11 Don’ts of Playing Blackjack in Vegas

Thirty-seven million people visited Las Vegas in 2010, and I just have to wonder if they counted me four times. That’s right. I went to Vegas four times in 2010 and three times in 2011. Sadly, in 2012 I didn’t step foot in Clark County once. I’m a Vegas junkie; I was hooked after my first trip in 1998. I have a bucket list a mile long, but always seem to find myself in McCarron Airport far too often than I should. The reason is simple: I love playing blackjack in Vegas.

Tips for Playing Blackjack in Vegas

04.24 Las Vegas Day 4 (66)nevbrown via Flickr

The Vegas experience is as diverse as the people who visit. I am a gambler, specifically a blackjack player. I don’t care a thing about the night clubs, lounges, shopping, or restaurants. I just want to play blackjack, and I do. For hours. Lots of them. But not all casinos offer the best odds, as shown in this blackjack survey. It’s a good source to find the best odds and which tables to avoid, not only at blackjack but at any other casino game.

I’m a good blackjack player, if there’s such a thing. I know the odds and follow the rules, strategies, and tips. I am disciplined, which allows me to be able to sit at a table for as long as I do. I’m not saying that I win all the time. I don’t. The cards just don’t always fall in my favor. But I love the game, and that’s why I play. What I don’t love about gambling are some of the people who sit down at my table.  When in Canada, I take advantage of their legal online version, which have some good odds without the company. But if you don’t want to clear a table faster than a green 00 on a roulette wheel, then pay attention to these 11 don’ts for the blackjack table.

playing blackjack in VegasImages_of_Money via Flickr

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are new (or not) to the game, please ask the dealer for advice. They want you to win! The more you win, the more likely you are to tip (More on that later). They’ll tell you what “the book” says to do. Some friendlier dealers will actually explain the book’s strategy, which is based on math and probability. If you don’t want to ask every time, pick up a credit card-sized cheat sheet. Its graph style is easy to understand. Don’t worry about taking a little longer. Nobody is born knowing how to play blackjack. Everyone starts as a beginner, and most will appreciate your attempt to make the correct play.

playing blackjack in Vegasspaceyjessie via Flickr

• Don’t sit at a table with auto shuffle or a shoe with more than two decks. These will take a bit longer to hunt down, especially on the Strip in larger casinos. Auto shuffle is a machine that continuously shuffles the cards, which takes away much of the players’ advantage. A shoe is the rectangular thing that the dealer pulls the cards out of to deal. They usually hold anywhere from six to eight decks. This makes it really difficult to calculate odds. It’s no coincidence that there are very few single and double deck tables. Those are easier for a player to determine which cards are still in the deck. For instance, you need an ace, but you’ve already seen four come out. If you’re playing single deck, you know that you’re not getting an ace. The time you are able to spend at single and double deck tables is more. Depending on the fullness of the table, the dealer will only get one or two hands before he is forced to shuffle, as opposed to the larger-deck games that rarely, if ever, have to stop and shuffle.

playing blackjack in Vegasdave_stone via Flickr

• Don’t mishandle your cards or chips. Nothing will get you reprimanded faster than messing with your cards or chips when you shouldn’t. Most blackjack games won’t allow you to touch the cards at all. They are dealt face up, and if you want to split your hand, the dealer will take care of it. At those tables that do let you hold the cards, only do so one hand at a time. And for the love of gamblers everywhere, don’t bend the cards! That calls for a new deck, counting and shuffling included. Once you’ve laid down your bet, you can’t add or take away from it after the cards are being dealt. If you want to split or double down your hand, put the chips beside your original bet not on top.

• Don’t hand the dealer chips or money. Put the chips or cash on the table. They will not accept it any other way.

• Don’t take a handful of chips away from the table. Let the dealer cash you out. Say you have ten $10 chips, the dealer will give you one $100 chip.

playing blackjack the queen of subtle via Flickr

• Don’t be rude with your cigarette smoke. I think people who don’t even smoke come to Vegas and decide to smoke. Whatever. If you’re going to do it, be aware of the smoke and the people around you.

• Don’t EVER split tens. I don’t care if the dealer has a six showing. DO NOT SPLIT A WINNING HAND. There is only one hand better. Just don’t do it. EVER.

