June 6, 2009
At the turn of the century, $1 Blackjack was one of my favorite things about the Sahara Hotel and Casino. I spent many an hour at these tables. I would actually book rooms simply to have access to this game. It was a dollar minimum, paid 3:2, and was fairly indistinguishable from $10 tables at other casinos.
It wasn’t even a strictly low-class endeavor. People from all walks of life sat at the tables, and bets would spread anywhere between $1 and $100. Flexibility was the name of the game, and it was always nice to know that if you just weren’t feeling it, you could always fall back on single dollar bets to keep your seat and ride out the bad run.
Of course, in Vegas, most truly good values eventually come to an end, and toward the middle of the decade, $1 Blackjack went the way of the informed electorate. It vanished.
Until today that is.
This afternoon I was driving north on Las Vegas Boulevard and spotted the following sign.
I was confused at first. “What is a $1 Blackjack Hotdog?”, I said.
Then it struck me. “Do they mean The $1 Blackjack is back?” I had to investigate.
I jammed my American-made piece of [intestinally recycled food] car into the self park garage, and rushed inside. I walked up and down the rows of gaming tables, but I saw nothing below a $3 minimum. I walked to the end of the pit, motioned to the pit boss, and when she came up I asked her to direct me to the $1 jack.
“It’s in the party pit”, she said.
“Party pit? When did you get a party pit?”, I asked.
“On Monday”, she said, “It’s over by the NASCAR Cafe.”
Well slap my ass and call it Fred, they had been dealing dollar for a full five days and this was the first I had heard of it. My excitement was only exceeded by my shame. I was “caught slipping” as the South Central Crips like to say. I had let down my guard and got caught unaware. It’s a good thing Snoop approved my written vacation request, and I wasn’t slanging ‘cain on the streets this week. Biyatch.
Jesus, I have attention deficit disorder.
Anyway, I made my way back to the “party pit”, and found a ring of several tables, all dealing $1 BJ. It was pretty exciting. All of these memories of doubling down by plopping an extra $1 chip on the table came flooding back to me. I was ready to tear that sucker up, get my mack on, go on a two hour winning streak, and come home $7 wealthier.
But this did not happen.
As a matter of fact, I did not play at all.
“Gee Rex, you show us a stupid sign, regale us with this nostalgia crap that we could not possibly care less about, go off on some tangent about gangs, talk to the pit, track down the $1 tables, get pictures, but don’t play. What gives?”
Well, I’ll tell you. It’s not so much what gives as what taketh away.
Sahara $1 Blackjack of today is not like the Sahara dollar Blackjack of 2001. For starters, the game pays 6:5.
“Golly jeepers Rex, is that it? We are used to 6:5, what’s the gosh darn big deal?”
(Notice how in my head, I talk like a gangster, but you guys talk like Wally from Leave it to Beaver?)
I regret to report that six five is not the only change to the “new and improved” Sahara $1 Blackjack.
While they do pay 6:5 on bets of $5 or more, bets under a fiver pay … wait for it … even money.
That’s right, if you put $4 on a hand, A-K pays the exact same as standing on 14 and watching the dealer bust. This is not dollar Blackjack. It’s dollar … well, I don’t know what it should be called.
I know, I know, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, but I have already acquiesced to 6:5 on special occasions. I’ll get a colonoscopy with a fractured 4 foot bong before I play 1:1.
I mean another one. Tommy Chong only charged me a dime bag for the first one, and it was cheaper than a real doctor, but that was a one time thing. I certainly would not allow it to happen again.
Needless to say, I was fairly disappointed, but luckily for The Sahara, I appeared to be the only one. It’s not just my perception, gamblers really have gotten overtly more stupid in the last five years.
Taken as a whole, the “party pit” (I have no idea why they call it that) tables were a solid 80% full, which means that they don’t need people like me at the tables. You know, people who actually want to get paid a little something extra for freaking Blackjack. Face it, we’re a dying breed, but we still exist. For how long is anyone’s guess.
I left the Sahara feeling a bit betrayed. The big sign out front promised something that the casino inside simply could not deliver. Unfortunately, such false promises are becoming all too common in this town.
If you are content with even money on naturals, then Sahara $1 BJ is back. For the rest of us, it clearly is not.