Jupiter's is smaller than the Star Sydney. There are about 15 blackjack tables, though several of those are set aside for variants such as Jupiter's Blackjack (apologies, didn't bother to check the rules, but I think it is similar to Blackjack Challenge as played in Sydney). Table bets range from $20 (standard for Jupiter's Blackjack, but usually allocated to only one regular blackjack table), $30 (most tables), $50 (2 tables) and one $100 table. There's also a separate high roller area.
Rules: blackjack rules at Jupiter's are similar to those at Star Sydney. Six decks, blackjack pays 3-2, dealer stands on soft 17. Double allowed on 9-11. Only one split allowed. Player can double 9-11 after split. Only one card dealt to split Aces. Curiously, Jupiter's allows players to stand on any score, even 11 or less.
This being Australia, the dealer does not take a hole card. However, Jupiter's does play the OBO rule for doubles and splits, meaning that if you double or split and the dealer gets blackjack, you will lose only your original bets. This is different to Sydney. I confirmed it in general play but also had several dealers explain it to me in detail. Consequently, in terms of strategy, it is effectively the same as the American system.
Jupiter's offers Perfect Pairs, for those who are so inclined. A mixed pair pays 5-1. Coloured pairs (same colour, different suits) pay 10-1. Perfect Pairs (suited pairs) pay 30-1.
Loyalty programs for Jupiter's, Star Sydney and the Treasury have just been fully integrated across the three properties. Players earn 'tier points' for any expenditure (food, drink, accommodation or playing). Levels start at Bronze, then Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond. I'm at Silver, which gets 10% off food, drink and accommodation. You also earn "Casino dollars", which can be redeemed for food, drink, accommodation -- or chips. As you earn more tier points, you'll occasionally get "gifts" or bonuses: for example, I just received 50 casino dollars. Other benefits include free parking in Sydney, which is worth $20 per 6 hours (in minimum units of 6 hours). Parking at Jupiter's is free anyway. At Gold level, discounts increase to 20% and they throw in 5 nights of accommodation each year.
A bit about me. I'm semi-retired and took up blackjack about a year ago, partly because for the mental stimulation that I no longer get from work. I am basically a low-roller amateur. I don't expect to win in the long-run. Instead, my objective is to have as much fun as possible, at an overall cost that I can afford. I'm not sure how to calculate how many hands-per-hour I play on average, but I estimate 70. That may be low, but it's my habit to go for a 10-minute walk pretty much every hour. I probably play around 70 nights a year at the Star or Jupiter's, and typically 5 to 8 hours a time. Assume an average of 70 hands per hour, 6 hours per night, 70 nights a year, and I would be playing just on 30,000 hands a year. The idea is that playing standard strategy, that will hopefully be enough for the odds to kick-in and give me an average cost of around the house edge.
In addition to the casinos, I also play Vegas Star blackjack at my local club where I live. This uses a hole card. I will check number of decks (4, I think). Reshuffle before each hand. Early surrender, double first two cards (any total), one split only, no double after split, hit Ace after split. Side bets are Royal Match though I note that it pays 50-1 for a Royal Match and 2-1 for an "easy match". The Wizard's house edge and probabilities are based on 25-1 and 2.5-1, so I'm not sure how much difference 50-1 and 2-1 make.
Assuming I can keep my losses close to the house edge over a year, I calculate my average cost per hand at 16c to 20c at Jupiter's or Star Sydney. (I will ignore the Vegas Star machine for now, as I have only just started on it and don't have established patterns of betting there yet.) At 70 hands per hour, that's an average cost of $11.20 to $14 per hour, $67 to $84 per night, and $4,700 to $5,880 a year, offset by free and discounted booze and food, free parking in Sydney, and hopefully soon, some free hotel nights. I don't know how that all balances out, but if it is a net cost to me, then it's acceptable.
Back to Jupiter's. The staff are generally quite friendly and chatty, almost informal. Less stuffy than some in Sydney, anyway. As with all Australian casinos, there's no smoking inside (but there are smoking balconies). This is common law across all Australian states now. Also in common with other states (certainly with Sydney in New South Wales, anyway) is no free alcohol while playing. Free booze is considered an "inducement to gamble" and is banned. (Though as noted above, you can get free booze indirectly, through the loyalty program.)
A drinks cart circulates around the tables most evenings, but there's typically only one and it stops about midnight. On busy nights, it takes forever to make its way around. There are no table waitresses, as in Sydney. On the plus side, you can use your loyalty card at the cart to earn and redeem points. You can't do this in Sydney (unless it has changed in the last few weeks).
