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12 Ways to Be the Best Player at the Blackjack Table, According to Top Dealers

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Being a blackjack dealer is part psychiatry, part defense. Not only do they try to ensure that everyone from the “what’s Blackjack again?” guy to the serious player has a good time (the point, after all), but they also have to maintain the integrity of the game -- it’s not that they personally object to Snapchat, but rules are rules. Want to be their favorite person that shift? We sat down with Alicia Taschler  and Erik Verholy, Blackjack dealers at Sands Bethlehem, to find out the dos and don’ts of the table.

1. Don’t put everything on the table

In a twist on normal life, only drinks, cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters can be on the table as you play. This, like many rules, is about cheating prevention and common sense. “Bags, food, glasses and electronic devices are not allowed,” says Erik. “You can have these things with you at the table -- that’s what pockets are for."

2. Sit in the middle

Taking a spot on the end of the table doesn’t mean you are up to no good, of course, but these are your dealer’s weakest spots, where stray hands are most likely to grab chips, cash, and mess with cards. Want to look angelic? Sit right in front of them. “We lean into the sides as we deal so we can, peripherally, spot any quick moves being made from there,” says Alicia. “But of course, the middle of the table is so much easier to protect.” 

3. Enough about the shuffling

While it’s tempting to fixate on “beating the system,” when it comes to hand vs. machine shuffling… there really isn’t one. “Some players insist on hand-shuffling as opposed to the machine,” says Erik, “and get quite superstitious about it, but really? The cards are the cards -- there’s no funny business here.”

4. Set a limit

Leaving the table to hit the ATM, or rummaging for cash, is a sign that you should probably go do something else. “Come in with a specific figure in mind, and stick to it.,” says Alicia. “When it’s gone, it’s gone. You’re going to have to walk away at some point, so might as well be now.”

5. Follow basic strategy

While most dealers will be more than happy to help you out with a quick recap, it’s just basic manners to show up with a clue, and also know which moves are annoying as hell. “Don’t split 10s. Things like that will just make you really unpopular at the table,” says Erik. “And also, you are spending money. You wouldn’t go buy a TV without some research.”

6. Don’t high-five

As tempting as it is when you win, dealers are absolutely not permitted to touch you with an open hand. They can fist bump you, but don’t be surprised if they flinch at first: it’s probably not that exciting to them that you just won $20.

7. Play your own game

Camaraderie is encouraged at the table, but giving other players unsolicited advice is not.  Do Erik a favor, and don’t be that guy. “When someone thinks that they are an expert player and has too many opinions on the decisions a novice is making? I sometimes have to step in because it makes for a very uncomfortable, awkward evening. Unless the new person wins -- and we root for that.”

8. Tip the Dealer

Dealers can’t ask for tips, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t receive them, in the form of chips or cash. It’s not common knowledge, so be the classiest player at the joint and spread a little wealth. But put it on the table -- you are not allowed to hand the dealer anything. “We offer a service, just like waiters, concierges, and valets, so if you think we did it well and you had fun, tip us -- as you would those people. It all adds up, so we can eat,” says Alicia.

9. Keep distractions to a minimum

Protecting the table takes strategic dealing postures, and a whole lot of concentration on the dealer’s part. So while it’s great that your buddy just won big at the next table, keep the cross-casino whooping to a minimum -- it looks sketch. “We don’t want to take our eyes off the layout,” says Alicia, “which means we really can’t focus on anything outside our line of vision."

10. Know that you won’t take the house down

If you expect to win big, prepare for a rough night, because you most probably aren’t going to. Erik’s advice? “Remember the entertainment value of the game -- interacting with other players, and your dealer. Don’t berate the dealer or blame the establishment when you leave empty-handed.”

11. Don’t touch the dealer's cards

Are you the dealer? No? Then hands off. “This is a common problem,” says Alicia. “It sounds obvious, but it’s not, so I don’t mind if I say it once, but people I have to keep reminding make life extremely difficult.”

12. Have fun!

It sounds obvious, but with all that potential cash flying around? Easily forgotten. “Just come to the casino to have a good time,” says Alicia. “That’s the definition of an ideal player, and the person I want in front of me.”

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