Blackjack is one of the most exciting and engaging table games, especially if you prefer to play in a brick-and-mortar casino. Of course, you have to practice frequently, hone your strategy and choose carefully where you play.
If you are a seasoned player, then you know blackjack is largely a game of strategy and boasts one of the lowest house edges. But those good odds will only work in your favor if you know the nitty-gritty of the game and how to beat it.
That being said, if it’s your first time sitting at a blackjack table, you’d be forgiven for being a bit confused about the game, and how it works. Even if you’re a veteran player, it never hurts to brush up your tactics and knowledge of the game. That’s why we put together this article together to help get a handle on casino blackjack etiquette.
When you’re playing blackjack in a casino, the rules of etiquette are mostly about sticking to the rules of the game, standard blackjack protocols, and common sense conventions. Nonetheless, here’s a handy list of dos and don’t when you’re playing blackjack in your favorite casino.
Don’t hold your cards with both hands
You should heed this as a general rule of thumb for any card game, ranging from draw-card poker to blackjack. In most blackjack variants, particularly where the cards are dealt face down and pitched to you, it is crucial that you pick and hold the card with a single hand, not with two hands.
This rule of etiquette applies to both single-deck and multi-deck blackjack games. It is often enforced by casinos to keep you from cheating, switching or tampering with your cards. This rule may also work in your favor.
Don’t hand your money directly to the dealer
This may not sound intuitive, but you will soon realize that it mays sense not to hand your money directly to the dealer. In a physical casino, the overhead and surrounding security cameras must have a clear view of all cash transactions happening at the blackjack table (or any other table, for that matter).
Instead of handing them cash, you should lay it on the table’s surface close to the chips. The dealer will pan out the money so that the cameras can capture the transaction, give an official count, and eventually give you chips equivalent to your cash.
If you have run out of chips and there is a game in progress, it’s recommended that you don’t try to buy more in the middle of the hand. Instead, wait until the ongoing hand is finished before you lay your money on the table in front of the dealer.
Do make a point of learning the rules of playing blackjack before you sit at the table
From the surface, blackjack looks and feels like a very simple game. Indeed it is, but you’ll realize that it is a bit complex the more you dig in. In other words, there’s more to playing blackjack than trying to get your hand as close to 21 as possible or making the dealer’s hand burst.
Every seasoned blackjack player knows that there are many decisions to make beyond saying “hit” or stand. Here are some potential decisions that you have to make, and the rules that apply to each:
Hit: Hitting is a fundamental move that you will come across frequently while playing blackjack. It simply indicates to the dealer that you want another, which essentially increases your hand’s total.
Stand: Standing is a decision that goes hand in hand with hitting. It simply means that you are satisfied with your current hand, and you don’t want the deal to give you another card. At this point, the deal will move to the next player or hit his hand if you’re in the last position.
Double Down: Doubling down is a blackjack lingo that refers to when you double your bet size while taking one more card at the same time. Note, however, that you won’t be permitted to hit or request another card after you double down.
Splitting: In blackjack, you are permitted to split when you have two cards of the same rank in your hand. This action allows you to split them into two separate hands. The beauty of it is that you can play the two hands as if they are independent and separate, which means both or one hand can win/lose.
Surrender: If you are an avid poker player, surrendering is much akin to folding. When you surrender, you give up 50% of your bet and retain the other hand. However, you cannot claim any winnings later in the round.
Do get to know card values before sitting down
This is another aspect of the game that you need to understand right off the bat. The last thing you want to do is ask in the middle of your hand what the value of an ace is. In saying that, all cards from the blackjack deck are worth their rank, with the exception of face cards and aces.
For example, a two of spades is worth 2 points, while all jacks, queens, and kings are worth 10 points each. An ace counts as either 11 or 1, depending on which value works best in the favor of your hand.
Remember the best possible hand is one whose total is 21. However, if you have a two-card hand whose value is equivalent to 21, then you have a blackjack that pays 3:2 in most casinos.
Don’t remove any blackjack cards from the table
You shouldn’t … rub that … never take the cards away from the blackjack table. Casinos are very vigilant, making sure that every activity at the table is in full view of the overhead cameras. If you hold or remove the cards from the table, you risk getting ousted and banned from the casino.
