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Frontier Hotel 1942-2007

Frontier Hotel 1942-2007

"This is the end result of all the bright lights... and the comp trips, of all the champagne... and free hotel suites,
and all the broads and all the booze. It's all been arranged just for us to get your money.
That's the truth about Las Vegas. We're the only winners. The players don't stand a chance. "

-- Sam "Ace" Rothstein, Casino, 1995

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blackjack on a Budget

JH responds to a frequently asked question:

Q: Where's a good low budget place in LV to gain practice with card counting in a casino setting?

A: There's lots of low limit games around town.  The problem is that most are 6/5 or shoes.  So forget that.  If you can handle the cigarette smoke and low life clientele, here's some places with decent single deck and double deck low limit games that you can get lots of practice with card counting without breaking your bankroll:

El Cortez -- Downtown.  If you can handle the smoke and DT street crawlers, they spread single and double deck low limit with good rules.  I have seen $2-$3 minimums there at various times.  Penetration can be pretty good on the DD.  The problem with this place is that they have been picked on so many times over the years, that they may have the most paranoid pit in the city.  A $3 bettor will draw no attention.  A $3 bettor who goes up to $25 and then back down to $10, then $3 will draw attention eventually.  If you are just starting out counting cards and want to experience "heat" for the first time, the EC is the place to get started.  They sweat small action and there's nothing like some crusty old pit boss in a poly suit staring you down.  Be careful though -- they might take your picture with a Polaroid camera and put you in their "AP" notebook. 

FYI -- be careful of the dealers at the EC.  Lot's of Asian break in dealers who conveniently miss pay/short pay.   You gotta watch them every second!

4 Queens -- Downtown.  They have a one or two playable tables in this dump.  They are almost as sweaty as the El Cortez.  Green chip action causes a meltdown in their pit.  Their trick is that their dealers shuffle any time a big bet is placed or the count gets really positive.  Last time we played there they just kept shuffling on us on the positive count.  When it got negative we would not bet and demanded a new deck.  Needless to say we were sweated real quick out of there.  It's fun to hit this place once in a while and ramp up on them.  I went from $25 to $100 and their pit blew a gasket.  Check play called, 2 PB's came over to assess the situation, scowl on their faces, very sweaty.  Black chip action sets their PB's off -- arms are crossed, pit meetings, phone starts ringing, etc.  So comical...

Jokers Wild -- Boulder Highway.  I know I like to pick on the Jokers Wild because of the smoking in there.  But they do have at least one low limit table, sometimes two going at all times.  They usually have a $3 min. table with good rules.  The main problem with this dump is the chop -- usually 50%.  If you bet $3 min you can push up 8x -- $24 without a problem.  A dealer told me they only call check play on $25 or larger bets.  So for a while I would just bet $3, then ramp up to $24, then go back down to $3.  Sometimes I would do a "respect" bet of $12.  Every now and then their pit would get annoyed with me -- but I would not call it your typical heat.  A while back I got shuffled on a $3-$24 bet at JW when it was monster positive. So I pulled my bet back and went down to $5.  The PB gave me a look and said "I had a feeling you would do that."  You just have to laugh.  Sweating someone for a $24 dollar bet.  Come on now.

A while back my friends and I hit the JW really hard and withdrew around $1000 from the joint.  During this session we really pushed it on our bet spreads --  up to a 35x spread.  We went from $3 to $25.  Win.  Next bet was $75.  Loss.  Next bet was $105, blackjack.  Deck was done.  Back down to $3.  Needless to say it got really sweaty after that.  Some guy in a suit showed up in the pit and started having a meeting with the PB's.  He must have been the hammer. We hit the eject button and got the hell out of there before he could toss us.

