Sahara $1 Blackjack Returns. Sort Of.

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.

Sahara's $1 Blackjack Hotdogs

Sahara's $1 Blackjack Hotdogs

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.

Sahara $1 Blackjack Party Pit

Sahara $1 Blackjack Party Pit

Sahara $1 Blackjack Party Pit

Sahara $1 Blackjack Party Pit

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.

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  1. Written by Disco Stu on June 6, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    You may want to get those voices inside your head checked out. I’m pretty sure I don’t sound that way.

    1:1 on a blackjack is absurd. Those are the worst odds I’ve ever heard of in any casino. Even video blackjack pays better than that.

    Keep representin’, son.

  2. Written by thomas coe on June 6, 2009 at 8:11 pm

    yes, even money on a blackjack is absurd, but you’re only playing a dollar. you aren’t there to get rich or even to win twenty bucks. you’re there to kill some time and have some fun. even money is bad on five or higher bj, not on a dollar…it’s only a buck!

  3. Written by Tom on June 6, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    They’re on vacation in Vegas. They’re playing Blackjack. Getting free drinks (I presume). They don’t really expect to win just have fun for a bucks.

  4. Written by tully on June 7, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Gentleman, aren’t all of you missing the most important point here? ;-)

    It’s called a “Party Pit” which in LV means attractive, scantily clad women pitching the cards. Maybe even a couple pole dancers to lift everyone’s–ah–spirits. So, where are they?

    I’m sure those dealers are nice folks and competent at what they do, but are they who you expect to see when you hear the words “Party Pit”?

    But the tables are busy enough, which actually may not indicate the folks are all a bit dim about the ramifications of even money BJ. They just want a really cheap gamble, and a couple drinks to show for it. I wouldn’t play it, because not getting 3/2 just takes the fun out of hitting a BJ. And I hate enabling the casinos in their quest to get our money at increasingly rapid rates.

  5. Written by Jim on June 7, 2009 at 8:25 am

    For a buck, (just thinking outside the box here) how about using that BJ as an 11 and doubling down?

  6. Written by Rex on June 7, 2009 at 8:29 am

    In my opinion this is the mentality that is furthering the decline of the city.

    “Oh, it’s only a little bit here, and a little bit there” … and then the next year they take a little more, and a little more the year next. Then more “real” gamblers stay home as the free beer Walmart gamblers show up, and we post our 16th monthly loss in a row.

    3:2 to 6:5 to 1:1

    Come on, guys. You have to draw a line somewhere. Millions of other tourists already have. The higher spending ones apparently. In two years you will be defending 2:3 because “hey, you are getting free beer and that costs something”.

    Don’t you see what’s happening. It’s the damn frog in the frying pan. As long as it happens slowly, you will eventually acclimate and accept the next level down.

    Seriously, it doesn’t make any sense. Where is the “fun” in hitting a blackjack when it pays the same as standing on 15?

    Even money on Blackjack isn’t even Blackjack. It’s killing time.

    Do you need to fly across the country and get a hotel room to do that? Or to get free beer? Really?

    Jesus, how expensive is beer anyway?

    Anyone that desperate for goddamn beer should go to 7-11 and get a couple forty ounces of Old English for five bucks. Problem solved.

    Sorry guys, I just don’t see your logic. Rather, I see it, but strongly disagree.

    We’re chasing off the people that built the town, catering to neophytes, and are complaining that the noobs aren’t dropping cash. Well, of course they aren’t. They aren’t frequent gamblers. We are now catering to the absolute lowest common denominator, and are justifying it by … “well, they play it”.

    Yeah, THEY play it, but how often do people who play 1:1 come back? How much do they wager as a whole?

    Fine $1 is low, but $3 3:2 can be had in several places, and it’s not like they aren’t spreading 6:5 in much higher limits up and down The Strip. And it’s not “only a dollar”. $4 bets pay even money as well. The Sahara was giving me 3:2 on dollar blackjack years ago, and they were doing fine. When I would win, I would raise my bet. I didn’t play a dollar at a time. They did okay under that paradigm. This was during the heydey of Vegas.

    If you want cash back in Las Vegas, you have to bring back the real gamblers.

    People who accept 6:5 (and 1:1) just aren’t going to cut it. They fill hotel rooms, but unless they just won’t carry us long-term.

    This is an outright embarrassment, and I think it will have the opposite of the intended effect.

    You don’t know these obscure $1 rules until you actually get to the table, and there are going to be some very disappointed players who make the trek to play $1 “blackjack”, only to find a different game altogether.

    Disappointment and deceptive advertising is not good for the casino, it’s not good for the tourist, and it’s not good for the city.

  7. Written by Tom on June 7, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Most importantly, it is another step in the movement toward making Vegas more affordable for the average folks.

