Category Archives: Blackjack

Everything You Need to Know About Stadium Blackjack

Stadium gambling is now a thing in Las Vegas casinos, and we figured it was time to check out Stadium Blackjack at Venetian.

In Stadium Blackjack, up to 44 players compete with one of two live dealers in, wait for it, stadium-style seating.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

Oh, all right, it’s nothing like a stadium. Just play along.

As with most games in a casino, Stadium Blackjack accomplishes a couple of key goals for The Man.

Casinos make more money when labor costs are lowered, and when there are more hands dealt. Since casino games have a built-in advantage for the house, more hands means more profit.

Here’s how Stadium Blackjack works at Venetian Las Vegas.

There are 44 seats for players. Each player has their own terminal, and selects which of the two dealers they want to play against, blue or red.

Once a dealer is selected, the player has 30 seconds between hands to place a bet. A big benefit of Stadium Blackjack is the $5 minimum. Most standard games at Venetian have $15 minimums.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

Get ready to play blackjack with 43 of your new best friends.

Once bets are made, each screen reads “No More Bets.”

Then, three cards are dealt from a six-deck, continuous “smart shuffle” machine.

Two cards go to the players, one to the dealer. One of the intriguing aspects of Stadium Blackjack is all the players get the same two cards. (That is, all the players who chose the red dealer get the same two cards. All those who chose the blue dealer get different cards.)

Now, each player makes their own decision about what to do next. Players can hit, stand, double down or split.

Here’s where the game veers into new territory. Since everyone has the same two cards, and can make their own decisions about what happens next, additional “Community” cards are needed. Community cards go to players until all the players have chosen to stand (or have been eliminated because they busted). After all the players’ hands are locked, additional community cards go to the dealer until the hand has a result.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

The “Community” cards (upper left) are really the only perplexing part, but just let the dealer do their thing.

Example time!

Say the first cards are dealt and all the players get a queen and a king, the dealer gets a five. That’s 20 for the players, so everyone’s going to stand. (Feel free to split them, though, that’s part of what makes Stadium Blackjack so fun, no peer pressure.) The dealer takes additional cards and busts. Everyone wins, cheering ensues, annoying all the players in the nearby poker room in the best possible way.

Here’s a more complicated example.

Players get a king and six, dealer gets a queen. Some players stand on 16, some hit, right? (You’re supposed to hit.) The players who choose “Hit” on their display get another card (a “Community” card). Again, those who “Stand” don’t get another card. Each player is doing their own thing. Say, that next player card is a two. Everybody stands with 18. But the fun part is you don’t have to! You can “Hit” again. Only after all the players have finished does the dealer then complete their hand and a result is shown.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

If Stadium Blackjack isn’t your thing, there’s stadium baccarat nearby. Again, $5 minimums are hard to pass up on The Strip.

A lot of this happens on the dealer’s display. Players just see their own hand and how it’s stacking up against the dealer.

Once the hand is done, all the cards go back into the shuffler and the fun begins again.

So, that’s a long-winded way of saying, “It’s just like regular blackjack.” The fact others have the same two opening cards, or how dealers decide which cards are communal, is rather irrelevant. It’s you against the dealer.

Let’s get into what’s really important about Stadium Blackjack, the pros and cons.

First, the pros. Stadium Blackjack is great for groups and couples! Where else in Las Vegas can you and 43 friends all play blackjack at once? During our visit, the majority of players were couples.

Again, low table minimums. That $5 minimum is tempting and it never gets raised, even if the game is busy.

Also, no glares from other players if you do something stupid. Stadium Blackjack is anonymous, and players make their own decisions.

Another pro for us is the machine adds up your cards. We hate math, so this is a great aspect of the game.

We also like that you can take a break between hands, sitting out then jumping back in at any time.

There are some drawbacks to Stadium Blackjack, but opinions vary about how important these cons are.

The rate of play, if you play every hand, is fast. After you get your cards, you have 10 seconds to decide whether you’d like to hit or stand. That’s a lot of pressure! If you do nothing, the machine automatically stands. It won’t hit or double or split for you, though. More hands means you can lose more quickly, but it also means you’ll win more quickly when you’re on a lucky streak.

It’s interesting to note that while the game is called “Stadium Blackjack” on the player terminals, it’s called “Rapid Blackjack” on the dealer’s screen.

Another potential downside is Stadium Blackjack pays 6-to-5, rather than 3-to-2. Then again, that’s true of the majority of blackjack games on the Las Vegas Strip.

