I once polled about 100 blackjack players to find out what ideas they had to get more casino players to play blackjack. I used their input in a presentation I made at an industry gaming conferenceHenry Tamburin is the editor and publisher of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter and author of the best-selling Blackjack: Take the Money & Run. He is also the lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course, a feature writer for Casino Player magazine (and 6 other publications); an owner of a casino gambling publishing company (www.rsucasinobooks.com) and the host of www.smartgaming.com. For a free three month subscription to the Henry's Blackjack Insider Newsletter with full membership privileges go to www.bjinsider.com/free. Henry's website is www.smartgaming.com
in Las Vegas. You might find their ideas enlightening.
Offer blackjack lessons during prime time.
Make sure the instructor is pleasant, knowledgeable, and helpful with new players. Lessons should be taught in the more convenient evening hours rather then in the morning. Use “funny money” and offer one session that focuses on the basic playing rules and table manners, and another on the basic playing strategy
. One reader suggested having blackjack lessons taught by a respected authority on the game. At the end of the instruction, encourage the attendees to apply what they learned by offering them match play casinos chips that can only be used at the blackjack tables (they bet $5 of their money along with a $5 match play chip and if they win the hand they win $10).
Implement a learner’s table.
As one player commented “today’s beginning low limit player is tomorrow’s high roller, so provide a place for new players to learn the game, cheaply”
Have a blackjack table that is very visible on the casino floor (not hidden away in some seldom visited corner) with clear signage that states “Learners Table”. Table minimums must be super low and a friendly, trained dealer that can patiently answer new player’s questions must staff the game. Every player should be given a basic strategy card to help them learn how to make the right decisions. The pace on this table should be deliberately slow with the goal of making the new player feel comfortable.
Designate “Beginner-Friendly” blackjack tables.
Besides offering low limits and friendly dealers at these designated tables, make it clear that criticism of other players’ playing decisions is not welcomed and is reason to boot a player off the table.
By implementing some or all of the above ideas, new players will be able to build up their confidence to play blackjack without the ‘intimidation factor’ that has turned so many players away from the game.
Some of the other suggestions, which I shared with casino operations personnel, included:
On the overall playing environment:
• More non-smoking tables or better yet segregate smoking and non-smoking areas (“it works in restaurants”) and improve the ventilation systems
• More friendly dealers and supervisors (“a friendly dealer is going to attract far more new players than one that just stands there and flips cards at warp speed and not talk”)
• Base a dealer’s pay increase on a customer satisfaction survey (“encourage the behavior you want”)
• Hire “politeness police” that patrol the blackjack tables and reward polite dealers
• Locate blackjack tables away from loud bands
• Do away with all 7-player blackjack tables
• Offer more low limit games (“new players aren’t going to step in and play $25 a hand”)
• Implement more comfortable chairs with back support and foot rest
• Bring back the informal “party pits” where low limit blackjack games were dealt in a casual atmosphere with friendly dealers (“playing blackjack there was fun”)
• Do not tolerate profane, lewd, or drunken behavior at any blackjack table
On the playing rules and the odds:
• Do away with Continuous Shuffling Machines so the game becomes theoretically beatable (“don’t kill the golden goose”)
• Offer more single deck games
which offer better odds for players
• Offer more $5 minimum tables (“when the $25 tables are half empty convert some to $5 minimums”)
• Offer better rules especially dealer standing (rather than hitting) on soft 17
• Get over the paranoia with card counters
and instead welcome them as long as they keep their betting spread to no more than 1 to 4 units and/or offer games that have lower maximum betting limits (e.g. $5 minimum to $300 maximum)
And last, but not least, came these suggestions
• Have more promotions and comps
to low limit blackjack players (“take a page from the slot and video poker
• Offer more blackjack tournaments geared to low stakes players
• Offer bonus payouts for side bets
but at better odds then currently available (“nothing makes a player feel like he is in a clip joint faster than seeing his money disappear as fast as it does with many side bets”).
• Send slot players an invitation to learn blackjack that includes match-play chips
A few casinos have implemented some of the above suggestions to attract new players, but unfortunately most have not. In fact many are too focused on today’s bottom line rather than cultivating new players for the future. This includes casinos that are offering the terrible single deck games where blackjacks are paid only 6:5 and those that put continuous shuffling machines on all their tables. Unfortunately, this is not the way to develop new players.
One skilled blackjack player sent me this email which I used in the closing of my presentation. It says it all.
“The myth that the game of blackjack is beatable in the long term is what makes it the most popular table game even though most players will never be able to beat the game. Enhance this belief. Don’t kill it with lousy rules, poor penetration, and continuous shufflers. As Benny Binion said: ‘Give ‘em a good gamble’ ”.