Here are some blackjack etiquette tips to keep in mind next time you visit the casino.
If you’ve been a casino blackjack player for a while, this might be old hat for you. But a lot of newcomers don”t know how they’re expected to behave at the blackjack table.
In fact, some younger people don’t know how to behave in the casino at all.
But good etiquette and manners are important. My goal is for you to be gracious, graceful, and polished the next time you visit the casino. You never know who you might meet in that situation or how they might be able to help you in the future.
Making a good impression on strangers, even ones you meet while playing blackjack at the casino, can pay unexpected dividends for the rest of your life.
You’ll also have a smoother, more enjoyable session at the casino if you don’t violate any of these unwritten rules of good manners at the blackjack table.
Here are the 7 blackjack etiquette tips:
1- Don’t hold up the game. Ever.
Anything you do that slows down the game is rude. People are there to play, not watch you struggle with whether you want to hit or stand.
Here are some things you can do that will help you avoid holding up the game:
Learn the rules beforehand. If you’re new to the game, that’s fine. Try to attend one of the free classes held in the casinos. Practice some of the free and/or real money games online. Look for a table where there are no other players. All of these things can help you learn the rules so you don’t have to hold up the game for other players.
Learn basic strategy beforehand, too. If you haven’t memorized basic strategy, at least have a basic strategy card or chart with you that you can refer to. Players who pester the dealer or other players for playing advice are holding up the game. It’s unnecessary, too, because the mathematically correct play in every blackjack situation is readily available.
2- It’s okay to just watch, but…
I’m not a fan of being a spectator in any gambling activity. I think gambling, including blackjack, is a participatory activity. But there are no rules, written or unwritten, spoken or unspoken, that require you to NOT be a spectator.
But there are some rules about HOW to be a spectator at a blackjack table.
One of the most important of these is to not take a seat at the table if someone else wants to play there. The casino staff are going to frown on this, and rightfully so. They’re in business to make money. If you’re just sitting at the table watching, you’re preventing another player from sitting at the table and playing.
The other big rule about spectating is to avoid giving advice or commenting on the players’ decisions. It’s bad enough when someone who’s playing at the table says something about how you’re playing your hand. But if you’re just watching, how dare you say anything about how I play my hand.
If you knew anything, you’d have a bankroll yourself, and you’d be playing at the table.
Asking lots of questions while just being a spectator is also obnoxious.
3- Tip the blackjack dealer.
Yes, tipping is optional. In fact, if the blackjack dealer is rude to you, feel free not to tip. (Even better, get up and leave the table and find a polite blackjack dealer to play with.)
Also, no one expects you to tip when you’re losing. But everyone wins the occasional hand of blackjack, so you should be giving the dealer an occasional tip, too.
How often you tip the dealer per hour is up to you. The amount that you tip is also your decision. But here are some guidelines:
If you’re an advantage player, you want to avoid tipping so much that it wipes out your potential profits. Most card counters know in the long run what their hourly wage is. A moderately good counter with a reasonable bankroll probably makes $50/hour for her time at the table.
In that case, I suggest not tipping the dealer more than $10/hour.
If you’re not an advantage player, you don’t have to worry about wiping out your advantage over the casino by tipping too much. You still shouldn’t go overboard with the tipping.
If you’re betting $5 per hand, maybe twice an hour, place a bet on the dealer’s behalf as a tip. This usually involves putting the bet elsewhere on the surface of the table–maybe inside the betting circle if you want to maintain control over the separate bet.
If you’re betting $25 per hand, it would be appropriate to place a $5 bet for the dealer 4 or 5 times per hour.
You can, of course, just give the dealer cash.
But I think it’s more fun for you and the dealer if you place the occasional bet on his behalf.
4- Take it easy on the alcohol.
One of the perks of playing casino games for real money is that you get free cocktails. I’ve seen some writers suggest that you shouldn’t drink at the blackjack table at all. I think that’s silly.
As long as you’re not an alcoholic and you know how to drink moderately, you can and should enjoy the free cocktails that are available at the casino. In fact, order the more expensive drinks, since it’s on the house. Trust me, you’re paying for it with your losses at the tables.
But don’t drink at the table if you’re clumsy. You know who you are. If you spill a drink at the blackjack table, guess what happens?
You’re holding up the game for everyone.
Accidents happen, sure, but you know if you’re clumsy and inattentive. You also know if you’re careful and graceful.
Don’t kill yourself if you happen to spill a drink. But if it’s happened more than once, do everyone a favor and save your drinking for some time and place other than the blackjack table.
Also, if you don’t hold your liquor well, you’re going to behave badly when you’re drunk. That’s just what people do. You might not even be an alcoholic, just an obnoxious drunk.
Try to be self aware enough to address the problem before it happens.
5- Chill out with the conversation, bro.
