Where Have All the Good Blackjack Tables Gone

During my last trip to Vegas I sent a quick tweet joking about the lack of good blackjack tables on the strip.  At the time it was just an off-the-cuff comment, but the more I think about it the more it rings true.

Let’s start with what defines a ‘good’ blackjack table for me:

  • Blackjack pays 3:2
  • 6-deck shoe (not 8)
  • Surrender allowed
  • Dealer shuffles (no auto or continuous shuffle machines)
  • Dealer stay on soft 17
  • Dealer and pit boss friendly

Each of these items saves you a fraction of a % of advantage against the house (except the friendly dealer) so your money lasts a little longer when things go bad and you have the chance to win more when things go well.

Using these criteria there are only a handful of tables left on the Vegas strip and of those the lowest limit I’ve seen in past year is $25 with most being $50-100.

Bally’s ‘high-limit’ room has 2 tables meeting this criteria and some times they are only $25 even in prime time, Paris has 1 @ $100, and Planet Hollywood 1 @ $100.  I’ve stopped playing at MGM properties due to their 6:5 payouts on anything under $25 and I’d rather poke my eyes out than play at some of the higher-end places with their sour dealers.

This leaves me with almost nowhere to play.  Based on the trend I have a feeling this means I’m going to have to move off the strip in the near future and that is annoying.  The gambling capital of the world (sorry Macau) and I can’t get a good game.

This is one of the reasons I’m trying to get traction for National Blackjack Day annually on March 2nd.  Bring some attention to the deteriorating state of blackjack and hopefully get players to pressure the casinos to bring back some of the more favorable rules for all players so our game doesn’t disappear before our eyes.


Vegas ‘Chocolate Chip’ Trip Recap


The dream on everyone’s mind when they come to Vegas, or any casino, is to walk out a big winner.  The definition of ‘big winner’ varies based on your bankroll and what games you play.  Whether you want to hit the progressive payout on ‘Wheel of Fortune’, the craps ‘fire bet’, win the WSOP main event, or just double your $10 hitting red on roulette, the thrill of the win is always a rush.

For me the big win to this point in my blackjack playing days is the ‘chocolate chip’.  It is the $5000 chip level at Caesars properties and this past trip I hit that milestone for the 2nd time.

The trip was a 4 day/4 night conference where I had a hectic work schedule and really didn’t get in any gambling time until the last day and a half.  Day 1-2 were uneventful with only a couple of short stops to $25 and $100 tables on my way back to my room at the end of long days.  I know I should just keep my money in my wallet in those situations, but I can’t help myself from at least testing the waters every day while in Vegas.  Only anecdote from those games was a d-bag who kept looking over my shoulder and commenting while I was playing in $100 limit table, he came back so many times that the dealer finally told him to leave unless he was going to play – good dealer.

Day 3 was funny because my CEO wanted to play.  He knows I like to play, but has no idea I regularly play at $100 limit tables and visit a casino almost monthly.  We were at Wynn and he was looking for a $10 table, but lowest we could find was $15.  Of course the odds were stacked way against us with 6:5, hit soft 17, 8-decks, auto-shuffle (at least not a constant shuffle machine) so there was basically no way to win.  We played one round and made $50 with me guiding his play, he was thrilled so after our meetings we tried again and both threw away $200.

The 3rd night I finally got to play on my own and went to my usual hangouts at the Ballys and Paris high-limit rooms.  Made 2 yards at Bally’s and then quickly gave back 12 yards at the Paris $100 table.

Day 4 was the end of the conference so I started my blackjack journey at lunch time.  My goal was to get back to even from the losses over first 3 days and hopefully end the trip on a positive note.  I knew I was in a risky position.  Pressing to make up for losses is the classic gamblers downfall ‘it has to turn around sometime’ is the kiss of death phrase.

I started in the Paris high-limit room and as soon as I sat down I had a good feeling about the day.  The first shoe was uneventful and ended up only $50 bucks, but the pattern and flow just felt like I was in for a good ride.  Sure enough after a few more shoes I had nearly doubled my buy-in and when some random dude arrived to sit at first base I split 3s vs. 5 and won both hands on the last cards of the shoe, got up and walked away basically even for the trip.

Now I’m even and I’ve got 10+ hours of gambling left for the day.  Time to slow down so I threw $100 at Craps, total waste of money, then tried my hand in a poker tournament – actually played really well then got bored, made it to final 5 out of 25, but 1st place was only $1200 and the chip leader had almost no chance of giving back his lead so I made a couple of bad high risk moves trying for a hail mary and busted out in 5th when they paid 3.

With my Deion Sanders multi-sport efforts over it was time to focus back on my goal.  I’m now back to roughly even, have been running good, and wanted to make some money.

One of my favorite tables in Vegas is the 6-deck shoe at Planet Hollywood high-limit room.  They have nice dealers, good vibe, and usually I can play solo for hours.  While I was playing poker I could see the table was open and that was one of the reasons I made terrible plays to bust out – was ready for real money.  I sat down, said hello to familiar dealers and pit bosses, ordered a water and Bud Light and was ready to roll.

My typical buy-in for $100 table is between $1200-1500.  I started the first shoe with a couple yard win.  Shoe 2 was decent as well, up another few bucks.  Then the pit boss came over and changed the TV behind me to the Cubs game which was a no-hitter going to the 9th.  I’m from Chicago and this was a good omen.  That shoe was a break-out – now up to nearly double the buy-in and Cubs got no-hitter.  Going to be good day.  Chicago Blackhawks game then starts and they go ahead in a must win game down 3-1 to Blues in playoffs.  In the next few shoes I only had one minor losing shoe and most added to the black chip stacks.

Last shoe, making a run, goal of chocolate chip is so close and last hand is $250 – get 8s vs. Ace showing.  Crap.  Split. First hand 8+6+10 – ugh.  2nd hand 8+3+Double Down.  Dealer shows A+7 – this is it, dealer flips my card, it’s an 8 – whew.  That’s it, Chocolate Chip plus a couple bucks.  Chip me up dealer. Thank you, goodnight.

I went out to a nice dinner, watched Blackhawks win in double-OT, played $100 of roulette which was a waste, then called it a trip.  The flight home always feels better when you’ve got folding money in the wallet.  Of course now I’m already Jones’n for my next trip…

*One note there is no set chip color for denominations above $100 according to our friend @_lucky45 so your local casino may pay you with a different color, but I’m sure that winning it feels just as nice!