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So you or someone you know has just turned 21 and you want to get out there and have some fun gambling in Vegas. Every year, thousands of people come to Vegas for their 21st birthday to drink, party and, of course, gamble
legally for the first time. But, a good question is where do you take a first-time player to ensure they get the most bang for their buck?
I have been a casino dealer for about five years and, when I gamble, I look for the best odds with the best limits. When friends and family hit the big 21, they always ask me to take them out for a night of lucky chance. I love to gamble! Some might think, “wow, this guy has a problem!” Not at all, actually; I play smart and never put myself in financial harm. So, with that in mind, here's my personal guide to how to go all in for the big 2-1:
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Most casino visitors know the odds are stacked against them. Still, it’s fun to try and take on the house. Some players go for broke and play games like Megabucks, where the chances of winning are minute but the potential payout colossal. Others pick games like blackjack, where big wins are rare but the chances of leaving ahead aren’t so bad. Whatever you choose, it’s important to understand game selection alone doesn’t determine your odds.
Gamblers thinking they’ll play things safe by sticking to conservative games like video poker and craps often overlook the fact that those games are only safer if played under the correct circumstances. Played incorrectly, either by using imperfect strategy or by making the wrong types of bets, these games can have a house edge as bad as the worst of slot machines. Additionally, even if playing optimally, casinos can change the rules such that the odds aren’t as you would expect. Here’s a look at just how widely the house edge can swing on some of the most popular games:
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6:5 blackjack. Oh, 6:5 blackjack.
Why we hate 6:5 blackjack
Let’s keep it simple. When a casino pays 6:5 on blackjack instead of the traditional 3:2, you get paid less money when you get a natural blackjack. The difference is getting paid $12 for a $10 wager on a 6:5 game vs. getting paid $15 for a $10 wager on a 3:2 game.
Depending on other rules of the game, this can push the house edge from about 0.43% to 1.88%. That’s a huge shift in odds. You can play with this blackjack calculator to see the house edge in any blackjack game.
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Unless you gamble frequently, you may not realize it isn’t all the same. To the non-gambler, blackjack is blackjack is blackjack. Gamblers know that isn’t true. Not only do many casinos offer different rules, odds and returns for games, you may even find different rules and odds for the same game under the roof of a single casino.
A casino may offer blackjack with different odds depending on if you're by the door, in the high limit room or in the party pit. This can be the case with other forms of casino gambling, from betting on sports to video poker.
Imagine this scenario. A visitor to Las Vegas finds a game in a casino that he knows has a small house advantage. Therefore, he thinks, he shouldn't lose a lot of money playing that game. He plays for a short while, and he loses all of his money, and he walks away confused and pretty unhappy. What happened? Was it just bad luck? More likely, he just experienced the concepts of volatility and of risk of ruin!
A recent VegasChatter article about how much money is needed for a trip to Las Vegas got me thinking about the closely related concepts of risk of ruin, volatility, bet size, and total gambling bankroll size. Risk of ruin explains why you can play a game with a slim house advantage, and still lose your entire bankroll more quickly than you might expect.
If you’ve been on the Vegas Strip anytime in the past year or so there’s a good chance you’ve seen that New York-New York has at least one $5 blackjack table open throughout the day. If things get busy, they’ll open a second. It’s more difficult every day to be a low roller on the Vegas Strip so any $5 game is a welcome sight for many. These tables are almost always packed with people waiting to get on them.
Unfortunately, these aren’t the games for those looking for low-rolling blackjack with good odds. You’re paid 6:5 when you are dealt blackjack, making returns on this game about three times worse than a traditional game that pays 3:2. You won’t find many games on the Vegas Strip that are under $15 or $25 that pay 3:2. Howevuh, if you're at New York-New York, you’re across the street from one of the best blackjack games on the Strip.
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We all loooooove cheap gambling. Especially, when the gambling is good. Well, we may have found the best new low rollin' blackjack in Las Vegas. The $1 blackjack at Riviera is cool, but it’s almost impossible to find a seat at the single table devoted to super low rollers. You're more likely to find an open seat at one of the nearby $5 or $10 tables.
It looks like Binion’s took notice of that and improved on it for their Throwback Thursday Blackjack promotion.
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Casino party pits aren’t for everyone. These parts of the casino are often marked with scantily clad go-go dancers and dealers, even louder music and less-friendly blackjack payouts. There are people that enjoy the atmosphere and don’t mind playing a game that pays 6:5 as long as they’re having a good time.
One of our go-to resources for casino gaming information, Michael Shackleford (a.k.a. Wizard of Odds), recently interviewed Angela Wyman, a former party pit dealer, who revealed some interesting information about what it’s like. The interview (embedded below is 15 minutes long, but here are some highlights if you don’t have the time to devote to it.
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Many of us like to go back to the basics to become a better person in a new year. Soul searching can sometimes do the body and the mind good. We’re not going to get that deep. We will, however, look at four basic concepts that will help you become a better gambler in 2015, and beyond.
1. Don’t chase: It's instinctual to chase losses when gambling. Nobody likes to lose. Unfortunately, chasing losses often ends up extending a cold streak and sees your money going in the wrong direction. Casino games all have a house advantage. Sometimes you’re going to win and sometimes you’re going to lose. Losing stinks, but it’s going to happen. Just take the loss to your allotted budget and move on.
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Late last year, MyVEGAS launched a slots app for mobile phones and tablets. Due to its popularity, a blackjack app was added this year. And, it won’t be the last for the franchise as a video poker app is already planned.
Social casino games, in general, are having a great year. Revenue is expected to be north of $3 billion. Sixty million of that will be earned by MyVEGAS alone. That sounds like a lot, but it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Here's what 2014 brought for MyVEGAS:
New casino games come and go pretty quickly, especially in Las Vegas. It takes a lot of positive feedback (money) to move a new game from the testing phase to becoming a permanent fixture on the casino floor. Some people look at new games and just move on while others will give it a try. If you like blackjack, you have a few weeks to check out a new variant at the Fremont in Downtown Vegas.
Change It 21 is currently in testing at the Fremont and should be available for, at least, the next couple of weeks. If the game shows that it’s popular this field trial may last up to 180 days.
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Gambling is as healthy as anything else you do for hours without moving. Yeah, it's not all that healthy and the habits developed while gambling, like drinking and smoking, only make things worse. That said, gamblers aren’t any less healthy than the rest of the population. This is according to a survey of 2,000 gamblers in England.
The poll found gamblers in England have the same general Body Mass Index (BMI), 27, as the rest of the population. According to the CDC, Americans have a similar BMI. For the sake of commonality among gamblers, let's assume that Americans and English have similar lifestyles, too.