Blackjack etiquette defines customary codes of behavior, politeness, and respect for the blackjack croupier, fellow players, and the casino. Etiquette or decorum, is the proper and polite conduct that is expected of players at the casino.
Blackjack is the world’s most popular casino card game. It bears similarities to poker, in that strategic gameplay and an innate understanding of the rules are important. However, there are notable differences between the way blackjack and poker are played. Blackjack by its very nature is less sociable than poker, since interactions are limited to player and dealer actions.
Yet, despite its rather binary nature, blackjack gameplay is highly nuanced in terms of betting etiquette, player and dealer etiquette, card etiquette, and tipping etiquette. Perhaps we should rewind a little, to better define the concept of etiquette as it pertains to card play at blackjack casinos.
It comes as no surprise that gentlemanly or ladylike conduct will endear you to your fellow players, the dealer, and the establishment. For those who have yet to experience the game of blackjack at a bricks and mortar casino, there's not a moment to lose. Blackjack, 21, Pontoon, or Vingt-et-Un all refer to the same game, albeit with slight variations in the rules.
As a blackjack player, it behoves you to learn the rules of blackjack before seating yourself at the table. Blackjack aficionados appreciate players who are able to make decisions without pestering other players or the dealer at the table.
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Invoking Pareto Efficiency in Blackjack Etiquette
There is an economic theorem known as Pareto Efficiency – a social welfare measurement – which states that a situation can be defined as optimal only if no individuals can be made better off without making somebody else worse off. This same thinking applies to blackjack etiquette at the table.
A player who brazenly interrupts the dealer to improve his own understanding of the game does so at the displeasure and to the detriment of other players at the table. Clearly, this is not a Pareto Efficient outcome. Etiquette can be thought of in a similar way. The overall conduct of a player should be such that other players at the table are not adversely affected by the inclusion of a new player.
In practical terms, this aspect of blackjack etiquette states that players should have a grasp of important blackjack terms, phrases, and rules. For example, Aces can assume two values: 1 or 11. This naturally lends itself to an understanding of a soft 17, or a hard 17. Proper etiquette dictates that a player would naturally understand that a soft 17 contains an Ace valued at 11 while a hard 17 contains an Ace valued at 1.
In much the same way, blackjack players are expected to understand the following terms, actions and phraseology: advantage, actions, bankroll management, basic strategy, burn cards, card counting, deck penetration, early surrender, even money, expected value, hit, stand, insurance, a natural, running count, shuffle tracking, surrender, true count, et al.
A basic understanding of the rules goes a long way in blackjack. The objective is to play your A-game without being disruptive towards other players. The overall experience should be entertaining for everyone, including the dealer. It’s a great idea to invest lots of time and energy learning the rules of the game.
Before you sit down to a blackjack table, be sure you understand the minimum and maximum bet selections. Other important tips to bear in mind include the blackjack payout – 3:2, or 6:5. Will the dealer draw to 16 and stand on 17s? Is the dealer allowed to peek for blackjack? What about insurance, early surrender, re-splitting, and so forth?
Etiquette defines a way of play, of personal comportment which is pleasant for everyone else at the table. Think of it from a personal perspective: Would you want other players to be disrupting your play with asinine questions, boorish behaviour, and malapropisms? Recall that age-old aphorism – Manners Maketh Man. It's true in life and it's certainly true when playing blackjack.
Blackjack Table Etiquette
Now that we've brushed up on the do’s and don'ts of proper conduct at the blackjack table, it's time to get down to some specifics. We begin our discussion with several hot-topic elements such as the proper way to buy-in and cash out.
Once you've selected a table, be sure that you understand the rules for minimum bets and maximum bets. Place your money on the table in front of you, and the dealer will hand you a pile of chips. Nothing further needs to be done at this point.
Once you're ready to bet, place your chips in the area in front of you to buy-in to the game. If you need to buy additional chips to continue playing at the table, wait until the end of the game so that you don't interfere with the dealer or the other players at the table.
You may be inclined to leave your money in the betting box in front of you. Nowadays, many casinos will not accept cash bets, although certain options known as Money Plays may permit such betting activity.
The blackjack chips (real betting tokens) are valuable currency at the table. Use them properly to ensure that you don't bet the wrong amounts. Try to keep your chips neatly stacked at all times, as they're certainly easier to manage that way.
All the circular chips at the table are the same size, although there are different color combinations and values associated with them. High-denomination chips should be placed at the bottom and low-denomination chips should be placed on top. Once you have placed a bet, refrain from touching the chips on the table until the end of the hand.
Once you've received your cards, you will have an option to hit, stand, double, or split. If you wish to hit, the proper way to do so is to simply scratch the table lightly with the cards. If you wish to stand, slide your cards under your pile of chips.
Assuming you have a pair, and you want to split them, turn the cards face-up on the table and request to double down or split accordingly. If you bust, it's also etiquette to turn the cards face-up on the table.
Assuming you win the hand, the dealer will make payment by placing your winnings in front of you. Curb your enthusiasm for just a moment. Wait until the dealer has paid everyone out at the table before reaching for your chips and placing them off to the side, in front of you.
Blackjack Casino Etiquette
Blackjack casino etiquette refers to general norms and behavior that are accepted at the casino. Naturally, you don't want to be raising a ruckus and disrupting other players while they are enjoying their gaming sessions.
Likewise, your behavior at the casino should remain dignified at all times. Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, play within your means, and be mindful of other players around you.
Dress to impress, or casual attire? The rules of the casino will dictate what is acceptable. It is in bad taste to interrupt the dealer or other players while they are making blackjack decisions. Nobody appreciates annoying players, and nobody wants to be told how to play their hand.
Contrary to popular opinion, it is perfectly acceptable to politely ask the dealer for advice. This is easier to do when it's only you and the dealer at the table. If many players are at the table, they may not appreciate all the questions. More about casino etiquette
Blackjack Tipping Etiquette
At the conclusion of a blackjack game, it is customary to tip the dealer. This is especially true if you win. You can place bets on your hand with an additional bet for the dealer too. That way, if you win, the dealer wins as well. If you wish to tip the dealer, simply slide a chip across the table towards the dealer indicating as much.
If you lose a hand, you likely won't want to tip the dealer. No offense will be taken since dealers understand how frustrating and difficult it can be for players on a losing streak.
Use your discretion when tipping the dealer. Some players advocate the ‘2/3 + 1/3’ tipping rule in blackjack. Simply put, two-thirds of your tip depends upon how friendly the dealer is to you, and one-third of your tip depends on how much you are winning or losing in the game.
If you happen to lose the session, you can still tip the dealer based on how well they treated you. Many casino dealers earn a low-wage and rely on player tips to come out ahead. Experienced players routinely tip dealers for many reasons.
When you tip well, dealers will treat you better. They won't deal you better cards, but they will certainly warm up to you and offer you advice if you treat them right. Assuming your average bet per hour is $20, tip the dealer $10 at the end of hour.
Don't forget the cocktail waitress, since that lady is running around in high-heeled shoes carrying heavy trays of drinks for players at all the tables. Many players believe that if you're not winning, you shouldn't be tipping. This is simply not true. You're tipping for professionalism, courtesy, and winning hands.
Tip for You: If you don't hit the trifecta, the dealer at least deserves a tip for being professional and courteous to you.