Lowering the Stakes (As Well As the Steaks)


In a recent column about around-the-clock dollar blackjack at the Riviera (“$1 Blackjack Is Alive and Well,” Feb. 5), I mentioned that dollar-minimum games are also available at Poker Palace and Binion’s. I’ve since discovered that Poker Palace no longer deals $1 minimums (my bad). Binion’s, on the other hand, has an even better game than I thought.

During “Thursday Throwback Blackjack,” four tables with six spots each deal the $1 game from noon to midnight, which means that for 12 hours on Thursdays, there’s double the capacity at Binion’s than at the Riviera. And whereas the Riv’s game has gimmicky rules that raise the house’s edge, Binion’s rules make it one of the best blackjack games in the city. It’s single deck dealt from the hand (known as a “pitch game”); the dealer hits soft 17; doubling is allowed on 10 and 11 only; there’s no doubling after splits; and no re-splitting aces. Essentially, these are the old “Reno rules,” which were common in northern Nevada for years, yielding a scant 0.43 percent house advantage against a basic-strategy player.

During a recent research trip, the tables were hopping, and not everyone was a $1 bettor, meaning the casino was making a small profit on this promotional offering (max bet is $100).

Bravo, Binion’s. This is the sort of thing more casinos should be doing. After all, while gambling is fun, it does cost money. So just like anything else you do for entertainment, it’s prudent to seek out the best bargain. A big part of that is being able to gamble for lower stakes. Now you can play $1 blackjack at the Riviera daily and at Binion’s for half a day each week.

What about low stakes elsewhere? First, let me give credit where it’s due: Rather than run to every casino, I relied on a long-running industry newsletter that keeps up with blackjack conditions in Las Vegas (and beyond) called Current Blackjack News (BJ21.com). CBNJ isn’t perfect, but it’s a good road map, and according to its latest issue, four local casinos deal $2-minimum blackjack: Arizona Charlie’s Decatur, Fiesta Henderson, Longhorn and (now) Poker Palace.

There are 20 casinos dealing $3 minimums: Arizona Charlie’s Boulder, Boulder Station, California, Cannery, Circus Circus, Club Fortune, the D, El Cortez, Eastside Cannery, Fremont, Hooters, Jerry’s Nugget, Jokers Wild, Las Vegas Club, Lucky Club, Main Street Station, Railroad Pass, Sam’s Town and Silver Nugget. Other than that, the lowest blackjack minimums you’ll find in town are $5 and up.

Now, allow me to shift gears and note that Irene’s Cocktail Lounge (5480 Spring Mountain Road) has lowered the price of its 24-hour, 16-ounce New York steak special by $2 to $14.99. Whether it’s “stakes” or “steaks,” lower is always better.

Anthony Curtis is the publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor .

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