Macau is known for baccarat, but it has become the best place in the world to play blackjack as well. Here’s why.
In the global gambling division of labor, Las Vegas is the leader of the blackjack world while Macau is the mecca of baccarat. But while Vegas is officially past its prime, Macau keeps getting bigger and better, and its’ some 30 casinos are branching out with ever-increasing numbers of blackjack tables.
Vegas has nostalgia on its side, the respect afforded to a time-honored traditional gambling hub that was the center of the casino world for so long. But Macau has so much more to offer: more luxurious casinos, more high stakes tables and best of all, lower house edges than you’ll typically find in Las Vegas.
While Vegas blackjack has been ruled by classic “Vegas Strip rules” for decades, “Macau rules” are what’s hot today. And we mean it when we say this blackjack rules variation is more advantageous to the player.
But before we get into that, we’ll give you a quick refresher on the Vegas Strip rules which Macau is currently improving upon.
The Old: Vegas Strip Blackjack
The blackjack rules which have been the standard for so long are as follows: four decks, dealer stands on a soft 17, player can double down on any two cards and can double down after splitting, aces can’t be re-split, 21 on a split Ace hand does not count as a blackjack, and the payout is 3:2. However, these days casino like the Venetian Sands are offering single-deck Vegas Strip games which only pay out 6:5 on blackjack.
Which of these freedoms is advantageous to the player and which aren’t? For starters, a game dealt from four decks will inherently have a higher house edge than one dealt from a one or two decks. That’s because the deck penetration will be lower, something which is especially important for those using card counting systems.
On the other hand, no re-splits allowed on Aces is pretty standard across any rules variation, and the dealer standing on a soft 17 is very good the player! The dealer’s chance of busting when allowed to hit on a soft 17 is low (only 29%), but they’re chances of beating the player when standing are also low.
The thing that really grinds our gears about Vegas Strip blackjack is that more and more casinos are hosting 6:5 payout games. This truly amounts to a sucker’s bet, adding 1.39% to house edge.
The player will inherently lose more hands than he wins, so he needs to make up for that by capitalizing on the few blackjacks he gets. Switching to 6:5 payouts is a subtle way for casinos to stack the deck heavily against players.
House Edge: 0.35% with a 3:2 payout, 1.74% with a 6:5 payout
The New: Macau Blackjack
Now that we’ve established that Vegas Strip rules aren’t bad but aren’t all that great, let’s take a look at Macau rules and why they ARE so great!
The key rules are as follows: dealt from six decks, dealer stands on soft 17, player can double down on any two cards and after splitting, player can’t re-split aces, and player can take early surrender option.
What we observe in Macau isn’t entirely different from the Vegas Strip, both variations are overall friendly to the player. But two things about Macau blackjack make it special.
The first is the early surrender. This gives the player to option to quit the hand and have half of their bet returned. This is a good idea in many situations, and can reduce the house edge by up to .24%.
Even more important, however, there is no such thing as 6:5 blackjack in Macau. It’s 3:2 or it isn’t blackjack at all.
House Edge: 0.16%
Macau blackjack by the numbers
The standard house edge at Macau blackjack tables is a very low .16 percent. You’ll find this at the Melco Crown, SJM and Venetian, for example. However, some casinos use slight variations on Macau Blackjack rules.
For example, the Wynn Macau and MGM both allow players to re-split Aces, with all other rules being the same. The result is a house edge of only .09%. The Pharaoh’s Palace is reported to have a house edge of zero, making it the best place for winning at blackjack!
On the other hand, the Galaxy is slightly less player friendly. A dealer blackjack trumps a player blackjack on a split hand, and players can only split three hands instead of four. The house edge there is .20%
Reasons not to play in Macau
The only reason we would advise you to play blackjack in Vegas instead of Macau are logistical constraints and table minimums. For most of us living in North America it simply isn’t possible to fly to Macau.
As for table minimums, many Macau casinos offering very low house edges (.09 to .16%) require players to make wagers of no less than HKD 1,000 ($128). For example, the .09% games at the Wynn and MGM have this requirement. Macau has the best blackjack in the world, but it remains mostly for high rollers.