  8. Written by Rex on June 7, 2009 at 9:05 am

    When you lower the quality of a product in direct relation to it’s price, you might be technically “making it more affordable” you are decreasing the value.

    Instead of giving people something decent for less, then are giving them something worth less … for less.

    While I still like the main casino, I think the Sahara cheapened itself with this move.

    A new BMW for $15,000 is a great deal and value. If you stick a AMC Pacer engine under the hood, put a 1979 Ford Pinto transmission in it, take out the air conditioning, radio, and power controls … it’s still a cheap car that a budget buyer could afford … but it’s anything but a good deal.

    Joe Sixpack is better off getting a cheap Nissan Sentra … which might represent online gambling or a local Indian casino.

    “Average folks” were able to play REAL 3:2 BJ in 2001, and the city was doing just fine. Some would say that it was prospering.

    I don’t think lowering our standards to match economic hardship prices represent an increased value to the customer.

    “Congratulations, you can now afford crap!”

    Some may see that as a positive, but I don’t know how much of a victory it truly is.

  9. Written by tully on June 7, 2009 at 9:38 am

    Some years back, I used to read a couple blackjack forums. It was around the time that 6/5 made it’s first appearance. Believe it was a Park Place Entertainment casino—Ballys or Paris, maybe?–and they were promoting it with a big sign, saying “Now Dealing Single Deck Blackjack—-Paying a Whopping 6/5!”

    The BJ forum members were pretty much snickering, and predicting the game’s quick demise. “Nobody’s dumb enough to play that—harhar. Even the ploppies. What are these casinos thinking? harhar.”

    Yeah, the BJ folks sure called that one right, back in the day, didn’t they?

    Most LV Strip and DT casinos already know what Sahara is doing (probably within 24 hours) and are watching it with interest. If it succeeds—and looks like it is—-good chance this will surface at other places. But it might “only” be a $2 table. If that works, they try it at $3 tables, and so on.

    6/5 BJ didn’t infiltrate Las Vegas overnight. It took a few years to spread, but boy, it did.

  10. Written by blueboar on June 7, 2009 at 11:05 am

    I have fond memories of playing $1 blackjack at the Sahara as recently as the spring of ’03.

    I think Rex is right. Putting these carnival games in is short sighted on the part of the Sahara.

    I believe in the short term, the Sahara will make a profit off of them, probably more than you would think at first glance. And as I recall, that was pretty much wasted space there in the past. But if they continue to destroy the games that made Las Vegas great, what’s that do for the future?

  11. Written by wrxrob on June 7, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    who cares what it does for the future. All that matters to casino management is what happens NOW. for their margin bonuses that occur NOW.

    Las Vegas casinos are run more like large corporate enterprises these days. Those running the casinos were not there in the beginning, nor will they be there in the end. They are simply whoring out the name for all that it’s worth, and trying to make the end of year numbers look as wonderful as possible to ensure that their resume looks good enough to score a job at a better place next year.

    This is part of the reason why I haven’t spent the night on the strip in a long time.

  12. Written by dane glindeuce on June 7, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Ha! How perfect is it that you have a photo of a douchebag with his hat on backwards, drinking a Heineken, playing 1:1 $1 BJ.

    Hey, he’s getting a GREAT bargain by getting “free” bottles of Dutch urine for his “play”. This is the path that I see Vegas unfortunately taking, at least in the near future. They figure, okay, we cut a fat hog in the ass for as long as we could, now we are strung out and need something, anything to get us through this period. If the so-called “Wal-Mart” gamblers are the means to that end it will be exploited by the casinos. And we all get to reap the benefits of this fine way to run a railroad.

    I’ve gotta quit reading your shit, Rex. Every time I read something like this it tarnishes an already less than sparkling view I have of Las Vegas.

  13. Written by Phouchg on June 7, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    A few years back Rio had a boobie pit with much more attractive dealers – they paid even money on blackjack as well. It didn’t last long.

    At least if you are going to be short-paid on a blackjack, is it too much to ask to have a nice set in front of you instead of some bald guy in a yellow shirt?

    Drive an extra mile and a half and go downton to play. They still get it.

  14. Written by Chitown Bill on June 7, 2009 at 5:01 pm

    You’re the man Rex – I agree with your comments 100%

    Its the casino responsibility to find a fair gaming balance of profitability, but that is still worth the public’s time. Lowering the normal, standard payout is a scam that they are hoping won’t noticed. It is as bad as substituting decks that have only one Ace or half the face cards. As Rex pointed out, we have to draw the line on how far these big companies are allowed to to stack the odds in their favor, don’t we?

