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Las Vegas Blackjack 101 (Part 6) – Best Places to Play

In our final installment of the Blackjack 101 series, learn some of the best places to play in Las Vegas, and why it matters.

In our final installment of the Blackjack 101 series, learn some of the best places to play in Las Vegas, and why it matters.

The “best” casinos for beginner blackjack play in Las Vegas requires some definition. There are many considerations when deciding on a given casino or group of casinos at which to play this game. Our recommendations here are primarily based on Vegas casinos with better rule options and reduced house edge, along with consideration for table bet minimums and comp play.

The overall goal with this list is to highlight the Vegas casinos that currently offer the most value for novice players as previously discussed in this blackjack series. Again, these are all traditional 3:2 payoff games and exclude the many variant games which all have different strategies than traditional 21.

Best value refers to games with reduced house edge ( all under 0.5% with accurate basic strategy), table minimums within $2-$25, and some consideration for comp play. Most listed games are either 6-deck shoe games (no continuous shuffle machines ) or 2-deck pitch games, along with a few 8-deck shoe games and two playable single deck games that offer 3:2 payoffs.

This current information (Jan.2013) was derived from an excellent blackjack game condition resource known as Current Blackjack News (CBJN), recent Vegas trips by the author, and other sources. Players can subscribe to CBJN which publishes monthly updated blackjack game conditions in Vegas (and elsewhere). This is an excellent resource to locate the better games on paper prior to a Vegas trip. Novice players can then use the CBJN -derived info to scout actual conditions and make specific game selections.

New Vegas blackjack players should be aware that games, table minimums, and playing conditions can change rapidly and without notice like many things in this town. Crowd levels (player demand) are a big factor affecting blackjack game conditions in Las Vegas. Below are some general player considerations when selecting Vegas blackjack games.

General Vegas Blackjack Game Selection Factors :

  • Table minimums and playing conditions can change rapidly in response to crowd levels / player demand.
  • Generally, games with fewer decks (1 & 2 decks) have lower house edges vs multi-deck (6 or 8 decks) options. The total cumulative rule sets at a few multi-deck games still render under 0.5% house edge, with a very limited few on the Strip that offer house edges of .26% for 6 – deck games ($25 minimums).
  • Currently, there are really only two playable single-deck, 3:2 payoff games in Las Vegas (Alamo and El Cortez).
  • Generally, weekday mornings provide for lowest table minimums and less crowded conditions on the Strip. A table with $10 minimums on a Tuesday morning will often have $15 or $25 minimums on a busy Saturday night.
  • Nights, weekends, and busy convention/entertainment events usually lead to increased player demand, higher minimums, and more difficulty in obtaining comps for low and mid-stakes players (particularly on the Strip).
  • Players who have been playing at a given Vegas Strip table prior to an increase in table minimums (usually occurs late afternoon/ early evenings) by the casinos are often permitted to remain at original betting levels after the change.
  • Many Strip casinos require $25 minimums for a player to be rated for comp accrual, though some consideration is given at lower minimums depending on time of day and the specific casino or casino conglomerate (consult with dealers/pit staff when buying in).
  • Generally, more player-friendly rules (ie dealer stands on soft 17) and games are found at the higher minimum bet tables ($25 and up). There is, however, a considerable amount of variation in game quality both between and within casinos and casino conglomerates. The value of a CBJN subscription is evident here.
  • The grand majority of Vegas games with $25 minimums or less will involve H17 (dealer must hit soft 17) rules as discussed in Part 5 of this series. There are a few $25 minimum bet tables that do offer S17 games listed below.
  • Typically, off-Strip casinos offer games with lower minimums and a tendency for more player-friendly comp programs as compared to Strip locations.
  • There are some Strip locations (mostly MGM Resorts properties) that offer cumulative game rules that compete well with off-Strip properties, though table minimums are generally higher on the Strip.
  • Players concerned about blackjack game value should consider all of the above factors when deciding on places / games to play. Obviously, with time players will find decent games (rules, house edge) and casinos at which they particularly enjoy the theme or environment surrounding them while playing 21. There are plenty of comparable options.
  • The casinos listed below run the gamut from fancy and upscale to…well… less than that. The listed locales and games here are about house edge, comp play, and overall best value for players.

