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Best of John Grochowski

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Timing is everything

23 January 2007

They say timing is everything, and in late December I had one of those happy accidents of timing.

I'd asked Anthony Curtis, who publishes the monthly Las Vegas Advisor and some of the best gambling books around in addition to being a blackjack tournament player of the first order, to guest on my weekly "Casino Answer Man" radio show (usually 7 p.m. Saturdays on WCKG-FM, 105.9 in Chicago, but bouncing around some during the Chicago Bulls basketball season).

The timing couldn't have been better. He e-mailed back that he was going to be on television that afternoon, in the Legends of Blackjack event that wrapped up the Ultimate Blackjack Tour's inaugural season on CBS.

I tuned in, and found myself glad Curtis had mentioned it, and not just for the sake of our interview. I'd never imagined televised blackjack could be so entertaining. Those of you who missed the original telecasts on CBS might want to check it out on WGN-TV (Channel 9 in Chicago and on many cable systems nationwide.) While Season 2 is being prepared, WGN is airing Season 1 on Sundays at 8 p.m Central.

CBS found ratings climbing throughout the first season, with an estimated 1.4 million viewers on Christmas Day topping the list. It's no wonder. There's a lot to like in the UBT format. For one thing, using the same technology that's helped make televised poker so popular, the UBT lets viewers see the dealer's face down card. You always know exactly where all the hands stand.

For another, there are a series of forced eliminations in the 30-hand finals. After hands Nos. 8, 16 and 25, the player with the lowest chip count is eliminated. That adds excitement along with intrigue as players weigh their betting strategies on the elimination hands.

One element that played a big role in the Legends event was the secret bet. On the last hand, Curtis found himself head-to-head with Ken Einiger, author of the tournament blackjack players' guide Play to Win --- a book published by Curtis' Huntington Press. Einiger entered the hand with $409,500, and Curtis with $325,500, leaving Curtis within striking distance given the tournament's maximum bet of $100,000 per hand. Curtis went to the booth to write down a secret bet.

That left Einiger guessing as to just what he had to do to safeguard his lead. He wagered $60,000, and when dealt a pair of 6s against the dealer's 2, he surrendered. Losing half his bet took his total down to $379,500. And Einiger grimaced when he saw Curtis' wager of $95,000 --- he'd guessed wrong, and Curtis would win if he won the hand.

The outcome turned out to be one familiar to any blackjack player. Curtis had a hard 18, the dealer, with a 2 down, turned up an Ace, then another 2, and a Queen. Hard 15. If the next card was an Ace, the dealer would have to draw again. Einiger would win with a 3 through 6, Curtis would win with a 7 through face. Eight ways to win, only four ways to lose --- and Curtis lost. The dealer's last card was a 6 for a 21.

I told Curtis how much I had enjoyed the show, what an exciting format it was.

"That's because it's like poker," he said. "They learned from poker, incorporated a lot of the elements, and it televises like poker."

If you've not seen the Ultimate Blackjack Tour, give it a try in its WGN run. And to learn more about the tour, including how to qualify for events, visit the Web site www.playubt.com.

** ** **

Speaking of tournament action, the World Series of Poker Circuit, designed to bring the excitement of poker's biggest event to sites throughout the nation, comes to the Midwest starting Jan. 28 and running through Feb. 7 at the Horseshoe casino in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

The main event is the $5,150 No Limit Hold'em championship, which along with its own prize money brings automatic entry in to the World Series of Poker main event in Las Vegas.

WSOP Circuit events are about more than just the big-money championship, with satellites along with lower-cost limit and no-limit events. In addition, Phil Gordon, poker pro and former co-host of Celebrity Poker Challenge on Bravo, will be giving a seminar on Feb. 3.

Horseshoe in Council Bluffs is a Harrah's Entertainment property, as are all the host casinos for the World Series of Poker Circuit. Harrah's bought the World Series of Poker name when it bought Binion's Horseshoe in Las Vegas in 2004. Harrah's has since sold the Las Vegas Horseshoe, while keeping other Horseshoes it had bought separately from Jack Binion.

The World Series brand has since grown to the circuit, to World Series of Poker video poker games from WMS Gaming, and more is in the works. Perhaps we can look forward to a circuit event closer to home when the Horseshoe in Hammond opens its new boat in 2008.

For more information, visit http://www.worldseriesofpoker.com/events/circuit_schedule2007.sps

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski