Posts Tagged ‘blackjack etiquette’

Blackjack Etiquette: Transparency

Monday, May 10th, 2010

One of the advantages of playing online blackjack is that when playing on a website, there are far fewer rules of etiquette to obey. Particularly for new players, this can make the game less confusing or intimidating. Since you are playing by yourself, there really is no etiquette to stick to other than “don’t cheat.” When playing blackjack at a brick and mortar casino, though, it’s a completely different story. The game has strict rules regarding what you can and can’t do.

For today’s blog, I will focus on transparency. Blackjack, like all casino games, involves the exchanging of a lot of money and casinos want to make sure everything is done properly. That’s why they have that “eye in the sky” keeping tabs on everyone. That security camera keeps an eye on the blackjack games to make sure that the players and the dealers are playing an honest game. However, in order for the camera to be able to tell, there are certain rules that must be followed.

The security cameras can’t tell whether anyone is cheating if they can’t see what’s being done. That is why there are so many etiquette rules based on transparency – making every move clear to an observer. That is why the hand signals are so important. You can’t simply say “hit” or “stand;” you must also make the appropriate hand signals so the security can spot a mistake or cheating.

There are other blackjack rules that are less obvious, though. One is that if you want to exchange cash for chips at the blackjack table, you never hand the money to the dealer. Instead, you put the money on the table and tell the dealer what denomination chips you want. By not handing the money directly to the dealer, it eliminates the possibility of slipping him something extra. It also makes it easier to determine if there was a miscount. While we’re on the subject, you shouldn’t hand anything to the dealer, including chips.

Those aren’t the only rules for your hands, though. If the blackjack game is a face-up card game, then you should not ever touch your cards. It is not necessary to touch them because you can see them while they sit on the table and keeping your hands away from them eliminates the possibility of several cheating techniques, such as switching or marking the cards. For similar reasons, you should not place any objects on the blackjack table. Anything from a phone to a purse can block view of a card, be used to swap cards, or aid in cheating in some other way. Only a drink can be placed on the blackjack table and even then, there is usually a designated area for placing your drink.

Similarly, you should never touch the chips in the betting circle after the dealer starts dealing cards. Your wager should not be touched after even if you are doubling your bet, in which case you would place the same amount in the betting circle next to your original wager. That original wager, again, would not be touched. This rule is to avoid you altering the wager by discretely adding or subtracting chips once you see the cards.

You may have noticed that there are a lot of rules about not touching things. If you want to be on the safe side, you can always keep your hands at your side or in your pockets. If they’re not on the table, they can’t cause any problems!

The final rule of blackjack etiquette that is related to transparency – at least the last I can think of at this moment – regards the stacking of your bet. When you place a wager in the betting circle, if you are using chips of different amounts the chips should be in order, with the highest denomination on the bottom and the lowest on the top. This makes it easier to count and it also helps avoid a player sneaking a high-value chip on top of the stack when he sees that he has good cards.

If you follow all of those blackjack rules of etiquette, then the dealer and other players will be a lot happier with you. That will help the game run smoother and you should have more fun. If all of those rules seem too much for you, though, don’t worry, because none of them apply to online blackjack. When playing blackjack at an online casino, it is a much more relaxed atmosphere. Aside from not cheating, there really are no rules of etiquette.

Blackjack Etiquette: Blackjack Tournaments

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

Blackjack tournaments are a great way to enjoy your favorite casino game while taking a break from the normal gameplay. They also allow you to play for potential big prizes without risking much of your own money. In freeroll blackjack tournaments, you don’t risk any of your money. There are, of course, differences in the game and blackjack tournaments have their own etiquette.

As with all rules of blackjack etiquette, things are different when playing online blackjack. In fact, there really is no etiquette for playing at an online casino (aside from “don’t cheat”) because of the distance between players provided by the Internet. For some people, this is something that makes online blackjack better. For those who want to try playing blackjack tournaments at brick and mortar casinos, though, here are some things that you need to know.

First of all, before you enter any blackjack tournament you should make sure you know the rules for that tournament. The game isn’t exactly the same, so any rule could potentially be changed in this situation. Make sure you know what you are and are not allowed to do in any situation.

