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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Dealers call these players ...

2 July 1999

Dear Mark,
I hate gambling with my cousin. Not only is he irritating to other players on the table, he is very abusive to the dealer. You have no idea how many times the dealer has to tell him, could you please do this, don't do that. How about some written table manners I can pass his way? Janie T.


A front-line employee of a casino, Janie, must obey two rules when it comes to customers-even your cousin. One, the player is always right, and two, if the player is wrong, see rule number one. Not easy when a decent percentage of players are running on high octane drinks and losing money. And though Bozo players (what we would call your cousin) get their fair share of negative commentary in the employee breakroom, a dealer who lashes out at any customer would be severely reprimanded-fired!
But me, I've been paroled from my 18-year casino sentence, so I can dole out some table etiquette without repercussion. Here goes.

Know the proper hit/stand signals for the blackjack game you're playing.

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

Once you've placed your wager, don't touch your bet until you get paid.

If the cards are running against you, don't keep asking for a new deck. If you don't like your cards, move to another table.

Expect with abusive language an early departure from the casino.

Don't ask the dealer what her hole card is. Dealers won't risk their job over your wager. There's 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 (99.999%) don't. It's most likely a bad run of cards plus let's not discount poor play. Also, abusing "the messenger" for crummy cards lacks any form of civility.

If you're using a basic strategy card (recommended), don't refer to it each and every hand. You should have a basic understanding on how to play most of your hands well before you sit down on a game.

Using these lines? "Are you going to be nice to me?" Question is, are you going to be nice to them. "Where are you from?" It's most likely on their nametag. "Do you live here?" Yes, we're not Martians commuting from Mars. Try some other light conversation. Note: About every recipe I know, from avocado dip to chicken wings, came from some customer.

Don't walk up to a dealer and tell him he looks bored, make him shuffle a 6-deck shoe just to play one $5 bet, lose, then walk.

When betting for the dealer (worth at least three separate columns), keep the ratio a reasonable one. I once had a professional baseball player betting three hands at $500 a whack, with just a 50¢ bet for me, the dealer, every third shuffle. One month earlier he signed a multi-million-dollar, 5-year contract. His initials are. I better not.

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

Finally, dealers really don't care if the sign outside their casino says "certified friendly dealers." They just want to be treated like you would want to be treated.

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
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.
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.