• Big metropolitan city with a big population (1.3M)
  • Good public transport – buses are plentiful, but you need a car to venture out of the city.
  • Ferries are available to visit the various smaller islands around Auckland
  • Sites of interest include Auckland Museum, Mount Eden, One Tree Hill, Viaduct Harbor, Auckland Harbour Bridge, Sky Tower, SkyCity Casino
  • Has too many Turkish Kebab places – I wonder why.
  • Has tens of Indian restaurants
  • 4 our of 5 taxi drivers are Indian
  • Parnell Village appears on almost all “Auckland must visit” lists – don’t be fooled. It’s a silly street with a few restaurants, art galleries and boutique shops. There’s nothing to see or do here, skip it.
  • Everything is generally expensive in New Zealand, not crazy expensive, but on the high side. For example, simple lunch will run into US $15-$20, simple lodge rooms were US $150-$200. But the quality of food is good. We had Indian food in Queenstown, and it was surprisingly good. I had lamb, burgers, pastas – and it was all pretty good quality.

Blackjack in New Zealand

Every place has its quirks when it comes to playing blackjack in a casino. In the US for example, only some casinos allow you to surrender your hand. Other variances include continuous shuffling, 2 decks, 7 decks, etc. Also, the payouts vary: 3 to 2 Vs 6 to 5 (3 to 2 means that you will win 30 dollars on a 20 dollar bet if you are dealt 21. 6 to 5 means you would only win 24 dollars on a 20 dollar bet).

NZ casinos had their own quirks (I gambled in Auckland and Queenstown). One glaring difference was this: In US casinos, the dealer always deals herself 2 cards (one face up, one face down) and checks the face-down card (using a mirror), before players call their action (hit, stand, split, double, surrender). If the dealer has a blackjack, action stops right there and players only lose their initial bets. In NZ casinos, the dealer initially deals herself one card only (face up) and deals 2 cards to all players. Then the entire table acts. Only then does the dealer deal herself the second card. This is horrible because in the US casinos, if the dealer deals herself a blackjack, she immediately flips the face-down card, action stops and players only lose their initial money. In the NZ casinos, with only 1 card dealt, there were situations where a player dealt 74 or 83 doubled down on the eleven (with dealer showing a 10) only for the dealer to then deal herself an ace to make 21. The player thus loses twice the money (unless of course, if the player also hit 21, in which case it would be a push)

There were other things in New Zealand casinos that were downright weird (but things that tilt the odds in the favor of the casino):

  1. You cannot double down if one of your cards is an Ace. That is an odd rule, which again works in favor of the casino. If the dealer is showing a 5 or 6, and you have A2, A3, A4, A5, A6 – it’s a no-brainer for you to double-down. And you will win more often than not. But according to NZ casino rules, you cannot double down because one of your cards is an Ace.
  2. You can bet on someone else’s cards and actions: This one is downright weird. Imagine a full table (no open seats) and a couple people waiting for seats to open up. The people waiting observe that you are playing well and are catching cards. If they want, they can bet on your cards and your actions. They have no say in the decisions (hit T3 with the dealer showing a 5? Split 99, with the dealer showing a 6?) and they win or lose based on your cards and your actions. If you have 83 and the dealer has a 6 and you refuse to double down, they have no say whatsoever. This works in favor of the casino because the casino is effectively increasing the number of people who can play at one table. What’s weird is that players seated at the table can also bet on your cards and your action (in addition to their own cards and their own action). There were several times, when one player who was catching cards had 4 different bets riding on his cards and actions (1 his own, 1 from another player, and 2 from people who were waiting for seats). And these bets can be whatever amount is allowed at the table. It was really confusing. One time, the player to my right bet on my cards and action. When the dealer busted, he wasn’t sure if it was his money or someone else’s. Crazy.

  3. Auckland

    Pictures taken with a Canon T3I with 18-55 and 55-250 kit lenses

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