Vegas Downtown Blackjack
There is an old American saying that goes ”What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Fortunately, that is not always the case. Vegas Downtown Blackjack can be found outside the outskirts of Nevada in one of the numerous online casinos that use the Microgaming software platform. As the name implies, this is one of those regional blackjack variations whose rules are largely inspired by the blackjack tables across the casinos in downtown Las Vegas.
If you are looking for a sure bet (as sure as any bet is in Vegas), this variation of the game does boast a very low house edge under the set of rules it utilizes. We have to say the game does not differ significantly from most other regional-inspired blackjack variants out there. Nevertheless, there are some things that a player must keep an eye on if they want to improve their winning odds.
Rules, Winning Criteria, and Table Limits
The game is played with 2 full decks of 52 cards each, for a total of 104 cards. The online variant of Vegas Downtown Blackjack is dealt out of a virtual shoe. Unlike its landbased counterpart, the decks here are reshuffled by a Random Number General before each new round of play commences. It follows the online version is unsuitable for card counters because each round is dealt off a fresh, neutral shoe.
Under the Vegas downtown set of rules, the virtual dealer is required to hit soft totals of 17. Since this variation is of American origin, it relies on the US style of dealing, meaning that the virtual dealer will have one of their first two cards face-down while the other one is dealt face-up.
Another great thing about this game is that the so-called “peek” rule is in place. Whenever the dealer has an ace or a ten showing, they would peek under their hole card to check for a blackjack (an ace next to a ten-value card after the initial deal).
Surrendering a hand against the dealer is unavailable in this variation but the dealer would offer you insurance whenever their upcard is an ace. We will cover the insurance bet in more detail a bit later.
The player is also dealt two cards but theirs will be facing up. Once the initial deal is over, the player must compare their hand’s value to that of the dealer. Whoever has a hand with a higher total wins the round. The variation uses the same card ranking as that in conventional blackjack.
Card Values, Payouts, and Winning Criteria
Aces can be either 1 or 11, depending on which value the player chooses. Cards 2 through 10 are counted depending on the number of the pips they have and face cards (Queen, King, and Jack) are regarded as 10s.
The player can beat the virtual dealer in several ways. The first way is for the player to obtain a blackjack against a dealer who busts or has any other hand total. A player blackjack pays at casino odds of 3 to 2.
The player earns an even-money payout (1 to 1) whenever they outdraw the dealer with a hand total that comes the closest to 21 but without exceeding it. An even-money payout is also awarded if the dealer exceeds 21 against any unbusted player hand.
If the player goes over 21 or has a total less than that of the dealer, then the player loses. If the player and the dealer both have equal totals, this is called a ‘push’ (which is the same thing as a draw or a tie). Bets on hands that push are restored to the player, who neither wins nor loses in this case.
Table limits across downtown Las Vegas casinos differ between venues but Microgaming’s online version usually allows you to wager anywhere between the minimum of $1 and the maximum of $200. Furthermore, the Vegas Downtown Blackjack Gold version is available for multiple-hand play, allowing online players to place bets on up to five betting spots during the same round.
The Player’s Moves
Once you click the Deal button, the software would deal two face-up cards to all betting positions you have previously covered with chips. Then you must evaluate the strength of your two-card total against the dealer’s exposed card and pick one or several of the following player moves.
Hit – Hitting is when you request another card from the dealer. Simply scratch the surface of the table if you are playing in a landbased casino, or press the Hit button when playing online. You will be dealt an additional card each time you hit. Note that you can make this move as many times as you like unless your hand total goes over 21, in which case you bust and lose automatically.
Stand – If you don’t want any more cards, just wave your hand over your cards to indicate to the dealer you are satisfied with your current hand total. The move is called “standing” and is usually exercised on hands that have decent enough chances of winning against certain upcards of the dealer (eg. 6/5 versus a 6).
Double Down – If you are not satisfied with your current bet, you can always double it, in exchange for being dealt one additional card instead of hitting repeatedly. The third and final card is placed horizontally over your original two cards to show the hand has been doubled on.
Doubling requires you to post an additional wager equal to your initial bet. So if you have originally wagered $10, your action for this hand will increase to $20 after you double. In Vegas Downtown Blackjack, there are no restrictions on doubling. Players can make this move on any two cards they like. Doubling is also an option after you split a pair. These are liberal rules on doubling down. By contrast, some casinos only allow this move on totals 9, 10, and 11.
Split – If you have two cards of equal numerical value (eg. 2/2, A/A, 8/8, J/10) you can split the pair into two separate hands. In landbased downtown Vegas casinos, players indicate this move by posting another bet to the amount of their initial wager.
The chips for the split are placed outside the main betting box, without touching its borders. The dealer will then give you one additional card for each hand, so you have 4 cards that make up 2 hands. In the online version of Vegas Downtown Blackjack, you merely have to click the split button. It becomes active each time you are dealt a pair. Microgaming’s variant allows you to split up to 3 times to make no more than 4 separate hands.
