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High-end Rivers frustrates reader

John Grochowski

John Grochowski

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Updated: February 5, 2013 6:07AM



A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:

Q. I held out for a year or so, but my wife and I finally went to the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill., to see what all the fuss was about. It was nice, and we liked the buffet, but I couldn’t really play there very often. Their table limits were too high, there were 80-cent forced bets on the 2-cent slot machines, the video poker pay tables were low and I couldn’t find any quarter video poker with only one hand at all. For a player with a modest budget, it was pretty frustrating. Is there anything that can be done for the average player there?

A. Rivers has been very successful targeting high-end players. It’s by far the revenue leader in Illinois, reporting $29.5 million in gaming revenue in November to $16.8 million for runner-up Harrah’s Joliet. As long as that continues, I can’t see Rivers doing anything drastic to its game mix. To be honest, if I were running the place, my game mix probably would be much the same as Rivers’ offerings. The seats are full, making money for the investors.

What I’d hope to see at some point is Rivers’ competitors taking a shot at filling their own empty seats by reaching out to players with higher-payback games.

Q. How many more hands do card counters win than someone who’s just playing basic strategy? To get the edge, do they need to win just one more hand per 100? Two more? Three? Ten? How do they do it?

A. Many card counters get an edge without winning any more hands than basic strategy players. Others win a small amount more, with strategy moves that take advantage of knowing the count. Some even are successful while winning slightly fewer hands than basic strategy players as they adopt low-cost strategy “mistakes” to cover their skill.

It’s not the changing of strategy and winning more hands that is the primary factor in giving card counters an edge over the casino. It’s the varying of bet sizes that makes the difference. Card counters get an edge by betting more money when the situation favors the players. The situation they’re looking for is a deck with a higher percentage than usual of high cards remaining to be played, leading to more blackjacks.

There are some strategy adjustments that can enhance the counter’s edge, but for the most part, the emphasis isn’t on winning more hands as much as it is on winning more money.

John Grochowski is a local freelance writer. Look for him on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.



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