Most inexperienced players read tons of books on blackjack rules and strategies to prep up for their first casino visit but grow awfully nervous the very moment they approach a live blackjack table. In addition to the basic playing decisions like sitting, standing, doubling and splitting, the game is governed by a set of elaborate etiquette rules and rituals most books fail to explain in detail.
And indeed, the weird hand gestures, the ritual of shuffling and cutting the decks, buying in and coloring up your chips can all be very intimidating to those new to the game. Some rookies are so frightened that they altogether give up on the idea of playing blackjack and decide to stick to slots or video poker.
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There is always the option to play blackjack online. Not only is this alternative more convenient but the live-dealer tables available at most online casinos do an excellent job at bringing you closer to the actual casino environment.
Yet, there is something about playing blackjack in a landbased casino that is impossible to replicate online. To enjoy yourself to the fullest, however, you must follow proper etiquette at the table. This makes the entire experience pleasanter for everyone involved and spares you the hassles of having to deal with angry casino personnel.
Pit bosses and blackjack dealers are usually understanding toward rookie players but if you continue to make the same etiquette mistakes again and again, slowing down the game and annoying other patrons, you most likely will attract some unwelcome attention from the pit. You can prevent this by reading the following article where we discuss what you should and what you should not do while at the blackjack table.
Buying in at the Blackjack Table
The first thing you should do when you approach a blackjack table is ensure there are available betting spots. Some blackjack players like to spread their action to multiple hands so even if there are vacant seats at the table, there may be no betting circles for you to place your chips in.
The second thing you should look for is a small plaque that reads “No mid-entry allowed”, which is a rule that prohibits new players from joining a table in the middle of a shoe. The basic premise of the prohibition is that it prevents card counters from entering the game only on high positive counts when the house is at a disadvantage. If this rule is in force, you have to wait for the dealer to reach the cut card, reshuffle, and start a fresh shoe before you buy in.
You must wait for a natural pause in the action to purchase some chips, i.e. you cannot buy in while someone is in the middle of a hand. The proper way to do it is to lay your money in front of you at the table.
Never position the bills in a betting circle. Some establishments accept cash wagers so the dealer may misinterpret this and think you are making a bet. It is also inappropriate to hand the money to the dealer. They are not allowed to take cash from players for security reasons.
Blackjack Buy In Additional TipsWhen buying in, you must exchange enough money for chips so that you can play at least several rounds. If you are a red chipper betting $5 per round, you can buy in for a minimum of $40 or $50. The dealer will collect your bills off the felt, push them through a tiny slit into the money drop-box below the table, and give you your chips.
Be sure to acquaint yourself with the values of each chip color. The reds have a denomination of $5, the greens normally have a value of $25, and the black ones are valued at $100.
Player Comportment at the Blackjack Table
Blackjack players are expected to handle themselves in a civilized manner and be respectful to both their dealers and fellow patrons. Certain rules apply after you have taken a seat at a table and although no one is going to chastise you or throw you out for making mistakes, it would be best to altogether avoid misconduct.
After each shuffle, the dealer would place the decks into the shoe and ask one of the players to cut them with a plastic colored card. The dealer reshuffles again after they reach the plastic card so obviously, the cards that have been cut-off are not in play.
Players are recommended to insert the plastic card at least a deck or so from either end of the shoe. If you cut the cards too close toward the shoe’s end, the dealer will request you to cut again. This may not seem like a major transgression but is undesirable nevertheless, because it slows down the action.
Making a Bet
When making a bet, you should position your chips into the betting circle that corresponds to your spot at the table. If you handle stacks of chips for larger bets, it is important to have them neatly organized, especially if you are using several different denominations.
The general rule here is to place the highest-denomination chips at your stack’s bottom. If you violate this rule, the dealer will have to pause the game and rearrange your chips before the next round of play starts.
It is alright if you forget to stack your chips properly once or twice but just to warn you many seasoned players find these interruptions in the gameplay annoying and are not afraid to voice their discontent out loud. After the cards are dealt, you are not allowed to touch your chips or make any adjustments to your bet’s size.
Once everyone has acted on their hands, the dealer will remove the chips of the losers from the felt and settle the winners’ payouts. There are two courses of action if your hand is a winner. You can either collect the chips the dealer has paid you or let your winning bet ride by leaving your stack in the betting circle.
Handling the Cards in Different Blackjack Games
As we explained in the previous article on rules, most blackjack games utilize multiple decks and the cards are dealt face-up. Because of this, there is really no valid reason for players to remove their cards from the felt. In fact, they are not permitted to touch the cards at all in shoe games.
Things are a bit different when you join a hand-held game that uses one or two standard decks only. Here you have your cards dealt face-down and obviously need to handle them manually to see the value of your hand.
You pick up your cards using one hand only while keeping them over the table at all times. When you hit, the cards you receive from the dealer remain on the table instead of being added to the starting hand you hold. These etiquette rules are important because they help preserve the integrity of the game and prevent any attempts at cheating through card substitution.
Signaling Your Playing Decisions
This is easily one of the most important etiquette rules a blackjack player must adhere to. You should use the correct hand gesture to indicate how you want to act on your hand for the benefit of the surveillance staff who oversee the game via the cameras attached above the table.
To prevent mistakes, you can also accompany the gesture with a verbal announcement of your playing decision. We covered the signals for all playing decisions you can make in blackjack so make sure you go back in the guide and read the article on rules, if you have not done it already.
Provided that you forget the signal for a given play, there is no shame in asking the dealer. After all, they are not there to simply deal the cards and settle bets. Assisting new players in learning the basic rules of the game is also part of their job.
