Las Vegas draws most of the attention in Nevada with regard to card counting. It offers numerous opportunities to count cards thanks to its 130+ casinos.
The cross-state gambling destination Reno, on the other hand, isn’t known as a card counting haven. Although Reno features over 20 casinos, it just doesn’t carry the same publicity as Vegas.
That said, some aspiring advantage gamblers want to know if it’s even possible to count cards in the “World’s Biggest Little City.” I’ll discuss this matter by covering what Reno blackjack is like and if it offers realistic counting opportunities.
What Is the Reno Blackjack Scene Like?
Reno offers a more laidback vibe compared to Las Vegas. Often lumped in with nearby Lake Tahoe—another gambling destination—it features friendlier dealers, pit bosses, and security.
Of course, like anywhere else, Reno has some jerky outliers. But overall, you can expect friendlier staff and a casual atmosphere.
Casinos here also offer more value with their VIP rewards than Vegas. Reno doesn’t get as many visitors and, therefore, values its customers more than Sin City.
As for the blackjack games, this town is one of the few remaining gambling destinations that still pays 3:2 on natural blackjacks. Even rarer, they combine these 3:2 payouts with single-deck games in some cases.
If you’ve been to Vegas or Atlantic City, you’re probably used to seeing single-deck tables with 6:5 payouts. The 3:2 payoffs lower the house edge by 1.4% in comparison.
You’ll Get Backed off Quicker
Reno doesn’t offer great blackjack rules just so they can help out card counters. Instead, they want to attract and retain more recreational players.
Therefore, pit bosses are quicker to back off players. The term back off refers to one of two scenarios:
The pit boss tells the gambler that they can no longer play blackjack at the casino.
They force the player to flat bet every hand for the duration of each shoe.
The second action prevents gamblers from raising bets and taking advantage of favorable counts. Therefore, it’s just as limiting as being kicked off the table.
Earlier, I discussed how Reno casinos are generally nicer than Las Vegas gambling establishments. But they’re also more likely to back off players, because they’re already offering good blackjack odds.
They’d get absolutely crushed if they didn’t take immediate action against suspected advantage gamblers.
Can You Win Profits by Counting Cards in Reno?
Reno may be not tolerant of suspected advantage play as long as Vegas or most other gambling destinations. But this situation doesn’t totally prevent you from making profits here.
First off, Reno blackjack features a lower house edge on average than most casino havens throughout the world. You don’t need to spread bets as wide to take advantage of positive counts.
Bet spreading refers to the distance between the table’s minimum bet, which you make during even or negative counts, and what you raise to in favorable situations.
Here’s an example:
The table’s minimum wager is $10.
You raise your bet to $100 during a +3 count.
Your spread is 1-10 (i.e. 10x the minimum bet).
You can get away with this type of spread in a fair number of Las Vegas casinos. However, you’ll draw more heat in Reno when doing so.
That said, you should lower your spread to account for the difference. A single-deck game with 3:2 payouts and no double-down restrictions doesn’t require you to spread as high to win profits.
With adequate deck penetration, you can easily beat these juicy games with a 1-6 spread over time. You’ll also minimize the heat you get with this strategy.
Even if you do everything right, though, you’ll experience back-offs in certain casinos. The important thing in these situations is to never surrender your identification.
With an ID in hand, the casino can put you into a database that identifies you as an advantage gambler. You’ll have difficulty finding a game in Reno, Vegas, Atlantic City, or anywhere else afterward.
You may need to wait a while before returning to the same casino after a back-off. This is especially the case if you feel that your back-off stood out in any way.
Where Should You Count Cards in Reno?
The Reno-Lake Tahoe-Sparks vicinity offers plenty of gambling establishments. But the card counting situation can differ from casino to casino. Here’s what you can largely expect at each venue in terms of counting.
Reno and Sparks
Alamo – $100 max bet and heavy heat against anybody who spreads bets in this truck stop casino
Atlantis – Offers high stakes and favorable counting conditions
Bonanza – $100 max bet and very little deck penetration
Boomtown – Cramped casino that offers decent counting conditions (albeit at low stakes)
CAL-NEVA – Rare exception to the otherwise friendly Reno atmosphere; pit bosses and security aren’t pleasant towards suspected counters
Diamond’s – Dive casino in a sketchy neighborhood that offers little deck penetration and low max stakes
Eldorado – Brings heavy heat against suspected counters and back-offs are common here
Grand Sierra – Features high stakes, favorable rules, and good counting conditions
Harrah’s – Doesn’t offer great rules, but does feature fairly high stakes
Sparks Nugget – Offers solid counting conditions and high stakes
Peppermill – Another good casino for card counters
Rail City – Features okay counting conditions at lower stakes, but not normally great deck penetration
Sands Regency – Although located in a bad neighborhood, it offers decent card counting at lower stakes
Silver Legacy – Commonly backs off potential counters but is an otherwise playable game
Western Village – $200 max bet and highly suspicious of big bet spreaders
Harrah’s – Offers a few beatable games at higher stakes
Hard Rock – Another casino with decent counting opportunities
Harvey’s – Features a few tables that can be beaten
Lakeside Inn – Okay card counting at lower stakes
*Most other Lake Tahoe casinos aren’t worth the trip due to heavy heat and quick back-offs
Tips for Reno Card Counting
I assume that if you’re going to count cards, then you already have a good idea on the basics. That said, here are specific tips for beating the games in Reno.
Understand the Differences in Counting Single-Deck Games
Most blackjack games these days feature multiple shoes. Balanced systems, such as the Hi-Lo, call on you to convert your running count to a true count.
The latter accounts for the multiple decks involved in a four-, six-, or eight-deck shoe. But Reno doesn’t have as many of these multi-deck tables.
Instead, it offers an abundance of single-deck games. This aspect is great from the perspective that it lowers the house edge (with 3:2 payouts).
However, you also need to remember that converting to a true count isn’t necessary in most Reno casinos. You could use a simpler card counting system, like Knockout, that doesn’t require this conversion.
Don’t Spread Your Bets as Large
Many Reno gambling establishments already offer a good game. They don’t want to let people count cards on top of the great odds.
You shouldn’t expect to get away with a 1-10 or 1-15 spread in Reno. Many casinos will back you off for going over a 1-8 or even 1-6 spread.
I suggest staying somewhere around a 1-6 spread. This plan will help you profit at single deck tables without taking as much heat.
Know the Different Reno Casinos
You should consult the aforementioned guide to Reno casinos before taking the trip. The notes presented before will help you quickly decide which venues are worth it for counting purposes.
Of course, conditions can change based on the specific pit boss and/or shift working the floor. But you should use this guide’s notes for a general reference.
Bounce around the Playable Casinos
Reno offers enough casinos to where it’s a good advantage play destination, but not enough to where you can keep hitting the same places day after day.
You should only play a couple shoes at each joint before moving on to the next. You may be able to come back to the same casino at least once, but you shouldn’t become a regular.
The Biggest Little City is somewhat of a hidden gem for card counters. It offers excellent rules, decent stakes, and friendly staff members.
Of course, any casino can get nasty if they feel taken advantage of. You still need to be on your best skills and know where and how to count here.
Plenty of Reno casinos offer the combination of low heat and high stakes. That said, you can profit from card counting here if you have the right skills and knowledge.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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