When playing a normal blackjack game, it is acceptable to ask for help from other players or from people watching the action. Similarly, it is fine to give advice from those who request it. However, help is never allowed in blackjack tournaments. That is because unlike in normal blackjack games, where all of the players are competing against only the dealer, in tournaments the players are competing against each other. For that reason, it is unfair for other players for some players to give or receive help. If no one gets help, that keeps everyone on equal footing and no one has an unfair advantage.

When playing in a blackjack tournament, you must be clear in how much money you bet and how much money you have. For example, you must make no attempt to hide your chips or disguise your bet amount. In fact, you usually cannot place a “string” bet, which is placing a chip in the betting circle and then placing another one. All chips that are bet must be bet at the same time. If you attempt a string bet, only the first chip will be accepted as a bet. This is done to make it easier for the other players to know how much you’re betting and remove deception from the game.

Sometimes you are not supposed to talk at all during a blackjack tournament, though other times small talk is fine as long as you don’t talk about strategy. Again, it is best to make sure you know the rules of that tournament ahead of time.

If you don’t like those rules of etiquette, you can always play in online blackjack tournaments. They have all of the fun and potential winnings of tournaments in brick and mortar casinos but without the face-to-face interaction.

Blackjack Etiquette: Dealer Exposes Cards

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Okay, so you’re at the blackjack table minding your own business when you happen to notice something: The dealer has a nine as his hole card. You weren’t trying to peak, but as the dealer placed his hole card face down on the table, he exposed it in a way that allowed you to see its value. Now what should you do? Can you use that knowledge to your advantage?

That question has two completely different implied questions. The first is “is it immoral to use that knowledge to my advantage?” The second question is “is is cheating to take advantage of that knowledge?” The first question I won’t cover because that’s up to you to decide. You may think that you should pretend you didn’t see anything or, if the dealer does it more than once, that you should inform him or someone else working for the casino that the dealer is being sloppy. Or you may think that it’s his and the casino’s loss if he’s going to make a mistake. Why should it bother you?

The second question is easier to answer, though. If you did nothing to aid in seeing the dealer’s hole card, it is not cheating. If you used a mirror, a spotter, a camera or anything like that to spy on the dealer’s cards then yes, that is cheating and it is illegal. If, however, you are simply minding your own business and through no effort on your part you accidentally see the dealer’s hole card, you have done nothing wrong. Using that knowledge to make your decisions is perfectly legal and it is the dealer’s responsibility to make sure his hole card is a secret, not yours.

How should you react to knowledge of the dealer’s hole card? That depends. If you want to take advantage of it, that could mean deviating from basic strategy, since that strategy is for when you don’t know the dealer’s hole card but assume it has a good probability of being a ten. If it turns out to be a two, of course, that changes things considerably. Whatever the dealer’s hole card is, you should think about what total he has and what his chances are of busting with that hand. Also, if he has a hand of 17 or more and you have the hand beaten, obviously you would stand.

If the dealer is sloppy and repeatedly exposes his hole card, you need to be careful how you respond to that knowledge. If you deviate from basic strategy too often and have good results each time, that will set off a red flag. The dealer, the pit boss, or someone monitoring the eye in the sky might think you are cheating. If you convince them that you are not cheating, that you can simply see the dealer’s hole card, you have killed the golden goose. The dealer will either correct the problem so you can no longer see the card or will be fired. In either case, your advantage is gone. For that reason, you should only deviate from basic strategy in subtle ways. Hitting your 19 because you can see that the dealer has 20, for example, would not be a wise decision.

Blackjack Etiquette: Getting Advice

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Whenever you join a blackjack table at a casino, certain rules of etiquette are expected. Many of the rules are common sense, but some are not. I have covered some blackjack etiquette in the past, but today I want to talk about advice.

Not everyone at the blackjack table is of equal skill. Not everyone has the same knowledge or grasp of basic strategy. Some might count cards while others don’t. Particularly for new players, it can be tempting to get the advice of others if you’re not sure what decision to make. But is that okay?

