A day all can appreciate ’21’

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I really thought I had heard it all when I learned there was a “Talk Like a Pirate Day” a few years ago. Then two weeks ago, I found out there is a National Blackjack Day.

Okay, maybe that pirate thing is even more farfetched. But, does a game as popular as Blackjack really need a day to honor it? I believe it is about 400 years old and can be found in every casino in the world.

Then I learned of some of the details. The date picked for the day of recognition was March 2. Why this date? Because this is 3/2 – or the original payout of a blackjack. This day of recognition is not so much a day to honor the game of Blackjack, but to protest the change to a payout of 6 to 5 for blackjacks, which happened many years ago, especially on the Las Vegas Strip. I found out about the day when the Rampart Casino in Las Vegas contacted GamingToday and then contacted me about covering it.

Normally, I’m not big about just covering a marketing event. But, this is a bit different. Through the years in this column, I have promoted the higher paybacks that can be found in the locals casinos in Las Vegas. The Rampart is one of those, along with many of the Station Casinos properties. Rampart is promoting this day because it is one of the casinos that continues to pay 3 to 2 on blackjacks. I’m promoting the day because it falls into the category of knowing which games to play, which is a key part of Expert Strategy.

Roughly speaking, a standard blackjack game paying 3 to 2 has a payback of about 99.5% A 6 to 5 game drops down to 98.3%. That may not sound like a lot until you flip it around to the respective house advantages – 0.5% and 1.7%.

You can expect to lose, on average, three times the amount of money by playing a 6 to 5 game. This is significant! This is the most significant single thing you can look for when playing blackjack. You’re better off playing with a continuous shuffler at 3 to 2 than a single deck paying 6 to 5!

I don’t remember the exact year 6 to 5 came to be on the Las Vegas Strip. I just vaguely recall it came about because the hold on Blackjack had started to fall significantly. In some cases, it dropped to the single digits. Players had learned how to play the game better. You see less people splitting 10’s today than you did 20 years ago. People have learned to double down properly, etc.

The casinos needed to cover their costs better. But, as blackjack sidebets have become more popular – many with paybacks in the mid 80’s to low 90’s, the casinos should have considered putting back the 3 to 2 payback. If they were concerned about counters, they should have used the continuous shuffler – which also gets them more hands per hour. 

It is easy to blame greed as the primary factor, but I put the blame on the player instead of the casino. So long as players are willing to play 6 to 5, casinos have no reason to offer 3 to 2.

So, why do casinos like Rampart offer it? Because they are not targeting the tourist who comes into town once a year. They cater to locals and realize you have to give the player a chance to win and a positive experience if you want them to come back. Rampart does have a rather nice hotel attached to it that draws in some out of towners, but many of these people are still regulars. They didn’t film “The Hangover” at off-Strip properties for a reason!

This past week, I met with Sam Garritano, director of table games at the Rampart. To help celebrate National Blackjack Day, Rampart is offering a variety of specials for the day. First, they will be offering free Blackjack lessons (every two hours, 8 a.m.-4 p.m.). They will also have drink and food specials – priced at $3.20 each. You can get a Black Jack Cocktail at all the casino bars or a selection of pastries at the Clubhouse Deli.

I tried to look up who created National Blackjack Day as I figured it was probably not Hallmark. Someone created a website for it, but the information about it is a bit vague. I believe it was started in 2017 by some players who were essentially protesting 6 to 5 payouts. Apparently, there is no national registry of National Days. Anyone can simply declare any day they want and it is up to the marketing department from there. To read more about it, you can go to: https://nationalblackjackday.org/

This has given me a great idea. We need a National Video Poker Day. After all, video poker is America’s National Game of Chance. I hereby declare Sept. 6 (9/6 for a full-pay Jacks or Better machine) as National Video Poker Day! Let the marketing begin.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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