Vice Guide: Local Rules to Blackjack

Everything that makes South Florida the vice capital of the country -- the drugs, the sex, the gambling -- is amplified during the week of the Super Bowl. But nothing ruins the perfect party week like someone dying or going to jail. So this week, we'll be presenting The Juice Vice Guide to South Florida. We've done the arduous research, taken the dangerous journeys, and interviewed dozens of local experts to bring you the definitive handbook to depravity in the Sunshine State.

After the jump, some tips on how play Florida-style blackjack.

Local Rules for Blackjack

Chances are, if you've played blackjack outside of Florida, it was in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or on a boat somewhere. Well, in South Florida, the basic strategies and numbers are the same, but all the little things are different.

No dealer on duty:
Several local casinos now offer blackjack, some for as little as $5 a hand. Unless you're playing at the Seminole Hard Rock, though, you won't have a dealer. The gaming laws of Florida allow only electronic blackjack in any casino not run by the Seminole tribe. So if you want to play traditional blackjack with a living, breathing dealer, there's only one place. You'll have to join the Ed Hardy crowd at the Hard Rock in Hollywood.

You must pay: Assuming you've chosen to play with a dealer, the first thing you'll learn is that you didn't bring enough cash. Most of the tables require at least $25 a bet. Many tables have $100 minimums. The cheapest table you can play will cost you $10 a hand. That's about $30 a minute. And most of the time, there's only one of those tables.

You must wait: Unless you're looking to wager hundreds of dollars every minute, you can expect to wait a long time. There is a constant mass of humanity huddled around the $10 tables, and opportunities to grab a stool are rare. Your best hope: Weasel in and apologize later.

No drinking: At least not for free. One of the best parts of playing most places is the nonstop delivery of free or heavily discounted drinks. The casino wants to get you wasted and get you betting badly. Here, the casino expects you to get yourself wasted before handing over your money.

Ask for hot chocolate:

This is one of the little-known secrets of South Florida blackjack. Alcohol is expensive. Even soda and water will cost you a few bucks. But of all the things to give away in the subtropics, hot chocolate is free.

You must not play "by the book": Yes, the odds say you should hit that 16 when the dealer shows 7. But if you do and you get the card that would have busted the dealer, be prepared for a shitstorm of South Floridian insults. And heaven forbid you're "playing third base" (sitting in the last position on the left). They'll follow you to your car.

You must play "by the book": Say you decide to stay when the odds said you should hit and everyone loses as a result. Drunk bystanders will mock you. Old women will curse you. Some people will actually ask you to leave the table. Like any absurd vice wonderland, sometimes you're damned if you do, damned if you don't.

You must tolerate religious fanatics:
At every crowded table, there will be at least one crazy asshole who believes every loss is the work of the Devil and every win is a reward from Jesus. Nothing takes away from the rush of a well-executed double down like some nut chalking it all up to his drunken delusions. But if you retort with anything that might offend him, you're both getting kicked out. So be tolerant, and go in peace.

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Michael J. Mooney