In short: yes. It is okay to ask for advice and it is okay to give advice. If you are playing at the table with some of your friends, there is nothing wrong with asking them what you should do. Likewise, if your friend is stumped, you can feel free to offer advice.

You can even feel free to give or ask for advice from strangers. You should, however, only give solicited advice. If someone is looking at his cards and is pondering his decision, don’t offer advice if he hasn’t asked for it. Also, if he asks for advice, make sure he is asking you or the table in general. For example, sometimes a player will ask the dealer what he should do. If he asks the dealer and you answer, that is a breach of etiquette.

Whoa, wait a second, so you can ask the dealer? Who in their right mind would do that? They’re your opponent. Many people won’t ask the dealer for advice for that reason, but if you don’t know what move to make and want help, there’s no reason not to ask the dealer. First of all, no one knows proper blackjack basic strategy better than the dealer. After all, it’s his job. Secondly, he’s not going to lie to you about what you should do.

The dealer won’t lie because there is a table full of people and at least one person there would realize that he’s giving you bad advice. That would cause problems for the casino and it would call the dealer’s integrity and by association the casino’s reputation into question. That is a lot to risk for a simple piece of advice. Since the casino still has a house edge even when you follow proper basic strategy, there is no reason for the dealer to try to deceive you.

So in short, you can feel free to ask the dealer, your friends or strangers for advice and if you know basic strategy, you can feel free to give advice to someone who asks for it. If in doubt about whether you should respond, it may be best to stay quiet. Also, only give advice if you’re certain what the best move is. If you aren’t sure or don’t have basic strategy completely memorized yet, don’t try to help someone because you may end up giving bad advice.

Another thing to remember is that if you don’t have basic strategy memorized, it’s okay to bring your strategy card to the blackjack table. If you do, then you won’t have to ask for advice. Also, if you play blackjack at an online casino, you don’t have to worry about the proper table etiquette, since you’re playing alone.

Bad Blackjack Players Don’t Make You Lose

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Players don’t like to lose, especially when there’s money on the line. Despite the fact that all of the casino games have a house edge, which means that in the long run any player would lose, people still expect and hope to win in the short run. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Our culture today is big on shifting the blame rather than taking responsibility. When someone goes crazy and kills others, they want to blame the parents, movies, music and even Bill O’Reilly, but what about the killer? If all else fails, people like to blame an unjust society or “the system.” In blackjack, people love to blame other players when they lose.

Let me make this clear. Bad blackjack players don’t cause you do lose, unless of course the bad player is you. The “third base” seat at a blackjack table, which is the last player to receive their cards from the dealer, is often blamed for others losing. Though everyone should follow blackjack basic strategy, not all do. Some don’t know it and some are counting cards or using some alternative strategy. If the player at the third base seat deviates from basic strategy and takes a card that they should not have taken and it’s a card that would have busted the dealer, the other players will be upset. Conversely, if the third base goes against basic strategy by standing, the players who lose will accuse the player of leaving a card in the shoe that saved the dealer from busting.

Many arguments have broken out at blackjack tables because of this. Some people say that you should only sit at third base if you are going to play perfect basic strategy. However, there are two problems with this.

First of all, people have a selective memory. Sticking with basic strategy is playing the odds, but playing the odds won’t always work out for you. That’s why they call it gambling. Sure, sometimes the third base deviating from strategy hurts other players, but other times it saves them as well. People tend to not remember those times.

The other problem with this is that whenever people get upset at losing a hand, they are thinking short term. In the long term, your odds are the same as long as you play perfect strategy. Other players cannot affect your odds. It is best to remember this and have fun playing blackjack. After all, if you don’t have fun playing a game, maybe you shouldn’t be playing.

Blackjack Etiquette

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

If you are reading this blog, you most likely either want to learn how to play blackjack or you want to become a better player. Some of you may only want to play online blackjack, but many will eventually take their skills to a brick and mortar casino. If you do, you need to be able to sit at the table and play your game of choice without being “that guy.”

