Is Blackjack Dying?

It’s getting harder and harder to be a blackjack player these days.  6:5 payouts are getting more common, tables with reasonable rules are less available, Baccaract is slowly taking over, and twenty-something party kids are turning Vegas into a giant nightclub with more celebrity DJs popping up every day.

Great article from Pacific Standard about the 6:5 blackjack payout and other trends chipping away at blackjack’s dominance in the world of gambling.  Some of the most interesting items include the decline in blackjack as a percentage of the total winnings for casinos – down to approx. 25% of casino revenue in 2013 vs. roughly 50% in ’85.

It’s surprising to me that casinos are squeezing the blackjack rules as they are making less from gaming in general.  More and more revenue comes from hotel rooms, dining and night clubs, but Vegas was built on gaming.  So if I own a casino and I make it less friendly for gamblers am I making a great business move or a short term profit while hurting my long-range success?

I’d argue that there is a tipping point which is coming closer – gamblers like me have bigger overall budgets than club kids for their average trip, but it may not be as obvious.  The party crowd pays $50 cover, buy $100 bottles, and spend their days at the pool – generalizing here, but you get the idea.  Me and my blackjack playing friends bring $1000+/day for gaming, buy nice dinners, and stay in comped rooms.

On the surface the party crowd might actually look more profitable since they pay for their rooms, drinks and clubs, but my guess is that the gambler is still the foundation that makes Vegas, well Vegas.  When the trends turn, and the trends always turn, and the celeb DJ scene starts to fade like old trucker hats I’m thinking that gamblers will be what saves Vegas (again).

I’m probably being a bit over-dramatic, but c’mon casino owners, don’t squeeze us with 6:5 blackjack and other weak rules meant to cut corners with the novice players because at some point you are going to need some winners coming back with good memories of their time at the tables to keep printing money in the desert.



Blackjack Vultures Please Fly Away

I’ve written before about the types of people you don’t want to be and you don’t want sitting near you at the blackjack tables.  My most recent addition to this list is the vulture.  I recently encountered this annoying character at my last trip to the casino.

My day wasn’t going very well and I was sitting solo at the $100 table.  The two women at the table next to me had just been knocked sideways by their dealer and both left at the same time, but instead of moving on they decided to swoop over to my table.

The first woman hovered over my left shoulder and the second sat at first base.  Neither of them made any move to buy in or ever said a word, they simply sat there and stared.  I could feel both of them begging for me to lose so they would a) feel better about their losses and b) get me off this table so they could jump in.

After several minutes I knew that I should get up and walk away, but I was so annoyed that I couldn’t give them the satisfaction of leaving the table.  Of course this was counter-productive since the momentum wasn’t going my way and I was now distracted by the vultures.

I played out the shoe, tipped the dealer (who gave me a knowing eye roll), picked up my remaining chips and walked off without looking at the vultures.  Please don’t be a vulture the next time you visit the casino – feel free to watch and cheer on other players, but know that if you are waiting to pick the bones off another players carcass it isn’t a welcome addition to any table.

Blackjack beatdown – Lessons Learned

If you were one of the very few people following my blackjack beatdown via @blackjackroi on Twitter you know it was not pretty.  On the looong car ride home I had time to think about what went wrong and it was rather simple actually.

Lesson 1) Don’t play over your target level no matter how busy the casino.  In this case I was prepared for $25-50 tables and when seats were not available I played at the $100 tables.  This limited my swings at the plate and made it almost impossible to win unless I came out of the gate with big winning shoes.

Lesson 2) If you do get ahead – take it and leave.  In this case I had a nice little run and was up a few hundred dollars and instead of standing and leaving I kept going and the inevitable happened.

There are a few more things I observed and learned which I will write about in future posts, but had I followed these two simple things I would have walked away even or ahead instead of way down for the day.