Located in the principality of Monaco, a short drive (or helicopter flight, if you want to live like a film star) from the sun-drenched city of Nice, Monte Carlo is one of the richest cities in the world. It is a playground for those with class, money and fame, a cornucopia of super cars, yachts, 5-star hotels and one of the best casinos in the world, the Monte Carlo Casino.
Monte Carlo isn’t quite Las Vegas, it is not a city devoted to gambling, but here you will find none of the tackiness that you can’t fail to see in the City of Sin, and all of the class that Vegas always aspired towards.
A trip around the streets of this great city is a trip like no other, as the streets you drive on are the same streets that play host to the Monaco Grand Prix, the most illustrious race on the Formula 1 calendar. If you prefer to walk, as many residents of this city do, then there is also a good chance you’ll run into one of Monte Carlo’s many super rich and super famous citizens, including Formula One drivers Jenson Button, David Coulthard and Lewis Hamilton, former Harrods owner Mohammed Al-Fayed, former Beatle Ringo Starr, and James Bond actor Roger Moore. If you drop in at the Monte Carlo Casino then you might just encounter one of these at the blackjack tables.
Blackjack in Monte Carlo, like everything else in this stunning city, is a lavish affair and one that you will not forget in a hurry. For those who have travelled the United States, hitting all the best tables that Florida, Vegas and Atlantic City has to offer, then Monte Carlo promises to give you an experience like no other. This is were the high rollers come to play, those who don’t even feel the heat playing hands worth tens of thousands of dollars. It was the Monte Carlo Casino where Ben Mezrich and his team of MIT students employed card counting techniques to win big, and where Joseph Jagger, one of the first and most well known casino cheats, “broke the bank” by rigging the roulette wheel.
The minimum wager at the Monte Carlo casino is 10 Euros per hand, which equates to around $13. This is a modest amount, but few people play at this level. The tables seat up to 7 players and the payouts are 3-2, as to be expected from any world class blackjack game. The Monte Carlo Casino makes all guests feel like VIPs, and the ambience and surroundings are simply breathtaking. It’s not too dissimilar from the better Vegas hotels and casinos, except there is a much more upmarket feel, one that is evident both inside and outside of the casino.
The Monte Carlo Casino offers double-down, splits and insurance. There is no surrender here, and you’ll struggle to find that option in any of the casinos around Monte Carlo, or indeed in Monaco on the whole. All players must pay an entrance fee of 10 Euros and they need to show their identity card or passport upon entry. This can be a nuisance, but the experience is worth it and it does help the casino to refine the clientele and created a more relaxed and safer environment. Also, although you can probably get away with a casual shirt and even shorts in Vegas casinos, in the Monte Carlo there is a “correct” dress code, which typically means dresses for women and smart suits for men. This is also a pain, but as James Bond once tossed chips here, many men will be glad to don their tuxedos and emulate the suave British secret agent.
The Monte Carlo Casino has stood for well over a hundred years and is the crown jewel in Monte Carlo’s crown, which is saying a lot for a city of such opulence. The best time of year to visit Monte Carlo is during the Grand Prix and during the Cannes film festival, as this is when all the rich and famous come to town, but that is also the most expensive time. If money is tight and you want to save it all for the blackjack table, then plan a visit for the winter months when Monaco is still beautiful, but is considerably less expensive. In fact, during the beginning of the year Monte Carlo “essentials”, such as helicopter rides and 5-star hotel rooms, can be as much as ten or twenty times cheaper than during the Grand Prix.