9 Casino Table Game Etiquette Tips
This post is aimed at casino gamblers who want to play table games, not slot machines. Like anything in life, playing table games in a casino involves a number of unspoken rules of behavior—etiquette. One of the goals of having good manners in a casino is to avoid irritating the other gamblers.
If you sit down at a blackjack or craps table in a casino without any understanding of how to behave, you’ll probably make a fool of yourself. The easiest etiquette offense to commit is not understanding anything about the game before sitting down to play.
Lucky for you, this blog includes multiple detailed posts describing specific casino games and how to play them. I’m not Emily Post, but I know enough about casino table game etiquette to help you avoid the worst offenses.
Here are the casino table game etiquette tips you need most:
Casino Table Game Etiquette Tip #1
Know How to Play Before Taking a Seat
There’s no real excuse anymore for not understanding how to play a casino game before sitting down at the table. You’ll find enough tutorials for specific casino game rules on the internet that your head will spin.
But for some players, reading an internet tutorial isn’t enough. That’s okay, too. You can try free video game versions of most casino table games at an online casinos without ever having to invest a penny. Just remember that the online casinos’ goal is to convince you to sign up for a real money account and play there.
Even that might not be enough for some players. If that’s you, ask the concierge or any of the customer service people at the casino when and where they hold the free classes in how to play the games. Most of the time, you’ll get to play with some free chips and get some experience before playing for real money.
These classes are taught by real dealers. It’s a safe bet you should avoid taking most of their strategy advice. Craps dealers are especially liable to give bad advice, like suggesting you “hedge your best.”
But once you’ve had some actual experience at the tables with a teacher, you’ll be able to sit down with confidence that you’re not going to slow down the other players at the table with a lot of dumb questions you should already know the answers to.
If you’re at the rare casino that doesn’t offer these free classes, you can always “railbird” a game for a little while. Just watch what’s happening from behind for a little while before sitting down.
Casino Table Game Etiquette Tip #2
Know When to Buy Your Chips
Casinos and dealers have very specific procedures in place handling the purchase of the chips you use to make your wagers. You buy these chips at the table, and you lay the money on the table. You NEVER hand the dealer money.
Dealers wait until the conclusion of the last bet before exchanging cash for chips. Your job is to wait patiently for the roulette wheel to stop spinning, the dice to stop rolling, or the hand to get played out. You usually can’t be on these things when they’re in progress anyway.
You should, of course, look for the sign at the table explaining what the table limits are. Depending on the table, the minimum bet might be $5, $25, $100, or even more. This can avoid a lot of embarrassment if you’re a low roller. (And there’s NOTHING wrong with being a low roller, by the way.)
If you’re playing roulette, you’ll be given chips that are specific to you. They’ll have a different color from the chips of the other players.
At other table games, the color of the chips designates the denomination for each chip, as follows:
- White chips are worth $1 each.
- Red chips are worth $5 each.
- Green chips are worth $25 each.
- Blue chips are worth $50 each.
- Black chips are worth $100 each.
Of course, these colors can vary based on your casino’s location. These are pretty standard in the United States, though.
Your buy-in should help you decide which denomination of chips you need:
- If you’re buying in for $100, you should buy red and white chips.
- If you’re buying in for less than $500, you should get some ($100) red chips and the rest in green.
- And so on…
- No matter what your buy-in, it’s always a good idea to ask for $10 or $20 worth of white chips. You’ll use those to tip the dealer.
Also, you can only “color up” when you’re leaving the table. This just means exchanging your lower denomination chips for higher denomination chips so you won’t have to carry around so many chips.
You cannot cash your chips in for real money at the table. You must visit the chip cage to do this.
The chips are worth the same amount at all the tables, except at the roulette table, where you have individual chips for specific players.
Also, once you’ve placed a bet, don’t touch it until the action is resolved. Some cheaters will increase the size of their bet or reduce it based on what’s happening. This is cheating, of course, so the casino wants to prevent it.
Casino Table Game Etiquette Tip #4
Know Whether You Can Touch the Playing Cards
No matter which casino card game you’re playing, the cards are going to be dealt in one of two ways:
- Face up
- Face down
If the cards are dealt face up, don’t touch the cards. Ever.
If the cards are dealt face down, you can touch the cards. But you should only use one hand. Be gentle with the cards, too.
You can save yourself a lot of embarrassment by understanding this rule. Casinos have these procedures in place to prevent cheating and misunderstandings. Some players might try to put a crease or a mark on 10s or aces to get an edge against the house in future rounds.
That is, of course, cheating.
Expect to be reprimanded repeatedly by the dealer if you use both hands or handle the cards too roughly.
In a blackjack game, you should know how to proceed in the game with the appropriate hand signals. You can also announce when you want to hit or stand, but that announcement must be accompanied by the hand signals.
That’s because the camera above the table is used to verify the action. Without the hand signals, a player could claim to have asked to stand instead of hit. Then it’s the dealer’s word versus the player’s. With the hand signals, the casino can run back the video.
In a face up blackjack game, you signal that you want another card by tapping the table with your index finger. If you want to stand, you wave your hand over the table, like your turning something down (which is what you’re doing, if you think about it). If you want to double or split, you place the extra bet beside the original bet.
In a face down blackjack game, you signal for a hit by gently scraping the cards on the table. (Remember to only use one hand when handling the cards.) To stand, you put your cards under your chips. Don’t handle the chips. Just slide your cards under them. To double down or split, flip your cards face up. Then follow the same procedure for doubling or splitting in a face up game.
Casino Table Game Etiquette Tip #5
Drink Moderately if at All
Most people don’t enjoy dealing with sloppy drunks. If you know you don’t hold your liquor well, just abstain for the duration of the game. You’ll probably have more fun and lose less money if you stay sober, anyway.