Don’t hold, remove or otherwise touch wagered chips when cards are being dealt
Once you have placed your chips and made your bet, the deal will start dealing the cards. At this point, you shouldn’t touch or remove chips that you have a bet. This remains the case until you either tie, win or lose the hand. If you win or tie, you are then allowed to remove the chips and place the next bet.
Don’t handle cards if they are being dealt face-up
This is an important thing to keep in mind when playing blackjack with 4 or more decks of cards. If the dealer deals the cards face up, it makes no sense to hold, pick up or touch the cards. Let the dealer do their thing as you wait for the outcomes to be delivered.
It is okay to advise for advice from the dealer
The dealer is supposed to operate a blackjack game in a courteous, friendly and professional way. Believe it or not, blackjack dealers are not out to whisk off your money or beat you. In fact, most dealers are actually rooting for you, which is why they are more than willing to give you mathematically-informed advice.
As such, don’t be afraid to ask for advice or the next move if you are stuck or unsure. For instance, you can ask if it makes sense to split, stand or hit.
Don’t say your decision, signal it to the dealer
For the sake of the security cameras installed over the table, it is important that you signal your decision to the dealer instead of just saying it. For instance, you can say “stand” and signal the same to the dealer.
The good news is that you can ask to be shown appropriate signals before you sit at the blackjack table. As a general rule, come here gesture signals “hit”, while “stand” can be gestured with a wave over your cards. Similarly, place the needed number of chips beside the bet if you want to double down or split.
Don’t stack chips wrongly
Most players get multiple chips in a different denomination. For instance, you may request 25-dollar chips and 10-dollar chips. When placing your bets, it is important that you stack lower denomination chips on top, while higher value chips stay at the bottom of the stack.
If you stack them wrongly, the dealer will be forced to halt the game for a while to re-organize your stack. That’s a waste of everyone’s time and can seem very inappropriate and annoying to other players.
Don’t correct or otherwise show other players how to play
Blackjack is a game of strategy, which means your tactics can go a long way. However, how other players handle their hands doesn’t affect your outcome. So, don’t try to correct or advise other players on how to make their moves. This can be a huge spoiler of the mood and atmosphere of the table.
Once your turn is over, wait patiently until the dealer is done with the round and comes back to you. The exception to this rule is when the other player explicitly asks for your advice.
Do tip your dealer handsomely
Playing blackjack is all about having fun – after all, the house edge is already pretty low. It is worth noting, however, that dealers – like all employees in the service industry – are not paid well. In some casinos, the dealers receive a minimum wage, which means they depend chiefly on tips.
Contrary to common belief, dealers don’t get a commission or a cut of what you lose at the table. That’s why the vast majority would be happy to see the player wins. To that end, you shouldn’t be stingy with tips. If the lady luck is on your side, tip no less than $10.
Don’t sit at the last position if you are a newbie
If you are a rookie, you may want to take a middle seat, where you will get to see what is happening on either end. In any case, you should stay away from what’s called the “third base” at the table if you are a newbie. This is the player who plays right before it’s the dealer’s turn.
The third-base player always takes the heat for any mistakes. For instance, if you take a burst card away from the dealer, all other players will be enraged at you.
Do request the dealer to reserve your seat if you want to step away from the table for awhile
This happens more frequently when playing blackjack than you think. You may want to take a restroom break or grab something to eat. If you want your seat to be reserved, don’t hesitate to tell the dealer, who will mark your seat with an “occupied” plastic disk.
Don’t play at the blackjack table when you are intoxicated
You might think you look cool playing blackjack while drunk or intoxicated, but you will not only look foolish and probably lose a lot of money but also ruin the game for everyone. This is a big no-no.
Don’t bet in the middle of a shoe before checking
The majority of casinos don’t allow you to sit down and place your bets in the middle of a shoe. You might be required to wait out until the whole shoe or round is completed before you can get into action.
Make sure to check if the table has a sign that clearly says “no mid-shoe entry”. If this isn’t the case, you can proceed to sit down and start placing your bet.
Always assume the dealer’s hole card is a 10
Getting your hand bust is one of the worst outcomes you can get at a blackjack table. In order to be on the safe side, it is always prudent to assume the dealer’s hole card is a ten.
Don’t cheat when playing blackjack
It goes without saying that you should cheat or otherwise alter the conditions of the blackjack game. Note that counting cards is not the same as changing the conditions of the game. Changing the size of your bet after seeing your cards, however, amounts to cheating.