Marc has provided a lot of good information about blackjack lately and I hope he doesn’t mind if I add my two cents. I started playing the game in 2004 (an Atlantic City trip report I may write someday) based mainly on the writings of ESPN’s Bill Simmons, aka ‘The Sports Guy’ (ED: Download Free Podcast), back when he was funny (ED: He’s still funny, you’re just desensitized to it.). Prior to the trip, I taught myself basic strategy by purchasing some software for my PC and playing it until most of the strategy became second nature.
Neither this game nor Bill Simmons, however, could teach me the ‘unwritten rules of blackjack’. Okay, in retrospect, I probably could’ve Googled it, had I known they existed. Heck, I could Google it right now, but then a) I wouldn’t have an article to write or b) my article would clearly be biased by what I’ve read. So, when you’re done reading, feel free to add your own in the comments, but if you think I missed something obvious, now you know why.
When joining a game mid-shoe, it never hurts to ask the players already in the game if you can join. (ED: I never join mid-shoe and hate when people do)
If you are dealt a double-down opportunity, it is perfectly acceptable to double your bet by moving your chips into position before it is your turn. There is a slim chance that the dealer has a 10 up card and turns over an Ace, but any good dealer will return your second bet to you while taking your first. Naturally you wouldn’t do this if the dealer was showing an Ace.
I don’t think there’s any situation where you’d split 5s, but a dealer must ask you if you want to double or split them. Since casinos are noisy (that is why there are hand signals, of course!), you can hold your index finger up, like a 1, meaning ‘1 card’, which is all you get when you double.
When the first round of cards are dealt, it is nice to wish any players that their Aces become blackjacks/naturals by lightly banging/tapping the table in their direction and saying “Good luck on your Ace”.
It’s obvious that you can touch your chips after you get paid for a win and normally the dealer takes your chips as soon as you lose. But what about a push? As I learned the hard way, DO NOT touch your chips until the dealer gets to your position and bangs/taps the felt in front of you to signal ‘push’ to the ‘eye in the sky’.
There are two main ways to tip your dealer: 1) slide a chip into the ‘dealer zone’, that nebulous area best described as “around the insurance line”; a comment like “that’s for you” should convey the message and 2) make a bet for the dealer by placing your chip(s) near your betting stack, akin to the Moon orbiting the Earth.
In the event of a push, I usually but not always remember to ask the dealer what he/she prefers. Most often, they’ll ‘let it ride’. I don’t think I’ve had anyone take the tip on a push.
True story: my first or second time playing, a player to my left, during the betting portion, reached over and put singles/whites ‘in orbit’ around all our bets. I had no idea what she was doing. It was only when we all won and I went to take the money that I learned she was tipping the dealer on all our hands. I have never seen this since.
When coloring up at the end of a session, if I don’t think I’ve tipped enough, I try to remember to keep a red (or two) to the side so it’s not included in the coloring. That way I’m not digging in my wallet for some small bills after being handed a stack of greens and blacks.
That’s all I can think of at the moment. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
Earlier this year Forbes put together a list of the best sportsbooks in Las Vegas. I speculated that it may have paid for by MGM Resorts, by their numerous sportsbooks on the list. Between that list and talking about my favorite sportsbooks in Las Vegas on the Betting Dork podcast I wanted to come up with a list of my own.
If you follow my writing on Vegas Chatter, you already know some of the list. Here are my best sportsbooks in Las Vegas.
Lagasse’s Stadium (Palazzo) – By far my favorite sportsbook in Las Vegas. Besides being a sportsbook where you can place bets and watch games, it’s a restaurant with decent enough food and waitress service. There is a lot of seating options as well as a patio with couches and a pool table. Lagasse’s Stadium also has it’s own little casino (blackjack, etc) if the games get boring. Take a look at a review I did after my first visit, so I can stop gushing.
