Playing Blackjack at Bellagio Las Vegas

The Bellagio has become famous for its manmade lake with dancing fountains. They’ve appeared in blockbuster movies from thrillers like Ocean’s Eleven and “21” to such hit comedies as The Hangover and Rush Hour 2. But behind the famous water show is something even more impressive—a 100,000-square-foot casino with 81 of its 188 gaming tables dedicated to blackjack [1] and offering players a better chance of winning than just about anywhere else in Las Vegas.

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Bellagio Tables & Games

By all accounts, the Bellagio offers some of the most liberal and fairest blackjack rules on the Las Vegas Strip, and not just at the high limit tables. This is particularly true of the rules regarding splitting pairs, which allow for splitting up to three times to form four separate hands, re-splitting of Aces (RSA) and doubling down after a split (DAS) [2]. Only the double-deck game with limits of $50~$10,000 disallows RSA, along with surrender, but because the dealer must stand on all totals of 17, the House edge is just about as good as it gets in Las Vegas at 0.27% [3].

At the tables with six-deck shoes, two variations are played. Both offer surrender and RSA as well as DAS, and one has the dealer hit on soft 17, which is common along the Strip for $10 and $15 games, giving the House an advantage of 0.48%. However, the other version has the dealer stand on all 17s for a House edge of just 0.28%, making it arguably the best low stakes game around [4]

Elsewhere in the pit area, there are a couple of tables dedicated to Blackjack Switch. Try to avoid the low limit tables that feature dealing from continuous shuffle machines. Players are almost better off on the slot floor, where there are a number of IGT video blackjack consoles that accept wagers in increments of 25¢, 50¢ and $1.

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What’s Different

As noted above, the House rules at the Bellagio are among the most liberal available along the Strip, but that’s not the only good news for blackjack players. Unlike some of its less well established neighbors (read: “Cosmopolitan”), this casino does not have some kind of mad vendetta going on against advantage players. The dealers are focused on managing the games, not on catching card counters, and according to at least one regular, “the fact that a lot of money runs through Bellagio will allow you to get plenty of large bets out on the table without getting much heat from the pit [5]

M Life for Frequent Blackjack Players

The Bellagio is part of MGM Resorts International, so it shares its player’s club with such sister properties as the MGM Grand, Aria, Mandalay Bay, the Mirage, Excalibur and New York New York, among others. The loyalty program is called “M life” and, unlike some of its competitors, it does not mix “points” awarded for slot play with credit earned for table games [6]. Instead, blackjack players “are eligible to earn Express Comps and Tier Credits based on table games play … based on your average bet and time played.” The Express Comps may in turn be redeemed for hotel accommodations, dining, entertainment, M life Moments and more at any M life destination. As players move up in tiers, from Sapphire to Pearl, Gold, Platinum and NOIR, they earn even more Express Comps for their play. But the fine print can’t be ignored; there is “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.” If you use an American express card to gamble, then you can compound your brick and mortar casino rewards program with the one offered from Amex.

The Inside View

For those who enjoy a semi-private game, “Club Privé” is the Bellagio’s high-limit lounge and gaming area [7]. Designed by Adam Tihany, it provides high rollers a secluded space with a contemporary feel, including an elevated floor, interlinking metal, dark wood, glass and silver-leafed screen partitions, and understated lighting achieved by Venetian glass panels and chandeliers. A special selection  of “Lucky 8” spirits adds to the ambience of exclusivity, offering players such rarities as Xellent Vodka, which is pot-distilled from Swiss rye and blended with pure glacier water from the Swiss Alps, and Hardy “Rosebud” Cognac—a blend of small lots of cognac collected by Armand Hardy after the First World War [8].

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