Also, serious blackjack players dislike six deck, continuous shuffling machines. Card counting is impossible with such machines.

Stadium blackjack Venetian

Another look at the layout. Make a bet, hit or stand, rake in the big bucks.

That’s about it. Each display has a bunch of other buttons, but probably the most important for first-time players is “Help.” Beyond the two people dealing the cards, there’s another dealer that roams the floor and helps players with questions.

There’s a button for dealer tips, another to call for service, one to “Re-Bet” and others. There’s also a button so players can see the game in Chinese.

There are a couple of side bets as well, Royal Match 21 and Bet the Set 21. Blackjack side bets tend to be sucker bets, but only if they don’t hit!

Stadium blackjack Venetian

Side bets are for entertainment value only. Don’t go nuts.

Overall, Stadium Blackjack is a fun new twist on blackjack, and its social component could make it a draw for groups seeking to gamble together.

If you’d like to know more about Stadium Blackjack, check out these stories from VegasFanboy.com and our bud Marc Meltzer. We also talked about Stadium Blackjack on the Vital Vegas Podcast, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Our first story about stadium gambling (at Palazzo) was way back in 2013, and we didn’t have the best time. While we didn’t win playing Stadium Blackjack, it wasn’t a bad experience.

Let us know what you think of Stadium Blackjack. Some believe it’s the future of casino gambling. For us, interacting with the dealer is often half the fun of playing, so unless we were with a group of friends, we’d probably bite the bullet and find a traditional, higher limit table.

Got questions? Ask away!

Share some Vegas. Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

12 Fascinating Facts About Blackjack

Blackjack is one of the most popular games in Las Vegas casinos. The rules are fairly simple, and blackjack has one of the lowest house edges of all casino table games.

Here are 12 fascinating things about blackjack, assuming you use the word “fascinating” very, very loosely.

1. The first written mention of blackjack was in a collection of short stories by Miguel de Cervantes, the author of “Don Quixote.”

2. Blackjack got its name when gambling establishments started marketing a game called “Vingt-et-Un” (French for “21”), a European import, in America. Gambling joints offered bonus payouts to players, and one of the bonuses paid 10-to-1 if the player’s winning hand contained a black jack (spades or clubs). The “blackjack” name stuck.

Blackjack

Bonus trivia: Four suits, four seasons. Thirteen cards of each suit, 13 lunar cycles. Fifty-two cards, 52 weeks in a year. Seeing a pattern?

3. Casino blackjack tables have a small mirror used by dealers to check the “hole card.” The mirror is called a “peeker” or “peeper.”

blackjack peeper

The peeper has a mirror that allows the dealer to see their face-down card without revealing it to players.

4. Blackjack discard trays are translucent and red. The red discard trays are an attempt to thwart cheats who mark cards with inks. The marks are invisible to the naked eye, but can be seen by security personnel wearing tinted sunglasses or special contact lenses.

Blackjack discard tray

A cheat who uses marked cards is called a “paper worker.”

5. Your chances of getting a natural 21, or blackjack, are 4.8%.

6. The card dispenser used at many blackjack tables is called a “shoe.” That’s because early versions of the device looked like a woman’s high heel shoe.

7. A “cut card” is a blank, plastic card inserted into a deck by a player to let the dealer know when the cards need to be shuffled. (See cut cards in the photo below.)

8. When cards are dealt from a shoe, two cut cards are used. As mentioned above, one card denotes it’s time to shuffle. The other card ensures the last card in the shoe can’t be seen by players. The cards between the two cut cards are called the “plug.”

Blackjack plug

We’re pretty sure you’re going to be the only one at your blackjack table who knows what a “plug” is. Try not to gloat.

9. A “snapper” is another name for a natural blackjack (an ace and a face card), presumably because in the early days of blackjack, players would “snap” down their cards upon receiving a blackjack.

10. A blackjack player who’s “steaming” is one who bets erratically because their luck has gone south. It’s like poker players who go “on tilt.”

11. There’s a Blackjack Hall of Fame at the Barona Casino in San Diego. The casino offers inductees free rooms, food and drinks for life in exchange for agreeing to never play at the casino’s tables.

12. One of blackjack’s biggest fans was none other than Napoleon Bonaparte. He played the game regularly, especially after he was exiled in Elba.

Now you know everything there is to know about blackjack. Well, at least some obscure stuff, ensuring you are going to, at some point, take Alex Trebek for a fortune.

