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After scrapping plans to open a new restaurant in New York City’s luxurious Mandarin Oriental, world-renowned British chef Heston Blumenthal has finalized plans to begin a new venture at the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex in Melbourne, Victoria.

Heston Blumenthal

Blumenthal rose to prominence as owner of the Fat Duck in Berkshire, England, which has been lauded for its exciting and experimental cuisine. The Fat Duck has been voted the best restaurant in the world by a number of top industry authorities. The prestigious Michelin Guide currently gives the restaurant its top rating of three stars. 

Blumenthal will close the Fat Duck’s Berkshire facilities for a period six months to bring his entire kitchen staff and extensive cooking operations to Crown Resorts in Melbourne. The casino resort will serve as Fat Duck’s temporary home from February to August of next year. During this time, the world’s foremost gastronomical connoisseurs will undoubtedly flock to Crown Resorts to sample Fat Duck’s signature dishes, including snail porridge with Iberico de Bellota ham and the Sound of the Sea, a seafood dish that asks diners to eat while listening to seagulls and crashing waves on a pair of earphones. Blumenthal chose Crown Resorts as his newest restaurant location, in part, because he considers Melbourne one of the “top five cities in the world for food."

When the Fat Duck moves back to the United Kingdom in August, the Crown restaurant will continue to operate as a version of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. A two-Michelin-star restaurant, Dinner’s existing location in London is directed by former Fat Duck head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts.

In its ambitious attempt to recreate British culinary history, Dinner has crafted a number of innovative dishes such as Meat Fruit and Tipsy Cake with spit-roast pineapple and Bohemian Cake with grapefruit jam, chocolate mousse, and honey ice cream. In April 2014, Restaurant Magazine ranked Dinner by Heston Blumenthal No. 5 on its list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants.

The house edge is a statistical advantage created especially for the financial benefit of the casino. The casino and the dealer are always going to have the edge in any gambling game. The casinos advantage is very high, if the player doesn’t adopt a basic strategy in a game of Blackjack.

If you’re thinking this sounds a little unfair, you’re probably right, but there’s no need to worry as the house advantage is reduced to a great extent when using the basic strategies.

Having a strategy provides the player with a bit more lee-way to play the game, with less control coming from the house.

If you play your cards right, using the mind of a mathematician, then you are also going to have a better opportunity of maximizing your chance of beating the house. Not only has this been proven by men like Edward O. Thorp and Emmanuel Kimmel (known as the “men who beat Las Vegas”), but thinking with a mathematical mind when playing Blackjack has been tried and tested through computer simulations, which has proven to be very successful in reducing the house edge to an absolute minimum.

Don’t be misled though, Blackjack is not essentially a game revolving around mathematics, nor does the player need to have a photographic memory in order to win. Just a bit of logic will do.

You’ll notice that there’ll be varying rules with regards to whether a dealer hits or stands on a soft 17. (This is usually printed on the felt on the Blackjack table: H17, means the dealer MUST hit on soft 17; S17 indicates the dealer will stand on a soft 17.)

If the dealer’s up card has a face value of 7 or higher, it’s advised to keep drawing cards until you have a hard hand of at least 17 and higher or a soft hand of 18 and higher (remember a soft hand contains an ace with a value of either 1 or 11).

The above is just an excerpt from our comprehensive guide on How to Play Blackjack , which will show the ropes to beginners and provide strategic advice to those who are more familiar with the game. The best part? This eBook is 100% free – no conditions attached.

Felix Falguierein, who played with Tarot cards in the late 15th century Italy, has been the acclaimed inventor of Baccarat (meaning “Zero” in French, which also happens to be the game’s worst hand, adding a sort of lethal edge to its atmosphere).

During the Franco-Italian war, King Charles VIII brought Baccarat to France from Italy in 1490, through his soldiers, who in all probability must have learnt Baccarat from the Italian civilians. Baccarat was given wide-spread recognition throughout France. This brought about the different variants such as Chemin de Fer and Baccarat en Banque, which were played only by the French Aristocrats and in secrecy because at various time in its history the game has been illegal, just like many forms of gambling.

Baccarat gained momentum and popularity once it reached Europe, and by the 19th century, French and English immigrants had spread the game’s antics to the Americas. Surprisingly though, Americans were not as immediately smitten with the game in the way that the Europeans had been centuries before, at least not at first.

Baccarat’s popularity only soared in America from around the 1950’s, when Tommy Renzoni passed baccarat from the Cubans, to the Las Vegas strip and promoted its possible prominence in the gambling industry. This is where the third version of Baccarat - Punto Banco (Player vs. Banker) came into being and turned out to be the preferred version to play in North America.

