Playing Blackjack at Caesars Palace Las Vegas

When Jay Sarno opened Caesars Palace in 1966, he based it upon a novel concept—people didn’t come to Las Vegas to gamble; they came to play. He created a Greco-Roman-themed kingdom of fantasy and pleasure “fit for an emperor,” and so it has remained ever since—much copied, but still unique. Blackjack players have always been especially welcome at Caesars, where the 136,500-square-foot casino floor features 182 gaming tables [1], including 67 of them dedicated solely to the game of 21 and many with just five seats instead of the typical six or seven.

Caesars Tables & Games

The casino floor is split into two major sections—the Palace Casino adjacent to hotel registration and the Forum Casino near the Forum Shops. They are connected by a slot floor referred to as Colosseum Way. Caesars management divides its blackjack tables into five basic categories: single deck, double deck and three different six-deck versions played from a shoe [2].

The very best of these games from a player’s point of view is the high-limit double-deck one, where the dealer must stand on soft 17, there’s no surrender or re-splitting of Aces (RSA), and doubling down after splitting (DAS) is allowed. With table limits of $500~$10,000, that game features a House Edge of just 0.27% [3]. The only other version offered with the dealer standing on soft 17 is the $100~$10,000 six-deck game with surrender, RSA, DAS and a House Edge of 0.28%. For players who can afford it, the best bet is to head straight for the High-Limit Room at the south end of the property.

Those who play for lower stakes may be less happy about the game rules. For example, the $15~$2000 shoe does not allow doubling down on counts other than 10 or 11 [4], and the single-deck tables offer payouts of only 6:5 on natural blackjacks. That means the advantage for the House ranges from 0.50% to 0.96%—among the worst odds in town [5]. Many of the tables, such as the ones adorned with Shania Twain graphics, offer a side bet call “21+3,” which rewards straights, flushes and other three-card combinations of the player’s first two cards and the dealer’s up card. There are also two machine versions of blackjack on the slot floor—IGT’s trusty multi-denomination stand-up console for $1, $2 and $5 and a new multi-player video unit called “Royal Match 21.”

What’s Different

Caesars Palace has always taken pride in being an innovator and a safe gambling environment. In 2007, they were the first resort to raise the limit on blackjack betting on the main casino floor from $10,000 to $50,000 and allow players to wager on up to three hands at $25,000 apiece [6]. They were also the first to offer “swim-up” blackjack in 2009, when the resort’s Garden of the Gods complex added tables to the shaded section of its Fortuna pool [7]. Most recently, a party pit called “Pussycat Dolls Casino” has been set up near the box office with about a dozen tables surrounding a multilevel stage. The seats feature a leopard print design and hot pink “kiss marks” indicate the betting areas on the table, where players can attempt to avoid the distractions of live cage dancers as they play [8]. Caesars has always been one of the most trusted Vegas operators.

Total Rewards for Frequent Blackjack Players

The player’s loyalty club at Caesars Palace is called “Total Rewards”—the same program embraced by Harrah’s and nearly 40 other resorts and casinos around the world under the umbrella of Caesars Entertainment Corporation [9]. Players earn “Reward Credits” for frequent play, which can in turn be redeemed for meals, entertainment, merchandise and more. The credits also apply as “Tier Credits,” which determine the player’s status from Gold to Platinum, Diamond and the elite “Seven Stars.”

One Tier/Reward Credit is earned for each $5 played on reel machines or $10 for video poker. According to the program rules, “For table play, be sure to hand your Total Rewards card to the dealer or pit supervisor as soon as you sit down to play and ask to be rated. Both Tier Credits and Reward Credits are earned based on length of play, average bet and type of game…. If you play slots and tables, all earned Reward Credits go into the same account that you can use for comps.” According to one of the Total Reward representatives, “every 100 Credits earns a dollar in comps,” so plan on spending some serious time at the tables if free rooms, meals or show tickets are desired.

The Inside View

Caesars Palace is an icon. More than half a century after the resort was built with millions of dollars in pension fund money from the Teamsters Union, courtesy of Jimmy Hoffa, the casino’s legendary atmosphere still draws players to its tables. After all, this is where Evel Knievel jumped the fountain on his motorcycle, where Liberace played his last concert, where boxer Larry Holmes beat Mohammad Ali … the list of celebrated milestones goes on and on. Who wouldn’t want to play at Caesars Palace?

But the real reason to play here is because the House can be beaten. Badly. Caesars lost big to the infamous card counters of the MIT Blackjack Team [10]. This is where hole-carding Blackjack Hall of Fame member James Grosjean endured “back-rooming, handcuffing, and arrest on false cheating charges” [11], before successfully suing the casino for libel, false arrest and violation of civil rights worth $105,000. Blackjack pros know that Caesars is a giant, but a vulnerable one to be sure, and the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

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