Share some Vegas. Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Question Answered: How Can Las Vegas Casinos Pay 6-to-5 for Blackjacks?

It’s a question that’s long-plagued blackjack players: How can casinos pay 6-to-5 for blackjack?

For many years in Las Vegas casinos, blackjacks paid 3-to-2. It was the standard. That means if you made a $10 bet, a blackjack would pay $15. In a 6-to-5 game, however, that same $10 bet will get you $12 for a blackjack.

Doesn’t sound like too much at first glance, right? This simple change in rules gives the house an additional edge of 1.39%. Over time, that seemingly small difference can cost players a lot.

blackjack

Casinos already have an edge. Paying 6-to-5 for blackjacks gives them even more.

In recent years, insidious 6-to-5 blackjack games have started popping up all over The Strip. In some casinos, it’s hard to find a 3-to-2 game at all.

Recently, we tried our hand at blackjack at a downtown casino, and were dismayed to learn, mid-game, that here, too, blackjacks paid 6-to-5. Not downtown! The infection is spreading!

As we do not tend to keep our displeasure to ourself in situations like this, we mentioned our disappointment to a pit boss (a casino floor manager), asking, “How can you pay 6-to-5 for blackjacks?”

We got the most brutally honest answer, ever. The pit boss said, simply, “Because people still play.”

As we were picking our jaw up off the new casino carpet, we realized he was absolutely right. Poor game rules aren’t something casinos do to players. We do it to ourselves.

We vote with our business. If we refuse to play 6-to-5 blackjack, casinos won’t offer it. (Well, it won’t offer it as often, because there will always be people who don’t particularly care. They want to play where they want to play, and they clearly have money they don’t need.)

If we stay at hotels with resort fees, hotels will continue to charge resort fees.

If we attend shows where performers lip-sync, performers will continue to lip-sync.

It’s important to remember, though, we decide. So, what kind of Vegas experience will you have?

Share some Vegas. Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Five Ways to Not Piss Off a Las Vegas Dealer

Being a dealer in a Las Vegas casino can be a sweet gig. You meet interesting new people every day, the financial rewards can be substantial and you get to be an ambassador not only for your casino but also Las Vegas, the most exciting city on Earth.

There are challenges to being a dealer, too, of course, and a lot of that’s on us.

We grilled a dealer, Michael Nguyen, co-owner of a new dealer school, Casino Entertainment Group (CEG), and got him to spill about the things that tick dealers off, and how we can avoid them.

craps game

We’re about to get told.

5. Don’t Blame Dealers If You Lose

Gambling is a numbers game, and the house always has the advantage. Nevertheless, dealers make a convenient target when players need to vent about their bad fortune.

“We hear people say things like ‘unbelievable’ or ‘Can you believe that?’ every other hand,” says Nguyen. “We’ve dealt thousands of hands. Don’t get upset if your 17 in blackjack doesn’t beat the dealer. People must realize the odds aren’t always in their favor. They can’t expect to win every hand.”

One of the worst things about players taking their frustrations out on dealers, often to the point of verbal abuse or worse, is dealers aren’t allowed to defend themselves. A dealer who gets combative with a player, even if it’s deserved, risks losing their job. So, they just have to take it. Only jerks and cowards beat up on those who aren’t allowed to defend themselves.

4. Don’t Gamble Drunk

Yes, the cocktails are free, and drinking is part of the Vegas experience, but customers going overboard can turn ugly for dealers.

Nguyen says, “The person gambling isn’t doing him or herself any favor by tipping back one too many during the game. The more drinking, the more mistakes are made during a game. If you’re wasted while playing, you’re wasting money.

Dealers are used to players having a few cocktails, and getting a little boisterous, but excessive drinking is annoying to dealers and other players alike.

Also, gambling drunk leads to spilled drinks, one of the most irksome aspects of a dealer’s shift. Spilled drinks ruin table game felt, disrupt the game and turn dealers into babysitters. Drink responsibly. Or don’t, but don’t play a table game!

Las Vegas dealer

It’s simple. You be nice, they’ll be nice.

3. Don’t Blow Smoke in a Dealer’s Face

Sounds like common sense, right? Wrong.

“We understand the environment and know people like to smoke while playing,” says Nguyen. “We don’t even mind the smoking, in fact. But blowing cigarette or cigar smoke directly in a dealer’s face is rude. Be respectful.”