All below listed traditional blackjack games at Strip and off-Strip locales includes the range of table minimums ($2 – $25) and number of decks (1, 2, 6, or 8 D) offered. All games listed offer house edges of 0.5% or less ( with use of accurate basic strategy), D2 (doubling allowed on any two original cards),DAS (doubling allowed after splitting pairs, excluding the two playable single-deck games) and exclude games with continuous shuffling machines (CSM’s). Games with CSM’s speed up the number of hands per unit playing time and are undesirable for comp players.

Best Value Vegas Strip Games (0.5% house edge or less) :

  • Aria  ($25 ; 2D,6D)
  • Bellagio  ($15 – $25 ; 6D)
  • Circus Circus ($10 – $25 ; 2D)
  • Cosmopolitan ($15 ; 8D)
  • Excalibur  ($10 ; 2D)
  • Luxor  ($25 ; 2D)
  • Mandalay Bay ($10 – $25 ; 2D,6D)
  • MGM Grand  ($5 – $25 ; 6D, 8D)
  • Mirage ($5 – $25 ; 2D, 6D, 8D)
  • Monte Carlo ($5 ; 8D)
  • New York, New York ( $5 – $25 ; 2D, 6D)
  • Palazzo  ( $25 ; 2D)
  • Riviera  ($25 ; 2D)
  • Stratosphere ($25 ; 2D)
  • Treasure Island ( $10 – $25 ; 2D, 6D)
  • Tropicana ($25 ; 2D)
  • Venetian ($10 -$25 ; 2D, 8D)
  • Wynn  ( $10 – $25 ; 6D)

Games offering the S17 rule (dealer stands on soft 17) are more desirable for players as discussed previously in this series. Aria (2D & 6D), Bellagio (6D), MGM Grand (6D), Mirage (6D), Treasure Island (2D), and Wynn (6D) all currently offer S17 games on the Strip and all of these games involve $25 minimums.

Our specific recommendations for novice players on the Strip are Mandalay Bay, Mirage, and MGM Grand (all MGM Resorts properties). The Caesars Entertainment properties are conspicuously absent from our list simply because of mathematically higher house edges (all above 0.5%) for the games and conditions we outlined. Further, the overall comp programs from blackjack play are better at MGM Resorts as compared to the Caesars group based on our Vegas play experience.

Best Value Off-Strip Games (0.5% house edge or less):

  • Alamo  ($5 ; 1D)
  • Aliante  ($5 ; 2D)
  • Arizona Charlie’s Boulder / Decatur – 2 separate casinos ($2 – $5 ; 2D)
  • Bighorn  ($5 ; 6D)
  • Cannery / Eastside Cannery – 2 separate casinos ($5 ; 2D)
  • Club Fortune  ($3 ; 2D)
  • El Cortez  ($3 – $5 ; 1D, 2D)
  • Gold Coast  ($5 ; 2D)
  • Golden Gate  ($25 ; 2D)
  • Golden Nugget  ($5 ; 6D)
  • Hard Rock  ($25 ; 2D)
  • Hooters  ($10 ; 2D)
  • Jerry’s Nugget  ($5 ; 2D)
  • Jokers Wild  ($5 ; 2D)
  • Longhorn  ($2 ; 6D)
  • LVH  ($25 ; 2D)
  • M Resort  ($10 ; 2D)
  • Orleans  ($5 – $25 ; 2D)
  • Palms  ($10 ; 2D)
  • Plaza  ($5 ; 2D)
  • Railroad Pass  ($5 ; 2D)
  • Rampart  ($5 ; 2D, 6D)
  • Silverton  ($5 ; 2D)
  • South Point  ($5 ; 2D)
  • Station Casinos  : includes Palace Station, Texas Station, Sunset Station,Green Valley Ranch, Boulder Station, Santa Fe Station, Fiesta Henderson, Fiesta Rancho, Red Rock, and Wild Wild West  ($3 – $25 ; 2D primarily, 6D at Texas Station, Green Valley Ranch, and Palace Station)
  • Suncoast  ($5 ; 2D)
  • Terrible’s ( $5 ; 2D)
  • Vegas Club  ($10 ; 2D)

Our specific suggestions for off-Strip novice play are the Station Casinos (particularly Palace Station), Alamo (house edge of 0.14% on 3:2 single deck), Golden Nugget, El Cortez, Aliante, and Longhorn.

Players should be aware that the above game suggestions and conditions can change rapidly, often, and without notice in Vegas. The above listing is in no way an evergreen list of the best places to play. Players should consider use of CBJN and be willing to find the best-value games with some research prior to playing blackjack in Las Vegas.





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