by Blackjack Instructor
Aria Casino at City Center in Las Vegas opened in mid December. A few weeks later I finally got a chance to check it out. The hotel is nice if you like a modern look, but I’m not writing to tell you about the ambiance of the resort. I’m a professional blackjack player, so all I really care about is the quality of the blackjack games offered at Aria. Here’s my review of Aria’s blackjack…
Blackjack at Aria Casino – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
My first thought about playing blackjack at Aria was that it’s a new place that will hold mostly higher-end players. Great! That means I can throw some large bets around and hopefully go somewhat unnoticed. When it comes to card counting I’m not just looking for great blackjack rules and good dealer penetration, I’m looking for where I can get the most action on the table without drawing too much attention to myself. I found that Aria was pretty good in this respect. I was also pleasantly surprised to see that Aria’s casino chips do not have RFID technology (radio frequency identification) that could potentially track player betting patterns. If you’re wondering what an RFID chip might look like, just head into Wynn Casino and check out a $25 chip. You’ll see that there is a metallic circle near the top-center of the chip which is used for tracking purposes. The main idea of RFID technology is to prevent counterfeit chips, but I also know they can be used to detect a card counter’s betting patterns. So thank you Aria for using normal chips like most of Las Vegas!
Aria Blackjack Rules
Aria is currently dealing 4 types of blackjack and they’re all quite different. Knowing the difference between these games can really help reduce the house edge over an average blackjack player. For a card counter, it’s critical to understand these differences in order to maximize your advantage over the casino. Let’s have a look…
6 Deck with Continuous Shuffle – (H17, DAS, RSA, Surrender)
This is clearly the worst blackjack game at Aria. Not only does the dealer hit on Soft 17 (H17), but the cards are continuously shuffled after every hand making it impossible to track cards. This game typically has a $25 minimum on weekends, but drops as low as $10 on weekdays. As a card counter, the continuous shuffling machines make these tables unplayable for me.
6 Deck Blackjack – (H17, DAS, RSA, Surrender)
The 6 deck blackjack dealt from a real shoe is definitely a nice improvement from the continuous shufflers. The games are countable for advantage players and the dealers are dealing through about 4 ½ decks before shuffling. That’s pretty much standard penetration for an MGM property. On these tables the dealer hits on Soft 17, but you can re-split Aces and Surrender. Other MGM properties such as MGM, Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and Mirage will all let you re-split Aces and Surrender on their 6 deck shoe games as well. Although this clearly isn’t the best 6 deck blackjack in Vegas, you could still do a lot worse. Remember, the hitting/standing on Soft 17 rule is the most important thing when it comes to blackjack rules (assuming you get the full 3:2 payment on blackjack). You want the dealer standing on Soft 17 and at Aria some tables do and some don’t!
6 Deck Blackjack in High Limit – (S17, DAS, RSA, Surrender)
There are a handful of 6 deck blackjack tables in the high limit room at Aria. These games are similar to the 6 deckers dealt on the main floor, only with better rules. Here you get the dealer standing on Soft 17 and you can also re-split Aces and Surrender. This is the same high limit 6 deck blackjack as you will find at many of the other MGM properties as mentioned above. The table minimums are set at $25, $50 or $100 depending on the day of the week and which table you’re at, but that’s often the price you pay for the better games in Las Vegas.
Double Deck Blackjack – (S17, DAS, no RSA, no Surrender)
This is the table where I was more than happy to take some of Aria’s money. The double deck blackjack at Aria is excellent. They stand on Soft 17 and you may double after splitting. Although you cannot re-split Aces or Surrender, you can’t re-split Aces or Surrender anywhere in Las Vegas on double deck when they stand on Soft 17. You will only find re-splitting Aces on games where the dealer hits on Soft 17. Whether you’re card counting or not, this is a great game and the dealer penetration is good. This might actually become one of my favorite games in Las Vegas! On weekends you can expect a $100 minimum, but on weekdays I noticed it was dropped down to a $25 minimum (at least during the daytime).
So let’s have a look at the house edge on these 4 blackjack options…
Note: These “house edge” numbers assume you are playing optimal basic strategy at all times, but not counting cards at all. If you’re not playing correct basic strategy, then these red bars will grow. If you’re a good card counter and actually know how to properly use card counting strategies (this is rare), then these red bars will shrink and become a player’s edge.
So what percentage of the blackjack tables at Aria are dealing each of these games? Here’s an approximation of what it looked like when I was there…
Aria Blackjack Review – The Conclusion
All in all I was happy with what I found at Aria and I’m sure I’ll be spending plenty of time there. I don’t like the atmosphere nearly as much as I like Bellagio, Wynn and Encore, but it’s not too far behind. If you have anything to add my analysis of Aria’s blackjack, please feel free to post it below as a comment. If you’re interested in hearing about the betting strategy, cover and play deviations I used while at Aria and the amount of pit boss heat I received from it, then you’ll have to contact me privately. Unfortunately I can’t go too deep into my personal experiences at casinos because I don’t want to be identifiable by casino personnel. Good luck out there!