How Vegas is changing the odds for blackjack players

Casino experts say that Las Vegas dealers have been changing the rules so that the house doesn't pay out as much to winners.
4:36 | 06/01/23

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Transcript for How Vegas is changing the odds for blackjack players
BRAD MIELKE: And one last thing. [MUSIC PLAYING] For the average person, a Las Vegas casino is overwhelming. Bright lights, loud sounds. [SLOT MACHINE] But to casino management, it all comes down to numbers. How much money are you taking in, and how much are you paying out to gamblers? Blackjack is often considered the table game with the best odds in the house. Well, that could be changing. When we talk about Vegas casinos, you're not allowed inside most of these, right? MIKE APONTE: As long as I'm not playing blackjack, I'm welcome to visit the properties. BRAD MIELKE: That's Mike Aponte, one of the most famous blackjack players in the world. In fact, the movie 21 is based on him and his former classmates. MIKE APONTE: I was kind of one of the leaders of the MIT card counting team. BRAD MIELKE: He says across the board, every game at the casino is designed, of course, for the house to win. But some are more tilted than others. You might have a good night or a bad night, but if you play thousands of hands of blackjack, the Casino should only take a little bit of your money. MIKE APONTE: If you follow basic strategy, then the house edge only is about half a percent. BRAD MIELKE: But last year, according to data from the Nevada Gaming Commission, blackjack players lost more cash than they have in nearly two decades. That's not because there are just more people playing. In part, it's because the odds have changed. [MUSIC PLAYING] MIKE APONTE: Kind of started about 15, 20 years ago, where the casinos started introducing rule changes to increase their advantage. BRAD MIELKE: So, remember the basic rules of blackjack, right. You get two cards, the dealer gets two cards, whoever's closest to 21 without going over wins, simple. And the stakes are 1 to 1. You put down $10 bucks, you get $10 bucks in profit if you win. [CHIPS CLINKING] Except when you get dealt exactly 21. That's called a blackjack. MIKE APONTE: And the beauty of blackjack, is that the player will get a 3 to 2 payout on their wager, which is equivalent to 150%. BRAD MIELKE: Oh, so you put down $10, instead of getting $10 in profit, you get $15 bucks back next to your chips. MIKE APONTE: Exactly. BRAD MIELKE: And that little bonus payment, Mike says, it's key. It's one of the biggest reasons you can make back your money quicker. It's why the house edge is so low. Well, casinos, over time, have slowly lowered that blackjack payout. [MUSIC PLAYING] According to John Mahaffey, the founder of this group called Vegas Advantage, which literally goes around town counting table stakes, about 2/3 of blackjack tables now only give you 6 to 5 odds for that coveted blackjack, which didn't seem like a big deal to me at first. Still a bonus. But Mike, our blackjack expert, says that means Vegas is taking more of its customers' money. MIKE APONTE: They just simply lower that payout to 6 to 5, now the house edge goes up to 1.9%. I mean, it nearly quadruples. BRAD MIELKE: Reasoning for casinos seems pretty simple. Like if there's more money to be taken, take it. But you might think, wait a minute. Wouldn't that stop gamblers from coming to Vegas? Mike says he thought it would, but it's been just the opposite. Last year, it was a record year for casino gambling. That's the irony here. As Vegas becomes more of a tourist destination than a pure gambling destination, the gambling dollars actually get bigger. That's when Mike said something that really blew my mind. MIKE APONTE: They can really get away with it at the lower limit tables, because they don't institute the-- like, at a higher limit table, they're never going to do 6 to 5. BRAD MIELKE: Oh, so there might be different odds at different areas of the casino, you're saying. Like, high rollers area, all of a sudden, they're different odds maybe. MIKE APONTE: Yes, yes. So, that's a big change back from when I first started playing. When I started playing, like the rules were the same throughout the entire casino, for the most part. BRAD MIELKE: And that is the real takeaway here. High rollers have always been treated differently in Vegas from the rest of us. But now, just like so many other aspects in life, the rich have a chance to get richer quicker, with literal different rules, because all those with shorter stacks are seen as a little bit more expendable. That said, if you want to keep more of your money, Mike says, the answer is not to find a table with higher stakes and better odds. Don't bet your house or anything. The answer is to treat it like entertainment. Play within your means and set a limit. Because the house is winning either way. [MUSIC PLAYING] We were talking about how corporate Vegas has become, and Mike says the fact that he's now allowed in the building shows you how much has changed. Like, he used to be public enemy number one. Now, he's in Vegas giving speeches, he goes to conferences there, he's an attraction, like Katy Perry or Dead Mouse. I'm no Dead Mouse, but you can bet your bottom dollar, this podcast will still be free. You get that bang for your buck. I'm Brad Mielke, see you tomorrow.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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