My biggest beef with Jupiter's is late night drinks. Once the cart stops, you have to go to the bar, and if it's busy, that can chew up 10 or 15 minutes. One night, I was at a table with three other players. We were taking it in turns to go to the bar and bring back a round of drinks. But at 2am, the bar imposed a "one drink per customer" rule, so you could no longer buy a round. It's completely stupid.
Finally, to the gambling. This is my second trip to Jupiter's. The first was earlier this year, when I had six nights there plus one at the Treasury (up the road in Brisbane). On that first trip, I took just $500 "play money", and came away with just on 5 grand (that is, $4500 profit). This time, I took $1000. I originally planned to stay just a week, but ended up staying three weeks for unrelated to the gambling. I won on 10 out of 18 actual playing nights, for a net "profit" of $4450. My biggest single loss was $600, biggest winning night $2200. However, experience shows I don't do nearly as well at the Star Sydney. I don't know why that should be. But what Jupiter's giveth, the Star nearly always taketh!
In regards to anecdotes, I have only a few worth recounting:
* I saw a guy play just four hands, betting $100 on the Perfect Pairs sidebet each hand. On the 4th hand, he got the Perfect Pair, winning 3 grand. He left the table a happy man. I ran into him a couple of hours later. He told me had cashed out his chips right away, but then went and stuffed the whole 3 grand into the poker machines, and lost the lot.
* I sat at third-base on a table with just one other player, a lady who was quite drunk. I've never seen anything quite so random in my life. On each deal, she was playing anywhere from 1 to 6 hands, with random bets on each hand (both for main bet and Perfect Pairs), and with random decisions during play. Those random decisions included sitting on soft 16 as a regular ploy, several hits on hard 17, and one time insisting on counting 9-A as 10 instead of 20 so that she could double (whereupon she got 16 and was beaten by the dealer's 19). It was truly bizarre. But the reason for recounting the story is that despite being on the end of all this random nonsense, my cards flowed well and it was one of my better nights!
* I saw a guy on a $50 table betting $2000 a hand plus $100-$200 on the pairs, and sometimes two hands at once. Nice, if you've got the money! After about a dozen hands, the CSM broke down. They repaired it once, but it broke again. So they got the old manual shoe out. Preparing that takes forever: they have to count out the cards for each deck, shuffle them etc, takes a good 20 minutes. All the while, Mr Big Time was there moaning. That was the only $50 table open, and the $30 tables are limited to $1000 max, so he didn't want to move. They finally got the shoe working, but on the first hand, the CSM came back to life. So again they switched. All in all, the poor guy was there about an hour but I don't reckon he played more than about 15 hands. He left soon after, not at all happy.
Do you specifically mean video poker, as opposed to video blackjack/roulette/baccarat? I didn't see any of those games at Jupiter's, but then again, I wasn't looking for them. Star Sydney definitely has video blackjack (similar to the one I described in my main report, from my local club), but I'm not sure about video poker. It's been a while since you were there, and they may have added it. I'll try to check next time I'm there, which should be this week.
Yes, I was specifically referring to VP. The last time I was in Australia (October 2011), I remember seeing video Sic Bo at Crown (Melbourne) and I think Star City as well; I thought it was strange that the Chuck-a-Luck bet paid 14-1 instead of 3-1 for a three of a kind. I think they both had video roulette (the kind with the virtual croupier) as well.
I doubt Star Sydney will have VP; I don't think the NSW government allows it, for some reason.
And speaking of Star and Crown, do the machines in Queensland show you the expected return, like they do (or at least did when I was there) in Melbourne, but not in Sydney?
A recent development at the Star is a sort of hybrid version of table and video roulette and baccarat. The players sit at machines: there are dozens of machines arranged in rows facing large overhead screens, just like in video roulette/baccarat. However, the actual play is generated by live croupiers using real roulette wheels (and real cards for baccarat). They're on a raised podium facing the players: one keeps two roulette wheels spinning, the other keeps two baccarat games humming along. Players place their bets and monitor the action on their machines. I'm not sure of the technology involved, but it's definitely real time. I wasn't watching baccarat, but the images in the roulette are computer-generated, not real, even though the wheel is real. Somehow, there's a computer that tracks the actual wheel and ball and figures it all out. The games are pretty fast as the croupier doesn't have to do anything except keep the wheels spinning. He doesn't have to manage the betting and payout process, as in real roulette. All of this is an area grandly signposted as The Stadium.
The Star also has a completely redesigned and expanded poker area (they are currently hosting the World Series of Poker, I believe), as well as a separate room with pokies, a small bar and cafe exclusively for silver members and above. Silver membership is not hard to achieve and it's quieter in there, though sadly there are no table games.
Also, in response to your other question: as far as I can see, the machines at the Star do not show you the expected return. By law in NSW, poker machines must return at least 85% to players, though I don't know on what basis this is calculated (whether it is per machine, per day, per club, whatever).