Club Fortune -- Henderson, off of Boulder Highway.  A local's grind joint a few miles south of Lake Mead Parkway.  CF is not quite the gas chamber like the Jokers Wild or Eastside Cannery, but keep a gas mask in the car just in case.  My associates and I have hit this place 3x in the past year -- lost 2x, won 1x.  I think they have $3-$5 min double deck depending on the time of day, with OK penetration.  What's interesting is we have ramped up on them to the table max on numerous occasions, $25-$200, but they cheerfully tolerate our action to a point.  Usually we get a good hour there before the sweating starts from the PB's.  Every sweating we have gotten in CF is what I call a "cheerful" sweating:  PB's comes over, introduces himself, makes small talk, asks if we are winning or losing, asks us our names, chimes in on a whether it's a "good idea" as one of us doubles down a soft 19 against a 6 on a monster positive count, offers us a player's club card, etc.  It's all an act of course -- he's just giving us the "hint" that he knows what's going on and our play will not be tolerated for much longer.  We play until the next negative count and then leave.

One side note on Club Fortune:  It is the only casino in NV I have ever been in where I have seen two different customers get cut off from drinking, not even 5 minutes minutes after sitting down at the table.

One guy tried to order a beer -- he appeared to be sober, and was cut off by the waitress because of his behavior while in a drunken state a few days earlier.  Apparently the same waitress had previously cut him off, and he verbally abused her.  Of course he denied doing anything wrong.  He threw a fit with the PB, who told him "to go somewhere else that tolerates that type of behavior."

On another occasion, a drunk guy sat down at the table and tried to order a beer.  The waitress cut him off also.  He got cut off because he was so drunk the night before that he had fell off his chair and knocked over the waitress with a tray full of drinks.  Then he refused to apologize and blamed her.  He also complained to the PB who told him "you are lucky to even be back in here after what you did last night."

I guess Club Fortune runs a "tight ship" in regard to customer alcohol consumption and abuse of waitresses...

Klondike Sunset --  Sunset Road, between the 95 and Boulder Highway.  The dump of all dumps.  This place makes the Jokers Wild look like the Bellagio.  I do not think there is a more disgusting and low life casino in all of LV (maybe the Western?).  However, they do have $2 min blackjack in the dump, with good rules.  Penetration is not bad -- 60%.  This operation appears to be a family run operation of some sort (maybe Koreans?).  All the dealers and PB's know each other and are Asian.  They are highly suspicious of any sizable bet spread.  Any buy in larger than $20 causes immediate scrutiny from the pit.  I went from $4 to $25 and got check play called on me.  Their dealers will shuffle instantly if they think a big bet is coming or the count gets real positive.  We hit this place 6 months ago for about $800.   They were not happy.

Good luck out there.  May your biggest bets be blackjacks, and may the dealer bust on your double downs and splits.  JH.


  1. Jimmy: Your latest post describing the Las Vegas blackjack scene is hilarious, keep them coming.

  2. Okay. You got low level bets that you are able to up just a bit when the count is favorable, you got thick smoke, you got "heat" ... and you've got it in surroundings that are less than stellar.

    Is it really more fun than betting black in a relatively smoke free environment with a continuous shuffling machine?

  3. @flea:

    Where is this "relatively smoke free environment" you are speaking of? Does this exist in LV? Please let me know ASAP!!!

    As for the CSM -- CSM's are evil, pure evil. Probably worse than 6/5 blackjack. If casino's could get away with it, every table would have a CSM. When casinos decided that blackjack was "not profitable" enough they started using CSM's. When that did not work out they went to 6/5 blackjack.

    Either way, CSM's and 6/5 should be avoided by card counters and even basic strategy players. Now of course if you just want to have a few drinks and enjoy the view at a local tit pit, good luck! JH

  4. "...if you just want to have a few drinks and enjoy the view at a local tit pit..."
    No thanks. I want to win. No pole dancing or 6:5 desired.

    Do you know if that Fernely non-smoking "casino" is still open?

    Smoking and gambling (and other risky behaviors) are probably genetically linked and casinos tend to fight smoking bans. Some bingo rooms and most poker rooms are smoke free though. Smoke free being ofcourse a misnomer for the ultra sensitive who are bothered by air flow from other areas of the casino.

