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There’s more to mastering any game than a fundamental understanding of how to play. You must also know the customs of the game and how to finnesse the rules. Following are some pointers which you can learn now or learn the hard way:
- Understand the rules before you sit down.
- Buy or cash in chips between hands only. If you sit down while a hand is in progress, wait patiently for the conclusion of the hand then buy in. Use this time to get your money ready.
- Know that red chips are $5, greens are $25, and blacks are $100. At the table you may ask the dealer to make change for a large denomination chip, but don’t ask to exchange small denomination chips for large ones.
- When you cash out, the dealers prefer for you to trade in smaller denominations of chips for large ones. Between hands, give the dealer neat stacks of chips and let him/her count them and change them in.
- In some games the cards are dealt face up. If this is the case, never touch your cards.
- If the cards are dealt face down, then only touch your cards with one hand only! If you break this rule you will almost always get a sharp rebuke. Be gentle with the cards; don’t bend them or put drinks on them. Some players have tried to cheat by bending specific cards slightly, for example the aces, and the dealers have to guard against this. I’ve seen new players told repeatedly to only touch their cards with one hand. If you can’t seem to break the two-hand habit then sit on one hand if you have to. In some games, like Caribbean Stud Poker, you may not even touch your cards until the dealer signifies that you may by turning on a light.
- Never touch your bet once the first card has been dealt. Wait until after the hand is over.
- Do not drink excessively. Much worse than a new player is a drunk.
- Speaking as a non-smoker, if you must smoke please try to maximize the time between cigarettes. When you exhale do not do so in the face of other players or the dealer. When you are done with your cigarette please fully put it out, not letting it emit smoke from the ash tray. I respect your right to smoke, even at my table, but try to make it as painless for me as possible.
- In blackjack do not rebuke another player for the way they play their hand. There is a mistaken belief that unnecessary hitting causes everyone to lose at blackjack.
- Do not ask the dealer for advice. Dealers do not want to be blamed if you follow their advice and you lose so they will usually give a vague answer if you ask. An exception is pai gow and pai gow poker, where you may ask the dealer how he would play his hand according to the “house way.”
- Do not ask for pity if you have a bad hand, it happens to everyone. Numerous times I have seen a player hit a stiff hand in blackjack and get an additional small card but still be in the 12-16 point range. When this happens some players will often show their cards to the dealer, make a big sigh, and expect some sympathy for having to make another decision. Nobody cares about your hand but you, make a decision quickly and do not hold up the game.
- Tipping is more open to your judgement than the other rules of etiquette. In my opinion you should tip 2/3 based on how friendly and helpful the dealer is and 1/3 on how much you are winning/losing. Even if you are losing you should still tip if the dealer has been trying to make the experience more fun.
Some games, especially blackjack, involve hand signals to signify how you want to play your cards. You must use hand signals, verbal instructions are not enough. Please know them before you sit down, it is very annoying when a new player has to be instructed over and over. Here are the hand signals in blackjack when the cards are dealt face up:
- Hit: Tap the table.
- Stand: Wave your hand, palm open, parallel to the table.
- Double/Split: Place your matching bet next to, never on top of, your original bet. If you have two fours or two fives, you should hold up one finger if you are doubling, and two fingers if you are splitting.
Here are the hand signals in blackjack when the cards are dealt face down:
- Hit: Lightly scrape the corner of the cards against the felt.
- Stand: Slide your cards under your bet. Do not lift your chips in the process.
- Double/Split: Place your cards face up on the table, just above your bet. Then place your matching bet next to, never on top of, your original bet. If you have two fours or two fives, you should hold up one finger if you are doubling, and two fingers if you are splitting.
If you bust then lay down your cards face up by your bet. Do not throw them in disgust, as it is very rude. If you can’t handle losing, then don’t play at all.
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