Electronic table games are all the rage in the casino gambling industry, and at first glance, it’s easy to see why. Operators can install electronic versions of their classic table games – blackjack, baccarat, craps, and roulette – to instantly cut their dealer workforce down. This saves the operator a ton of dough, allowing them to reinvest back into venue upgrades and other upkeep.

Casino owners also prefer electronic table games because they’re typically smaller and more compact than a full-fledged table. With more floor space to work with, the operator can even more games to the mix, giving players plenty of options to choose from. But when they’re judged from the player’s perspective, how do electronic table games really stack up?

That’s all a matter of perspective, of course, but if you’re interested in gambling intelligently, it’s best to avoid electronic table games altogether. Sure, they may be a bit more convenient in terms of actual gameplay – nothing is worse than a crowded blackjack table where fellow players berate your “bad” plays – but that convenience may not be worth the cost.

Below you’ll find a detailed rundown on the many drawbacks of those electronic table games that are rapidly replacing the real thing:

Even Money Payouts on Blackjack Are Blasphemy

First things first. When you play a skill game like blackjack, part of the beauty comes from the juiced up payouts dispensed when players land the best possible hand. The payback for landing an Ace and a 10-value card for blackjack used to be 3 to 2 on your initial wager, so a $20 bet would bring back $30 in profit.

But over time, casinos sought to get over on their customers by adjusting the blackjack payout to 6 to 5. At that reduced rate, the same $20 wager would return just $24 – a far cry from the $30 blackjack’s true odds dictate you should receive.

Well, just imagine playing the great game of “21” when the blackjack payout plummets from 3 to 2, past 6 to 5, and all the down to even money. That’s right, many of the leading electronic blackjack table manufacturers out there have programmed their machines to offer an even money payout when you land a blackjack. The true odds against doing so are 3 to 2, so that’s what you should always receive as a reward in a just world. Gambling is far from just, however, so the 6 to 5 payout has become the standard throughout Sin City and the American casino industry.

But lowering that already reduced payout to even money is simply criminal, an overreach that cannot stand.

If you don’t believe me, take the word of John Grochowski – a renowned gambling expert and casino game analyst for several decades and counting – when it comes to the impact of even money blackjack payouts:

“Compared to games like video poker, which have proven immensely popular, video blackjack has never really gained any traction in casinos.This is probably due to the fact that, as you mentioned, most video blackjack machines pay even money on blackjacks. Just a few dozen feet away, however, there is probably a blackjack table which pays 3-2 on blackjacks, and the real players will always choose the one with the better odds.”

If you play basic strategy, the casino gains a nearly 2.3 percent edge by offering even money blackjacks instead of 3-2, pushing the total house edge close to 3 percent.”

That’s right, you read it correctly – electronic blackjack tables increase a basic strategy player’s house edge all the way from 0.50 percent to 2.8 percent. That’s nearly six times higher, meaning you’re putting yourself at a serious disadvantage whenever you play even money payout electronic blackjack.

In his nationally syndicated gambling column, gaming industry expert Mark Pilarski echoed those sentiments while answering a query from a reader wondering why he can’t seem to beat the electronic games:

“Considering that blackjack has a house advantage of less than .5% to a knowledgeable player, your losses are more than likely tied to this tricky rule change. With an even money payout on blackjack, you are giving away the farm here.”

Rounding Down Reduces Your Profits

Electronic blackjack tables use another sneaky trick to get over on unsuspecting players – rounding down. At a traditional live table, the minimum bet is almost always $5. This round number makes it easy to determine those 3 to 2 or 6 to 5 rewards for making blackjack, streamlining the dealer’s payout process and speeding up the game.

But electronic tables tend to offer much lower table limits, with $1 and even $0.25 minimums commonly found on the casino floor. Ostensibly, this provides an easier entry point for recreational players trying to learn the game, or gamblers down on their luck looking for an affordable opportunity to rebound.

Here’s the rub though. When you bet in smaller increments like this, the payouts for landing blackjack – even on machines that offer the true 3 to 2 rate – can get funky in a hurry. Let’s say you’re betting $2 on an electronic table that pays 3 to 2 for blackjacks. In this case, you’d collect a nice #3 premium for making the game’s top hand.

