The Art of the Deal: 5 Common Las Vegas Card Games, Explained

Black Jack.  Pic courtesy of

Black Jack. Pic courtesy of

If you’re a novice gambler, getting in on a hot card table in Las Vegas might seem too risky to be fun. Here are the simplified rules of five common Las Vegas card games, so you can play with ease when you come to “Sin City.”

Texas Hold’em

Popular around the world but especially in American casinos, this game is named after its state of origin, Texas. It was invented early in the 1900s and has been popular in Las Vegas since the 1960s.

In play, the dealer gives each player two cards face down. Players use these two cards to judge whether they should bet to stay in the game or “fold” to exit the game. Then, the dealer deals three cards face-up in the middle of the table. These “community” cards can be used along with your two personal cards to make a poker hand. If you aren’t clear on what the winning hands in poker are, ask the casino or your hotel for a printed list. Another round of betting takes place, and then the dealer adds another card to the community cards. This repeats until the fourth betting round and the “showdown.”


Blackjack, also called “Twenty One,” is one of the simplest games to learn in Las Vegas, and novices often can find tables with low buy-ins to help get started.
When playing, you want the numbers of the cards dealt to you to add up to 21 points. Cards 2-9 are worth that many points, face cards are worth 10 points, and you can choose to value an ace as either one point or 11 points. The dealer will give you two cards, and then give himself two cards. Players can choose to receive “hits” of a new card until they feel they are as close as possible to 21 points. Then, they “stand” and wait to see how many points the dealer gets. The dealer will keep giving himself cards until he gets to at least 17 points or until he goes over 21 points (called a “bust”). Betting takes place at the beginning, to “buy in” to the game.

Pai Gow Poker

Pai Gow Poker, also called “Double-Hand Poker” is a poker game adapted from Chinese dominoes. The game is played with a 52-card poker deck, with one joker that can be used as an ace in a straight or flush.

Players group the seven cards dealt to them into two poker hands: one of five cards and one of two cards. As in blackjack, players of Pai Gow are comparing their cards against the dealer’s cards for a win, not each other’s cards.

Seven-Card Stud

Before Texas hold’em became popular, seven-card stud was the poker game everyone wanted to play. It is a more complicated game, but the basics are not difficult — especially if you have learned the poker hands necessary for Pai Gow and Texas hold’em.
First, all of the players make their “ante” bet. Then, the dealer gives the players two cards face down on the table and one card face up. The players bet based on the strength of the two “hole” cards plus the face-up card. The dealer gives everyone who hasn’t folded a face-up card and another round of betting ensues. This repeats for the fifth and sixth cards, until the seventh card is dealt face down. At each round of betting, players can decide to fold their hands if they so wish.


James Bond’s favourite game is seldom played outside casinos. Whereas seven-card stud, blackjack and Texas hold’em can be played by any group of friends who know the rules and have a pack of cards, baccarat has more complicated rules. It is also considered a high-roller game, so novices might want to try mini-Baccarat to get a taste of how the game is scored before moving up to the more expensive tables of full Baccarat.

Players bet on whether the card hand representing the banker will win, the card hand representing the players will win or whether it will be a tie; however, unlike other games, if you bet on the banker you’ll pay a five per cent commission to the house if you win.

Once bets are placed, the dealer deals the two hands. The hand closest to nine points will win. Aces are worth one point, face cards zero points and numbered cards are worth their respective number.

About the Author: Shreya Banerjee grew up dividing her time between New Delhi and Sydney. Now a travel agent and tour guide for Australians who visit India. An avid traveller herself, she planned her last trip by going on Expedia find hotels in Las Vegas.

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Posted by on May 17, 2013. Filed under SCI/TECH/HOME/TRAVEL. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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