On the other hand, if you enjoy drinking moderately, that IS one of the perks of gambling in a casino. Just be sure to tip the cocktail waitress when she brings your free drink. And be careful with your drink. You can expect a lot of dirty looks and scorn if you spill a Jack Daniels on the rocks on the table during a blackjack game.
If you’re playing Texas holdem, some players will be happy to see you drinking at the table. There’s a reason for that.
I’ll let you figure that one out.
Casino Table Game Etiquette Tip #6
Keep Your Opinions about How I Play to Yourself
I used to play poker at an underground cardroom in Dallas, Texas with a character named “Big Ron.” (He owned a bunch of nail salons, but he was a big, masculine, muscular fellow.) One night I was getting a lot of lousy cards, so I’d spent about an hour folding.
I finally got a hand, so I raised into him.
He called me, and he said, “Man, you’ve folded 37 hands in a row before the flop. I just gotta see what kinds of cards you think are worth playing.”
That’s just fun table talk at the poker table.
Last weekend, I had a guy tell me, “You don’t play many hands, do you?”
That’s okay, too.
But when you start berating another player for the way he plays his hand, you’re stepping into the “not okay” category. That’s just plain rude.
I once thought a guy who worked for Frito-Lay was going to come across the table at me, because he felt like I’d played my AQ suited too strongly. (I sucked out on him on the river. I don’t remember what he had, but I know he was ahead until the end of the hand.)
That was scary and unpleasant.
An axiom you should keep in mind when gambling in a casino is that no one should be scared or have an unpleasant experience in the casino because of your behavior.
Having the way you play berated is an easy way to make such an experience unpleasant.
You’ll find plenty of blackjack players who want to correct your play, too. Some of them are under the erroneous notion that how you play your hand can somehow affect their outcome. That isn’t so. Any good blog post on gambling myths covers this.
I’m not sure why it’s so common for blackjack players to want to correct the other players at the table. At any rate, that’s rude behavior. Don’t engage in it. You know better.
This is less of a problem at the craps and roulette tables.
Casino Table Game Etiquette Tip #7
Don’t Ask the Other Players (or the Dealer) How to Play Your Hand
If you’re playing poker, it’s incredibly rude to ask the other players how to play your hand. “One player to a hand,” is what you’ll hear if you do this. You shouldn’t be showing your cards to another player at the table anyway.
If you’re playing blackjack, the other players are no more likely to know the correct strategy than you are. Study basic strategy thoroughly, memorize it, and use it to make your decisions.
And please never ask the dealer for advice about how to play your hand. For one thing, she probably doesn’t know the right move. And even if she does, you’re still liable to lose, and she doesn’t want you blaming her for any of your losses.
In fact, don’t even ask if you played your hand correctly after the fact, either. No one wants to tell you that you made a mistake. And no one is going to commiserate with you much about losing when you made such a good play or had such a good hand to start with.
The most important thing about playing your hands is to make your decisions fast so as not to hold up the game. If you need to slow down your play for bankroll reasons, the thing to do is take some breaks from the table—not play slower or chat up the other players.
Casino Table Game Etiquette Tip #8
Drop Some Coin, You Big Cheapskate
No, I’m not suggesting you lose money recklessly just for good manners.
I’m suggesting that you tip your dealers and your cocktail waitresses.
You should tip a cocktail waitress at least a dollar whenever she brings you a drink. It doesn’t matter if it’s a soft drink or a hard drink. If you want some extra attention, tip her $5 for the first drink and then $1 for every subsequent drink.
You should tip the dealer at least a dollar or two an hour. Even if you’re having a string of bad luck, it’s not the dealer’s fault. It’s customary to tip the dealer after winning a hand. Even if you’re down for the session, you’ll occasionally have some winning hands.
It’s also more fun to tip the dealer by placing a bet on her behalf. This is most common at the blackjack and craps tables. You do this by placing a bet in front of your bet in blackjack. When and if you win, the dealer gets the original bet and the winnings. To place a bet at the craps table, just put a bet on the pass or don’t pass line and announce it as dealer money. If a point is set, be sure to take maximum odds for the dealer.
Casino Table Game Etiquette Tip #9
Craps Is another Ball Game
It’s beyond the scope of this post to explain how to play craps. It’s the best game in the casino, as far as I’m concerned, and it’s simpler than you think. (A lot of players are intimidated by it, though.)
But it also has an etiquette all its own. All the above etiquette tips also apply to craps, but also keep these rules of proper behavior at the craps table in mind:
- It’s not necessarily rude to bet “Don’t Pass.” But do be aware that it’s inappropriate to cheer when everyone else loses and you win.
- You can only use one hand when handling the dice. You’re not allowed to move the dice from one hand to the other. If you’ve been paying attention, you probably realize this is another method of preventing cheating.
- Never say the word “seven” at the craps table. I’m not superstitious, but a lot of craps players are superstitious. Be respectful of that, even if it seems silly.
- Keep an eye on that drink. It belongs behind the rail at all times, NEVER over the table. In fact, you should keep your hands behind the rail unless you’re betting or rolling the dice.
- Normal table game etiquette applies, too. Don’t try to “educate” the other players. Don’t complain about how bad your luck has been running. Have fun, be social, and use some common sense.
Craps isn’t harder than the other games. It’s just different.
Gambling is no different than any other activity you carry out in public. Most of the rules of gambling etiquette are based on common sense and simple courtesy.
It’s easy to forget common sense and simple courtesy when there’s a lot of money on the line, though. Also, when you’ve got a casino plying you with free drinks, you run an even greater risk.
Have a lot of fun at the casino table games, but try not to irritate the other players or the casino staff. You’ll have more fun that way. I promise.