Las Vegas is the gabling capital of the world, the best place to play blackjack, slot machines, poker, roulette and many more, few people would argue with that, but in Vegas no two casinos are the same. Disregarding the amount of slot machines and the type of games on offer, the games themselves differ, and blackjack is no exception. In fact, blackjack is one of the most varied games on the Las Vegas strip, with the way the game is played, the bonus bets allowed, the house edge, the table capacity, the amount of decks used, the options for surrender and even whether the dealers tend to hit or stand on soft 17, all differing from one location to the next.
There are a huge number of casinos in Vegas, form the grand and glorious ones with the names that everyone will recognize, to the smaller ones that are just as fun but not as popular or as well known, and this article will go some way to detailing the best and worst options for blackjack, and all of its nuances, in all of them.
The Minimum and Maximum Bets
Bett size is one of the most important things regardless of your experience as a player. Those who are new to the game, and those who are just looking for some casual fun to pass the time, are unlikely to be spending several hundred dollars on a single hand, whilst those who hit the strip on a regular basis and have plenty of money to spare will be just as likely to turn they rose up at a maximum bet of $500 per hand.
The average minimum bet on the strip is around $5, but this differs. You will not find a blackjack table willing to let you play for $1 or less per hand, but if you head for the Longhorn casino on the East side, then you can play for just $2 a hand. El Dorado, also on the East side, also offers play for as little as $2 per hand. The Longhorn offers both surrender and RSA, which stands for “Re-split Aces”, and whilst these are not available in the El Dorado, they do only use two decks, as opposed to the 6 used by the Longhorn. The Longhorn only allows bets up to a maximum of $100. The casinos with some of the smallest minimum bets and biggest maximum bets are the California and the Circus Circus, both of which have a $3 minimum and an impressive $1000 maximum that is sure to please the majority of players.
As for the biggest, the maximum you’ll find in Vegas is $10.000, and there are a number of casinos that allow bets this size. The Palazzo and the MGM Grand are two, and these both have $100 minimum bets, but the Wynn also has a $10k max and only a $50 minimum. The Venetian, Rio, Planet Hollywood and Mandalay Bay also have $10.000 maximum bets for those who want to really test their luck against the might of the Las Vegas blackjack table.
A lot of players choose their casino based on the amount of decks that are used. This can have a significant impact for many reasons, not to mention card counting, in which case the fewer the decks the better. Card counting is frowned upon in Vegas, as is the case in any casino around the world, but it is not illegal and it is still widely practiced. In downtown Vegas you can get 1 deck games at El Cortez, Four Queens and Binions, whilst if you want to stick to the strip, head central for a game at the Riviera, and South for a game at the Silverton. Two deck games are also available through the city with Eastern Arizona Charlie’s Boulder and Western Arizona Charlie’s Decatur two of the picks for the double deck games.
There are also a number of casinos that use 8 decks, including the Imperial Palace, Monte Carlo and Planet Hollywood, whilst the Tuscany, Bally’s and the Tropicana all use 6 decks.
The House Edge
The house edge is calculated as a percentage and is usually a small number. This number changes from casino to casino and for those who like to bet big and often, even the tiniest of fractions can make a huge difference. The smallest house edge is at the El Cortex. This downtown casino uses a single deck and the edge is just 0.16%. M, which is located in the South of the city, comes a close second at 0.20% and uses 2 decks.
One of the biggest edges in Vegas is Sam’s Town, at 0.78%. This casino is located in the East of the city and uses 6 decks. It has an accessible minimum bet at $3, and this goes all the way up to a maximum of $3.000, but with no surrender and no stands on soft 17s, this is not an ideal location for a night at the blackjack tables. The Luxor, the Rio, Caesar’s Palace and the California also have very high house edges, whilst some of the most well known casinos with the lowest edges include the Palazzo and the Venetian. The Bellagio is also down there as one of the smallest at just 0.28%.
Options and Bonus Bets
Blackjack is a universal game with many similarities, but there are also a great number of differences, and these are often in the extra bonus bets that are allowed. Surrender is one of the most popular of these, as is the option to double-down after a split, and these are what we will cover here.
The vast majority of the Vegas casinos do not offer surrender, and for some this can be a deciding factor, so it’s worth checking to make sure that your destination of choice does allow this option. The Longhorn, Ellis Island, the Palazzo and Downtown Grand all offer surrender and double-down after spit. Whereas the Plaza, Nevada Palace, New York New York and Poker Palace offer the latter without the former. Other casinos to consider that offer both of these include Big Horn, Mandalay Bay, Monte Carlo, MGM Grand and the Venetian. And if you’re looking to resplit some aces, then you can do so at the MGM Grand and the Mirage, to name just a couple.
Dealers make the game and play a big part in whether you win or lose, so you want to know how they will react when they land on a soft 17. Luckily, this is not something that the dealer decides on the spot and all of the casinos have already decided on what the dealer should do in this situation. Many will hit, and indeed that is the case for nearly three quarters of all of the casinos in the city, but there are some that will stand, including a number of the bigger venues like the Palazzo and Planet Hollywood. Rio, Mandalay Bay, Paris, Aria and Bellagio will also stand, whereas Texas Station, Stratosphere, Main Street Station and Suncoast will all hit.
Another thing to consider is the venue itself. Many of the people who head for the bright lights of Las Vegas do so as tourists, and therefore can’t really afford the luxury of being able to hit a small downtown casino for a few hours and then ride home. Tourists who don’t know the city like to be able to play within the grounds of the hotel, which means they can then simply take the elevator up to their room when they’re done. It also means that they can enjoy themselves, maybe get a little drunk (although it’s never advisable to get intoxicated in a casino unless you want to lose a lot of money) and then head on up to bed.
The beauty of Vegas is that the hotels don’t really make their money from hospitality, so Vegas is one of the cheapest places in the world when it comes to 5-star and 4-star luxury. They want you in so that you will gamble and so that they can take thousands from you, and if that means charging a few dollars less for the room, and giving you free or cheap drinks and snacks throughout your stay, then they are more than happy to do it.
The hotel that consistently gets rated as the best in Vegas is the Mandarin Oriental, which just manages to edge ahead of the glorious Four Seasons. Both of these hotels are the epitome of luxury and class, and will provide the perfect experience for anyone, regardless of your budget or how long you intend to stay. The Aria is also an amazing hotel, complete with all the bright lights and decadence that you would expect from the City of Sin. It also has one of the best casinos attached, which is a plus and means you never need to leave the resort if you book in here. The same can be said for the Palazzo, who is world famous for a reason. This is the fourth highest rated Vegas hotel on Trip Advisor and consistently wins awards for its hospitality.
The Venetian is equally famous, if not more so, and if excessive opulence is your style then this is the place for you. The Venetian is so-named because it has created a mini Venice inside the hotel, allowing you to take a walk by the canal, or even jump onboard a gondola and let the waters whisk you away. It can be a little tacky and excessive for many people, but that’s what Vegas is all about; that’s what makes this city so great!
If your budget can’t cover these hotels then there are plenty of small places located around the city. Remember though that although Vegas is a hotspot for tourism, it is also a hotspot for crime and the further away from the main tourist areas that you go, the more chance you will have of encountering this. If you’re looking for somewhere nice, safe and fairly cheap, then you can’t go much wrong with the Staybridge Suites, or even the Hilton Grand Vacations Suites, which isn’t as expensive as many of its counterparts in other cities around the world, but is still very nice.