But one seat over you notice your neighbor betting in $1 increments instead. Their screen lights up with an Ace and King for blackjack, and they begin to celebrate, only to see the machine return $1 instead. So what happened? Well, while the electronic games are programmed to accept wagers in quarter increments, they aren’t programmed to pay out that way. Thus, what should be a $1.50 return on a $1 blackjack is rounded down to $1 – or even money.

That’s right, even a machine that specifically says it will pay out 3 to 2 on blackjacks can sneakily reduce the rate to even money when you don’t bet enough. Pilarski took on the issue of rounded down payouts while answering another concerned player in his column:

“Some video blackjack machines round down on blackjack payoffs.If you happen to find a machine that pays the bonus for a blackjack, make wagers in even amounts so you can get the maximum value of a blackjack (a payoff of $3 for every $2 wagered).

Otherwise, a dollar wagered will get you just a buck for your snapper. Always bet in two-unit increments.” (Quote)

As Pilarski advises, machine players should always protect themselves from rounding down by betting in $2 increments. But on an electronic table that markets itself specifically to players who want to bet lower than that, this bait and switch with the blackjack payouts is simply uncalled for.

More Hands Per Hour Only Helps the House

Another way electronic table games try to appeal to players is by offering a streamlined experience. Live table games require a dealer to shuffle the deck, deal the cards (or spin the wheel, dispense the dice, etc.), and collect the chips. Each of these actions may take mere seconds, but added up over the course of your session, you’ll be spending several minutes per hour waiting for one hand to end and a new hand to begin.

But take your money to the electronic tables and all of that is taken care of instantly. Your bets are recorded with the push of a button, pixelated chip graphics zip across the screen, and the cards are randomized and revealed in a flash. As a result, a player with quick trigger fingers can easily add dozens of hands per hour to their overall volume.

Check out the tables below – which were compiled by casino game mathematician extraordinaire Michael “Wizard of Odds” Shackleford – to get an idea of how fast live table games play:


Hands / Hour in Blackjack

Players    Hands Hour
1 209
2 139
3 105
4 84
5 70
6 60
7 52


Rolls / Hour in Craps

Players Rolls Hour
1 249
3 216
5 144
7 135
9 123
11 102


Spins / Hour in Roulette

Players Spins Hour
1 112
2 76
3 60
4 55
5 48
6 35


Because electronic table games are essentially one-on-one versus the dealer, we can use the 209 hands per hour for blackjack when playing alone as that game’s baseline. And while that may seem like a ton of action – you’re essentially playing 3.5 hands every minute – it pales in comparison to the frenetic pace offered on the video version.

According to Grochowski’s research, a proficient electronic blackjack player using a brisk pace can easily put in a whopping 800 hands per hour. With no breaks in between to reshuffle the shoe, insert a cut card, make change, or chit-chat, electronic tables let you play more than 13 hands every minute.

That may seem like fun for a gambler who savors every sweat, but you must remember that all gambling games – even a skill-based affair with a low house edge like blackjack – offers players a negative expectation. In other words, your expected return over the long run playing blackjack, or any other table game for that matter, is always a negative number (i.e., a loss).

Take a look at the numbers below, provided by the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB), to see how casinos in the Silver State fared in July:


Casino Win in July by Game Type

Game Win
Blackjack $93.3 million
Craps $35.0 million
Roulette $32.7million
Baccarat $101. million
Sports $4.0 million
Penny slots $281.1 million


Why do you suppose the penny slots, which typically start at $0.25 or $0.30 per spin, produce such a massive win rate when compared to $5 minimum blackjack tables? Well, it’s because those slot games allow players to spin away to their hearts content, over and over again, in the time it takes for a single blackjack hand to be completed. We’ve all seen those slot players feverishly clicking the “SPIN” button, putting in a bet every few seconds to rack up huge spins per hour numbers.  Their monetary risk might be the lowest of any bet in the house, but slot players suffer badly because their preferred game is so speedy.

You’ll surely experience short-term wins, and even sustained winning streaks, especially in a strategic game like blackjack that rewards proper play. But when your session sample expands from 200 hands per hour to 800, that increased volume subjects you to negative expectation at a much higher rate.