    Have you tried The M Resort: its new and clean so no stale tobacco smell ground into surfaces yet. I'm told it has the highest air exchange rate in Vegas for its HVAC system and that the minute droplets of Mediterranean Fig essential oil that it injects into the air conditioning actually help with some of the particulate matter from cigarettes. I think you will be able to lave your gas mask in the car!

    What about this oft-repeated: In order to make twenty dollars an hour card counting you need a 25k bankroll and if you have a 25k bankroll, you probably already make more than twenty dollars an hour?

  5. Yeah penetration is everything, lol. Agree on the smoke free environment comment's. Personally, and I haven't been to casino in a while, although i used to go quite often, las vegas and shreveport mostly, even to get to the "alleged" smoke free tables you have to walk through a smoking area and get a good dose of second hand smoke. It's like in restaurants that have or used to have smoking and non-smoking areas, there's no way you can keep the smoke from coming into the non-smoking area.

  6. @Flea:

    I love the M! You are right, their HVAC is amazing in there. You could bring every smoker from Sam's Town, Eastside Cannery, and Jokers Wild and have them all light up at the same time -- and their system would suck that smoke right out.

    My associates have hit the M really hard over the past year -- at least 7x. They take our action well with moderate heat. We have ramped from $15 to $165 on them many a time -- Pit hardly takes an interest. Of course the eye is watching very closely. We pushed it there one time and got sweated out hard. But otherwise they have given us a fair game.

    On side note. They have, bar none, the most beautiful cocktail waitresses in the entire city. Not only are they beautiful, but they are friendly and personable. Compare that to Caesar's where you have some grumpy grandma in a wig who was hired in 1977 serving you!

  7. What you call the Sweat Point doesn't do too badly with Tray Lizards but you are quite correct, The M Resort wins ALL contests in that department!

    And if you are troubled by tobacco smoke, you should probably reward The M for spending over three times what other comparable casinos do to operate their HVAC each day. And the capital costs for it were far, far more!

  8. Sweat Point has a very nice collection of waitresses in the joint, I must say! But still the M is in it's own class!

    Those outfits at the SP are kinda ridiculous if you ask me! JH!

  9. I enjoy your blog Jimmy esp the photos...

    FYI - In the California casinos all the blackjack is dealt with continuous shuffle machines. Its likely these will eventually find their way to Vegas and put an end to counting. You guys should make hay while the sun shines.

  10. "...Club Fortune runs a tight ship in regard to customer alcohol consumption and abuse of waitresses..."

    Perhaps. Perhaps its simply that waitresses have more clout there because the job isn't all that great and few girls want it.

    Either way, I think its good when drunks are 86'd.

  11. I would agree. Obnoxious and abusive drunks are tolerated way too much in casinos. JH.

  12. Haha, your description of these dumps had me rolling! This blog is good stuff.

    I concur, the EC is a great place for a beginner. Yeah, they are sweaty, but getting the shoulder tap at EC is inconsequential, since they won't remember you in a week. My first back-off came here, spreading a meager 5 to 50 on the DD (Lesson learned: don't spread 10x on a pitch game). I came back a few weeks later without incident, but I've talked to folks that have come back on the very next shift, no problem.

    Good point on watching the mispays with the break in dealers at EC. Remember, though, those girls make mistakes in favor of the players, also. Correcting their detrimental mistakes and ignoring the beneficial ones can bump your EV nicely. For example, that carnival game they added last spring was a goldmine for the first few weeks.

    4Q's SD pretty much sucks, with the Tahoe D10 rule, but it's still a decent SD game for a beginner. The dealers there are slop. I played a session there recently where the 5 of diamonds was bent to all hell. I could spot that thing from the beer stand on Fremont, but no one else did, and the deck was left in play for a good hour before replacement. And yes, it did show up as the dealer's hole card twice. Talk about power.

    I've never been to any of these other dumps, but since I've graduated to green chip, I'll probably stay away. I still hit up EC on a regular basis, drop it down to red, and clean up for a bit while drinking their beer. It's just too much fun for me to pass up.

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  14. Thanks for all of the great tips! I like the Club Fortune stories there :)

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