In Las Vegas, Blackjack is king of the table games. For every Three Card Poker or Caribbean Stud, there are four or five Blackjack tables. The reason for this is simple: Gamblers have heard that Blackjack can be beaten. Ever since the 1961 publication of Beat the Dealer by Edward O. Thorpe, card counting and other strategies based on counting have given hope to thousands that winning at Blackjack is simple.The reality is slightly different. Although playing perfect strategy at Blackjack reduces the House margin to just a sliver, perfect strategy takes a lot of memorization and practice. Card counting takes a lot more. But let’s leave counting out of it and say that you know some strategy you learned for your Vegas trip. Is that all there is to playing Blackjack in Las Vegas?
In fact, no. Something casual visitors may never know is that 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. is the best time to hit the Blackjack tables in casinos on the Strip. That’s because, while most every Strip casino sticks it to gamblers by offering just 6:5 on Blackjacks instead of the customary 3:2 most of the time, you can find 3:2 games on the Strip in those wee hours when they’re just trying to fill seats at the tables. It’s the dead time, especially during the week. Also:
- Blackjacks pays 3 to 2 instead of 6 to 5 during the 3-7 a.m. period, increasing the player’s edge considerably. It is recommended by most every Blackjack expert that one should never play 6 to 5. If you want to find 3 to 2 games, travel just a block or two off of the Strip. Those casinos want to siphon customers away from the big boys, so they offer better odds.
- $5 minimum bets instead of $10 of even $15. Again, off the Strip you can find the $5 minimum, but during the magic hours of 3-7 a.m., many Strip joints offer the same. They figure it’s better to make a little money than none of at all.
- Double and even single decks instead of six- to eight-deck shoes. The player’s edge goes up as the number of decks go down. I’ve seen 3:2 games dealt from one deck with a $5 minimum bet only during those choice morning hours.