New meaning for going bust

Card players who have kept abreast of the latest developments in blackjack know that, sometimes, it's a good thing to go bust at the table.

Yes, "busting" still means you've gone over the magic number of 21. But it also could mean you're getting a lot of cleavage along with your cards

A few years ago, some casinos took a few blackjack tables and added scantily clad women, rock music and a theme to create "party pits." It's the exact opposite of the traditional table game environment, in which blackjack dealers and players concentrated on the cards and their odds.

Bareback blackjack, anyone? That's what it's called at Texas Station, where sexy dealers deal and sexy dancers entertain. The tagline is titillating but that's the point: "It's a wild ride."

"There are people who like the traditional table games environments," says Kevin Kelley, chief operating officer for Station Casinos.

And then there is a segment of the market that wants a more "invigorating blackjack experience," he adds. "At most of our properties, we have a pit that serves that purpose."

The company tried something similar at Texas Station in the late 1990s, Kelley says, but it didn't stick with players. Last year, managers were brainstorming new ideas and the party pit was revived.

"It really took off, they were very successful," Kelley says.

Nearly every Station property came up with one: Green Valley Ranch has the Drop Pit next to Drop Bar; the Lucky Pit is next to Lucky Bar at Red Rock Resort; Sunset Station has Wicked 21, with "sultry dealers"; Santa Fe, Boulder Station and Palace Station all have themed party pits, too.

It's so popular that the company expanded it to Bareback Roulette.

"It's an easy game to play," Kelley says. "There's not a lot of intimidation to playing roulette. People might consider it a more approachable environment."

That's part of the reasoning behind party pits, says Brian Shultz , vice president of marketing for Boyd Gaming. None of Boyd's casinos use party pits, but he became familiar with the concept when he worked at Harrah's.

The idea is that the party atmosphere is more relaxed and helps to attract people who might otherwise feel intimidated by the thought of doing some "serious" gambling, Shultz says.

Does it work? It might attract the casual gambler who is walking by the party pit, Shultz says. In his experience, they don't turn slot players into table players and may not be worth the casino's investment.

Kelley says they do work.

Feedback on travel Websites such as is positive. One man posted that, even though he and his wife weren't big gamblers, they spent six hours at a blackjack table in the Imperial Palace, where "Dealertainers" gave them a show as they dealt their cards.

Imperial Palace was among the first casinos to turn the themed blackjack tables into an ongoing attraction when it added Dealertainers in 2003. Instead of using scantily clad women, dealers impersonate celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe, Britney Spears and Elvis Presley.

In 2007, Caesars Palace took the concept to a new level with the Pussycat Dolls casino, where go-go dancers danced in cages and a sound system blasted raucous music.

Since then, the concept has spread along the Strip, at locals casinos and downtown, too.

On Fremont Street, Golden Gate's casino features go-go dancer dealers, while the Plaza and Las Vegas Club promote their Fetish Pits.

The Plaza promises that the women in the casino's Fetish Pit will keep the energy at a high level, while the Fetish Pit at downtown's Vegas Club features women dealers dressed as naughty nurses and other characters.

The Plaza also has the Firefly Pit that promises a spicy twist to blackjack. It's near the casino's Firefly restaurant.

Hard Rock Hotel got in on the game with the Hell's Belles. The Excalibur Party Pit features go-go dancers .

The party pits tend to appeal to a younger demographic, Shultz says, with the rock music and casual atmosphere.

Contact reporter Sonya Padgett at or 702-380-4564.