Ready to Rule the Table? A Comprehensive Guide in Playing Blackjack in Actual Casinos

Are you planning to test your skills on an actual blackjack table? Once you master the casino blackjack rules and strategies, the next step is to play in a physical table. Heading to a brick-and-mortar casino is the greatest measure of being a pro gambler. Unlike playing online where you can refer to charts and cheat sheets, you only have your brain in an actual casino. The rounds are played fast and the distractions are everywhere – free drinks, pit bosses, sucker players, and more.

For aspiring card counters, playing in an actual casino is the only good option. Online casinos shuffle cards after every hand, thus preventing anyone from keeping a running value. However, casino blackjack rules prohibit card counting – something that’s both annoying and exciting.

Before stepping into the house, here are some of the important points you should remember:

The casino etiquette

If this is your first time to play in an actual casino, we badly need to start with the etiquette. When playing blackjack, you’re not supposed to say verbally what your next move is. Instead, you use hand signals to the dealer. Here’s how you do it when you want to hit, stand, split, or double:

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Remember, you’re not supposed to touch your cards unless it’s pitched or dealt upside down. Surrendering, on the other hand, is signaled like this:

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Aside from these basic gestures you need to master, here are some of the casino blackjack etiquettes they simply don’t teach you in the books:

????Joining the table

Don’t seat on a blackjack table right away. Ask if there are available betting slots first. Even though there are vacant seats, some players might be playing multiple hands at a time. Also, check if the table allows players to join mid-deck. If yes, wait until the current hand finishes before you make a bet.

????Place the money on the table

When you’re buying more chips, don’t hand the cash to the dealer. Put it on the table as the security cameras need to see all the transactions happening on each table. The dealer will spread the money for the cameras to see and then slide the chips to your direction. When in the middle of a hand, you’ll have to wait until it finishes before you place the money.

????Hold your cards properly

First, never hold your cards with two hands. Besides, there’s no reason for you to hide it based on basic blackjack rules. In case the cards are dealt face-down, use one hand to flip it without removing it on the table. Remember, all the cards should be in the cameras’ view.

????Don’t touch the chips

Once you’ve placed the wager and the round has started, never touch your chips. Wait until the round is played and the dealer has paid or retrieved winnings and losses respectively. Why? Some cheating players try to change their bets while playing.

Also, when stacking the chips, the highest value should be at the bottom.

????Tip properly

If you’re a card counter who wants to make a consistent income, you have the right to decline to give tips. Still, it’s a casino culture to give tips to the dealer or drink servers whenever you’re winning. This depends on your preference.

????Collect your winnings properly

When your hand wins, the dealer will give you the amount in chips. However, don’t grab it as soon as it lands on the table. Wait until the dealer settles the winnings/losses and after s/he retrieved all the used cards. This way, all the transactions are seen clearly on security cameras.

Strategy cards and interacting with the dealer

Some casinos are lenient enough to allow players to use a strategy card while playing. However, ask first before doing so or you won’t be tossed out of the house. If ever the house allows, don’t spend ages referring to the chart in every hand. The other players will loathe you for it.

Make sure that you can read your cards in a matter of seconds. It shouldn’t disturb other players as well so use a discreet and small chart if you can.

Although it’s not customary to talk to the dealer for your moves, it’s totally fine to chat with them from time to time. They can give you playing advice which you should always take with a grain of salt. Remember, they’re working for the house and giving winning advice is a bit doubtful unless you tip big.

And even if the dealers are just employees of the casino, you don’t have any right to be rude. Be a good sport if your hands are starting to go sour. Don’t bad-mouth them or make provocative movements. Remember, the pit boss is watching.

And if you want to be comfortable, look for an accommodating dealer. Some dealers will allow you to place a “toke” or a bet for their behalf. Usually, the winnings here would be the tip for their additional effort. Still, know if the casino blackjack rules allow this.

Talking to the players

A blackjack table isn’t a math quiz. You’re always allowed to have a small chat with other players. This keeps the game light plus talking is a good way to evade the prying eyes of pit bosses who are hunting for card counters.

However, not all players want to talk. Always show respect if they want to focus on their play rather than talk to you.

Observe the nature of the table you joined. If the players are quiet, don’t try to break the ice. You can always try to chat, but if you don’t get an enthusiastic response, let your case rest.

When it comes to giving gambling advice, do so only if you’re asked to. Unsolicited gambling tips aren’t always welcome in casino tables. Besides, the playing strategy of other players won’t affect your odds of winning.