Las Vegas encouraged Punto Banco’s primacy by offering the game in VIP lounges for the pleasure of high rollers. This created an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue for the general public, which led to the clichéd idea that Baccarat is for the well-to-do.

Chemin de Fer, anyone?

This is the original version of Baccarat which was introduced to France in 1490. It’s also the variant that is still practiced there and to this day is very popular. During the time of its introduction, the cards were dealt out of an iron box, thus the name Chemin de Fer – meaning “way of iron” or more accurately, “railroad”. The table is oval in shape and seats up to eight clients at one time.

Six decks of cards are used. Play begins to the right of the dealer and continues in an anti-clockwise direction.

The dealer first shuffles all the cards, after which the client to the left of the dealer will then cut the deck.

One of the clients is given the position as the “banker” and will also have to deal the cards. The remaining 7 clients are named “punters”. The banker position will be passed on anti-clockwise and each client (when they become the Banker) will wager his/her bet. The punters (or clients rather,) have the option to say out loud – “go bank” and will then play against the entire existing bank, with your matching bet. Only one client can “go bank”, so being the first to say it is important (if of course you would like to play against the bank), otherwise, if no one says “go bank” then clients place their bets in order. The total of the bets can either be less than the bank, or more in which the bank can choose to either allow bystanders to join and bet up to the amount of the bank or if bets turn out to be greater than the bank, the banker can increase the bank bet to match or remove the bet in the opposite (clockwise) order of play.

Banker shares out four cards face-down, two of which are the bankers and the remaining two cards are communal for the clients. The client, who has offered the highest bet, represents the rest of the clients. An immediate 8 or 9 must be announced and cards must be turned face-up, otherwise if both hands contain neither an 8 nor a 9 – the client can accept a third card, if they wish. The rules from here on out are the same as in Full Scale Baccarat.

From hushed and illegal to the vivacious presence the game has today, Baccarat and its variations is a game of choice for many players. The online casino environment is no different with scores of players clicking away with the chance of great cash rewards.

Although lottery scratch tickets and poker machines are currently Australia’s favourite form of gambling, the country also has a longstanding tradition of sports betting. In the wake of regulatory restrictions such as the Interactive Gambling Act (IGA) of 2001, sports betting has enjoyed something of a resurgence.

Live Sports Betting

The IGA specifically targeted casino gaming, making it more difficult for gambling businesses to offer casino gaming and advertise these services to Australian citizens. Under current Australian law, however, it remains perfectly legal for licensed gambling companies to offer online and brick-and-mortar sports betting.

According to a recent study by Roy Morgan Research, the majority of Australians go online to place sports bets — and this trend is currently on the rise. In fact, the popularity of Internet sports betting has more than quadrupled since 2004. Between June 2013 and June 2014, approximately 1.1 percent of adult Australians (207,000 individuals) placed at least one online sports bet over an average of three months.

The second most popular sports betting outlet is provided by Australia’s Totalisator Agency Board. Operating under the acronym TAB, this organization maintains a network of agencies and outlets in clubs, bars, and hotels. As a whole, TAB services attract 137,000 gaming enthusiasts (0.8 percent of the adult population) in any given three months.

The second most popular sports betting outlet is provided by Australia’s Totalisator Agency Board. Operating under the acronym TAB, this organization maintains a network of agencies and outlets in clubs, bars, and hotels. As a whole, TAB services attract 137,000 gaming enthusiasts (0.8 percent of the adult population) in any given three months.

A large number of Australians and Australian tourists also place sports bets in the country’s numerous casinos. Major gaming resorts such as the Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex in Melbourne, Victoria, offer professional in-house bookies who can broker wagers on sporting events throughout Australia and the rest of the world.

To accommodate those who want to watch the sports drama unfold in real time, Crown offers a number of HD televisions that are tuned to a wide variety of popular games, matches, and races. These massive-screen TVs are spread evenly throughout Crown’s spacious sports betting area.

With several world-class gaming resorts soon opening in Australia, there is palpable excitement about a potential tourist boom that could bring in billions.

If media reports are to be believed, Asian crime gangs may want in on the action too.

Casino Chips

A recent news story expressed concern that some Asian casino junket operators may have connections to organised crime and money laundering. These junket operators, who are popular in China among large bettors, transport high-rolling wagerers to casinos while providing them with amenities.

Australia's new casinos are expected to draw a large number of Asian gamers. Many of the big-betting "whales" Aussie casinos will likely target junket operators, prompting concern that criminal activity may spill over into local casinos.

