Table Manners

Chances are you won’t be thrown out of a casino for being rude—though if your behavior leads other players to leave the table, it may eventually happen. In general, etiquette maintains you should follow the customs and moderate your own behavior to avoid offending those around you, meanwhile showing tolerance, to a point, for those who fail to do the same.

Expect the Expected

In the game of blackjack, and in the environment of the casino, there are certain rules that must be obeyed and certain procedures that must be followed on each side of the table. You should gain a basic familiarity with these procedures so that you don’t cause alarm when something perfectly routineoccurs.

As a player, there are established patterns of behavior that you will be expected to follow in the course of the game. A trivial deviation will usually draw the consternation of other players and a correction from the dealer; amore serious infraction could result in being barred from the establishment, or perhaps even criminal charges if a given procedure or prohibition is implemented to prevent cheating. A separate article on basic procedures covers most of these.

On the other side of the table, there are certain procedures the staff, primarily the dealer, arerequired to follow. This covers everything from handling the equipment, dealing each hand, interacting with customers, and so on. There are also contingencies for every conceivable irregularity in the game. To suggest that any routine procedure is being followed to cheat you is extremely rude, which is a nuisance to other players as well as the house. The section on casino rituals can help to explain the actions you’ll witness.

Finally, if ever you’re suspicious of something the dealer does, don’t hesitate to ask why, as objectively and calmly as possible. If ever you’re uncertain of what procedures you’re expected to follow, don’t hesitate to ask how (rather than doing things incorrectly). Other players and the house will be less annoyed, unless it becomes a constant theme (especially if you’re repeatedly asking the same questions).

Tipping

Tipping the casino staff is not required, but it is customary. As in any service-oriented situation, a patron who tips will generally enjoy more prompt and attentive service—but since gambling requires some personnel to ensure fairness in both procedures and financial transactions, it is improper to be overly generous, or to tip certain individuals at all. And to add to the confusion, it’s generally improper for anyone to solicit a tip from you, or to inform you when and how much it is appropriate to tip. Here are some suggestions:

It is always appropriate to tip wait staff, and since they are not involved with the procedures of the game or financial transactions, you can be as generous as you wish without arousing suspicion. Generally, you should tip your waitress about a dollar (which can be in the form of a bill or a chip) for each round of drinks, a bit more if you are ordering for more than two people. If the casino is doing a lot of business and wait staff is thin, you might do well to be a bit more generous to ensure they make a point of visiting your table more often.

It is never appropriate to tip management. Specifically, do not offer a tip to the pit boss. His job is to manage staff and oversee all play and transactions at the tables under his territory, and offering him a tip can only be construed to be an attempt to curry favor. In short, tipping the pit boss is as inappropriate as tipping a police officer.

It is also appropriate to tip the casino cashier when exchanging chips for cash, though this is a less comfortable situation, because the cashier’s role is similar to that of a bank teller. So long as the tip is small (a few “odd” bills, such as ones when you’re receiving a few hundred dollars or a few fives when you’re receiving a few thousand), it won’t arouse suspicion. Since every patron who doesn’t lose his entire wager will visit the cashier’s cage, these small amounts add up to a worthwhile sum.

Tipping the dealer is somewhat more intricate, and somewhat more complex. Of all casino staff, the dealer will spend the most time serving you—but at the same time, they are in charge of ensuring fairness of play and financial transactions at their table.

If you’re breaking even or doing well, you should periodically tip the dealer during play by placing a token bet for them. This is done by placing a chip in front of your own wager, at the two o’clock position of the betting spot. One practice that will help to ensure that tips are given fairly regularly, but not too often, is to tip in small amounts on each hand following a “big” win—a blackjack, successful double-down, or winning both hands from splitting pairs. You might instead elect to tip a somewhat larger amount at the beginning of each shoe in a shoe-dealt game or a smaller amount at every other shuffle in a handheld game. It is always appropriate (expected) to tip on the next hand if the dealer gave you a bit of advice that effected a win or prevented you from making a mistake that would have caused a loss.

A few words about token bets: the dealer cannot solicit them, and is not allowed to parlay them (let it ride on the next hand). Also, the dealer must wait for you to collect your winnings before they may pick up their chips.

Another opportune time to tip the dealer is when you’re leaving the table. Even if you’ve been losing, and especially if you haven’t tipped the dealer during or before the game, you should give the dealer a few chips after cashing out for the service they’ve provided. This tip should be left on the table, on the far side (but not inside) the wagering spot so that it’s not mistaken for a wager or an oversight.

A final note on tipping the dealer: in some casinos, all tips are placed in a pool and divided among all dealers at the end of the shift—so the tips you give may not go directly into the pocket of your individual dealer. Even so, you should tip your dealer as if they were. It is inappropriate to decrease them your tips because of this arrangement, and rude to ask if such an arrangement even exists.

How Not to Be Annoying

Aside of following the rules and established conventions, there are any number of things that a player might do to distract other players or delay the game. Because gambling is done for money, breaking a player’s concentration may cause them to lose and slowing the game decreases their opportunities to win—so naturally, people are annoyed, even angry, when someone causes them to lose money(even if they’d have lost it anyway). Even a reasonably socialized individual may overlook some of these behaviors:

It’s important to handle the equipment carefully. If a card in a handheld game is smudged or bent, the dealer must call the pit boss to replace it. If a cheque leaves the table, whether a careless or upset player bounces it off the felt or another who fumbles it while constantly fiddling with his cheques, the dealer must call the pit boss to retrieve it. Either causes an excessive delay.

Speaking of irregularities: if a card or chip leaves the table, do not attempt to retrieve it, even if you’re at fault. House procedures dictate that a pit boss must be called to rectify the situation and, especially when it’s a card, to inspect it before returning it to the game.

Constantly interrupting the game to buy or exchange cheques is an unwelcome delay. A few individuals will buy in for a small amount, then buy a bit more if they lose, then a bit more. Others will color up in mid-game only to need to get change later. Neither is particularly welcome to players who are waiting for the next hand to be dealt.

Don’t offer unsolicited advice to other players. Even if your advice is sound, you’ll be blamed when they lose for following it. Also, be very cautious about giving advice even if asked by another player. Even the best advice, which follows basic strategy, doesn’t guarantee a winner every time—and if a losing player has anyone other than himself to blame, he will.

Excessive celebration or lamentation—cheering when you win and throwing a tantrum if you lose—is never anything but annoying to other players who are trying to concentrate on their own fortunes. If you’re an excitable person and have trouble controlling your emotions, learn to play craps or roulette instead.

It’s acceptable to smoke and drink at the tables, but never to eat—not even a light snack. If you choose to smoke, be careful of where both smoke and ashes end up. Also, if you own a metallic cigarette lighter, keep it off the table—reflective surfaces are used by some hucksters to cheat by peeking at the dealer’s hole card. If you choose to drink, keep it off the felt—both in terms of avoiding spillage as well as using the coaster, napkin, or drink well. The felt top of a blackjack table stains easily, and gaming equipment that is stained, smudged, burned, or sticky must be replaced, while the game is delayed.

Blaming anyone for the outcome of a round is pointless—the cards come out as they do, and even a player who fails to make the “right” move doesn’t alter the random aspect of the game. To suggest another player or the dealer is cheating is the ultimate breach of manners, unless you have proof of it. The only time it’s acceptable to joke about a lousy cut is when you’re the one who cut the cards.

It’s also good etiquette not to mock or attempt to argue over other players’ superstitions. In a casino, superstition is the most popular religion, and the player who does something peculiar or awkward because he believes it increases his chances of winning is not about to listen to logic, and will only be annoyed.