One of the perks of playing blackjack is that it’s a social game. You’re there to relax and enjoy gambling in the company of other people. It’s not like playing slot machines, which is a game meant for introverts who don’t want to interact with other gamblers.
But that doesn’t mean you need to talk everyone’s ear off at the table, either. The other players don’t need to hear you hooting and hollering as you root for them, either. If that’s how you want to behave, you’ll probably be better off at the craps table.
I was at a small local casino with a buddy of mine once. He’d had a lot to drink, and he was having a good time. He was doing almost everything I’ve said not to do on this list:
- He was drunk and obnoxious.
- He was cheering on the other players, loudly.
- He was only spectating.
I knew the cocktail waitress, there, and she took me aside. She told me, “Look Jim, we like your buddy Ryan and all that, but please tell him that these guys take their blackjack pretty seriously.”
I told him as diplomatically as I could, and he very seriously told me, “I’m sorry, Jim. I’ve embarrassed you again.”
We’ve been laughing about that anecdote at his expense now for years. Any time Ryan does something silly, we get a hangdog look and say, “I’m sorry, Jim. I’ve embarrassed you again.”
Quiet, normal conversation is fine.
Just keep it subdued.
And for God’s sake, if someone doesn’t seem like she wants to talk, leave her alone. Not everyone is interested in chit chat at the blackjack table.
In fact, you might be playing with a newbie card counter. Your insistence on conversation might be interfering with his ability to keep up with the count.
6- Don’t beg other people for strategy advice.
This is similar to some of the other advice in this post. Begging the other players for strategy advice on every hand holds up the game. It’s also obnoxious. And most players don’t want to give you strategy advice because they don’t want to be blamed when you lose.
You definitely shouldn’t be asking the dealer for strategy advice, either. This isn’t just good manners; it’s good sense. Sure, some blackjack dealers know the game well. They might give you good strategy advice.
But not every blackjack dealer is an expert in blackjack strategy.
I used to employ a former blackjack dealer as my house cleaner. She was a nice lady, but you could tell she knew nothing about basic strategy or even fundamental probabilities. I’d be horrified to find anyone getting advice about how to play their blackjack hands from this woman.
Get a blackjack strategy card. Better yet, memorize the basic strategy for the game. It’s really not that hard.
Also, don’t tell other people how to play their hands. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking that some other player’s mistake somehow hurt the entire table. That’s a myth that’s been dispelled repeatedly.
If you try to make someone feel bad for how she played her blackjack hand, you’re not just foolish. You’re also a boor.
And the whole point of blackjack etiquette is to avoid looking like (or being) a boor.
7- Learn how to handle (or not handle) the cards.
You’ll find 2 different kinds of blackjack game being dealt at casinos:
- Handheld games
- Shoe games
A handheld blackjack game is one where the dealer has a single deck and holds the deck in his hand while he’s dealing. In such a game, the cards are dealt face down. You’ll be allowed to touch the cards in a handheld game.
When you make your decisions in a blackjack game, it’s polite to demonstrate these decisions to the dealer using hand signals. You can just say what you want to do, too, but the casinos prefer that you use the hand signals. That way they have a record of your choices if there’s a dispute.
That’s right, they’re filming you from above. That’s what the eye in the sky is.
If you want to take a hit in a handheld game, gently scrape the cards on the table. If you want to stand, just place your cards beneath your chips.
If you want to double down or split, you turn your cards over, first. Then place your 2nd bet and announce to the dealer what you’re doing.
No matter what you do, don’t damage or mark the cards in any way.
The other kind of game, which is more common now, uses multiple decks that are kept in a “shoe”. (It’s just a device that holds several decks of card at once.)
In a shoe game, the dealer gives you your cards face up. You are NOT allowed to touch your cards in a shoe game.
To hit a hand in a shoe game, point at your cards or tap your index finger on the table. To stand, wave your hand, palm-down, over your cards. To double down or split, you place a 2nd bet next to your original bet. Then announce what you’re doing.
These are the most important etiquette rules at the table, by the way. They’re the rules that keep the game running smoothly, and if you ignore these standards of behavior, the casino staff WILL correct you.
These 7 blackjack etiquette tips cover most of what you need to know to get along with other people at the table. And when I say other people at the table, I include both customers and employees of the casino. You don’t need ANYONE pissed off at you in the casino.
I know some of this blackjack etiquette advice might sound trite or unnecessary, especially if you’re an old hand at the game. But every now and then an etiquette review is helpful for people who’ve forgotten how to behave.
I’m a firm believer in good manners in every situation. Some people might think that all they need is to be kind and say please and thank you.
That’s a good start, but specific situations call for specific rules of etiquette. Blackjack is no exception.
I’ve met clients and friends in the casino setting. You might, too.
There’s no downside to making a good impression on the people around you. It’s all upside. Feel free to bookmark this page and skim it before your next casino visit.