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Casino Action in Aruba

I promised one of my friends that I would write a post about the casino action in Aruba. Here’s the thing: there aren’t really any large casinos in Aruba. Most are inside of the hotels in the High Rise and only a handful down in the Low Rise area of Oranjestad. Most of the casinos are small, and I mean SMALL. Spend 3 minutes in the place and you’ve seen just about everything. Some larger ones, like the Alhambra Casino, were comparatively larger and were their own freestanding establishment (not inside a hotel or resort). As is the case with many places these days, it’s all about the slots. There’s much more overhead involved with table games as a general rule, and Aruba is no exception.

For the table games, I’ll give a brief overview of what I’d seen in terms of general play and anything that deviates from the norm (and by norm, I mean things seen in Atlantic City or in Las Vegas).

These tables really only heat up in the evenings, otherwise its pretty dead. They adhere to standard house rules with odds at 2x or 3x. There was one place that had 5x odds, but it is very much the exception to the rule. The one thing that stood out are the call/prop bets. Usually you can do a random amount like “$1 3-4 hopping”, but your call bet must be the minimum amount at the table in all the casinos I visited while I was there. Think about that one — that 7 for 1 bet to piss off the pass player can potentially be pricey!

I am most knowledgeable about this game, so I have a lot to say on this. The minimums are pretty nice, as low as $3 in lots of places, but generally $5 (highest min I saw was $50). Payouts on blackjack vary by casino: there were some double-deck games with 6 to 5 payouts. I also saw some 3 to 2 payouts on blackjack with a standard shoe, and of course the 2 to 1 payout. Shuffling styles are important – beware the autoshuffler! I caught it in a couple of spots. I have to say though, it was refreshing to see REAL shuffling by a dealer (not done by a machine). It’d been a long time!

Backlining IS permitted with permission of the player (some casinos in the States don’t allow you to place a bet behind a player already seated at the table). Forget about surrender — that option is going straight out the window for most casinos; it’s not offered anywhere on the island. One weird thing is at one casino, they allowed players to use roulette chips to bet at the table. I did a double take when a dude with orange chips placed his “$15” bet in the spot. Apparently it was allowed, but I have no idea how they keep track of that. Also, keep in mind they generally don’t have $2.50 pink chips, so what they do is give you a $1 and keep it on the line, holding it until the next hand. If you win, you get the $1; if not, the $1 goes back to the house.

And no surprise, players generally suck. A chick at one blackjack table I played at sat on a soft 16 (A-5) with a 5 showing. I gave her quite possibly the dirtiest look EVER.

Some games you will NOT see:
– Pai Gow (I didn’t come across it)
– The big wheel (even tourists know its a rip)

Other games you WILL see but I just don’t play:
– Caribbean Stud
– Three Card Poker
– Roulette
– Let it Ride (but its not THAT popular)

There are some select casinos that have decent poker rooms going. They do have tournaments from time to time apparently, mostly no limit. The sit n go tables that I came across were low stakes or no limit as well. I’m not a big live poker player, so I won’t even presume to explain some of their setups.

Sports Book:
It’s rare, but they do have it.

There’s TONS of penny slots (my mom just loved that one), many of which are multidenominational games. The high limit slots sections are VERY VERY small. Most games you’ll come across are the matching games or poker. I came across one place that still uses actual coins in their machines for their payout (not a ticket!). It was rather shocking.

One more thing:
Even though it’s Aruba, you don’t have to worry about using in Aruban Florins (the local currency) — casinos there run on US Dollars, so there are no worries for the Americans coming down to play! And if you’re looking for some action, a crowd perhaps, go after 6pm. Most casinos are open from 10am until 4am, with some minor exceptions.


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