The problem appears to be acute in Macau , one of the world's gaming capitals and the favoured location for many rich Chinese bettors. Because casinos are forbidden on mainland China, many Chinese wagerers use junket operators for gaming trips to Macau. Some of these operators are reputed to engage in questionable activity, such as loaning money to bettors and then enforcing subsequent debts through violence.

While Macau may have significant problems with junket operators, the situation is far less likely to occur in Australia. While Australia's junket regulations are not uniform and vary by jurisdiction, their presence is enough to deter the kind of behaviour seen in Macau. Australia also has stringent laws governing financial transactions, making money-laundering far less likely. Australian casinos must face regular audits, and every transaction greater than $10,000 must be reported to a national monitoring agency.

Given the safeguards in place, the odds of Aussie casinos becoming burdened by organised crime seem like a long shot — though it makes for an interesting story.

Once you have made your way through the basic rules of Blackjack in How to Play Blackjack – A Simple Guide for the Beginner, it’s time to learn the nitty-gritty of the game. Don’t be afraid! It is quite simple to learn.

Learn blackjack terminology

The player can bet any stake they desire, but it has to be within the set table limits.

The player is dealt two cards by the dealer (faced upwards) and the dealer also gets two cards.

This is to request another card. To signal this, scrape the cards in your hand against the felt.

Stand or Stay
You stand or stay when you decline another card. To signal this: Slide the cards under your bet and move your hand horizontally.

Doubling Down
Take a single extra card and add these to the opening cards - this move is made by the player when he or she believes that a third card will provide him or her with a position to beat the dealer’s hand. To signal these: Place your extra chips next to your original bet and show one finger if you are doubling and show two fingers if you are splitting.

When two cards have the same value and can be split into two separate hands. It’s important to note here that if the player splits two aces, most casinos will consent to the player receiving only one additional card for each hand. A hand totaling 21 after splitting aces is called 21 and not Blackjack (this affects the payout), but the rules may vary according to each individual table. Signal: Same as the signal for doubling, but make a two finger signal instead.

A Blackjack is achieved when the first two cards dealt to you equal 21 and can also be called a natural.

A push occurs when the value of the dealer’s cards (17 to 21) and the player’s cards are equal, resulting in neither winning the round.

A bust is when a hand’s value exceeds 21. This is a losing hand.

By now you’re most probably well aware that the key to beating the dealer’s hand is to get as close to 21 as possible. Let’s face it, Blackjack is very much a game of chance, but strategy can give you better luck and still need to be well calculated, else you may come over as a bit of a ding bat and you don’t want that. If you want to learn key strategies you can use to up your game, read our comprehensive PDF on How to Play Blackjack.

A top supplier of gaming software and online gaming content, GameAccount Network has announced plans to bring its free-to-play virtual casino platform to residents of Australia. The United Kingdom-based technology supplier has found international success with Simulated Gaming, an online simulated gaming product that offers genuine Class III slots. Currently attracting millions of users each month, Simulated Gaming allows players to place wagers with virtual money for unlimited entertainment purposes.

Play the best online casino games

The popularity of Simulated Gaming and other free-to-play (or “freemium”) social casinos has prompted a large number of traditional brick-and-mortar casinos to expand operations into the online arena. After partnering with a consortium of prominent Australian gaming venues, GameAccount has entered into a dialogue with relevant governmental regulators in a coordinated effort to bring Simulated Gaming into the country. If all goes according to plan, GameAccount will launch its Australian Simulated Gaming offering in the first quarter of 2015. At that point in time, the individual members of GameAccount’s land-based casino consortium will go public with their involvement.

The payoff for these consortium members could be quite substantial. GameAccount estimates that virtual online gaming will generate more than $300 million per year in immediate additional profits. And this financial boon may only be the beginning. Although real-money online gambling is currently illegal in Australia, the country loses approximately $1 billion on an annual basis to offshore Internet gambling websites and social casinos that face far fewer restrictions.

Simulated Gaming will not only give Australian citizens an immediate, viable alternative to these lucrative offshore operations, but will also set the stage for domestic online gaming with actual legal tender. In the event that the Australian legislature reverses its prohibition on real-money Internet gambling, GameAccount will be ready to upgrade its Simulated Gaming platform at a moment’s notice.

Phil Ivy, the American professional poker player and winner of ten World Series of Poker bracelets, has lost his court case against Crockfords Club in London over a cheating claim. Ivy challenged the club for its decision to withhold £7.7 million in winnings because of his use of ‘edge-sorting’, a technique which the club regarded as cheating.

As reported by UK news publication, The Guardian, the 38-year-old sued the casino over a two-day game of Baccarat in August 2012. Ivey was reportedly told that the winnings would be wired to him, but never arrived. He did, however, receive back his £1 million stake.

