If you aren’t into playing casino games, then you can just ignore this entire post! But, if you’ve been following us for very long, you’ll know that I do like a good game of blackjack.
What you may not know is that not all blackjack games (tables) are created equal. There’s a wide variation in table minimum bets, of course, anywhere from $1 to $100 per hand. Whether you are a low roller or a high roller, you pick the table minimum that suits your comfort level and budget. But, even more important than the dollar amount are the table rules. Those rules make an enormous difference in the house edge, that is, the casino’s statistical winning advantage.
First, I look for the cheapest table that offers a 3:2 blackjack win payout. Tables that offer a blackjack 6:5 return or (horrors!) 1:1 return, tip the odds significantly more in the casino’s favor. Other rule variations include the ability (or not) to double down on any two cards, re-split aces, late surrender, and whether the dealer stands on a soft 17. You can play blackjack games with one deck, two decks, up to 8 decks. The dealer may manually shuffle the cards, or use a continuous shuffle machine. All of these factors affect the house edge and your odds of winning — or at least, slowing your losses! The tables I play typically have a house edge of around 0.5%, which means that for every $100 I play, theoretically I would lose only 50 cents. (The house edge for penny slots runs 10-12%, so you see why I don’t play the slot machines.)
The house edge holds true only over very long periods of time. In the short term, anything can happen. I’ve had great winning streaks and I’ve had terrible losing streaks. But, over a long time of playing, I’ve pretty much broken even playing blackjack. Slot machines, on the other hand, are just gadgets that eat my money.
If you are at all interested in learning to play, I highly recommend downloading one or two of the free blackjack trainer apps. They drill on basic strategy, which is really helpful if you ever decide to play at an actual blackjack table. Another resource is the Wizard of Odds website that has more information than you ever wanted/needed to know about the game!
So why do I like playing blackjack? It’s just fun! Unlike playing slots, I have decisions to make and strategy to follow, so it’s not mindless. I enjoy the interaction with the dealer and other players. I just like playing the game. At least, as long as I’m not losing a whole lot! That’s why I only play $5 (or less) tables with really good rules. I can usually play a good long time without losing my shirt in the process.
While in Vegas, our favorite blackjack spot is Ellis Island Casino, just off the strip. It’s a small-ish casino with a locals vibe and free parking. It is smoke-free, which I particularly appreciate. They currently offer one table of $5 blackjack with very good rules. During these COVID times, the seats at the table are limited to 3 (instead of the usual 6), so I usually have to wait a while for a spot. But once at the table, I’ll play a few hours, enjoy some free adult beverages, and usually get comped at the end with a few bucks for the casino’s café. So far on this trip I’m up $150. Hopefully I won’t give it all back before I leave.
But even if I do, it’s still all good!