Las Vegas Blackjack just ain't what it used to be

Playing blackjack with dancing dealers will cost you a house edge, or what Vegas go-go dancers like to call a "Titty Tax".

Marc Meltzer
Last Updated: Jun 24, 2015 11:21 AM ET
Blackjack is the most popular game on the casino floor. In the 1980’s blackjack accounted for almost 80 percent of the games you would find inside Las Vegas casinos. That’s changed in the past 30 years, as the percentage of blackjack games on the casino floor has steadily declined.

Games like three-card poker, pai gow poker, Mississippi stud poker and mini baccarat have taken the place of many of these tables. These newer games often bring the casinos a higher house edge than traditional blackjack. This isn’t to say that blackjack has gone away.

The most popular game in the casino still occupies over 50 percent of the gaming tables on the casino floor in Nevada. However, the blackjack that’s in Vegas casinos today is very different from the game in the 80’s. Rules and games vary from table to table and the game isn’t quite as beatable as it once was. In fact, it’s becoming almost impossible for a low roller to find an edge.

The time where a small house edge for the casino was good enough for casino operators is long gone. The casino operators are now major corporations and have to report better revenue each quarter. The need to continuously drive earnings has forced casino operators to introduce more new casino games with a larger house edge. Operators have also decided to manipulate the house edge in their favor on some of the classic casino games like blackjack.

Casinos have many variations of blackjack on the casino floor today. Different rules can give a blackjack game a house edge for the casino of 0.20 percent while other games just a table or two away may have a house edge closer to 2 percent or more for the average good gambler (you have to play with perfect basic strategy to achieve the maximum house edge). It can be annoying to find the best games in a casino but here are a few tips.

- Walk the casino floor and check the rules and limits of all games before deciding where to play. There are often a few good blackjack games hidden among the games with bad rules. These games aren't always the busiest as the average Vegas customer just looks for the lowest limits. The average gambler would rather play a $5 game with bad rules than a $10 game with good rules.

- Blackjack rules are changed fairly often nowadays and usually not for the better. The table you played on your last visit to a casino with good rules and a low house edge may have new rules and a worse house edge. Always check the rules before sitting down if the house edge matters to you. It may not (see next tip) and that's your preference.

- If there is a special fun gaming area the rules are usually bad. In an interview last year a go-go dancer said the bad rules in party pits are sometimes considered a “Titty Tax.” Yes, you’re giving a couple percentage points of your house edge to play blackjack with a scantily clad dealer and next to go-go dancers. Go figure.

- Step up your bets on the Vegas Strip for a better game. The majority of blackjack games on the Vegas Strip with a small house edge are green chip ($25) or black chip ($100) games. Some good lower-limits blackjack can be found on the Vegas Strip but on a weekend night many of those games have higher limits.

- Look for the following rules for the best returns. The more of these rules you find, the smaller the house edge. Look for: 3:2 return on blackjack, less decks in play (one deck being the best), double after split, surrender, ability to re-split aces, dealer stands on soft 17.

- If you’re looking for the best blackjack games you may have to go off the Vegas Strip. Some of the best blackjack games under $25 can be found off the Strip and in Downtown Vegas.

- Use Google and find the Wizard of Odds and Wizard of Vegas. Bookmark the blackjack survey which is updated at least once a year.

These are just a few tips to find the best blackjack games in a casino. Many of the casinos on the Vegas Strip have one or two low limits (under $25) tables with a small house edge. As you'd expect there are more good games available to people playing $25 and more.

A low house edge is meaningless if you don’t know how to play blackjack with accurate basic strategy. If you don’t know how to play perfectly you won’t get the same house edge. You can find websites and apps to practice blackjack strategy and counting. You can also purchase a blackjack strategy card and use it at the table. The card must be paper as you can’t use your mobile phone at the blackjack table.

There are good blackjack games available in Vegas but you'll just have to look for them.

Popular Content

Covers 25 Years Logo Established in 1995,
Covers is the world
leader in sports
betting information.
Covers is verified safe by: Evalon Logo GPWA Logo GDPR Logo GeoTrust Logo Evalon Logo