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Why Do You Find 6-5 Blackjack Games in Vegas but not Macau or Singapore?

Jun 16, 2014

6to5201406166-5 payout, only in US

This year the Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Vegas introduced 6-5 payout blackjack games, a terrible rules variation that Asian gamblers would never stand for.

Sheldon Adelson’s Sands casino empire spans from the Nevada desert to the sweltering South China Sea. As Las Vegas has slowly faded into the background, Sands’ casinos in Singapore and Macau have stepped up to provide most of the company’s revenue. Its Asian operations have been so lucrative that some have even claimed thatAdelson “made his fortune in Macau”, not Vegas.

What’s more, Adelson’s Venetian and Palazzo casinos in Vegas have taken flak in 2014 due to an unpopular rule change at their blackjack tables: a 6-5 payout on a natural blackjack instead of a standard 3-2. This makes blackjack games much less player-friendly at these casinos than it used to be. It’s also something only found in Sands casinos in Vegas, not Asia. This piece will analyze the 6-5 payout in depth before considering why it’s a “Vegas only” rule.

Why playing 6-5 is very bad blackjack strategy

3-2 payout has long been the standard blackjack rules variation. On average, players will land a natural blackjack in roughly one out of every 20 hands. That doesn’t happen all that often, so the big payout is throwing a bone to players, keeping them coming back to the table.

In addition, mathematical analysis shows that the house wins the majority of hands anyway, so paying out a higher sum on a blackjack keeps the house edge fairly low (.53 percent in a standard 3-2 game). And that reason, that pesky house edge, is exactly why the Venetian and Palazzo have swapped 3-2 for 6-5.

Casinos have always played with the rules in order to move the edge in their favor, even if only by a fraction of a percentage point. The average casino goer is not a blackjack expert, and doesn’t really understand the difference between doubling down after splitting and not, or the effect that early surrender has on their bankroll.

Adelson is banking on the fact that a lot of customers are suckers. Don’t be one. Avoid 6-5 blackjack tables like the plague. In a 3-2 game, betting $10 per hand means that a natural blackjack will return you $15. In 6-5, the same scenario brings back only $12. This may not mean much if you only play for an hour, but over a long evening or weekend at the tables it will mean significantly less money in your pocket.

BussinessInsider ran an in-depth analysis on this rule variation. Take a very player-friendly six-deck game with a 3-2 payout. The house edge is .43 percent. Then swap that 3-2 for 6-5. What happens? The edge skyrockets to a no good/very bad/absolutely terrible 1.79 percent. Mathematically, if you wager $1000 over an evening you will leave with only $982.1. That may not seem terrible, but if you want to be a blackjack pro you need to win money. Playing 6-5 is a losing blackjack strategy.

Why it is Vegas only?

It deserves to be asked why these terrible blackjack games are found only in Vegas. Are American casino goers suckers, while Asian gamblers know how to get more bang for their buck? Considering how reckless wealthy Asian gamblers are with their money, that theory makes little sense.

The reason is that Macau and Singapore casinos attract more “high-rollers” as defined as those who bet $650,000 per trip or more. Due to their big bankrolls and need for the thrill of placing embarrassingly large bets, these gamblers play at higher stakes tables than what you’ll typically find in Vegas.

While the Venetian and Palazzo both have $25 minimum tables, the minimum bet at the Sands Venetian Macau is $39 (300 HKD). A review of the Marina Bay Sands reported that almost all of the casinos tables have $50 minimums, with a few hosting $25 minimum games. Whatever the exact figures, visitors to Macau and Singapore bet much larger amounts.

Larger bets allow the casino to make more money in a shorter amount of time. Let’s say the house edge is the same on a $25 table as on a $50 table. At $50 the casino will take twice as much money off of the player in the same amount of time. Because casinos don’t want such a major disparity, they generally tweak the rules so that lower minimum tables have higher house edges.

More likely the $25 table will have a house of edge of .8 percent while the $50 will stay at the standard .53 percent. So the reason that Sands’ blackjack games in Asia have better rules is not because of discrimination or the perception that American gamblers are stupid. It’s because the Sands Venetian Macau and Marina Bay Sands take in a higher total wager, so they can afford to offer better odds and still make huge profits. Venetian and Palazzo customers are more conservative with their money, so the house needs to take more off of each hand.

Conclusion

The moral of the story is steer clear of 6-5 payout blackjack. These are terrible games which will burn a hole in your pocket if you play long enough. While you probably can’t fly all the way to Macau to play at Adelson’s 3-2 tables, there are plenty of them to be found in Vegas. We recommend the Bellagio, which had a $15 minimum table with a house edge of only .28 percent.


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