Less Payouts, Less Entertaining: Celebrating National Blackjack Day

Chris Georgieff is your typical gambler. A marketing executive and businessman, he travels a lot and finds himself in Las Vegas a few times each year. He usually stays on the strip, and he loves to play blackjack. He is not a card counter or an advantage player, he just likes to kill time and have fun.

“Everyone has their game, whether it be poker, craps, slots or roulette, my game is blackjack. I’ve tried them all but blackjack is the game I find most entertaining. It keeps my attention and allows me to hang onto my money longer. More so than any other game,” he said.

Group playing

The 52-year old has been playing blackjack for more than 20 years now, and has an affinity for the action. He is married with two children, and lives in Orange County, California. A four-hour drive through the desert to sin city. On family vacations, he is sure to plan some alone time in the casino so that he can dabble in his favorite card game.

Every gambler has that vivid anecdote, a story about the night they just couldn’t miss, and Georgieff is no different. “Great memories,” he said, the smile all over his face, as he recalled an evening more than a decade ago at the Golden Nugget, where he and a group of friends dominated the game.

“It was a table of six, and all were very good friends. We were lucky that night, every card seemed to hit. It got to the point where it seemed that if I was sitting with fourteen, I just had to ask for a seven and it came. It was just one of those nights. We were all winning and having fun, and after a few comped drinks, it seemed like I could work magic. Good friends, laughs, drinks and winning, they’re the perfect combination for having a good time.”

Changing the Rules

Unfortunately, for Georgieff and millions of other recreational gamblers, the game of blackjack has become tougher to beat over the years. On the constant hunt for larger profit margins, most major casino corporations have been slowly implementing subtle rule changes that further disadvantage the player. Multi-deck shoes, automatic shufflers and restrictions on pair-splitting have each, to some degree, tilted the odds even more in the casino’s favor.

Multi-deck shoes and automatic shufflers make card counting virtually impossible. You are no longer allowed to double down after splitting, which effectively eliminates a key element of the game. Once an advantageous and strategic play for gamblers, it has been cleverly removed from the rule book. In most casinos, dealers are forced to hit on a soft 17, more evidence the traditional game has been modified to the casinos’ partiality.

The 6:5 Travesty

Perhaps, the most stifling rule change for players has been the payouts.

Today is National Blackjack Day in the United States. March 2nd was chosen as the day to celebrate the world’s most popular game for a very specific reason. Written in odds form it’s 3:2, or the traditional payout for hitting a ’21.’ So, why the need for a special day to support and promote traditional payouts? Over the years, a very disturbing trend has been developing at the blackjack tables — 6:5 payouts for 21.

“Believe me, it didn’t go unnoticed,” laughed Georgieff, who just returned home from a weekend stay in Las Vegas. “My money definitely used to last longer. I like to play the $10 tables, which are all 6:5 along the strip, and I was only getting 12 bucks back on blackjack. It used to be $15. I couldn’t find any 3:2 tables at my limits.”

National Blackjack Day

Organizers are calling on amateur and skilled gamblers everywhere to join the movement and support the cause by doing five simple things:

  • Celebrate National Blackjack Day on March 2nd
  • Play blackjack at your local casino
  • Only play at tables with 3:2 odds
  • Share your love for the game on social media
  • Call on casino companies to keep 3:2 pay tables

This trend toward 6:5 payouts is spreading outside Las Vegas city limits and passed the Nevada border. It’s becoming commonplace, and “it’s taking money out of players hands, tilting the odds even further to the house,” reads the website nationalblackjackday.org. “Eroding the game from its once dominant position to just another table on casino floors. We are trying to bring attention to the declining amount of 3:2 payout tables and other changes that have negatively impacted the odds to win and ultimately reduce the enjoyment of the game for both skilled and amateur players.”

National Blackjack Day

Casino Comps, a Mirage?

Rule changes aside, there is another factor playing a leading role in diminishing the enjoyment of playing blackjack. The free comps aren’t what they used to be either. Georgieff, for instance, enjoys a local libation while he plays his favorite game on vacation. Often times he can be found drinking a beer or sipping on a whiskey and coke while he plays, but even that benefit has been taken away. Not only is it harder to win, but it’s becoming less fun at the tables.

“I was just there, stayed at the Mirage, and not only have they changed the odds at the tables, but they’ve stopped providing free drinks to those gambling. I get that casinos are not in the business to lose money, and I’m okay with not winning every hand, but a few of us like to think we have a chance. The odd win here or there is a good thing, it promotes more gambling. With 6:5 payouts, not to mention all the resort fees, it would be nice if they gave gamblers free libations while they played.”

Despite that sobering assessment, Georgieff still loves the game and will continue to play, as will millions of others.

Did you know, blackjack is the most widely played casino banking game in the world and dates back to the early 17th century. Let’s celebrate it today.

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver

Derrick Oliver Dewan is the founder of High Roller Radio and has interviewed a number of the world's top poker players and gamblers. A former radio and television broadcaster, Derrick was brand manager for Poker Pro Canada magazine and has written for a variety of publications, including the Toronto Star & Windsor Life.

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