Vegas Strip Blackjack is a variation of the most popular casino-banked card game in the world. It borrows its name from the 6.7-kilometer-long stretch in Sin City dotted with luxurious casinos like the Bellagio, Circus Circus, Harrah’s, and Caesars Palace.
With the advent of technologies, this variation of the classic game is no longer restricted to the glamorous floors of Vegas Strip gambling venues. You can now play it at a variety of online casinos that offer you the same rules for an equally thrilling experience on your desktop computer or smartphone. The virtual variation created by Microgaming as part of its Gold Series of table games is particularly popular among online blackjack players.
It is not surprising Vegas Strip Blackjack has captured the hearts of blackjack fans the world over. The game offers decent enough rules and one of the lowest house advantages you can find in a casino. Read on to find more about this popular blackjack variation, the house edge it yields and the correct strategy you need to utilize while playing it.
The Rules of Vegas Strip Blackjack
Those who are already familiar with blackjack will experience no issues with the rules of the Vegas Strip variant of the game. The objective of the player is the same – you need to beat the dealer’s hand with a higher total without breaking your own hand, i.e. without exceeding a total of 21.
The values of cards 2 through 9 coincide with the number of pips on their front. The Aces’ value fluctuates and can be either 1 or 11, depending on the players’ choice. Face cards (King, Queen, and Jacks) and 10s all have a value of ten.
A hand consisting of an Ace counted as 11 and a ten-value card on the initial deal is a natural blackjack. It earns you a payout of 3 to 2 although some casinos on the Vegas Strip have changed the payout ratio to 6 to 5, which is generally unfavorable for the player. Microgaming’s software developers, however, have retained the original payout for their online Vegas Strip variant so your blackjacks will earn you 1.5x your original wager.
The Rules of Vegas Strip Blackjack – Additional TipsEach participating player receives their cards face-up on the initial deal whereas the dealer’s first card is exposed and their second card (the hole card) is dealt face-down to be revealed after everyone else has made their playing decisions.
Multiple decks are in play, four full decks to be precise. In landbased casinos on the actual Vegas Strip, the cards are dealt from a device called a shoe. The online variations, like the one created by Microgaming, use random number generators that reshuffle the four decks after every single round of play, which guarantees randomness and unbiased results.
In the online variations of Vegas Strip Blackjack, the dealer is required to stand on both soft and hard totals of 17. A soft total is one that contains a flexible Ace whose value can be 1 or 11. This eliminates the chances of the dealer busting by taking one more hit and increases the likelihood of them outdrawing the player with a better hand total.
There may be variations in the dealer standing rules in different landbased casinos, though. If you are playing on the actual Vegas Strip, you will undoubtedly come across establishments that spread games where the opposite rule applies, i.e. the dealer hits soft 17.
The playing conditions in Vegas Strip Blackjack are pretty much favorable for the players. To begin with, this is a hole-card game where the dealer peeks for blackjacks when their upcard is an Ace or has a value of ten. When the dealer’s exposed card is an Ace, the players are offered to take insurance which pays at the standard rate of 2 to 1. Surrendering is generally not permitted in this variation of the game.
The players are allowed to double down on any two-card total after the initial deal and also have the option to double after they have split a pair of cards. Note that you are dealt only one additional card following a double-down. Speaking of splitting, you can split any two cards you like as long as they are of the same rank. Unlike ten-value cards like 10-Q can also be split. You can split three times until you form a maximum of four separate hands.
An exception is made for pairs consisting of Aces which cannot be resplit. When two Aces are split, each Ace automatically receives only one additional card from the dealer and players are not allowed to draw again. When you draw a ten-value card on a split Ace, the hand total counts as a multi-card 21, not as a blackjack. Therefore, you receive a 1-to-1 payout when you win.
Strategy for Vegas Strip Blackjack
The above-specified playing conditions are extremely favorable for those who chose Vegas Strip Blackjack. Most of them reduce the house edge working against you. The casino advantage for this game would have been even lower if surrendering was an option and players were permitted to resplit Aces but the rules are generally good enough as they are.
You combat a house edge of around 0.35% in Microgaming’s Vegas Strip Blackjack under this set of rules. Here it is important to specify that you need to use basic strategy that corresponds to the rules of this game. Without a strategy, you will be fighting a much higher house edge than the figure listed above.
So before you sit down and play Vegas Strip Blackjack for real money, you need to find a basic strategy chart for this set of rules. It will show you the optimal moves for all situations at the table, based on your hand’s total and the value of the dealer’s upcard.
Using the chart does not guarantee you will win each and every hand you play in Vegas Strip Blackjack. It simply helps you increase your long-term profits from favorable situations and cuts down your losses when you are in a tough spot.
It is impossible to list all strategy decisions for Vegas Strip Blackjack here but we offer you few of the correct plays that are the easiest to memorize. You can check them out below:
- Do not buy insurance when the dealer’s upcard is an Ace. Buying insurance regularly dramatically increases the house edge causing you to systematically lose money.
- Do not split ten-value cards. A pair of ten-value cards makes for a very decent total of 20. The only way for the dealer to beat you with this hand is to outdraw you with a total of 21 or to obtain a natural blackjack. Splitting the ten-value cards carries a significant risk of you ending up with two worse hands.
- Do not split pairs of 5s. This is also a poor decision to make since a pair of 5s makes for a great starting total of 10 and gives you the opportunity to perform a successful double down thus winning twice as much money.
- Split all pairs of 8s. A hard total of 16 is easily the worse hand a blackjack player can receive but you can get away with it if the hand consists of 8s. By splitting, you get the chance to start two hands with an initial total of 8 each, which is a significant improvement when compared to hard 16.
- Split all paired Aces. The logic behind this move is the same as that behind splitting the 8s. You considerably improve your chances of success when you have two hands with a starting total of 11.
- Hit hard 16 (unless it consists of 8s) against stronger dealer upcards 7 through Ace.
- Double on totals of 9, 10, and 11 against upcards 3 through 6. The dealer stands better chances of busting with these upcards which gives you the opportunity to win twice as much when you have the advantage.
- Double on soft totals A-2 through A-7 against weak dealer upcards 5 and 6 for the same reason as above.
There are many more decisions you will face at the Vegas Strip Blackjack table, some far less intuitive than others. Make sure you check some of the other blackjack-related articles on SuperCasinoSites for further information about basic strategy and the logic behind some of the trickiest strategy plays.