Here’s how Pilarski described the faster pace of play, and the consequences that can have for players, in his column:

“You are probably playing more hands per hour on a video blackjack machine than you would on a live table game.With any casino game that has a built-in advantage, and blackjack even with perfect play is certainly one of them, the more hands you are exposed to, the more the machine will eat away at your bankroll.” (Quote)

If the goal is to preserve your bankroll and stretch out for enjoyment’s sake over an extended session, sticking to the live tables is by far your best bet.

Electronic Tables Are Sterile and Lonesome

On a final note, one of the most appealing aspects of live table game play is the camaraderie you develop, both with fellow players and dealers alike. Gambling should be a social experience at its heart, and while slot machine spinners and video poker enthusiasts are usually secluded, blackjack, baccarat, craps, and roulette fans have to huddle together around the same table.

On your next stroll through the casino floor, be sure to take a minute or two to soak in the scene at a live craps table. Up to 11 individuals, largely strangers who have never even met, will be found having the time of their lives. Back claps and high fives are a common sight, and when the shooter goes on a hot run, you’ll be able to hear about it from across the room.

Celebrating the big wins, and commiserating over bad beats, is all part of the fun for folks who enjoy gambling. And believe it or not, lifelong friendships can be forged while sitting together and taking on the house. But that all goes away when you sit down at an electronic version of your favorite table game. The machines are designed more like slots than table games, so you’ll be stuck in your own private booth staring at a screen.

Win a huge double up when the perfect card comes? That’s nice, but you won’t have anybody around to cheer you on. Suffer an especially cruel runout of cards to crack your 20? That’s no fun, but it’s even worse when there’s nobody around to bemoan your fate with.

Syndicated gambling industry columnist Matt Villano addressed the issue of isolation at the electronic tables in his review of video blackjack:

“Some could argue that one of the downsides to video blackjack machines is loneliness.Because the game pits you one-on-one against the dealer, the ‘social’ element of the traditional game is eliminated. Many players cite this interactivity as one of the things they like best about blackjack.

If you’re one of these players, you may want to stick to the tables.” (Quote)

Now, this phenomenon can work in reverse on select occasions. Live table games can often be soured by a surly player who likes to comment on other people’s play, berate the dealer, smoke cigarettes, or harass cocktail servers. These players are, unfortunately, part and parcel of the casino experience when live tables are concerned. And for many recreational gamblers, it’s just easier to avoid the drama and play alone at the video machines.

With that said, the Negative Nancies can easily be avoided by simply picking up and finding a new table. They’re outliers, after all, so it won’t take long to find a few like-minded individuals having a blast playing blackjack, baccarat, or any other table game.

And when you do, be sure to make the most of it. Strike up a conversation, crack a few jokes, and order a round of drinks for your new pals. Those are the moments that truly define a winning night at the tables, whether you leave with chips in hand or not.

You’ll Receive Fewer Comps

This one all depends on the venue of course, but in most of the major casinos, electronic table game players are treated like second-class citizens. Live table games generally have attentive cocktail servers hovering around to hand out complimentary beverages. For the cost of a dollar tip only, you can sip on whisky sours until the cows come home.

But when you’re toiling away at the video tables, the servers seem to be far less interested in taking care of you. Why that is remains a mystery, but many gamblers report a drop in service when they ditch the live games. And it works the same with Player’s Club comps and other rewards. The live table games have a pit boss on hand who is specifically tasked with watching for big bettors. Place enough large chips at risk over the session, and you might just score a buffet voucher, or even a free night’s stay.

Those perks don’t happen at the electronic pits, however, simply because there’s no human employees in sight to scan your wagers. Sure, the Player’s Club system is keeping track and dispensing points, but those slowly accumulated rewards pale in comparison to currying a pit bosses favor.


All things considered, electronic table games do have their place in the casino economy. Many players prefer the lower stakes and faster pace of play, and operators surely stand to benefit from reduced overhead expenses. Nonetheless, an informed gambler who knows the score will stay away from the video alternatives based on the five reasons laid out throughout this page. As is usually the case with this world, what seems too good to be true inevitably is, and that’s the regrettable fact about the modern electronic table game fad.

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