Playing Blackjack at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas

Since its opening in December of 2010, the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas has been operating under the catchphrase “Just the Right Amount of Wrong”. According to its ad agency, the resort’s edgy commercial message tells visitors that it is “a place guaranteeing all of the trappings of the sophisticated experience without signaling (it’s) going to be a frat party weekend…. an experience that will leave visitors with stories worth telling rather than with secrets to keep.” And that pretty much sums up the action on the Cosmopolitan’s 100,000-square-foot casino floor, where roughly half of the 83 table games awaiting players are all about blackjack.

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Cosmopolitan Tables & Games

The Cosmopolitan has been rated among the top ten casinos on the Las Vegas Strip when it comes to finding the best odds for blackjack, but it doesn’t get a lot of respect among serious players. The best game is the six-deck version played for stakes of $200~$5,000; it features doubling down after splitting (DAS), a surrender option, re-splitting Aces (RSA) and a dealer who must stand on all 17s—rules which combine for a House edge of just 0.28%.

Another good game is the double-deck $200~$5,000 version with DAS, RSA, surrender and the dealer hitting on soft 17 for a House advantage of 0.33%. These games can be found in the high-limit area off the main casino floor. And one more six-deck version with a House edge of 0.28% is available in the luxurious “Talon Club,” which was added in November 2011 on the second floor above the main casino; it has 15 tables in total, plus food service and minimums starting at $500.

Out on the primary gaming floor, double-deck and six-deck games are available with $15~$5,000 limits, both requiring the dealer to hit on soft 17 and allowing DAS. Although the hand-dealt game with two decks doesn’t allow surrender or RSA, it has the better odds with a House edge of 0.45% as compared to the multi-deck shoe offering surrender, RSA and a margin of 0.48%. Many of the table have a side bet available called “Bet the Set,” which pays 10:1 for any pair on the first two cards and 15:1 if they are suited. Note, however, that continuous shuffle machines are sometimes used—the games dealt from a shoe tend to be better for the players.

What’s Different

Bloggers have complained about the Cosmopolitan’s experimentation with paying 6:5 for natural blackjacks at the high stakes double-deck tables. The fact is that the casino management is constantly testing variations, and it’s up to the player to identify where the good values are. One recent visit to the Cosmopolitan revealed seven different blackjack versions available [ ], including a single deck table paying 6:5 odds on natural blackjacks, a double-deck game paying 3:2 and an eight-deck shoe paying 3:2 with late surrender available. On that particular occasion, the game with the lowest House edge—just 0.16%—was six-deck Blackjack Switch. It’s obviously not easy to provide players with “just the right amount of wrong.”

Identity for Frequent Blackjack Players

The Cosmopolitan’s rewards program for frequent players is called “Identity”. It is one of the rare loyalty schemes that clearly describes how blackjack players are rated. One “Identity Point” is awarded for every $20 wagered at the tables. That compares to one point for every $1.50 played at slots and one point for every $7.50 bet at video poker. However, according to the fine print in the Terms & Conditions, “Points may not be earned … for blackjack play in high limit. There are minimum betting requirements to be rated for Table Games. See a supervisor in the pit for assistance.”

Benefits accrue to members according to their status within the program, starting at Silver membership and moving up to Gold with 20,000 Identity points earned within a 12-month period and Platinum with 80,000 points. At the highest level, members receive priority valet, access to the member lounge, invitations to special tournaments, priority access to the Wicked Spoon buffet, a dedicated reservations hotline, a monthly artifact and a $250 resort credit on their birthdays, among other perks. Identity points can be redeemed for dining comps, spa treatments, room upgrades and more.

The Inside View

Advantage players may wish to steer clear of the Cosmopolitan. Word on the street is that the pit bosses have zero tolerance for card counters and will quickly ask them “to leave and never come back.” What’s more, there’s little likelihood that the casino will relax its policy anytime soon. Business magazine Vegas Inc. has reported, “While gaming is king at many Las Vegas resorts, that’s not the case at the Cosmopolitan. Casino revenue there falls well below hotel, food and beverage revenue .” Although management might like to grow the casino, opening the door to card counters would certainly not boost gaming’s contribution. CEO John Unwin has stated that the Cosmopolitan can “be profitable even if gaming continues to be a smaller portion of revenue.” He has also said, “I like being on my side of the table.” In other words, anyone intent on winning at blackjack might want to head over to an MGM property nearby.

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