Most people would probably agree that Blackjack is one of the casino world’s definitive games – the sheer number of players the game has spoken volumes. This is especially true if you step into a real-world casino, due to the game’s social aspect. And because Blackjack is a game that rewards strategic playing and good math skills, veteran players have made a fortune playing the tables. But that fortune doesn’t come without a lot of hard work and practice; new players can’t expect to play and have things just work out. Playing Blackjack takes time, patience, and plenty else to master, so don’t expect to become a superstar card player overnight.
If you want to get good at Blackjack, you’re going to have to learn the rules and the fine points about playing. This applies to the many different kinds of strategies that you can employ to boost your odds. New players will benefit the most from this guide, but veteran players can also benefit from a good refresher on how everything works. This article will point you in the right direction regarding how to play, what to do, and what not to do, as Blackjack etiquette is just as important as a strategy in our opinion.
It can be embarrassing to commit a faux pas while playing, which is why we’re going to cover Blackjack etiquette in great detail here today. If you’re ready to look the part next time you’re at the Blackjack table, get ready to commit all of the following to memory.
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Don’t hold your cards using two hands
This one might seem a bit less obvious, but you should not do this under any circumstance. The biggest reason is that holding cards with both hands affords you increased dexterity, allowing you to manipulate your cards in a way that could be used to cheat. Casinos will sometimes kick people out for doing this.
Also, it makes you look like an amateur. Holding your deck with both hands is like holding a glass of water with both hands – you come off as unsure and inexperienced. If you start holding your cards with both hands at the Blackjack table you can expect one of two things to happen. You’ll either be called out for cheating, or be laughed at for look amateurish and silly.
Don’t hand any cash to the dealer directly
This is another rule that newer players would not think exists, but it makes sense when you put thought into it. You don’t want to directly give your money to the dealer because it is easy to conceal what’s actually going on. Casinos are extremely tight with security surrounding ALL cash transactions, and they don’t want anything being out of sight.
What you should do is put your cash on the table in plain sight. The dealer will tally up your money, hand you the corresponding amount of chips, and place the money in a designated place visible by cameras and security.
Oh, and if you run out of chips while laying, don’t interrupt the game to buy more. Wait until the game is over, then hand your money to the dealer. Failure to do so will earn you dirty glares from the other patrons. The last thing you want is to be the most disliked player at a Blackjack table, because as we’ve seen in the past, others players can make things pretty uncomfortable for anyone they deem to be a disruptive influence.
Make a point of learning blackjack’s rules before you start playing
This one should be extremely obvious to anybody playing Blackjack. It does you no good to rush into a game that you do not understand well and lose all your money. But with that said, there is a lot of depth and complexity to Blackjack that is not obvious at first. For starters, knowing when to hit and when to stand isn’t a straightforward question, since this depends on the type of Blackjack you are playing and the cards that were dealt on the previous turns. Knowing when to do each action means the difference between winning and losing a lot of the time.
To hit means to have the dealer give you another card. This is for when your total is low and you are trying to get as close to 21 as you can without going over. Standing is the opposite of hitting: this means that you don’t take a card. What happens then is the dealer will either move to the next player and ask them what they want to do, or they will hit if you are the last player at the table.
Players who are inclined towards risk will opt to double down. This means that you hit as well as double your bet size. This comes with a special restriction: you can’t hit again after you double down. Make sure this is what you want to do before you do it!
Splitting is another possibility. This is done when you have two cards of the same rank. As the name suggests, you split your hand in two along that line, effectively giving you two simultaneous hands that are distinct from each other. Sometimes what happens is that you win with one hand but lose with the other.
If your hand is looking really bad (or the dealer is looking good), then you can surrender. This is similar to folding in poker, and you give up half of your bet while keeping your other hand. You’re also not able to win anything later in the same round.
The idea of walking up to a Blackjack table and betting money when not actually knowing the rules might seem alien to most, but it does happen – a lot actually. Time and time again we’ve seen people in a casino put cash down thinking “they know Blackjack” only to have the dealer rip it away from them seconds later because they don’t know what they are doing. Betting is serious business, there is money to be won, after all, so make sure you know the rules of Blackjack BEFORE you start playing.