    Mind you, they are already allowed to make millions running legions of one armed bandits and dozens of other scam table games. They simply choose to waste that money on sick perks for the “whales” and insane building projects. Enough is enough – blackjack is one of the most perfect table games, they should leave it the way it was intended to be played.

  15. Written by marcianofan on June 7, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    The ‘party pit’ looks like a food court, especially the angle with the big buffet sign showin. Saying its ‘only a buck’ or ‘you get free beer’, jeez I thought vegasrex readers were smarter than that. Lay into them rex, BIGTIME…..

  16. Written by MedicLuvsLasVegas on June 7, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    I have a Question Rex.

    IS the party Pit where the 1 cent slots used to be, belore the Buffet enterance, or am I thinking of another area of Sahara?

    Also, I love you Blog here and at VEGASREX

  17. Written by FoolsGold on June 8, 2009 at 1:40 am

    Perhaps your town is becoming one entire nudie Clip Joint wherein promises are made out front but once inside they only take your money and deliver zilch.

    Party Pit? I thought when you said you did not play in the Party Pit that you were going to tell us that you were inappropriately attired for the Party Pit since you did not have swim trunks on. Party Pit makes me envision Babes, Booze and Blackjack dealers who are well-endowed and whose uniforms provide a real challenge as to were to stick the pin that holds their name tag.

    I can just see that management memo: Rip out some of those steel tables and steel chairs at the Food Court and put in something that out of town Low Rollers will believe is a Party Pit because it offers ultra low table minimums. Its a Come-On for the out of town Low Roller who goes to Vegas on his vacation but eats at McDonald’s anyway! And they don’t even have the decency to post those Rule Changes prominently, it takes some inquisitive nosy parker like you to bleed the information out of them! Maybe they should call it Flea Festival since it attracts the no-tipping vacationer with a ten dollar bankroll.

    I admire your moral stance in refusing to play 6:5 Blackjack. I certainly think it proper to refuse to play under any of the further payout variations that debase the name Blackjack.

    I’d say Benny Binion was right: Give them a good game, good food and some good booze. Ofcourse Binions did go broke long ago. So maybe those MBAs are right to focus on fleecing the visiting Fleas and calling it Blackjack.

  18. Written by chance on June 8, 2009 at 8:13 am

    They grossly misnamed those tables. Party Pit?? Really? They need to at least have some hot chicks there.

  19. Written by keith on June 8, 2009 at 7:58 pm

    of course 6:5 does just as well as 3:2 – or should i say that people THINK they are getting a better deal…the average person sucks at math. they see bigger numerals ( a 6 and a 5) and think “hey, those two numbers are bigger than ’3′ and ’2′, so it MUST be better for me!” It’s a shame that the average person is that stupid – not just in the sense that they are going to lose money, but for their general lives. It’s amazing when i hear people say “i’m not good at math” like it’s nothing. Ask someone if they had a problem with illiteracy, and they wouldn’t dare admit it unless absolutely necessary or unless they got caught. apparently math illiteracy doesn’t count.

  20. Written by Rex on June 8, 2009 at 8:34 pm

    I agree.

    “I’m not good at math” is not any better than “I can’t read”.

    When I hear people say this, it puzzles me. I want to say “Well, shouldn’t you remedy that?”, but I typically don’t bother.

    Somewhere along the lines it became perfectly acceptable to be functionally illiterate, but if you give it any real thought, this was probably by design.

    The moneyed elite probably don’t want the serfs knowing how to divide anymore than slave owners wanted their workers to know how to read. An educated consumer is a pain in the ass. Keep them dumb, and fleece them early and often is the new motto of the US economy.

    You can enslave an entire population through abject ignorance alone, and if you ask me, our government, media, and corporations have done a swimmingly good job at doing exactly that.

  21. Written by John Carter on June 14, 2009 at 9:03 pm

    I don’t get out much and have never been to Vegas. Is $1 a good price for a hot dog ?

  22. Written by TDA on June 25, 2009 at 6:00 am

    Wow. Are you guys serious? I can’t imagine getting this worked up about Sahara 1/1 $1 blackjack. And to the person who said machines pay better than that: you’re wrong, they pay 1/1 as well. This really isn’t a sign of the apocolypse. Even that 6/5 game you guys are so worked up about isn’t as prevelant as these message boards would have me believe. 3/2 games are rather plentiful. Granted they are shoe games at the lower minimums (on the strip, downtown $5, 3/2, pitch games are plentiful). All 6/5 did was bring down the minimum on single deck games. Do I like 1/1 or 6/5? Of course not. But if I’m at the Sahara I’ll play $1 for a little while to score a couple Heinekins* and maybe leave with an extra $6.50 (instead of $7).

    *Because it’s still better than the only other beers Sahara serves which is macro-brewed American crap now that they don’t serve Sam Adams or Beck’s any more.

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