How about back betting? If you happen to know someone in the table, you can back bet on him if he or the casino permits. Back betting is placing wagers on the hand of a seated player. However, you don’t have any control over the moves. If the hand losses, you shouldn’t berate the controller or seated player. Take note that you gambled in your own volition. If you want full control, wait until a seat is vacated.

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Leaving the table

When you’re done playing, you can leave the table right after the hand finishes. However, if the shoe is rich and the other players are winning, you may want to think twice. Some players have superstitions that someone leaving the table will break their winning streak.

Anyway, you have the freedom to walk away whenever you want to. It’s your own money and you have all the right to control your bankroll. Even the basic blackjack rules won’t prevent you from walking away.

But before you gather all the chips from the table to cash out, let the dealer color you first. The process of coloring is changing the chips to a high-value denomination so you won’t have to bring dozens of pieces. Also, the dealer needs the low-value chips to continue serving the game.

Side bets

Like playing online, never take side bets unless you’re an experienced card counter. Don’t forget that these types of wagers have high house edges. Insurance bets, even money, 21+3, and the likes are sucker bets. It’s not a good choice if you’re playing to make a profit.

As for the rest of your gaming strategy, it remains the same. Just don’t forget to ask how many decks are played on the table, what the house edge is, and if there are special casino blackjack rules to be followed.


Like usual blackjack games, there are different betting limits on actual casino tables. Always ask about this to avoid the embarrassment during the game. If this is your first time, avoid the tables for high rollers.

A standard blackjack table should suit you well so you can adjust on the playing style without losing a lot of money. Usually, pit bosses aren’t as focused on these small-time betting slots than how they do with high-value plays.

Starting your card counting journey

Most online players decide to bring their game to an actual casino to start card counting. As you know, it’s impossible to count the cards online as the dealer uses an automatic shuffler or the cards are shuffled after each hand.

In a previous post, we discussed a master class in card counting. This includes the methods you can use to increase your edge and win more. This time, we will give you some tips on how not to get caught.

First, let us know how pit bosses get to spot a card counter:

Some casinos that have a long history of catching card counters would hire undercovers to roam their tables. Once the agent spots a card counter based playing deviations and betting behavior, they will pitch it to the pit boss. The card counter will be asked to leave the table to talk with the pit boss.

Pit bosses are very familiar with the ways of card counters. Usually, it’s the player who’s too focused on the game and who keeps on winning whenever he places a larger bet. The pit boss knows when you’re waiting for the shoe to get rich before you gamble.

When you’re starting to make big money (which casinos hate), you’ll raise suspicion. At this point, it’s better to walk away than to be backed off.

Remember, though, that casinos also use face detection software to spot card counters. If the pit boss backs you off regularly, you may want to consider going to another casino for the meantime.

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How the casinos try to discourage you:

♦️Asking the dealer to shuffle randomly even if the deck is still within playing capacity

♦️Making the waitress/waiter start a conversation with you to break your concentration.

♦️Shuffling the deck when the dealer notices you’re increasing your bets

♦️Adding more decks to the shoe to ruin your running count

♦️The pit boss asks the backed off card counter to flat bet if they want to continue playing

How not to get caught:

♦️Screw up intentionally. Don’t play a very perfect game. Try to screw some hands without losing too much money. This way, the pit boss will think twice about backing you off.

♦️Stick to small spreads. Erratic betting is a telltale sign that you’re a card counter. Try to make your bet spreads smaller so you won’t get caught.

♦️Take a break. Don’t sit on the table for the whole session without taking a break. The pit boss can easily spot you if you’re too focused and immersed on the game.

♦️Don’t mouth the running count. With the fast hands of the dealer, it’s quite challenging to keep your head start. Still, never murmur or mouth the running count. Keep it in your head or the casino’s eyes will see you.

♦️Drink a little. Enjoy some booze in between your rounds. This way, the pit boss will think you’re in the casino to enjoy.

How the dealer tricks you

Remember, as much as the dealer is a nice guy, he’s still working for the casino. Beware of the gambling advice he’s going to give you. According to a former blackjack dealer, only a few dealers actually know complicated blackjack techniques. The rest are just into basic blackjack rules.

What I’m trying to say is that you should practice caution when heeding their advice. Some dealers will intentionally give you bad advice or pressure you to make a move to mess with your strategy.

Another trick casinos do is keeping the drinks coming. They will snatch your sobriety so you will make poor gambling choices.

Although not all dealers will do this, some would tip whore you. They’ll give you snide looks for not tipping. Still, don’t be carried away, especially if you’re there to make profits.

Aside from knowing the casino blackjack rules, you should also study how to adjust to the ever-busy casino setting. That way, you can focus on your game and stick to your strategy.

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