Sunday, January 12, 2014

Best Bets at Blackjack (Surprisingly)

One of our favorite blackjack games is at the good old Riviera...a $5 shoe game with decent rules and 3:2 on blackjack. The trick as for all these places is to start your day there, early enough in the morning that you can get a seat while all the tables aren't packed, especially if, like us, you believe that the fewer the players at the table, the better. Oh, they also have $1 blackjack, if you can ever find a seat, and don't mind being dealt out of a continuous-shuffle machine, you basic-strategy-player, you. (Right across the street, Circus Circus has some decent tables too, and just like at the Riv, every six months you can buy $40 worth of promo chips for $30, reducing the casino's edge that much further. Just get there before it gets even more crowded than across the street.)

"Las Vegas has the biggest Hooters I've ever seen," my poker buddy Brian is fond of saying. True, the cocktail servers here look as if they all have the same surgeon's number in their rolodex, but if you can ignore the distractions, we found to our surprise that they have one of the best single-deck games in town, and if you get there early enough in the day, for as low as $5 minium. They also use a notched shoe for their multideck games, guaranteeing you the same good penetration every time.

The Longhorn is a little dive on Boulder, pretty much right across from Sam's Town, that we've grown to love for several reasons, not the least of which is the most generous set of blackjack rules in town: surrender, double down on your 2nd or 3rd card, doubling on splits, etc. (Eat your heart out, Las Vegas Club.) They have $2 and $5 minimum tables, but playing $5 minimum gets you a $5 bonus if you get a blackjack in diamonds. You earn comped meals in their restaurant pretty fast, and generously tipping your dealer may well get you additional comps as well; I'm just sayin'. Brian, who likes playing the side bets, especially likes this place because he hit the Queens of hearts on the Lucky Ladies for $125. One night they let all the pit players spin the wheel for a prize and Brian won a jacket, the lucky stiff. I had to settle for free slot play. Oh, and when you sign up as a new member, they give you a cookie. Throw in cookin' lounge acts on a tiny stage and what's not to like?

Elsewhere around town: The venerable El Cortez brags that they have 3:2 blackjacks on all their tables, and that goes for single-deck as well. The Rio is not exactly known for their low minimums or decent table game odds, yet surprisingly, they have $5 minimum single-deck when you can find it. Ellis Island and Tuscany, near each other off Flamingo east of the Strip, both offer surrender, a boon to my buddy Brian or, as we all call him, "the 15 magnet." Silverton, south of the south end of the Strip, has so much to recommend it, their $5 minimum blackjack is just gravy. Rampart, attached to the J.W. Marriott Resort off of West Charleston, is a good place to eat considering that playing at their $5 minimum tables can quickly earn you comps to their buffet. Finally, the Stratosphere also uses a notched shoe for their multideck games, and it guarantees every deal has the deepest penetration you'll see in town, even if you have to play at least $10 minimum to get better than 6:5 on your blackjacks.

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