Good Blackjack at the Truck Stop

Over the past 25 years there have been two Las Vegas casinos inside truck stops. You might know one of them—it was the King 8 that was sold to Station Casinos and transformed into the Wild Wild West—but you probably don’t know the other. Referred to for years simply as the Blue Diamond truck stop for its location way out at the corner of Blue Diamond and Industrial (now Dean Martin) across from the Silverton, the only hint that there was something more than slots inside was a sign that read, simply, “CASINO.”

Out there all by itself, long before Boomtown (Silverton’s predecessor) was built, it was a bare-bones operation, but there was always at least one live blackjack game. Today the truck stop is owned by Travel Centers of America and features three fast-food restaurants and a convenience store. And while that same sign is still in place, there’s a busy little casino inside called the Alamo. Operated by the owners of the Sparks casino of the same name, the Alamo is doing more than just carrying on the tradition of dealing live blackjack at the former Blue Diamond truck stop, it’s dealing the best blackjack game in Las Vegas.

In blackjack, different players look for different things, but a good gauge of a game is its casino advantage against “basic strategy,” which is the optimal way to play considering only the cards in your hand and the dealer’s up card (no card counting or other strategies). Typically, a casino’s basic-strategy advantage ranges from about .5 percent to more than 2 percent. There are a few casinos that use good blackjack rules as a marketing tool and offer games with skinnier edges, but none of them beats the Alamo.

The casino has two tables, both single-deck. Naturals pay 3-2, the dealer hits soft 17, late surrender is allowed, and an unbusted six-card hand is an automatic winner. If you know what all that means, and you play correctly, the result is a basic-strategy edge for the casino of .14 percent. It’s strictly small stakes, with limits from $5 to $100, but that .14 percent translates into an expectation of losing just 14 cents for every $100 you wager. Not bad! Even if you don’t play 21, there are a few other reasons to remember the Alamo. You’ll get $10 in free play for joining the players club, plus $1 every time you come back. The video poker’s not great, but there are progressives at the bar that can potentially get juicy. You’ll even find a few slots that still operate by handle pull. Check it out during happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight, when domestic beers and well drinks are just a buck.