Las Vegas Lowers Blackjack Minimums, Not Winning Odds

Hotel, show, meal, and retail deals are everywhere you look in Las Vegas.   So, it comes with no surprise that our main attraction – blackjack – is flush with deals.  In fact, several Las Vegas Strip casinos have lowered table minimums on their blackjack games in an attempt to lure more customers in during tough economic times.  

The haute Wynn Las Vegas offers some $25 double deck blackjack games on weekdays, down from $50 per hand minimum.  On the other end of the posh spectrum, the Sahara is offering $1 blackjack. Lower minimums have been reported everywhere, even at Harrah’s and MGM Mirage casino properties. 

Players view the moves as a retreat from the high minimums of years past, during the tourism boom.  At that time, table minimums at many Strip properties rose sky-high, along with hotel room rates, mixed drink prices and dining bills. 

But don’t get snookered into believing that lower blackjack minimums now are necessarily a good player deal.  

MGM Mirage adjusts their table game limits based on daily visitor volume.  

Another aspect that comes into play are the rules.  The more favorable the odds of a particular table game, the higher the minimum bet requirement- a strategy that limits the number of players who can take their shot against the casino.  And lower limits almost always mean worse rules for players, says Al Rogers of Pi Yee Pres, which publishes blackjack rule and odds by property in it Current Blackjack News newsletter. 

Players may think they’re getting a better deal with a lower-minimum game when actually the opposite is typically true, he warns. 

Rather than tempting players by reducing their house edge, Strip casinos, Rogers says, have continues a trend that began before the recession, to lower the odds for blackjack and related games by worsening rules.

 For example, many Strip casinos offer games paying 6-to-5 odds for blackjacks, instead of the customary 3-to-2, and those where dealers hit “soft” 17s, meaning they must draws another card on hands containing an ace valued at 11, giving the house a chance to improve a relatively weak hands.  Both strategies, though, increase the house edge. 

Blackjack wagers on the Strip fell by nearly $1 billion for the 12 months ended April 30, after peaking the previous year, according to the Gaming Control Board.  However, the telling fact is that Strip casinos still kept 10.9 percent of those wagers, a fraction of a percentage point less than in the previous record period.

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