You’ve just booked a weekend at a fabulous casino resort…and you’ve got no idea what to do when you get there! We can’t make you a better gambler, but there ARE a few things you can do to avoid looking like a complete idiot when you hit the felt. Consider this your crash-course in casino etiquette.
Roulette is one of the easiest games in the casino to play. You bet on a number (or a series of numbers) between 0 and 36, the dealer spins the wheel, a ball lands on a number and the game is done. Because the rules are so simple, it’s a great starter game for first-time casino-goers. The downside? Roulette—especially double-zero roulette—has one of the worst house edges in the entire casino.
In most roulette games, the croupier (pronounced "Crew-pee-ay," a.k.a the dealer) will give players 1-2 minutes to place bets, then he’ll spin the ball. Players can still place bets while the ball is spinning, but when the croupier waves his hand and says, “No more bets,” he means business. Any bets you try to make after that point will be null and void. So don’t even think about it.
Chances are you’ll play roulette next to others furiously jotting down the results of each spin. Don’t feel left out. Taking notes on past performance has no bearing on the odds for that next spin. Despite what some players might tell you about “patterns” in the outcomes of each spin, any patterns are purely coincidental. We promise.
While most roulette wheels have two zero slots—0 and 00—some have only one. While payouts on both wheels are the same, the distinction makes a huge difference in the odds; the house advantage on single-zero wheels is more than half what it is for double-zero ones. The takeaway? If you have the option of playing single-zero roulette, do it. Every time.
Unless you’re part Plastic Man, you’ll find it nearly impossible to reach every betting square from your spot around the roulette table. Fear not—it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the croupier for help placing your bet. To do this, simply push your chip across the felt to the dealer and instruct him where to put it. He’ll take care of the rest from there.
Most roulette tables have their own chips. These chips have no value printed on them—the value depends exclusively on what you buy-in for. The chips are worthless at every other table on the casino floor. With this in mind, make sure you exchange your leftover chips for regular chips before you walk away. This is called “coloring up.”
Also known as “21,” blackjack is one of the most popular casino games worldwide because it has some of the best odds for the player (if you play by the book). The goal of the game is to beat the dealer, not the players to your left and/or right. The game is played with one or more decks of 52 cards. Most payouts are 1:1; blackjacks should pay 3:2.
The seat to the dealer’s right, known as “Third Base,” is a power position, as you are last to act before the dealer does. If you’re sitting here, be careful not to hit when you should stay—if you do and you pull the card that would have made the dealer bust, other players may want to pour their free drinks in your lap.
The best odds on blackjack payouts are 3:2 (meaning that for every $10 bet, you receive $15). The problem? Many casinos quietly have embraced 6:5 payouts for blackjack, meaning you win less for the best hand. While winning is always good, winning more is always better. If you see 6:5 odds where you sit, find another table, stat.
Players on a losing streak might blame you and your cards for their bad luck (or poor strategy). They might even heckle or harass you for certain moves you make. If this happens, keep the brass knuckles in your pocket and practice peace. When you’re in a casino, there always is another blackjack table to which you can move.
All casinos require the use of hand signals for the cameras monitoring each table. Just saying “hit” or “stay” is not enough: Make sure you scratch the table toward you if you want another card, or wave your hand over your cards if you want to stay.
We all go to the casino to gamble, right? Most gambling establishments will let you double your initial bet when your first two cards total 10 or 11, and you should do so every time. Sometimes splitting identical cards can be advantageous, too. The odds suggest these are great ways to make money over time. Hopefully Lady Luck will cooperate for you.
Poker is the most combative of all casino games, as it pits one player against eight or nine others in a race for the pot. While the game is played in many varieties, the most popular iteration is Texas Hold ‘Em, in which each player gets two “hole” cards, and all players share five cards at the center of the table. From these seven, the best 5-card hand wins.
Poker players have a saying that “if you can’t spot the sucker at the table, it’s probably you.” This means that if your chip stacks keep dwindling after each hand, perhaps it's time to take a walk.
Even the best poker players have “tells,” or physical eccentricities that reveal information about their cards. One opponent might bounce his legs. Another might pick his nose (and eat it). For the inside scoop about tells on your opponents, watch them as they look at their cards and remember who does what. When you sense a pattern, pounce.
One of the most exciting aspects of poker is bluffing—the act of deceiving opponents into thinking your hand is better than it is. But bluffing only works if you deploy it tactically. If someone catches you bluffing it might be time to tighten up and start playing better hands.
Poker is a social game, and talking is encouraged, at the right times, of course. You shouldn’t talk about the hand when you’re not in it. And you probably shouldn’t talk about the hand at all, but having a conversation with the people around you is half the fun. And when it’s your “turn” you can say anything you want (at your own risk, of course, as you might be giving away a tell of your own to the other players).
Tipping the dealer in poker isn’t required, but it’s good form—especially after you win a big pot. In terms of how much you should tip, anywhere from $1-$5 is appropriate, again depending on the size of the pot. If you win some sort of jackpot, it’s proper etiquette to toss the dealer 3-5 percent of the take.
A lot happens in a basic game of craps. In the main game, a “shooter” throws two dice to set a point that she must hit again before she rolls a 7 (a.k.a., “craps out”). In side games, however, you can bet on everything from a one-time roll of 12 to the breakdown of how two dice will total 8. The game is fast, furious, and loud, since just about everyone is screaming. It’s an adrenaline rush. Win or lose.
Cheering and hooting and hollering are all acceptable around the craps table, so take full advantage and scream like a banshee. One of our favorite things to yell is, “Yo!” which (in addition to being the universal word for “hello”) is craps parlance for 11. It’s also customary to clap for a shooter after a particularly lucrative run.
When you’re the shooter, the goal is to keep the dice *on* the table. If one of the dice you throw bounces off the table, don’t be surprised if (everyone at the tables groans in disappointment, and) a stickman (that’s craps talk for “dealer”) replaces it with a new one. The dealers are required to do this to make sure nobody has doctored the rogue.
The odds in craps dictate that once a point has been set, shooters will roll a 7 sooner rather than later. With this in mind, some players bet AGAINST the shooter, betting on “Don’t Pass” that she will crap out. This strategy might be statistically savvy, but it is not popular. If you go against the shooter, prepare yourself for glares from others.
Most craps players are superstitious, which means they have set ways of holding dice, juggling dice, throwing dice, and more. It also means that when a shooter is running hot, it is bad luck to touch her throwing hand in any way. To avoid the temptation, stick to cheers instead of fist-bumps after good rolls. And if you’re standing next to her, give her some space.
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