The technique of edge-sorting involves learning the face value of a card by studying and then recognizing slight flaws on the back and edges of cards. Genting Casinos UK (which owns over 40 UK casinos, including Crockfords) does not recognise ‘edge-sorting’ as a legitimate strategy, and therefore claimed they had no liability to pay him.

Ivy told The Guardian, about learning of the casino’s decision not to pay him, “I was upset as I had played an honest game and won fairly… My integrity is infinately more important to me than a big win, which is why I have brought these proceedings to demonstrate that I have been unjustly treated.” He added that when discussing advantage play strategies with other professional players, they are always careful to stay on the right side of the rules.

Ivy said, “I believe that what we did was a legitimate strategy and we did nothing more than exploit Crockford’s failures to take proper steps to protect themselves against a player of my ability.”

The judge in this case clearly felt differently. In his ruling the judge said, “The fact that Mr Ivey was genuinely convinced that he did not cheat and that the practice commanded considerable support from others was not determinative of the question of whether it amounted to cheating.” He explained that Ivey had gained himself an advanatage and did so by using a croupier as his innocent agent or tool, persuading her to turn some of the cards in the dealing shoe.

The judge went on to explain that they were therefore not merely taking advantage of an error on the dealer’s part, or an anomoly practiced by the casino, rather they were doing it in circumstances knowing that the dealer and the casino did not know the consequences of what she had done at his instigation.

He concluded, “This is, in my view, cheating for the purpose of civil law.”

Although the judge acknowledged Ivey as a truthful witness, the case was dismissed and Ivey was refused permission to appeal, although he can renew his application to the Court of Appeal directly.

If you live in Queensland, you might already be familiar with the plan to build so-called “integrated resorts,” which will include large gambling venues and tourist offerings. However, both the $8 billion Aquis Resort and the $7.5 billion Gold Coast Broadwater development are under fire by the government for failing to live up to agreed-upon “probity and government requirements.”

Gold Caost Australia

As it currently stands, the Queensland government has issued three gaming licenses to integrated resort projects. However, if the ASF Consortium (owner of the Gold Coast Broadwater development) and Tony Fung (owner of the Aquis Resort project) fail to live up to their ends of the agreement, it is expected that the Queensland government will go back to the open market, where the remaining contenders will have the opportunity to bid on new gaming licenses.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney gave the strongest evidence that the government is open to issuing new licenses when he said, “If one or more than one of those proposals [don’t meet] the criteria, then it is likely that the government would go back to the market.”

Terry Agnew, chief executive of Tower Holdings, has a plan to open a $2 billion integrated resort called Great Keppel Island, which already has all of the approvals and requirements that Aquis Resort and Gold Coast Broadwater are currently lacking. Both Agnew and Tower Holdings would love nothing more than to see new gaming licenses issued, as they would likely be at the top of a very short list of replacement project proposals.

It is still too early to know whether the incumbent projects will be able to get their ducks in a row and build their resorts. One way or another, gamblers in Queensland will (eventually) have some new, beautiful places where they can play.

The Crown Casino and Entertainment Complex continues to receive unprecedented support from Victorian government authorities, which recognize the Melbourne resort and gaming center as an essential component of the regional economy. As part of a wide range of legislative reforms, the upper house of the Parliament of Victoria recently extended Crown Casino’s gaming license through 2050 while allowing an additional 100 poker tables on the premises. Now, the upper house has approved a deal that will help safeguard Crown’s bottom line against a wide range of future gambling restrictions.

Victoria Parliament

On Tuesday, October 14, Victoria’s upper house granted the largest casino in Australia a contractual guarantee that Green Party leader Greg Barber describes as “absolutely extraordinary.” Under the terms of the agreement, Crown Melbourne can receive up to $200 million in publicly funded compensation to offset potential losses from any forthcoming gambling legislation that might prove problematic for the casino giant. Representative Barber predicts that major casinos across Australia will follow Crown’s lead and push for similar governmental deals.

The Crown agreement will insure the organization against a wide range of prospective antigambling measures, including tougher limits on maximum bets and organized public campaigns against gambling addiction. Crown may even receive concessions if government officials seek to ban smoking in certain areas on the casino grounds.

In return for this compensation and its extensive license to operate, Crown has agreed to make more than $900 million in payments to the Victorian government. This figure includes an initial contribution of $250 million, which will be delivered within seven days of the bill’s implementation. Despite these substantial payments, Representative Barber claims that Crown should have no problem recouping its investment and generating a considerable profit over the course of its 50-year license period.