• Don’t forget to tip. Yes, the drinks are free, but that doesn’t mean you don’t tip the waitress bringing them to you. A dollar or two per drink is the minimum you should tip per drink. Don’t have cash? They’ll gladly take chips. The same goes for the dealer. TIP THEM! Most casinos pool the tips from all the tables each day and divide it by the total number of dealers. This way the dealers working the 8 am shift don’t get less than those who work the 8 pm shift. Want a chance to double their tip? Place a chip on the upper left side of your bet outside of the circle. If you win, they win. Bingo, your $5 tip is now $10.

Start of a long night versello via Flickr

• Don’t sit at third base if you don’t know what you’re doing. Nothing will make me want to come across the table and slap a person more than the third baseman making stupid plays. Third base is the chair directly to the dealer’s right. This person gets the last card before the dealer makes his hand. If you have a 14 against the dealer’s assumed 16 and you take a hit, there’s likely to be a lynch mob after you (see don’t #1). Other people at the table may have made stupid plays, but yours is the one everyone will remember.

• Don’t forget to be sociable and have fun. You’re on vacation and so is most everyone else around you. Playing blackjack in Vegas is sociable; talk to people if it’s in your nature. You never know who you’ll meet or what you might have in common. I always seem to find at least one person who knows someone I do. Not much of a talker? That’s ok too. Just be congenial and smile occasionally. I promise it will make your over-all experience more enjoyable.



Booking.com

There’s a lot more to the blackjack table than just the game. Watch. Learn. Everyone starts as a beginner, and that’s ok. It’s just like anything else, the more you practice the more comfortable and better you’ll get. I’m terrible at math, but something about the green felt turns me into John Nash from A Beautiful Mind. See you in Vegas. I’ll be the one at third base with a catheter taped to my leg.

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26 Comments
  • Cal
    October 23, 2011

    Ahh, what’s that movie I’m thinking of where that dude doesn’t know how to play Black Jack…Oh, Swingers with Vince Vaughn.

    So funny.

    I used to play Black Jack all the time and did quite well for awhile. That all changed though when I learned how to play No Limit Hold ’em.

    Which I love.

    I do miss the social aspect of Black Jack though. Lots of fun!

    Did you take those photos? I always get screamed at when I take photos in the Casinos.

    Great post!

  • Francesca
    October 24, 2011

    Funny, I go to Vegas for the total opposite reasons you do. I hate gambling (I’ll throw some money into the penny slots here and there…) but I LOVE the restaurants, clubs, and shopping! I did learn to play blackjack there, and I will agree with don’t #1. The dealer was so helpful and I actually won – a lot. It pissed off the other people at the table (my parents… tee hee!). It also was like 10am and the casino at the Monte Carlo was empty.

    • Leah Travels
      October 24, 2011

      Gambling itsn’t everybody’s cup of tea. I get it. For me, I just thrive on the rush. I find myself counting cards when I lay down at night in Vegas. I’m a total marathoner too. I’m talking at least 14 hours at the table a day. If I’m hungry I tell the waitress to bring extra olives! Bahahaha…

      There is so much more to do in Vegas besides gambling. I’m glad you found something you love to do there. I just love Vegas!

  • Leah Travels
    October 24, 2011

    I love that movie! Swingers is great still. I like to watch poker on TV, but I’ve never gotten into it. Part of the problem is I wouldn’t have a good poker face. The look on my face is something I have a hard time controling. I would lose all my money on the first hand. I didnt’ take the photos, but I did have a hard time finding blackjack-related photos. Most casinos do frown upon photos at the table, especially when cards are being dealt.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • Leah Travels
    October 25, 2011

    I’m a great teacher! You just take me with you and I’ll teach you everything you need to know. I don’t guarantee winning though. If I won all the time, I wouldn’t ever get up from the table. Get a blackjack app on your phone to practice. You’ll get the hang of it without losing any money.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  • Jody
    October 30, 2011

    You sound alot like me when it comes to Vegas, the only time I see the outside is when I land and get in the cab and when I leave the Golden Nugget on my way back to the airport, ha ha. I go to gamble, its what I do in Vegas and you should always play where you stay, thats how the comps work best.

  • Leah Travels
    October 30, 2011

    Jody, that’s a great tip about playing where you stay. It is easier to get comps that way. And make sure you get a players card!

