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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Top-10 things you shouldn't do while playing blackjack

20 April 2009

Table games at casinos are supposed to be fun. But unfortunately, prickly dealers and players can sully the experience -- especially if they violate basic table etiquette. So to help ensure that your (and everyone else's) next trip to the blackjack table is fun for everyone, here are ten things you should never do while playing blackjack:

10. Touch your bet after the cards have been dealt

This is a big no, no. Even if it looks like that nice chip stack you bet is about to collapse, to don't reach over and try to straighten it out. It will look like you're trying to either increase your bet (if your cards are good), or decrease your bet (if your cards stink). Either way, it gives the impression that you're trying to cheat the casino, so don't do it.

9. Forget to use hand symbols

In a noisy casino, the dealer can't always hear what you want to do. Plus, the eye in sky (yes, they're video taping everything you do) needs to be able to clearly record your intent as well, in case there's a dispute. So use hand signals at the table to signal your action. Scratch the felt (lightly) by pulling your finger toward yourself if you want another card. Wave your hand parallel to the table and over your cards if you don't want any more cards. And if you want to double down or split, slide your new bet next to your original bet.

8. Buy insurance

This is the first of two tips that has nothing to do with etiquette. Buying insurance (it's offered whenever the dealer has an ace showing) is generally a really bad play, so don't do it.

7. Tell another player how to play

There are a few things (well -- six to be exact) more annoying than telling another player how to play blackjack. Unless you are specifically asked, do not offer unsolicited advice. It slows the game down. It frustrates the player who is trying to make his own decision. It's obnoxious. And you never want to be the person who everyone else is talking about after they leave the table.

6. Get drunk

Ordering drinks while the game is going on (rather than in between games) is bad enough. But getting drunk at the table is even worse. Mean or happy, drunks don't make good blackjack players. They slow the game down, make incoherent conversation with other players and generally kill the mood at the table. Don't be that person.

5. Touch the cards

At most blackjack tables, players are not allowed to handle the cards. So don't do it. Don't try and straighten them out to be even. Don't try to nudge them so they're easier to read. Just don't touch them. If you do, the assumption is you are trying to cheat. And casinos don't like that.

4. Ignore Basic Strategy

Yes, this isn't an etiquette tip. But it's still a very important tip. Basic Strategy is good blackjack strategy. So use it. Either learn it on the flight/drive over to the casino or buy a Basic Strategy card at the gift shop and familiarize yourself with it (some casinos will even let you use that card at the table). Either way, by using Basic Strategy, you can reduce the house edge in blackjack to less than 1%. Plus, watching other people play blackjack poorly just isn't fun. So for the sake of your fellow players, please use Basic Strategy.

3. Blame another player

Don't blame another player's "bad decision" for ruining your hand. That's not the way blackjack works. First of all, results -- good and bad -- wash out over time regardless of what decisions are made. Secondly, the actions of other players don't affect the chances for you to have a winning hand. Those chances are the same regardless of how another person plays their cards. So the next time the player next to you draws a card that you believe should have been yours, take a deep breath, relax and calm down. You might draw a card that works for you. Or you might not. But that player hasn't affected your chance to win.

2. Berate another player

Even worse than blaming another player for a losing hand is yelling and screaming at other players. Yes, it happens. Yes, it's ridiculous. And yes, it really sucks when you double down with an 11 and draw a two. But that's no reason to go Phil Hellmuth on another player. Stuff like that happens in blackjack all the time. Just let it roll of your back and concentrate on having a good time.

1. Ignore the dealer

Believe it or not, the dealer is there to help you have fun and make sure you don't break the rules, so pay attention to the dealer. If the dealer pauses after you make a decision, it could be his way of telling you to reconsider your decision. That's when you ask what the book says -- almost every dealer knows basic strategy like the back of their hand -- to get some more information before you make your decision. If you have a good run of cards, tip the dealer. They'll be appreciative and more likely to help you with tougher decisions. If you include the dealer in table conversation, you'll find the game moves faster and is a whole lot more enjoyable. Dealers who are enjoying themselves will often help you with the finer points of the game as well. In short, if you pay attention to the dealer, good things will happen. And at a casino, that's all you can ask for.

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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.