If you are new to blackjack but want to improve your chances of success, you may take a basic-strategy chart with you at a table and consult it during play. In most gambling establishments, players are permitted to use strategy charts at the tables and are sometimes even offered one by the dealer. Purchasing one at the casino’s gift shop is often an alternative.
These strategy charts are very handy because they contain all the correct moves against all possible dealer upcards. Just make sure you do not slow down the game when consulting your chart.
Interacting with Fellow Players
The ability to interact with fellow players is one of the main reasons why some fans of 21 prefer to frequent landbased casinos instead of taking their blackjack action to the web. Keeping a friendly chit-chat with fellow players is perfectly alright, but you must not persist when at a quieter blackjack table. If other patrons appear reluctant to engage in conversion, you should just let them be.
Sometimes a fellow player who is new to the game may struggle with a playing decision. Give them a hint if they ask for assistance (and you know the correct move) but never offer unsolicited advice. You should abstain from criticizing the play of others even if their decisions seem absolutely ludicrous to you. It is their money they are spending, so they have every right to play out their hands the way they want to.
It goes without saying lashing out on other patrons for their bad playing decisions is out of the question. Every now and then, you will find yourself in the company of bad players who lack a fundamental understanding of the game. It is common for such people to make poor plays like not doubling on a total of 11 against the dealer’s 6 or splitting a pair of Queens.
Do your best to try and keep your cool without commenting on their play even when it seems to you the person is “taking” the cards you need to improve your hand. In blackjack, the decisions of other players have absolutely no impact on your chances of winning. Poor plays are just as likely to help you as they are likely to harm you.
Interacting with Your Dealer
Our previous piece of advice also rings true where dealer interaction is concerned. Some blackjack dealers are more extroverted and would welcome a friendly conversation with the patrons while others prefer to just deal their cards and be left alone. Either way, you should respect their decision when they want to keep their distance and decline joining the conversation.
It is absolutely prohibited to be disrespectful, make sexual advances or verbally abuse the dealer when the cards seem to be against you. Just like all other players, a dealer cannot influence the outcome of the round in any way. They are simply paid to operate the tables and follow the casino’s fixed rules so refrain from insulting them at all costs.
When it comes to tipping casino personnel, there is no written rule anywhere to state you must tip your dealers. However, it is considered a good form to give tips every once in a while, especially if you are running good and winning a lot.
It is no secret that dealers are generally paid minimal wages so a considerable portion of their income comes from tips. Also, tipping may not be obligatory but it helps create a more amicable atmosphere at the table.
There are a couple of ways to go about this. One of your options is to slide a chip across the felt toward your dealer and verbally indicate it is for them. The alternative is to make a bet on behalf of the dealer by placing some extra chips in front of your own stack. If you win the round, the dealer gets to keep the money as a tip.
Betting Behind Fellow Players
The blackjack tables in larger landbased casinos tend to get crowded on occasions, particularly over the weekends and during festivities like New Year’s Eve. But do not worry, you will not be forced to stand at the side of the table and wait for a fellow player to vacate a seat. Most casinos would allow you to bet behind (also known as “back betting”) when their blackjack tables are overcrowded. In other words, you are allowed to bet on the hand of a seated player.
Let us explain in brief how this works. Each active betting circle can support up to three stacks of chips as long as the overall value of the bets does not exceed the maximum table limit. For example, if the table limit is $500 and the seated player has placed a $300 bet, those who bet behind will not be able to wager more than $200 between themselves.
The stack of the seated player is positioned at the front of the betting circle. It is common courtesy to ask the seated player for permission before you bet behind them. Back-bettors have no power where hitting or standing is concerned.
However, if the seated player decides to split a pair or double down, the back-bettors have several options to choose from. With double downs, they can either invest more chips to cover the additional bet or take their initial wager down.
Betting Behind Fellow Players Additional TipsWhen the seated player splits a pair, the person playing behind them can choose to mimic their decision by posting an additional bet. The other option is for them to play only one of the split hands without covering the other hand with extra money. The same goes for surrendering which the back-bettor may choose to execute or not regardless of the seated player’s decision. If the seated player surrenders, you can continue playing the hand as you normally would.
The bottom line is table etiquette requires you to ask for permission when betting behind fellow players. Most people would readily agree to oblige you although some players are reluctant to let others bet behind them because they do not want to feel responsible for their losses should they fail to win the hand. Winning or losing, you should never berate seated players for their decisions when betting behind them.
Quitting a Table
You can quit playing whenever you want unless the table is hot, in which case you are advised to wait a while and cash out after the dealer reaches the cut card and reshuffles. While there is no rule to expressly prohibit you from leaving the table whenever you deem fit, some of your fellow players may be annoyed if you do not wait for the reshuffle. Some gamblers are superstitious enough to believe this would jinx them and break their good run.
The procedure of cashing out is not the same as that of buying chips, though. You cannot cash out directly at the table because blackjack dealers are not permitted to exchange chips for money. You must collect your chips and visit the cashier’s cage instead.
Small bettors are likely to end up with lots of small-denomination chips. In such cases, players should color up, i.e. exchange their small-denomination chips for chips of higher values. You do this by pushing your chips toward the middle of the felt and verbally announcing you want to color up between rounds.
The dealer would then count your chips and exchange them for a smaller stack of the same value. Coloring up makes it easier for you to carry your chips to another table or to the cashier. It also prevents the dealer from running out of small-denomination chips and having to refill their rack.