INFO: Things I’ve learned from playing Blackjack in Vegas

  1. Blackjack tables that pay 6:5 on natural 21s are all that you’ll find in a BJ player’s version of hell.
  2. Any table with a continuous shuffling machine should be avoided like the plague*.
  3. Your comps from the casino are roughly one average bet per hour. 
  4. Be prepared to "go on a bathroom break" or "answer a cell phone call" when the table goes cold.
  5. Casino credit is the best way to play; pre-apply for it through the casino web site.
  6. Always plan a show, a dinner, and a daily activity each day in Vegas:  It clears your mind.
  7. If you vary your bet more than 4x, be prepared to only play in 1 hour stints.
  8. Never "reset" your bet to a minimum on shuffles.
  9. All a casino needs to do to rip you off is remove a few 10’s.
  10. Tokes (dealer tips) should be placed on top of your bet, not in front. 
  11. Keep a basic strategy card with you on the table at all times; take the time to refer to it if don’t know the correct call.
  12. The best drink while playing 21 is Red Bull on the rocks:  It looks like whisky.
  13. If you’re going to play like a marathon as an advantage player, try to play by yourself.
    If you’re going to play opportunistically by selectively joining games, try to play with a few others.
  14. 10-10-3-10-10-8-9-6-7-2-1-5-4 is the order of a ‘cooler’ deck.
  15. The discard case is transparent red to prevent card marking.
  16. Quietly sneaking chips off table is a good practice… but it’s frowned upon by the casino.
  17. If you’re planning for comps, assume you’ll lose the money once you step off the plane. 
  18. If you’re playing for money, assume you’re going to win the moment you step off the plane.
  19. Comps are based on your length of play & your average bet – not your win/loss record.
  20. Always order a non-alcoholic cocktail; never play tired or drunk.
  21. Always have a ‘safe harbor’ to go to in a casino, where you can relax quietly if you’re lost.
  22. Come with a mix of cash for tips & traveler’s checks for other things.
  23. If you win more than $10K, it’ll be reported by the casino to the IRS as taxable winnings.
    If you lose more than $10K, the IRS will have no idea so you can’t write it off as a loss.
  24. If you have $1000 chips, it’ll need to be reported by the pit boss before you can go to the cashier.
    Additionally, the pit boss doesn’t "clock you out" immediately after leaving a table so wait a while to grow your comp time.
  25. Always make your initial bet a big one to get recorded as one end of your average bet.
  26. You should always be able to make around 100 bets on average with your total bankroll.
  27. You have a limited bankroll while the house has an unlimited bankroll.  This is why, when the house has an edge, ultimately the house always wins.
  28. Blackjack is either a lot of frivolous fun, or it’s hard work & drudgery.
  29. All big losing streaks can be healed by one of the following:
    1. Big comeback wins
    2. Cocktails & good friends
    3. High roller treatment & a good loud Vegas club
    4. The Hard Rock Pool & YK-35 at Nobu’s
  30. Be kind to your dealer:  He/she is often the one who determines what your average bet was.
  31. Always hit 12 against a 2 or 3; Always stand on 13.
  32. Go to Vegas between conventions; schedules are available from
  33. Never take insurance.
  34. Ben Mezrich’s books make the pursuit of Blackjack far more romantic than it really is.
  35. If the limits are too high, ask a pitboss to lower them when action’s low.
  36. Play with superstitions, but don’t believe in them. 3rd base does NOT control the game.
  37. Don’t hate the dealer – hate the shoe.
  38. The first rule of the Playboy Club is you DO NOT PLAY BLACKJACK AT THE PLAYBOY CLUB.
  39. Tip a pool boy $20 the day before to reserve a chair at the Hard Rock Pool.
  40. The more decks in the shoe, the more of an edge the casino has against you.
  41. Sometimes it’s more fun to read about Blackjack at than it is to play it.
  42. High limit dealers are often the friendliest.
  43. If you don’t like smoke, don’t play.
  44. RFB comps on the strip require around $200-$300 of play a day.
  45. Never play at any any Blackjack game using MindPlay MP21 tables**.
    This means the entire Flamingo Las Vegas.
  46. A single deck table with exactly 4 players is by far one of the best games to play.
  47. The Internet knows how bad the edge is at your favorite casino at
  48. Blackjack players are as bad as sports fans as evidenced by the forums.
  49. Most books on Blackjack regurgitate the same stuff over and over again; ask before you buy.
  50. Professional Blackjack players are just geniuses far beyond our comprehension & even they’re making diminishing returns, so the sooner everyone learns this the sooner we can all just get on with our lives.

* There’s one exception to this rule:  If you have a "Naturals pay 3-1 coupon" (usually for a Downtown Vegas casino) you probably want to play on a CSM.  This is because, these coupons only last a half-hour or an hour and you want to try to get in as many hands as possible during the time allotted & CSMs eliminate the time for shuffling.

** MindPlay tables are electronic tables that optically scans the cards & the chips being wagered.  The casino knows exactly what cards are being played and precisely what you’ve bet.  To quote Stanford Wong, "The easiest way to tell a MindPlay table is by the recessed "well" to the dealer’s right. After shuffling or removing the cards from the shuffling machine, but before dealing, the dealer will insert the cards into this "well." Inside the "well" is a scanner that reads the marked cards, enabling the MindPlay device to know the exact order of the cards before they are dealt. A normal table does not have this recessed "well." In addition, you will see a black contraption that is used to hold the dealers first two cards."

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