Do understand the card values and their importance
This is something that follows on from the last point we made but does deserve to be addressed in a little more detail, largely as many sloppy players still fall foul. If you’re new to card games, you may not realize that the face value of cards isn’t fixed from one game type to the next. Don’t be the person who has to ask what an Ace is worth, because you will expose yourself as a sucker. In Blackjack, suited cards are worth 10, an Ace is worth either 11 or 1, and all other cards are worth their face value.
The flexibility of Ace’s value makes it very useful since it takes on whatever value is more advantageous to you. The kind of suited cards you have usually don’t matter, but some game variants will pay out more if you have multiple suits of the same kind in a winning hand. And, if you have a two-card hand worth 21, this usually pays out more than a typical win.
Under no circumstances should you ask the dealer for card value information. You shouldn’t really ask the dealer anything at all, but this question alone will likely mean that you and your bankroll are soon to be parted. Dealers love a sucker, and by asking this question, you’re revealing that you’re just that.
Don’t take any cards from the table
Okay, do you really need to be told that this is terrible Blackjack etiquette? This one should be really obvious. Those cards are part of the casino’s property, and they monitor the floors VERY closely to ensure that nothing nefarious happens. You’re going to be facing a lifetime ban from the casino and possible criminal charges for stealing, so don’t take the risk.
Don’t touch or mess around with wagered chips when cards are being dealt
Once you have laid down your chips, there are no taksies backsies in this game. The dealer will begin dealing each player their cards once all the chips are laid down, and they remain there until the game has been resolved. You can only move them after winning or tieing.
Seriously, we can’t stress this enough, don’t remove your cards from the table EVER. It is truly the worst possible thing you can do at any Blackjack table at any casino, lifetime bans from casinos are nothing to be laughed about, while criminal prosecution as a result of cheating or attempted cheating is also a real possibility.
Don’t touch any cards if they are dealt face-up
Another super obvious etiquette rule here. You don’t need to touch the cards if they are visible to you. The dealer is the only person who has the right and needs to handle cards at the table at all times, so don’t touch them unless you need to.
Like with the rule we just mentioned above, if you touch the cards in a way that you aren’t supposed to during a game then you are asking for trouble.
Ask advice from the dealer… sometimes
The dealer isn’t your friend, but they are paid to be sociable and friendly with players. If you have any questions regarding the game, they will answer them even if they are really simple. The casinos don’t want you to win, but dealers are on your side when it comes to the straight basics of the game.
A good example of this is knowing when you split, hit, or stand. Dealers have lots of experience with Blackjack, and usually know the best answer to that question. But that is where the advice should stop if you ask us. You may have noticed that we mentioned the word “sucker” above, and that’s because dealers can spot them a mile away.
Asking too many questions is the number one sign that a player doesn’t know what she or he is doing. Like a shark that smells blood, the dealer will circle, sensing that easy money is to be had. Should you ask one or two meaningful questions you might be okay, but any more than this and the dealer might just see you as an easy target.
Don’t verbally instruct the dealer, signal it to them instead
Now, this is a slightly controversial etiquette rule, as some players are much more comfortable issuing verbal commands to the dealer. That being said, it really should be something that you do via signals for a number of reasons. This is due to the levels of security at the casino for one. Cameras don’t usually capture sounds due to the din of a typical pit, so instead, you’ll want to use visual cues to tell the dealer what you want. The second reason is that other players at the table might find your constant verbal chatter disruptive and complain to the dealer.
If you aren’t sure what these signals are or how to use them, don’t be afraid to ask. Dealers will be happy to tell you what hand gestures mean, and you won’t ever be ashamed or embarrassed for asking. This is one question that we recommend you ask the dealer and it might actually be the only question we encourage you to ask if you’re in doubt.
Don’t stack your chips the wrong the way
Another so-so etiquette rule here, but one that could save you being the enemy of the table. The chips used in Blackjack are a lot like coin currency; each one represents a different denomination. You can order a stack of chips that are each worth a single dollar, or ones that are worth 100 dollars apiece. Generally, you want to stack lower denomination chips on the very top so as to not accidentally bet too much.
The is sometimes even enforced as a rule, especially at major casinos. If you don’t stack them the right way, the dealer will stop the game to correct your stack. This is a great way to earn nasty glares and comments from other players, who won’t appreciate the disruption. Also, if you are playing well, being forced to stop and re-stack is one way to bring your in-game momentum to a pre-mature halt.
