Dear Mark: I love the El Cortez in Las Vegas that you lauded last week, except for one thing: They sure do sweat the money. It is probably one of the sweatiest shops in Las Vegas. Otherwise, as you said, you just cannot beat the low limits, limited deck sizes, and the rules. Tommy C. 


“Sweating the money,” Tommy, is a casino term that describes how some casino employees react when a gambler wins money from the house. When a pit boss is gawking a dealer who is dumping the tray, you’re witnessing it.


In reality, dealers have no control on whether or not a player wins any money. At the end of any shift, all blackjack table results are combined for an aggregate sum, which translates to a win/loss volume, with variances acknowledged for large bettors. To the suits upstairs, it just pencils out as either a good or a bad day. However, on the gaming floor, certain shift supervisors, floor managers, pit bosses, and yes, to some extent, dealers – they want you to win, that is, as long as they are being tipped – sweat the money.


The iconic El Cortez Hotel and Casino, the cornerstone of downtown Las Vegas, is the longest continuously running hotel and casino in Las Vegas. What you see is what you get: no gimmicks, no glitter. However, Tommy, as you noticed, if you use any spread at the El Cortez, they tend to back you off. You can probably get away with spreading bets between $10-$25, but if you go to $10-$50, a floor supervisor rubbernecking your game will probably make you flat bet that kind of action, or, worse yet, move you along. Unfortunately, in today’s gaming environment, you are not going to see many decent blackjack games at these smaller, “where the locals go” joints, but, at least, the El Cortez still delivers the best playing conditions in Vegas.


Nevertheless, the last thing some pit bull wants is for some counter varying their bets from one hand to the next, knowing full well whether the next hand will favor either the player or the house. Your average pit boss does not want these monetary opportunities in high-count situations, specifically with a decent wad of cash on the layout, changing a negative expectation game into a positive one, especially on their watch.


With the Cortez’s player-friendly rules, in their mind, backing you off the game, makes sense. They are there to protect the casino’s profits. They realize you are trying to beat the math of the game, but they disapprove because they rely on the same simple arithmetic to make money. And yet, they also know that few players play basic strategy perfectly, and even fewer can execute counting down a deck, beat the tar out of them, and ask for the keys to the front door.


It’s been my 40-year observation that these sharpened players are so few and far between that I decided early on in my career to NOT sweat the money for every Tom, Dick, or Harry sitting tableside. Believe me, when I say, I could count down a deck with the best of them; but I can also count on one hand how many players I chased off a game, and how very few times, we, the casino that is, got the crap kicked out of us.


The real deal here, Tommy, is that gamblers will go to any establishment where the dealers are friendly, the game has decent rules, the cocktails are flowing, and the casino doesn’t sweat the money, too much. On a whole, the non-counting player probably won’t draw much heat, so, in my humble opinion, the El Cortez fits that bill.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: Something to moan out between grinding your teeth during this political season: “Didn’t I warn you—Huh—Didn’t I tell you one of ’em was going to win? So now, what do we do?” –Jack Norris, aka Blackjack