Aria Resort Blackjack

When MGM Resorts International opened its $8.5 billion urban metropolis known as CityCenter in December 2009, it placed the new Aria Resort & Casino at its center to mark the beginning of a new era of luxury gaming on the Las Vegas Strip. The casino’s 150,000-square-foot gaming floor was designed to be 21st century state-of-the-art—a unique blend of technology, art, entertainment and fashion. But more important to blackjack players, this fresh new venue has been rated by many since 2011 as the #1 place to play on the Las Vegas Strip in terms of “best odds for blackjack”. [1]

Aria Tables & Real Money Blackjack Games

Among the 224 gaming tables on the main casino floor, look immediately for the double-deck blackjack table with stakes of $50~$10,000, where the dealer stands on all 17s. The rules feature doubling down after splitting (DAS), re-splitting of Aces (RSA) and no surrender option, adding up to a House edge of just 0.20% [2]. It really doesn’t get any better than this elsewhere along the Boulevard. By way of comparison, the only other tables at casinos on the Strip with an advantage as low as 0.20% charge a $100 minimum bet, and most of those limit the maximum wager to $5,000.

If all the great seats are taken at Aria, the next best choice is the $50~$10,000 six-deck version dealt from a shoe, which has the same rules except surrender is allowed, and the House edge is 0.28%–still not bad at all. Although the $25~$5,000 tables also have double-deck and six-deck games offering similar rules, there is one huge difference—the dealer must hit on soft 17. That “small” change bumps the House advantage up to 0.40% and 0.48%, respectively.

Note that most, if not all, blackjack under $25 at Aria is dealt with a continuous shuffle machine—not the card counter’s friend. Other 21-based games here are Blackjack Switch and Free Bet Blackjack, which pays a bonus for split hands but if the dealer gets a 22, all bets left standing push [3]

What’s Different

In 2010, Popular Mechanics described Aria as quite possibly “the most technologically advanced hotel ever built [4].” Much has been written about its sustainability efforts and intelligent rooms, but the same high-tech, high-touch approach applies to its gaming as well. For example, replacing traditional slots are “gaming stations,” some 2,000 of them with hi-def screens run by Mac Minis and featuring updatable, changeable games that are controlled and monitored by a 3,000-square-foot data center. What’s more, “Once a guest’s smartphone is registered with the Aria, hotel attractions … push personalized notifications to the user…. Are you a known blackjack player? The resort can let you know about empty player chairs at the $25 tables.”

M Life for Frequent Blackjack Players

Aria is owned by MGM Resorts International, so its loyalty program is “M Life”—the same as the Bellagio, MGM Grand and a dozen other sister properties [5]. Unlike slots and video poker, table games are not eligible for M life “points” accumulation. Instead, there’s “a minimum betting requirement to be rated for Table Games (so) please see the supervisor in the pit for assistance at each participating M life resort.” Blackjack players may then earn “Express Comps and Tier Credits” based upon their average bet and time played. As players move up in tiers, they earn even more Express Comps for their play—up to $5,000 worth for Sapphire, Pearl, Gold or Platinum members and double that for NOIR members. Express Comps may then be used for hotel stay, at food and beverage outlets, entertainment venues, or to purchase “M life Moments”—unique experiences offered at participating MGM Resorts International destinations.

The Inside View

Whale watching is a popular pastime at Aria. The high stakes gaming is conveniently divided into three separate VIP lounges. For slot players, there is “Spin.” Those who prefer baccarat have “Salon Prive.” And located on the casino level next to the main cashier for high-end blackjack and roulette, there’s “Carta Privada” [6], which in Spanish means “private card play.” The exclusive 24/7 gaming area encased in orange glass was created by high-society architect-interior designer Peter Marino, and it features table minimums of $100~$500. Drinks are provided gratis to players, while leather couches and plush chairs are available for spectators who can order drinks from a fully stocked bar serving Aria’s premium cocktails and “Signature Sips.” According to the Las Vegas International Press Club [7], Carta Privada rates among “the best spots for high limit blackjack … in Vegas.”

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