Casino Stories - Playing Blackjack with friendly dealers
Playing at the Marina Hotel
The casino area of the Marina Hotel on what used to be the extreme south end of the strip (no longer around) was not a well lit and sparkling place. We visited there often in the 1970s while working in Michigan and flying to Nevada some weekends. This particular time we were on a junket to the Marina.
There were nooks and crannies where it was difficult to see much beyond the table where your blackjack game was being played. I particularly found that there was money to be gained one night at the Marina if the dealer was your friend. When playing later at the Stardust, we learned that having a good time is more fun when the dealer is your friend.
At all casinos, whether I was ahead or behind, I was usually generous in betting for the dealer. If I had a pleasant run of cards and was considerably ahead, I’d become even more generous. But, even when I was behind, I continued to try to make the dealer my friend.
Whenever I spotted a mistake when a payoff was due me, the dealer was on my side when he called a pit person over. If there was a procedural error that I wanted corrected or clarified, the dealer was always patient and leaned towards my point of view.
I could tell that treatment of the dealer was particularly successful when I wanted something. I saw other players ask for a food comp and the dealer would calmly call for the pit person and simply point at the requestor when the pit person arrived. When I asked, the dealer would almost stop the game and call the pit person, telling them when they arrived that Don would like a food comp and generally act like there shouldn’t be any question about it.
This was true at most of the casinos where I played.
However, at the Marina, at times dealer friendliness went beyond that.
Early one evening:
In those days I tried to count cards and knew when the deck was player favorable but wasn't willing to bet the amounts necessary to show much of a profit.
I was sitting at one of the middle tables - right where there was lots of action. I'd been varying my bets between 1 unit and 5 units. Sometimes when I had a 5 unit bet out, I’d bet 1 unit for the dealer.
I did that. I received my two cards and the dealer took his. His up card was a 10. He checked his hole card for blackjack.
I looked at my hand and needed an additional card because my total was 14. I scratched the table.
The dealer paused. I looked up to see what had happened. He almost imperceptibly shook his head “no”. I stuffed my cards under my chips and watched as the dealer turned his hole card over.
It was a 4 and he found another 10 in the deck to cause him to go over 21. Both of us won our bets.
And, later one evening:
I was sitting at one of the outlying tables where it was really dim. I varied my bets as usual. I tipped the dealer as usual.
I had a 5 unit bet out on the table. The dealer looked at me. He looked serious and if he wasn't kidding me. “Place a bet for me,” he said, “and I’ll give you a blackjack.”
I didn't know what to do. It was a single deck game and I was reasonably sure that there were dealers that could control the deck. I'd heard that dealers sometimes cheat for the casino but this was the first time I'd heard that it worked the other way also. I wasn’t sure about his proposal but I placed a 1 unit bet for him.
He gave me a blackjack.
As he paid me off I commented “If I’d known for sure, those bets would have been bigger”. He dealt for a few moments silently. “Shouldn’t do it too often and you should probably walk away after a couple but I’ll let you know.”
A few hands later, he frowned and said “It’s time again”. I put out 10 units for me and 5 units for him. The blackjack popped up as he had promised.
He paid it off. I picked up my chips, walked away, and cashed in my chips.
And, even later at the Stardust
We took a cab (even at that age, it was too far to walk) north on the strip to the Stardust. It was late - sometime after midnight. After wandering through the casino for a while, Sharon and I sat down at a low minimum table - probably $2.
We decided that we'd put $20 each into the game and if it disappeared, we'd go back to the Marina and call it a night.
Almost from the beginning we could do no wrong. It seemed that every bet we made was a winner. After six or eight hands we paused.
"If this keeps up," I said, "we're going to regret betting minimal amounts. I think we should at least start some kind of progression in betting."
We decided on our progression (something like increasing one unit after 2 wins and dropping back to the minimum after every loss). We also began putting out a minimum bet for the dealer after each winning hand.
The progression of dealers were happy with what we were doing. We were happy with what we were doing. There was joviality and good will. People passing by smiled when they saw us having a good time.
The streak lasted for about 2 hours and because of our bet sizes - almost all small - we had quite an array of chips in front of us.
After several losers in a row, I called a halt to it and the dealer stacked our chips and changed them to higher denominations. We were cashing out $425. I'm sure the dealer(s) pocketed some $100 in tips.
Since it was a low limit table, I'm feel like the dealers were happy with what had happened. We were happy with what had happened and told the story back in Michigan so often people got tired of hearing it.
Lot's of fun at the Stardust and the dealers wound up being our friends for the night.
We got back to the Marina about 4 AM and headed for the bed.
The conclusion that can be made
These three stories are not the normal for Las Vegas. The illegal activity only happened one evening and only at the one casino. Not something a player could be depend on even if they wanted to. The amazing run of luck we had at the Stardust can happen anytime but only rarely.
In both instances, dealer friendliness was necessary to the success of the sessions. Most dealer friendliness in Las Vegas is confined to the type described at the beginning of the article and at the Stardust later in the evening.
And, keeping the dealer friendly does reap benefits.