts has a $10 minimum table, which is an innovation in Atlantic City. It is easier to find a seat at a $25 minimum table. But even then, you may have some difficulty. In the baccarat pit at Resorts, there are two $100 tables. There was plenty of room at those tables. So if you're in that category, you probably won't have any trouble finding a space to sit down.

Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of Atlantic City is the players. The players are incredibly bad. The title of the worst blackjack players in the world, which previously was owned by Reno, Nevada, has now officially passed to Atlantic City, New Jersey; even though the rules in Atlantic City are probably the most favorable in the world. What one receives from this experience is a, reaffirmation of things that I and other people have said before, i.e., the ultimate proof that the more options made available to the players, the more money the casino will win. That is because these options will invariably be used incorrectly by the players. People seem to be so enamoured of the surrender option that they are surrendering winning hands and hands that should be played. The player who says "surrender" gives the impression of being more sophisticated. What they're doing is simply paying for that visual or verbal aspect of appearing to be sophisticated by surrendering their hands. In fact, they're paying very dearly for it.

In order to aid the people who wish to play in Atlantic City, I am presenting in this column the correct basic strategy for play in Atlantic City casinos. It is arranged in the way that one would normally play his hand, split, soft decision, hard decision. However, the first decision you must make is whether to surrender or not. As the surrender decisions run the gamut of the chart, you will see them throughout. Please note that all the hands that are surrendered are surrendered versus a 9, 10, or ace as the dealer's upcard. Actually, only one hand, hard 16 but not 8,8, would be surrendered versus 9. It's amazing that so many players in Atlantic City are surrendering against 7s and 8s. I even saw a man surrender a 17 against a dealer's 6.

After deciding whether to surrender or not, if you don't surrender, your next decision is whether you have a pair and should you split them. The pair-splitting decisions are found first on the chart. After that, you then make a decision as to whether you should double your hand or not. In Atlantic City, it is also permissible to double after splitting your hand. So if you were to split a pair of 7s versus the dealer's 6 and you caught a 4 on the first hand, then you would double down on it. If you caught a 3 on the next hand, you would double down on that hand also. After you had made your doubling down decision that was negative, you would then decide whether to hit your hand or to stand. If you are not a card counter, you would not take insurance when it is offered. Interestingly enough, one hand that I played, the dealer had an ace up, and the deck was very rich; in fact, there wasn't another 10 or face card showing on the entire table. I also had a hand I wished to surrender. I tried to both surrender and insure the hand, because insurance is a side bet which has nothing to do with the value of your own hand. I felt that the dealer had a 10 in the hole, and in fact he did, but they would not let me both surrender and take insurance. In that circumstance, you would surrender the hand, rather than take insurance.

One unusual aspect of the casino atmosphere is that, in Atlantic City, you find inspectors from the Casino Control Commission on duty at all times that there is play in the casino. Usually, at least one of them is on the floor. They have walkie-talkies to communicate with each other. They are-there to explain any rules that you may have questions about and to handle any beefs that may arise between a player and the casino staff. To my mind, this is an excellent policy and forces the casino to be on their toes a little more than in Las Vegas. On the other hand, the inspectors, due to the nature of their job, have become very friendly with the people who work in the casino, which is only natural. As there are now only two casinos between which to rotate the inspectors, I'm sure they've all gotten to know the casino staff very well. This friendship and regulation responsibility could be an issue that creates a conflict in the future.

All the blackjack games in Atlantic City are either four or six decks. All the cards are dealt face up from a shoe, and the players are not allowed to handle the cards. In the Boardwalk Regency, all of the games are six decks. Only Resorts has four-deck games, generally on the lower-limit tables. One difference between Resorts and Boardwalk Regency is that Resorts shows the burn card to all the players at the table. Boardwalk Regency does not. When dealing four decks out of the shoe, the cut card is placed approximately one deck from the end, so you will only be playing with three decks. In the six-deck shoe, the card is placed about a deck and a half from the end, so you will only be playing with four and a half decks. I have covered this subject before in previous columns, and suffice it to say, in my opinion, there is no point in playing with four or six decks unless all the cards are put into play. Anything else is a trick played on the player.

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