By Max Fontana
In previous installments of this column we’ve talked about how Blackjack, the world’s most popular table game, has a set of strategies you can use to maximize your chance of winning. But there’s also a certain etiquette to playing Blackjack that you need to be aware of—a bunch of quirky little rules and procedures for how players must conduct themselves. The casinos put these rules in place for security reasons. Don’t violate them, or you’ll earn a rebuke from the dealer and look like an amateur in front of everyone. So here’s a rundown of Blackjack etiquette, and how to avoid the common mistakes so that you’ll look like a seasoned pro.
1. Don’t try to hand your money to the dealer. The overhead casino security cameras must be able to see all cash transactions. This is why you’re required to lay your cash down on the surface of the table. The dealer will spread out the money and count it (so that the cameras can see), then exchange your cash for chips.
2. Don’t hold your cards with two hands. In Blackjack games where the cards are “pitched” to you and dealt face down (usually single- and two-deck games), you must pick the cards up with one hand, not with both hands. This rule is designed to prevent players from tampering with, or switching, their cards.
3. Never remove your cards from the table. Your cards must always be in full view of the security cameras and the dealer. (Don’t hold them in your lap, for example.) Also…
4. Never touch your chips once the cards are being dealt. Once you’ve placed your bet and the dealer begins to deal the cards, you are not allowed to touch your chips until the hand is played out. If you win or tie the hand, you are free to collect your chips, stack more chips on top of your original bet, etc. If the dealer wins, he’s going to take your chips. Just remember, once the cards start being dealt you cannot touch your wager until your hand is played out. (This prevents cheaters from increasing or decreasing their wager, depending on the cards they’ve got.)
5. When the cards are dealt face up, don’t touch them. In games that use four or more decks of cards, your cards are dealt face up. There is no reason for you to pick up or handle the cards, so just leave them alone. Which brings us to the next rule…
6. Signal your decision, don’t say it. Again, for the security cameras, you must use hand signals to indicate to the dealer whether you want to hit or stand. Saying “hit” or “stand” isn’t enough; they need to see you make the signal. The dealer will show you the required signal if you’re new to the game.
7. Stack your chips correctly. When you make a wager that includes two or more different denomination chips (for example, a $25 chip and two $5 chips), always place the higher denomination chip on the bottom of the stack and the lower on top. Otherwise, the dealer is going to have to stop and rearrange them for you before he starts dealing.
8. Don’t tell your fellow players how to play. If the guy sitting next to you asks your advice, feel free to tell him what you think. But it’s bad manners to tell other players what you think they should do, if they didn’t ask. Sometimes you’re going to find yourself playing with people who have no idea what they’re doing, and make boneheaded decisions. Don’t start trying to dispense advice, and don’t let it bother you. If it does, either find another table to play at, or just remind yourself of the fact that the skill level of your fellow players has no bearing on whether you win or lose.
9. Cut the deck properly. In six-deck games, after the dealer has finished shuffling the cards, he will ask one of the players to “cut” the deck. Place the cut card at least a half-deck from either end of the stack. In other words, aim for the middle of the deck. If you try to cut the deck just a few cards from either end, the dealer will ask you to cut it again, and you’ll look like an amateur.
10. Check before you try to bet in the middle of a shoe. Some casinos forbid you from sitting down and placing a wager when the game is midway through the shoe; you’re supposed to wait until the entire shoe is played out before you join the action. Check to see if the table has a sign that says: “No Mid-Shoe Entry.” If it does, and the shoe is in progress, go ahead and sit down. But don’t try to wager until the shoe is finished and the dealer starts reshuffling.