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Finding good blackjack is similar to buying a car. You’ll just have to shop around for the best games.

Smart gaming on the Vegas Strip is becoming more difficult and more expensive. The over abundance of blackjack games that pay 6:5 is no longer being exaggerated. There was a time when 6:5 blackjack was just part of the Vegas Strip casino blackjack mix. Now it’s the rule.

Yes, you can still find 3:2 blackjack but it’s the exception and not the rule. Your minimum for these games will often be at least $25 per hand and they are slowly disappearing. Most blackjack games with $10 or $15 minimums only offer 6:5 payouts for blackjack and the rules are getting worse and quickly spreading throughout Las Vegas.

For years Caesars Entertainment casinos in Las Vegas (all eight of them) have been known as the leader in bad blackjack offerings with more 6:5 blackjack than any other casinos. If you’re looking for a $10 game of blackjack you’ll be playing a game that pays 6:5 on blackjack. MGM Resorts owns 10 casinos on the Vegas Strip and has had a history of having some of the better blackjack games, according to Wizard of Vegas; but that’s beginning to change.

On a recent trip to Monte Carlo I noticed every game that paid 6:5 on blackjack didn’t allow you to take even money when you had blackjack with the dealer showing an Ace. Every game under $25 paid 6:5 and had this rule. This just makes that 1.5% difference from 3:2 blackjack even worse for the player.

Caesars Palace may have the worst blackjack game on the Vegas Strip where you are paid 6:5 for blackjack and can only double on 10 or 11. This adds about .2% to the casino house advantage.

The 6:5 blackjack isn’t only on the Strip but, as I mentioned last week, it’s the norm at the Hard Rock and has even infiltrated some downtown casinos like Four Queens. Blackjack used to be the same everywhere but that’s no longer the case.

Good, affordable, blackjack games are available but you may have to play at a casino you wouldn’t normally visit. You may have to make the trip from the Strip downtown to the El Cortez where you can still find a $10 single deck blackjack game that pays 3:2 and has no funky rules.

The Strip has always been a destination for tourists. Gaming was part of the attraction to the casinos but it’s never been the only thing. Even going back to the days of the Rat Pack people have been visiting Las Vegas for the entertainment, dining and pools in addition to gambling.

Still, gaming was the big money maker for the casino operators. That changed about 20 years ago when spending on non-gaming elements of the casino became greater than gaming revenues. This spread continues to grow on the Strip and gaming will soon only be about 30% of revenue for the resorts there.

As casinos look to keep gaming revenue in line they will continue to tweak the rules so they gain small advantages incrementally that don’t scare off gamblers. In time, the house advantage at Strip casinos between blackjack and Let It Ride won’t be very different.


Marc Meltzer covers Las Vegas, gambling and men’s lifestyle for various outlets. Follow Marc on twitter @eastcoastgamblr. Check out his blog at Contact Marc at [email protected].

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