The Proper Way to Play Blackjack

The Proper Way to Play Blackjack

Adam Fontenot, a Blackjack dealer from Hollywood Casino gives his best casino tips that will help even the most amateur gamers. From using cell phones at the Blackjack tables to why the word, “gambling” is considered taboo, Fontenot not only advises players of Blackjack etiquette, he explains why the rules are in place. Following the tips is a list of Blackjack terms every player should know.

Basic Blackjack Etiquette

·         The difference between gambling and gaming, is the word “gambling” indicates a bad habit to the dealer. Fontenot said gambling coincides with addiction. Dealers and other casino employees are trained on an annual basis to spot players who show signs of addiction. He likens the casino to other forms of entertainment, such as movies, shows, comedy clubs and bars. Casinos provide entertainment, and try to prevent encouraging addiction.

·         Every Blackjack table has a “shoe,” which is basically the deck or deck of cards. It is considered rude to join a game when the shoe is half full. Players will be offended if a new player tries to infiltrate a game that is already in progress. Many have their own superstitions and a half full shoe is one of them. Fontenot said new players will want to wait until the shoe is finished and the dealer is starting a new shuffle before joining the game. He said some players believe new players will have a negative effect on the cards.

·         Phone conversations are not allowed at Blackjack tables. Not only does it disrupt the game, but casinos frown because phone calls could indicate cheating. The most well-intentioned players could be seen as counting cards, especially if they are discussing general numbers that have nothing to do with the game while on the phone. Fontenot said electronic devices are definitely not allowed at the tables. Dealers will ask players who are using electronic devices to leave the tables or sit out hands until they are finished with their calls. It’s not necessarily cheating, Fontenot explained. Phones simply have no place at the tables.

·         After the cards are dealt, players need to refrain from touching their bets. Many players will try to recount their winnings, Fontenot said. Dealers will let players know they are not allowed to touch their bets while the game is in play. Some will even try to add to their present bets, and that is also against Blackjack etiquette. It is actually a violation of gaming laws, Fontenot said.

·         The same goes for the cards. Instead of fingering their cards, players should give a hand signal to indicate what they would like to do with their cards, such as a split. To hit, players simply need to point to their cards. In standing, players hold their hands parallel to the table, and wave their hands back and forth. For a double, players need to place their bets directly next to their original bets. They are advised to refrain from placing the double bet on top of their original bet. For the split, players hold up their fingers. For example, with two fours, players hold up two fingers to split, and one to double. These are the signals for face up games. In face down games, a stand means the players push their cards underneath their bets. In a hit, they would move their hands in a scrape motion across the table. Casinos don’t allow players to verbalize their moves during hands. Dealers are only looking for signals, which can vary from game to game.

·         Hand signals are mainly for surveillance purposes, Fontenot said. While some players may tell the dealer their next move, they should also give a hand signal, he said. One of the reasons hand signals are recorded on camera is because some players may want a hit and then bust, and claim they didn’t want the hit. The only way to verify the claim is to check the cameras.  

·         In the case a player loans another player chips for a wager, the receiving player should not try to pay the player back during a hand. In other words, the receiving player cannot add to any player’s wager. Fontenot said there is nothing wrong with paying another player back, but it must be that player’s decision to add to the wager, not the receiving player’s decision. This eliminates confusion for the players and the dealer, Fontenot said. A single bet needs to be for a single person.

Dealer advises players to use the basic strategy

Fontenot was also asked how dealers play as opposed to regular players. As for himself, Fontenot said he sticks with the basic strategy. He has tried other strategies, and lost. With the basic strategy, Fontenot is able to play a lot longer – he said he played six hours in one sitting. If Fontenot is up during a game and he strays from the basic strategy, he finds himself in a risky position.


The basic strategy follows a chart that outlines the player’s cards and the dealer’s cards. The chart shows the correlations between both sets of cards, and tells the player which moves to make, according to the correlations. For example, if the player holds a five and three, the total is eight, and the chart tells the player to hit. If the player receives a three, the total is 11. The chart instructs the player to double, however, the double applies to the player’s first two cards, the five and the three. The player must hit in this case. Basic strategy charts are available at casinos, and Blackjack tables. These charts make it easier to play blackjack.

Terms to know in Blackjack

·         Hit – The player taps a finger on the table, indicating to the dealer the player needs another card.

·         Stay or stand – The player swipes his hand across the table. The dealer will leave the player’s hand alone.

·         Double down – Adds to the original wager after the player considers the total of the cards. Double down is a risk.

·         Split – The player forms two fingers in a V shape. This is only if the player is holding two cards of the same numeric value. The dealer will separate the cards for the player, and lay an extra card on each hand.

·         Surrender – This isn’t a rule on all tables. To surrender is to basically forfeit the hand following a check by the dealer for Blackjack. After surrendering, the player receives half of the original wager, and the player’s hand is out of play.

·         Bust – Players that bust have a hand that totals over 21.

·         Bust card – If the dealer’s upcard is at six or less, it is a bust card. The dealer is required to reach 17 in his total number of cards. The dealer’s card that is face down could be a 10, meaning the dealer has a total of 16, and must take a third card. The dealer’s hand is likely to become a bust. The bust card can also apply to players.