Agreed. Oh, and if we ever write a list of “The Five Best Ways to Not Piss Off This Las Vegas Blog,” not smoking a disgusting, big-ass cigar in our vicinity will be all five things on the list.

2. Tip Your Dealer, Already

We’d have make this number one on the list, but we defer to the expert.

Nguyen comes clean, saying, “This is a very touchy subject. Dealers don’t expect a person who’s
losing to tip. But if you’re winning, toss a chip our way every so often. We’re not looking for
a stack of chips, but don’t stiff the dealer if you’re on a winning streak.”

Somebody had to say it! We’ve seen this trend getting worse in recent months, or at least it seems that way.

We disagree with Nguyen on this point, actually. Dealers make a meager base pay, and they live on tips. So, we tip whether we’re winning or losing. We value what they do no matter the outcome of our play.

craps dealer

One of the many talents of dealers is concealing their “tells” when a player is being a nimrod.

Nguyen continues, “Another pet peeve is when a player tells us we’ll get tipped at the end [of the session] and leaves a dollar or less when all is said and done. A dollar or less is sort of like a slap in the face. And while we’re talking about tipping, don’t stiff the cocktail waitress, either.”

We can’t say it enough. If you can’t afford to tip, do something other than play casino table games. Slot machines might be your thing. No tipping required.

1. Good Vibes Only, Please

Playing in a Las Vegas casino is meant to be fun, so avoid being a buzzkill.

“Remember, there are other people at the table, too,” says Nguyen. “No one wants to be next to the person who constantly complains, demands the cocktail waitress bring a drink immediately, and so on. We understand when a person’s trip or gambling session may not be working out, but the next hand or spin may be different. Keeping an upbeat attitude and staying positive could possibly change a person’s luck.”

Absolutely nailed it. The Golden Rule applies to casinos as it does to everday life.

In a casino, be the kind of person you’d like to hang out with. Keep the mood light, be polite and don’t lose sight of the fact if gambling isn’t fun, why the hell are you doing it?

Special thanks to Michael Nguyen of CEG dealer school for giving us the straight scoop, and we appreciate dealers for being such an integral part of some of our most memorable Las Vegas moments, ever.

Share some Vegas. Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone

Today’s Sucker Bets, Courtesy of The Orleans

We popped by The Orleans, a casino-hotel about five minutes west of The Strip on Tropicana, and saw two side bets we hadn’t played before, and sort of wish it had stayed that way.

Orleans

Sucker bets aside, The Orleans is a great place to play. Insider tip: Ask for Beaver. (That may not be his real name.)

Specialty bets on table games have notoriously high house edges, and these two beauties followed suit.

First, up a blackjack side bet called “Let’s Play.” This bet has a $1 minimum, and pays based upon the player’s cards (and in one case, the combined cards of the player and dealer).

Given the odds, let's not.

Given the odds, let’s not.

If your two cards are the same suit, you’re paid 2-to-1, you’re paid 4-to-1 for a straight flush, 15-to-1 for a suited queen-jack, 20-to-1 for ace-king suited and 250-to-1 for ace, king, queen and jack suited (this one includes your cards and the dealer’s).

Even for those of us math-challenged, it only takes a moment to realize those payouts are pretty awful. Overall, the house edge for this game is a killer 11.01%.

See all the numbers for this game at one of our favorite number-crunching sites, Wizard of Odds.

Our next side bet was truly a doozy. Yes, there are still doozies, although these days, they’re called WTFs.

Moving over to craps, The Orleans has a side bet called the Replay Bet. It’s akin to the popular Fire Bet, but this is the only casino where we’ve see the Replay Bet.

Here, you’re betting you’ll roll the same number three times before you seven out. Given that seven is the most commonly-rolled number on the dice, you’re definitely bucking the odds to win this bet, and it shows.

The Replay Bet has a gargantuan house edge of 24.79%. For laypersons, we can best describe that house edge as “Run! Run for your life!”

Replay Bet

This bet has ouch written all over it.

All the numbers for the Replay Bet can be found here. Seriously, this side bet competes with keno (house edges of up to 35%) as the worst bet in a casino.

So, as with most bets in a casino, caution is paramount. It’s fairly safe to assume side and specialty bets aren’t great for players, so they should be avoided, or at least bet sparingly.

Sometimes, your instincts, or copious amounts of liquor, tell you different, and you have to go for it. Gambling, after all, is meant to be fun, not a retirement plan.

Share some Vegas. Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterPin on PinterestShare on Google+Share on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someone