The only exception to this rule is a pair of aces, which can be split a single time. The player is disallowed from hitting split aces as well. If a split ace catches a ten-value card, the hand is treated as an ordinary 21, not as a blackjack. As such, it pays even money, or 1 to 1. Unlike ten-value cards like K/Q, J/Q, J/K, Q/10, K/10, and J/10 can also be split in Vegas Downtown Blackjack.
Buying insurance is an option whenever the dealer shows an ace. The software would prompt you to decline or accept insurance before the dealer peeks under their hole card for a blackjack.
Insurance is an optional side wager the player makes on the possibility of the dealer having a ten in the hole for a blackjack hand. This side wager costs half of your initial wager.
If you have originally bet $20 and decide to insure yourself against the dealer’s ace, you will have to cover your side bet with another $10. The virtual dealer would then peek and if they indeed have a ten in the hole, the insurance bet will pay at odds of 2 to 1 ($20 in this example).
Your main bet of $20 will be lost so you will eventually break even, neither losing nor earning net profits with this hand. Respectively, the insurance bet loses in case the dealer has any other card but a ten in the hole. The round continues as usual in this instance.
Recommended Strategy and House Edge
Vegas Downtown Blackjack follows a set of relatively liberal rules which, in turn, translates into a rather tolerable house edge. The casino’s estimated advantage under the above-described playing conditions is only 0.38% for a statistical theoretical return of 99.62%.
There is only one aspect of Vegas Downtown that is detrimental to the player and it has to do with the dealer’s standing rules. Of course, the absence of late surrender is also disadvantageous but its effect on the house edge is only minuscule (+0.07%).
Dealer Hits Soft 17
As we mentioned in our overview of the rules, the dealer must draw to 16, stand on hard 17, and hit soft 17. A soft 17 is a hand that contains an ace with a variable value, 1 or 11. If the dealer gets an ace and a 6, this hand is called soft 17 because it can be treated as either 7 or 17 due to the presence of the flexible ace.
The dealer cannot go over 21 by taking a hit and drawing a card higher than 4. When this happens, their ace will automatically count as 1 rather than 11, which prevents them from busting on the next hit.
On the other hand, the dealer stands some chances of actually improving their soft 17 and outdrawing the player. This is the reason why a dealer who hits soft 17, as is the case in Vegas Downtown Blackjack, adds 0.22% to the house edge.
Strategy Hints for Vegas Downtown Blackjack
This game yields under 0.40% house edge but this percentage is statistically accurate after hundreds of thousands of hands. Moreover, the hands must be played in line with the basic strategy that corresponds to the above-specified playing conditions (i.e. 2 decks, H17, DAS, Peek, DD on any two cards, No Surrender).
If you are interested in playing Vegas Downtown Blackjack, either online or at a landbased casino, we suggest you arm yourself with an accurate basic strategy chart for this game. We outline briefly some of the most important strategic moves below.
Standing and Hitting Hints
- Hit hard 5 through hard 8 against any dealer upcard.
- Stand on hard 13 through hard 16 against a dealer with upcards 2 through 6 and hit against the rest.
- Stand on hard 17 or higher against any dealer face-up card.
Doubling Down Hints
- Double down on hard 9 against the dealer’s 2 through 6, and hit against the other upcards.
- Double down on 10 against the dealer’s 2 through 9 and hit against tens or aces.
- Always double down on 11 regardless of the value of the dealer’s upcard.
- Double down on soft 18 when the dealer shows 2 through 6, stand against 7 or 8, and hit against 9 through aces.
- Double down on soft 19 against the dealer’s 6.
Hints on Pair Splitting and Insurance
- Always split A/A and 8/8
- Split 2/2, 3/3, 6/6, and 7/7 when the dealer shows 2 through 6.
- Stand on 10/10 regardless of the value of the dealer’s exposed card.
- Never insure your hands against a possible dealer blackjack.
UI and Functionalities in Microgaming’s Vegas Downtown Blackjack
When playing this variant in a landbased Vegas downtown casino, players must do their best to avoid any violations of etiquette while at the tables. However, etiquette is hardly an issue when one indulges in this blackjack variation from the comfort of their home.
Due to this, we decided to channel readers’ attention to some of the main functionalities and the UI of Microgaming’s take on Multi-Hand Vegas Downtown Blackjack Gold. The latter is the most popular online version of this blackjack game by far.
- The available chip denominations include 1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 200. Use the arrow-shaped button to switch from one denomination to another.
- The Deal button deals the starting two-card hands to all betting boxes you have posted chips in.
- The Clear Bets button automatically removes the chips from all active betting boxes in case you have made a mistake or simply are looking to readjust your wagers.
- The Rebet button automatically repeats all wagers you posted during the previous round.
- The table limits plaque serves a two-fold purpose because it also shows you the game’s rules when you hover your mouse cursor on top.
- The Expert mode feature gives you the chance to configure a strategy chart and utilize it as the gameplay progresses. If you want, you can adjust the chart later on.
- The Setting menu enables players to turn off the ambient audio effects, the virtual dealer’s voice, and the game sounds. Also possible is to adjust the settings so that previously played hands are not removed automatically from the layout at the end of a round.
- Statistics are also available across all blackjack variants from Microgaming’s Gold series, including Vegas Downtown Gold. This shows players the number of hands they have played, how much they have bet, and what the outcomes were.