Red Rock Casino – I’m biased because this is my home casino. Distance aside, this sportsbook is one of my favorites for a few reasons. The Red Rock sportsbook is one of the larger sportsbooks in Las Vegas. It has 2 giant TV screens with ample auxiliary screens. There are about 16 lounge chairs to relax in and desk style seating for hundreds. The vibe here is always good, but it’s great during football season and perfectly relaxing during baseball season. Also, drink tickets are given and drinks are cheap after you run out of freebies. The only negative here is that it’s about 25 minutes off the strip.
Venetian – The Venetian sportsbook is newly remodeled and that gives it the newest HD screens in Vegas. Besides having new crisp picture, the screens are huge. The lighting is also designed to enhance the viewing. While Cantor Gaming produces a very sterile, cold, not very comfortable (the seating feels like sitting at a work station) environment to watch games it’s impossible to dismiss how great the games look here. Cocktail service is slow and there are no drink tickets, but the screens here are beautiful.
Mandalay Bay – I’ve spent quite a few Sundays watching football at the Mandalay Bay sportsbook. It’s nice sized with plenty of decent sized TV’s. There are desks and chairs for a couple hundred people. There’s also seating at the bar where you’ll have to buy drinks, but this seating is more comfortable. Even better is that just sitting at the bar playing video poker you can get free drinks. This is one of the few sportsbooks in Las Vegas that I’ve seen show boxing. The crowd is great and has a great draw for soccer if that’s your cup of tea.
Mirage, Bellagio and Caesars Palace – Older sportsbooks that could use a freshening up with their TV screens and seating.
Aria and MGM Grand – Aria is a newer casino and MGM Grand is recently remodeled. Both have nice screens, but aren’t very big.
That covers just about every sportsbook that matters to me in Las Vegas. There’s one glaring omission, which I’ll discuss separately when I get into the most overrated sportsbooks in Las Vegas.
I was listening to the Five Hundy By Midnightpodcast a couple weeks ago and they gave a heads up that Travel Channel will be having an all Las Vegas day on Tuesday December 27. Well, that day is here. If you’re off it will give you some background noise. If you haven’t seen the 20 year old programs before you can TiVo the shows and see what you’ve missed over the past 20 years.
Of course, you’re better off watching the former NBC show “Las Vegas” which is on TNT twice daily and also available on Amazon if you really need access to every episode at all times.
Strangely enough you can’t watch “Las Vegas” on the, otherwise, awesome TNT app. Below is a small scale schedule of the Travel Channel programming. Head to your TV or Travel Channel website for more info.
I was doing some podcast catch up today and found some interesting information on he latest Center for Gaming Research podcast with Lee Amaitis, CEO of Cantor Gaming
Among other things, I learned that last year Cantor Gaming made $400 million dollars. Amaitis mentioned this was only at one casino (M Resort), but they’ve been working with Legasse Stadium since it opened so I have to imagine that includes both properties.
It will be interesting to see the growth with Cantor Gaming’s expansion into Tropicana, Hard Rock and soon the Cosmopolitan. I don’t think revenues will triple, but that number will definitely grow.
It’s an interesting podcast if you’re interested in sports betting operations. Click the image below to access the podcast.
I’ve been enjoying Chad Millman’s ESPN Insider column, “Behind The Bets”, for just about a year now. This column and the magazine offer make the ESPN Insider fee worth it for me.
About a month ago Millman started the “Behind The Bets” podcast. This is free and a great look into the world of sports betting. For example, the podcast I’m listening to now has Pete Korner speaking about how he puts together lines for NFL games.
I haven’t found discussion like this available before so I’m enjoying the podcast. Much like other podcasts and sports betting resources I don’t look to get picks from them, but I do like to get ideas and information that I’m not going to find from regular news outlets.
As we head into football season I imagine this is going to be an excellent resource and it’s only about 30 minutes a week.
Check the podcast section if you’re in need of some ways to get information or just pass the time.
Jeff Ma wrote the awesome book Bringing Down The House with Ben Mezrich. Looking at him, you may remember his cameo in 21. Besides being a card counter for the MIT blackjack team Jeff has also been a part of fantasy sports (he used to appear on the MLB fantasy podcast) and got into sports in general.
This interview, from tech crunch, touches on his new book in addition to blackjack, sports and movies. It’s a nice view/listen. Enjoy.