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Blackjack seat rental

10 June 2011

A few casinos have started to charge a "seat rental" to players who want to play blackjack at low denomination tables. I'll report what this is all about, give you my opinion on it, and let you decide if paying a "seat rental" is for you.

Here's how seat rentals works (at least in one casino that has it). The seat rental is charged on a low limit \$1 minimum table. The rental fee is \$2 per half hour, which the player must pay up front at the time he converts his cash to chips (i.e., as soon as the player gets his chips, he must give the dealer \$2 in chips for the seat rental fee). There is a clock/timer on the table. Every half hour, players fork over the \$2 fee. If you enter a game at, say, the quarter hour, they will pro-rate your seat rental fee to \$1 for the remainder of the 15 minutes and then the fee goes to \$2 for the next half hour. If you lose your chips before the half hour is up, you don't get any rebate on the seat rental fee. There is a single \$1 minimum table in this casino. On busy weekends, players must sign a waiting list in order to play.

So now that you know the details, do you think it's worth it to pay \$4 per hour to play blackjack at a \$1 minimum blackjack table? If you are not sure, let me tell you how I went about figuring out if this was a good deal or not.

This particular casino also has \$5 minimum blackjack tables besides the \$1 table with seat rental. I decided to calculate what the cost would be for a player playing one hour at the \$5 table versus one hour at the \$1 table.

I assumed that the player knows his basic playing strategy, so the house edge is as low as possible. I also assumed that the player would be dealt 80 hands per hour, which is about average for a blackjack table. The \$1 table uses a 6-deck shoe and the dealer hits soft 17. The house edge in this game is about 0.6 percent.

With the above information, it's easy to calculate what it costs a player to play blackjack. On the game itself (ex the seat rental), the cost to play the game, assuming the player makes only \$1 bets, is about a half buck per hour (it's the 80 hands/hour times \$1 bet per hand times the 0.06 percent house edge). That's not bad but we haven't included the \$4 per hour seat rental fee. This makes the total cost to the player to play this game \$4.50 per hour. (Note: This cost is a theoretical cost. A player could lose more or win more in an hour's worth of play, but over time he will average \$4.50 in losses, which include the seat rental.)

This same casino also offers \$5 minimum blackjack tables with 6-decks and dealer hits soft 17 (same house edge of 0.6 percent). There is no seat rental on this game. The cost to play per hour using the same calculations as above but with a \$5 bet on each hand comes to \$2.40 or roughly two bucks less than the \$1 minimum table. So from a purely cost standpoint, playing at the \$5 table will cost a player less in the long run than playing at the \$1 table and paying a seat rental.

However, there is more to this story. If you lose a few consecutive hands on the \$1 table, you are only down a couple of bucks. If the same happens on a \$5 table, you are down much more. In other words, the variance on a \$5 table is going to be five times greater than the variance on the \$1 table. This means the swings in your bankroll will be greater on the \$5 table, so despite the lower negative expected value (i.e., cost to play), you would need more bankroll to play the \$5 table, as the risk is considerably greater.

Some players also argue that being able to raise and lower your bets from \$1 to \$5 on the dollar minimum table when cold and hot streaks occur is a big benefit for playing at the \$1 table. I don't buy that argument because, from just a cost-per-hour standpoint, if you raise your bets on the \$1 table you just expose more of your money to the 0.6 percent house edge and your hourly cost to play will increase.

So what is my recommendation about playing the \$1 table with seat rental? I wouldn't recommend it simply because it's going to cost you more money to play. If you have a modest bankroll, I'd suggest you play at the lowest minimum bet table that you can find as long as there are no hidden fees. You can also check the video blackjack games that are available in some casinos. The denomination on these games is usually \$1, but be sure to check the rules to be sure there is nothing funny (like paying a blackjack at even money).

I hope the seat rental fee will not spread to other casinos (as the 6-5 payoff on a blackjack did).

Now you have all the facts to decide for yourself whether it's worth your while (and cost) to play blackjack with a seat rental fee.

Note: There was interesting counterpoint to hand-fees that appeared in my Blackjack Insider Newsletter by the Executive Director of Table Games for an Atlantic City Casino. If you want to read his take on hand-fees, his article is at http://www.bjinsider.com/newsletter_125_fees.shtml.

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Henry Tamburin

Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com

Books by Henry Tamburin:

Henry Tamburin
Henry Tamburin is the author of the best-selling book, Blackjack: Take The Money and Run, editor of the Blackjack Insider e-Newsletter, and Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack course. For a free 3-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter with full membership privileges, visit www.bjinsider.com/free. For details on the Golden Touch Blackjack course visit www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 866/WIN-BJ21. For a free copy of his casino gambling catalog featuring over 50 products call 888/353-3234 or visit the Internet store at www.smartgaming.com.

Henry Tamburin Websites:

www.smartgaming.com