  • Pola
    August 9, 2012

    Leah, after reading one of your earlier posts, I know, just know that you’re listening to Mambo Number 5 while thinking Vegas casinos!! ;)) Since I don’t gamble, can’t stand cigarette smoke and have no interest in nude ladies, there is only one thing that can bring me back to Vegas, the food. They attract phenomenal chefs!

  • Jody
    August 9, 2012

    Me! and like you, I go to gamble, nothing else, from the time I get there, until I leave, I take time out to eat once or twice a day and I do sleep but I go to gamble

  • Anonymous
    August 9, 2012

    We were there years ago, in the early 90’s. It was exactly like in the movies, an adult Disneyland, isn’t really our thing.

  • Kristin
    August 9, 2012

    I have never liked Vegas, but I have learned to appreciate the amazing restaurants they have there. And the souffle at the Eiffel Tower restaurant is one of the best desserts in the world.

  • Anonymous
    August 9, 2012

    We love the incredible food you can find there!

  • Crystal
    August 9, 2012

    That’s where I’m getting married! Love, love, love Vegas! And gambling of course!

  • Anonymous
    August 9, 2012

    I sure hope the casinos are playing Mambo #5, Pola. That means a load of cash is coming my way! A Cook Not Mad, Vegas isn’t for everyone, but it has matured quite a bit since the 90s. I think you’d enjoy the variety of wonderful restaurants, right Bespoke Traveler?

  • Anonymous
    August 9, 2012

    YAY for you Crystal! You know I got married there, too. My advice is not to do it outside in July when it’s 116 degrees like I did.

  • Crystal
    August 9, 2012

    I completely understand. I went to Vegas two months pregnant with Vance in August….oh my! Not good!!!! We are shooting for November. 🙂

  • David
    January 27, 2014

    Leah,

    I know I’m 2 years late to this comment thread. Mostly great advice to a first time player but one thing you mentioned is actually incorrect. Tables using a CTM (continuous shuffle machine) actually increase player odds slightly. I was under the impression the machines hurt player odds as well, but I did some research, and several blackjack math gurus have concluded the machines help. Cheers!

  • Jeff Stein
    October 25, 2015

    I like these suggestions. If you’re really an all time black jack player, I’d like to know where you can color up your $10 chips. I’ve never seen $10 chips, only $10 slot tokens.

  • Peter
    December 19, 2015

    No offense but I think some of your blackjack rules are a little snooty. The third base rule is a myth, and frankly contradicts your last rule about being sociable and having fun. The player that doesn’t know basic strategy in the long run helps you win (unknowingly) just as much they screw up. You just remember the screw ups more. There’s definitely a blackjack etiquette but I’ve learned to get over it because I play at the low limit tables where there’s bound to be lots of beginners. Now if I were at a high roller table or were playing with lots of money then it might be a different story, but then it wouldn’t be as fun due to the stress. Fun article to read!

  • Brandon
    November 28, 2016

    The rhird base rule is not AT ALL A MYTH! IT IS A FACT! THIS IS ALSO THE BEST PLACE TO PLAY IF U KNOW WHAT U ARE DOING!

  • Brandon
    November 28, 2016

    Third*

  • K. Rogers
    December 28, 2016

    Brandon;

    Wrong.

    It’s true that other players get upset when 3rd base makes stypid play.

    It’s a myth that it adversely effects other players. Anyone who doesn’t understand this, probably can’t be convinced.

  • Jay
    January 23, 2017

    Sitting position doesnt matter. I play the dealer – not you. Whatever I pull doesnt matter – if you actually understand BJ.

    • Jay
      January 23, 2017

      So true. This writer is a rookie.

    • Phred
      April 26, 2017

      Sitting position _does_ matter, if you are counting cards. Reason is that you get to see (and count) more cards before making your decisions on a hand. I play the dealer and the distribution of cards remaining in the shoe.

  • Cathy R
    August 7, 2019

    Great post. I love Blackjack and spend about 85% of my time playing that. I am heading to Vegas again in a couple weeks. Position does matter if you don’t think so think again. Quick example person has 18 and hits dealer gives them a ten so they bust next person has 10 and should of gotten the ten but don’t get a four now have a shitty 14.

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