You know who I mean. That player that makes everyone roll their eyes and mutter obscenities under their breath. That guy always sits near me at football games and often finds his way to my blackjack table as well. That guy can completely ruin your experience. If you don’t know what I’m talking about and have never experienced this phenomenon, then congratulations! You’re that guy.

One thing that you need to know is the hand signal for each decision. These signals were covered in an earlier blog post. The important thing to remember is that the hand signals make it clear to the “eye in the sky” what decision you made, thus minimizing any disputes.

Another thing to remember is that it’s your job to know blackjack basic strategy, not the dealer’s. Yes, the dealer knows what you should do, but why should he tell you? And why should all of the other players wait around while you get advice? Don’t bother the dealer by asking for advice. Make your own decisions based on your understanding of basic strategy.

That brings me to another thing. If you don’t have basic strategy memorized, it’s okay to bring a basic strategy chart with you. Some casinos even hand them out. However, just because you have a chart to look out doesn’t mean it’s okay to spend all day staring at it while trying to make a decision. The chart shouldn’t be consulted before every decision. You should glance at it if you need help every now and then. If your knowledge of blackjack strategy is so weak that you need to look at the chart more often than that, then you need to pick a table where you’re by yourself or practice at home.

As a common courtesy, if you are just watching other people play, give them space. Don’t look over their shoulder or crowd them. Players don’t like having people too close to them or distracting them in any other way. For the same reason, keep your talking to a minimum. A blackjack table isn’t like a barbershop, or even a poker table, where there is more chitchat. Players at a blackjack table are there to play and don’t want to be distracted.

At some blackjack tables, your cards are dealt face up, whereas at others they are dealt face down. If your cards are dealt face up, you are not allowed touch the cards. Leave them on the table and don’t touch them. If the cards are dealt face down, you are allowed to touch the cards to look at them. It is never acceptable to touch chips that are not yours or to touch other players, unless of course they’re on fire or something.

And one final thing that many novices don’t think of is tipping the dealer. It is expected that if you play at a table for long enough you should tip the dealer, especially if you’re winning. It’s understandable to not want to give the dealer extra money if he’s taking all of it from you anyway. To tip the dealer, simply place a chip above the betting circle (closer to the dealer) after your hand. Or if you want to be cool, you can place a bet on the dealer’s behalf by placing an additional bet outside your betting circle, toward the dealer.

If you listen to all of these suggestions, everyone at your table will appreciate it. Maybe you’ll even make some new friends at the table, rather than having people cursing your name after you leave. I know I like it better that way.

Blackjack Strategy Cards

Monday, January 4th, 2010

If you’re a fan of blackjack and are reading up on the game to increase your odds, chances are you’ve seen a blackjack basic strategy chart. If not, then seriously, stop what you’re doing right now and study this chart.

Okay, now that we’re moving on, if you’re new to blackjack that chart may be a little intimidating. It’s a lot to remember, though it can certainly be done if you put in the effort. What if you want to play but don’t have it memorized yet, though? Do you have to just go by memory and do the best you can?

Fortunately, the answer is no. If you have not yet memorized the basic strategy cards, you can use them while you play. This is probably obvious when playing online blackjack. After all, when playing online you are going up against a computer rather than a human dealer and there are no other players at the table, so you can take as long as you want to make a decision. If you want to, you can look at the chart before every decision and no one will care. But what about in a casino?

Some people think that you are not allowed to use a basic strategy chart when playing blackjack in a casino. Other people think that while they are allowed, they are discouraged. Neither is true. The casinos have no problem with you using a basic strategy chart. In fact, some casino even hand them out to customers. Why would they do that when following the chart is to your benefit? Most players don’t have the discipline to stick to basic strategy even when they have the chart in front of them. As soon as they have a losing streak, most players will abandon the chart and go with their gut, which is often wrong.

Though you are allowed to use the charts, you should still be courteous. That means having the card easily accessible, look at it quickly and make a decision quickly. The other players don’t want to stand around all day waiting for you to make a decision.  So while there is no rule against using a strategy card, you should only use it if it doesn’t slow you down too much. That is why it’s a good idea to memorize it, which you should be able to do over time.