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STADIUM BLACKJACK REVISITED
by Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the "Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide," (www.888casino.com/blog/blackjack-strategy-guide/), editor of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter, and host of www.smartgaming.com. He also teaches blackjack and video poker courses in Las Vegas.
In the March issue of the Blackjack Insider Newsletter (BJI), BJI contributing writer Paul Wilson visited the Venetian casino in Las Vegas to observe their new Stadium Blackjack installation and to write a report about it. Subsequently, I received more emails from subscribers about the game and that prompted me to visit the Venetian and observe first-hand how the game works. I also contacted Mr. Gabriel Baron, General Manager and Senior Director of ETS Product Management, who was extremely helpful in explaining the game to me, especially how the community cards are utilized to reconcile the hands.
Firstly, Mr. Baron supplied me with a draft summary of the Stadium Blackjack Rules of Play (below). Read them and then I'll go through a sample hand to show you how the community cards are dealt to the players' and the dealer's hands. (Pay close attention to rule 5 and 6 below; I highlighted some key points.)
Stadium Blackjack Rules of Play
Stadium Blackjack is a variation of a blackjack game wherein each player places a wager on their own player terminal, and the results of the game are determined by a live dealer utilizing community cards to reconcile player decisions.
Rules of Play:
The (live) dealer will begin the betting round by pressing "New Game" on the dealer terminal touch screen.
Each player places a wager on the main betting location, in addition to any side bets he or she wish during this betting window.
When the countdown timer expires, the dealer will deal one card on the layout to the "Player" location, one to the "Dealer" location, and a second card to the "Player" location.
The players will then be able to make their decisions based on their two cards vs. the dealer's one card.
After all player decisions have been made, the dealer terminal prompts the dealer to draw a card and place it in the "Community" location on the layout.
- Each player terminal makes an independent decision on that hand.
For players who have split or hit, additional decisions continue and the
dealer will continue to draw cards as prompted to the "Community" location on the layout until such time that all active player hands have been reconciled
in addition to the resulting dealer hands that occur based on the decisions made.
The Dealer then presses "Confirm" to end the round. Pays and Takes are done automatically by the system.
- For players that hit their original hand, this card becomes their hit card.
- For Players that split their original hand, this (same) card becomes the next card on the
first split hand.
- For players that Doubled Down, this (same) card becomes their double down card.
- For players that stood their original hand, this (same) card becomes the dealers' second card.
One more point that was helpful to me was this: if , say, Player A asks for a hit and receives, say, Community Card #2, the latter will not be dealt to the dealer's hand that is competing against Player A's hand. (Keep this in mind as I go through a sample below.)
Below is an example of a hand. It was actually taken from a question that someone posted on a blackjack blog about Stadium Blackjack.
Player's Hand is 8-8
Dealer's upcard is a 10
There are three active players.
After the live dealer deals the two cards to the Player's Hand and one card for her hand, she waits until all the players have independently made their playing decisions before she begins to deal the first Community Card. (Remember with Stadium Blackjack, every player starts with the same hand, in this example a pair of 8s, and then independently he or she decides how they want to play the hand against a dealer's 10 upcard.)
Let's suppose that the three active players make the following playing decisions:
- Player B Hits his 16 and
- Player C Split the 8s.
Here are how the player's hands (and subsequently the dealer's hand) are reconciled. (See the table below which summarizes the cards in each hand.)
After each player decides how he or she wants to play their hand, the dealer will draw one card from a Continuous Shuffler and place it in the area labeled Community Cards. Let's assume the 1st Community card was a 5. (Second column in table below.) Here's what happens:
(Note: To avoid the awkward use of "he and she" to indicate a player, I used the masculine "he.")
- For Player A (who stood on 16), the 5 becomes a draw card to the dealer's 10, giving a dealer's hand a 15 against Player A.
- For Player B, the same Community Card (5) becomes a draw card to his 16 (because he hit), giving him a hand that totals 21 (16 + 5 = 21). Player B then indicates on his console he wants to stand. (The dealer's hand for Player B is still a 10.)
- For Player C (who decided to split his 8s), the same Community Card (5) becomes a draw card to his first split hand. Player C's first split hand now totals 13 (8 + 5 = 13).
- The dealer deals a 2nd Community Card and it is an Ace. This card becomes:
- A draw card to the dealer's hand against Player A. (Dealer now has 16: 10 + 5 + A = 16).
- A draw card for the dealer's hand against Player B, giving the dealer a blackjack (10 + A = BJ).
- A draw card to Player C's first split hand, giving him a total of 14 (8 + 5 + A = 14).
- The dealer deals a 3rd Community Card and it is a 7. This card becomes:
The dealer deals a 4th Community Card and it's a 10. This card becomes:
- Another draw card for the dealer's hand against Player A, giving the dealer a 23 (10 + 5 + A = 7 = 23). The dealer's hand against Player A busts; therefore, Player A wins (standing on 16).
- The 7 becomes another draw card for the first split hand for Player C, giving him 21 (8 + 5 + A + 7 = 21). Player C stands with 21 on the first split and hits the second split.
- A draw card for Player's C second split, giving him 18 (8 + 10 = 18). Player C stands with 18 on the second split hand.
- The dealer deals a 5th Community card and it's a 5. This card becomes:
- A draw card for the dealer's hand against Player C, giving the dealer a 15 (10 + 5 = 15).
- The dealer deals a 6th Community Card and it's an 8.This card becomes:
- Another draw card for the dealer's hand against Player C, giving the dealer a total of 23 (10 + 5 =8 = 23). Dealer busts.
- Player A, who stood with 16, won because the dealer busted.
- Player B, who had a 21, lost to a dealer's blackjack.
- Player C, who split and wound up with 21 on one split and 18 on the other split, won both split hands because the dealer busted.
Notice that from the same starting hand (pair of 8s against a dealer 10), each player wound up with a different final hand against a different dealer's hand (except in this example, the A and C dealer's hand happened to be the same). This is what makes Stadium Blackjack unique.
Other points gleaned in my discussion with Mr. Baron were:
- If a player splits or doubles and the dealer subsequently has a blackjack, the player only loses his original wager (the second bet made in splitting or doubling is returned to the player).
- The game uses a Continuous Shuffler in most cases but can also be dealt from a shoe.
- Casinos have a lot of flexibility in choosing the parameters offered - they can determine the number of decks of cards, the dealer drawing rules, the payoff for a blackjack, and the minimum and maximums of each bet offered, among other things,
- Currently, there are Stadium Blackjack installations at the following casinos:
- Venetian (Las Vegas)
- Mohegan Sun (CT)
- Parx (PA)), and
- Barona (CA).
- Cache Creek (CA)
- The Venetian casino pays 6-5 for a player blackjack; at Barona, Parx, Cache Creek, and Mohegan Sun; as far as I know, a blackjack pays 3-2. (Note: The blackjack payout is configurable by the casino; therefore, the Venetian installation decided to pay only 6-5 whereas at other installations , it's 3-2.)
- Players can use the same basic playing strategy to play their hand as they would at a traditional blackjack game - nothing in the game differs from a live table, and all the rules are configurable by the casino with most or all them being the same as found at a live game.
I hope this clarifies the questions I've received about Stadium Blackjack.
(Note: I'll be writing an article on Stadium Blackjack in an upcoming issue of Casino Player magazine. Stay tuned.)
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