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Blackjack Table Etiquette: Unwritten Rules of Casino Play

Chill Clinton is an experienced table games player who has played live blackjack at venues across the United States.

Proper Etiquette for Playing Live Blackjack at a Casino

Blackjack is one of the most popular live table games played in casinos across the world. While the rules are simple, experience plays an important role not only in how well a player performs against the house, but also the quality of the experience for the players sharing a table.

That being said, many new players are nervous to take a seat at a live blackjack table because there are a number of explicit and unspoken rules to playing in a casino setting that supersede the basic rules of the game.

In this article, I will cover some of the basic rules of etiquette to make you look like a seasoned player, keep the table managers off your back, and promote a great experience for both you and the other players at the table.

Unspoken Rules for the Blackjack Table

  1. Use Hand Signals
  2. Remain Focused on the Game
  3. Do Not Offer Unsolicited Advice to Other Players
  4. Manage Your Emotions
  5. Use Your Best Judgement When Drinking and Smoking at the Table

1. Use Hand Signals

In casino blackjack, you are required to use hand signals in order to denote your gameplay decisions. The reason why you are required to do this is for convenience and clarity.

Not only does using these hand signals speed up the game, but casinos require you to use them so that there are no questions of what communication occurs between players and dealers.

Naturally, every blackjack table is carefully monitored by security cameras, so if there is ever a disagreement between a player and a dealer as to what choice was made, the camera footage can be quickly reviewed, and disagreements can be swiftly negotiated.

Guide to Hand Signals in Blackjack

Here are the hand signals you will need to know:

  • Hit: Tap the table in front of you.
  • Stand: Wave your hand in front of you without touching the table.
  • Split: Without touching your original bet, place an equal bet in the betting area and then place two fingers above your cards.
  • Double: Without touching your original bet, place a bet equal to or less than your original bet in the betting area. If you have two cards of equal value, such as two sixes, and you want to double as opposed to splitting, hold one finger up.
  • Surrender: Draw a horizontal line behind your cards with your index finger extended.

2. Remain Focused on the Game

A casino is an active environment. There are lights, sounds, conversations, servers coming around to take drink orders, and more. It's totally understandable that at times you will become distracted at the table, but you should do everything you can to remain engaged with the game.

Some major faux pas that you should always avoid, and which are often not permitted by the casino include using your phone, stepping away from the table while you have an active bet, and attempting to maintain conversations with players across the table or at other tables during an active bet.

If you need a moment to check your phone, order a drink, talk with a friend, light a cigarette (if smoking is allowed), or anything that would reasonably disrupt the flow of the game, simply withdraw your bet from the betting area before any cards leave the shoe, and you can do that without giving up your spot at the table.

3. Do Not Offer Unsolicited Advice to Other Players

One of the worst players to share a table with is the person who feels the need to comment of the decisions of other players. It is not your game, and it is not your money, so unless a player explicitly asks for input from other players at the table, you should never offer another player advice.

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Sometimes a player will take a few moments to make a decision, but managing the speed at which engaged players make a play decision is not your job. By telling other players what decision you would make, you may make them nervous or uncomfortable which is not fair to them.

Even if a player appears inexperienced and makes an obviously terrible decision, you should keep your mouth shut even if your intent is to help them. For example, I was recently playing with a kid who was probably just over the legal age to gamble, and he hit a fifteen against a dealer six, which was obviously a horrible decision.

Of course, he busted, and the dealer proceeded to bust as well. Even though I felt compelled to provide the kid with helpful advice of basic strategy, I remained silent because teaching other players at a live casino table is not my responsibility, and I didn't want to add insult to injury by telling the kid that he made a bad decision.

If a player does look up at other players with a bewildered expression, or explicitly asks for advice, feel free to offer your input. Otherwise, focus on your own game.

4. Manage Your Emotions

I get it, there is money on the line. But if you want to play blackjack, you need to be emotionally prepared to lose money without losing your cool. If you feel incapable of doing that, you need to step away from the table.

Of course, groaning, swearing under your breath, or any other brief and quiet expression of frustration is completely normal. However, banging on the table, shouting, or directing profanity at any other player or the dealer is completely unacceptable, and may even lead to you being ejected from the casino.

Plus, if you are losing your cool at the table, you are making the experience worse for other players. Nobody wants to be around a player who is bringing negative energy to the experience. If you are losing an amount of money that will cause you to become aggressive, it is time to quit until you can calm down.

5. Use Your Best Judgement When Drinking and Smoking at the Table

Many players enjoy relaxing and having a good time while playing blackjack. For most, this includes having a few drinks, and others enjoy having a cigarette or cigar while playing at tables where smoking is permitted.

However, if you chose to drink or smoke while playing, it is your responsibility to not let that behavior become intrusive to the experience of other players.

If you are drinking, make sure that you manage your level of intoxication so that you aren't disrupting the game. If you drink to the degree that you are unable to quickly play, manage your emotions, or keep your play area clean and organized, you should remove yourself from the table. A spilled drink or even worse, vomit, will likely end the game not only for you but the other players at the table. So keep this in mind if you choose to start drinking at the table.

Additionally, if you are allowed to smoke at your table, feel free to light a cigarette. If other players don't appreciate the smoke, they are free to choose another table where smoking is not allowed. That being said, you should do all that you can to prevent excess smoke from drifting into the faces of other players and especially the dealer.

If you know you are going to smoke at a table, choose a seat separate from other players if possible, or try to sit next to other players who are smoking. Keep your cigarette as far away from the table as you reasonably can, and blow your smoke over your shoulder. If it's difficult to keep the smoke from floating over the table, you should first prioritize keeping the smoke away from the dealer before other players. Other players can choose to leave the table while the dealer cannot leave the table.

These Rules Will Become Second Nature

If you are new to playing blackjack, don't worry too much. If you are kind and courteous to other players and the dealer while playing, you can make mistakes without any consequences. Most dealers are happy to gently correct you, and so long as you make an effort to correct yourself, you will be allowed to continue to play.

Rest assured that casinos want you to play, so as long as you don't give them a reason to reject your action, you have no reason to worry!

Happy gaming!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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