Keep your stack nice and tidy and you can’t go far wrong – it’s just that simple really.
Don’t correct or start telling players what to do
Oh boy! If you want to any everyone and are seen as the most obnoxious player in the room, start correcting and judging other people at the table as they play.
If nothing else, just avoid this for your own benefit. The outcome of other players’ hands has absolutely no bearing on your own, so there is no need to interject with your opinions on how to play. In fact, doing this can make other players dislike you since you’ll come off as an overconfident know-it-all. Only give advice if another player asks you for it.
Stick to your own strategies, and wait for the dealer to come to you. If you start getting involved in other player’s business at the Blackjack table, prepare to face the consequences – don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Do tip your dealer generously when you can afford to
At its core, Blackjack is a game that is meant to be enjoyed, rather than a way to earn a living. But it’s important to remember that while YOU are making money, the dealers aren’t. They are typically paid minimum wage or close to it, making them dependent upon the generosity of gamblers.
Dealers aren’t paid extra depending on how players do, in spite of what gamblers often believe. Dealers are not rewarded when the casino makes out big, which is a big part of why they are rooting for you. If you win a lot of money, share a bit of that with your dealer – it means more to them than you realize.
Generosity can go a long way at a casino, so why not make a dealer’s day the next time you win big? There is nothing wrong in paying it forward and hoping that a little bit of good karma comes along in exchange.
Don’t sit at the last seat at the table if you are an inexperienced player
If you’re new to Blackjack, you’ll want to take a middle seat rather than an end one. This is because the middle seat position gives you the greatest view of what’s going on, making it easier to observe what is happening. You don’t want to be the “third base” player, either – this is the person who plays right before the dealer’s turn. Players who sit here frequently get blamed for the outcomes that happen next, since gamblers are an unreasonably superstitious bunch.
You might be thinking, what’s in a seat? Let us tell you, there is a lot to be said about where you sit at a Blackjack table, with some seats certainly being luckier and more beneficial to your bottom line than others.
Do ask the dealer to reserve your seat if you want a short break from the game
Believe it or not, this is acceptable to do. If you need to use the bathroom or take a smoke break, you can keep your seat for when you return. Speak up and let the dealer know you’ll be back, and they’ll put a sign up in your seat to let others know it is taken.
Although, we must say that this service might not be offered to all players. For example, if you’re only spending a few bucks a time, don’t expect the dealer to do you any favors. But, if your splashing the cash, then it’ll be of benefit to the dealer to keep you at the table over the long-term, so you may just hear him utter the line “take as long as you need” as you step away from the table.
Don’t play blackjack when you are drunk
Again, do we really have to say this? As far as etiquette rules go, this has to be the most obvious of the bunch. Alcohol is how fools are parted with their money. Casinos want you to play drunk because your decision-making skills are impaired while intoxicated. Put down the booze whenever you want to play Blackjack, as you’ll be a much better (and smarter) player for it.
Don’t place a bet in the middle of a shoe before checking
This was referenced earlier in the article, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t sit down and interject yourself in the middle of a shoe. Wait until the round has ended before you start making bets. Some tables even put up signs prohibiting this, but players do it anyway. The table will still be there five minutes from now, so just wait your turn and don’t disturb the dealer and other players by making a commotion.
Don’t cheat when playing blackjack
Do we really need to explain this one? Casinos have invested literal billions into security. They keep a hold on their money as tightly as Fort Knox does, and you WILL get caught. Casinos might not be run by the mafia anymore, but you still don’t want to take your chances.
Getting caught cheating at a casino has a whole host of ramifications. Bans, fines, criminal charges, and more are what you will face. Save the trouble and just don’t cheat when at the Blackjack tables.
Maintaining Blackjack Etiquette Isn’t That Hard…
It isn’t rocket science at the end of the day, but there are few things here and there that can catch out novice Blackjack players when they first sit down to play a game of 21. Keeping your nose clean at the Blackjack tables generally means following two sets of rules – the rules of the game and the rules of the casino. Do these two things and you should be fine.
Now, with the formalities out of the way and this knowledge stored in the back of your mind, head to the Blackjack tables of your favorite casino (or online casino) and start mastering those cards and making the big bucks!