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Blackjack code of conduct

13 July 2012

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: It is amazing how few players know proper blackjack etiquette. Possibly, you could do a refresher column for the masses. John H.

When I worked the front-line, either pitching cards or as a manners' referee (pit boss), I was bound by two rules when it came to casino customers. Rule One, the player is always right, and Rule Two, if the player is wrong, see Rule number One. All the while, a decent percentage of players were gulping for effect on high-octane drinks, while losing loads of ready cash.

That should not stop casino patrons from at least practicing some table civilities and etiquette. These social graces will go a long way in making their table game experience, and the employee’s job, much more enjoyable. Let us begin.

• Know the hit/stand signals for the blackjack game you are playing.

• In baseball, it's two hands for beginners; on a live blackjack game, it's one hand on the cards. Some casinos are touchy-feely (toss you out) about you doing anything funny to the cards.

• Once you have placed your wager, don’t touch your bet until you are paid.

• Expect with abusive language an early departure from the casino. Hey, we all lose, more often than not. Be a graceful loser without showing your temper, swearing, throwing cards or drinks. Yes, drinks. One time, a Big Gulp came my way for making a seven-card 21.

• If the dealer is on a game where they peek at their hole card instead of a card reader, don't ask the dealer what the hole card is. Dealers will not risk their job over your wager. There is nothing wrong with asking for advice, but not after the dealer looks under her face/ace.

• If you lose several hands in a row, don't accuse the dealer of cheating. Most (99%) don't. It's most likely due to a bad run of cards, plus, let's not discount, possibly to your poor play. Also, abusing the "messenger" for crummy cards betrays bum manners. Besides, who like a whiner?

• If you're using a basic strategy card (recommended), don't refer to it every single hand. You should have a basic understanding on how to play most of your hands well before you sit down on a game. Watch your game play pace. Yes, you have a right to take some time to decide, but not to bring the game to a grinding halt. No one likes a slow player.

• Using these trashed-out lines? "Are you going to be nice to me?" Question is, are you going to be nice to them. "Where are you from?" Quick tip: It's most likely on their nametag.

• On non shuffle machine games, don't walk up to a dealer and tell him he looks bored, make him shuffle an eight-deck shoe just to make one bet, lose, then walk.

• Once the hand has been completed, don't turn your cards over to help the dealer. Dealers have a routine on the pickup and your "help" just slows them down. Besides, dealers need to spread the cards a certain way so the cameras can read them.

• Definitely don't insult other players or their play.

• Don't give solicited or uninvited advice. It always ends up that the player who asked, or took your guidance, will be upset with you if your recommendation ended up causing a loss.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: A racehorse is an animal that can take several thousand people for a ride at the same time. -- Author unknown
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.