CHIPS AND BETTING IN BLACKJACK

In the previous section, we talked about how to select the right blackjack table. Once you’ve picked out the best table for your skill level and bankroll it’s time to get into the game. To do that, you’ll need to exchange your money for chips and understand how to place a bet:

LAND BASED CASINOS VS. ONLINE CASINOS

Once again, the information that follows applies primarily to land-based casinos. Online casinos take the intimidation out of the equation and many of the tasks that we discuss below are automated. Every online casino has their own process for exchanging real money deposits for game chips. Once you’ve done that, you’ll find that the betting process at most online casino blackjack ‘tables’ is simple and intuitive. Even if you’re primarily an online player it never hurts to understand how to handle cash exchanges and betting if you ever decide to try your luck in a land-based casino.

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EXCHANGING CASH FOR CHIPS

So you’re at the blackjack table and you’ve found your seat. It’s time to get into the game by exchanging your cash for casino chips. The information that follows is a combination of casino rules, gaming commission regulations and standard blackjack ‘etiquette’. With few variations (we’ll discuss those later) this is the “right” way to exchange cash for chips in the overwhelming majority of land-based casinos you’ll encounter in North America and elsewhere in the world.

Right in front of your seat, you’ll see a circle which is where you’ll place your bets. Every player has one and they’re very cleverly called the ‘betting circle’. We’ll talk more about the betting circle in the section on placing bets but it’s important to know where it is and what it represents now. There’s a lot of money and chips flying around a blackjack table so it’s important to understand what goes where at what juncture.

The important thing to remember is that unless you’re placing a bet don’t put any cash or chips in the betting circle. Nevada no longer allows cash bets at gambling tables (“money plays”) but other jurisdictions might. If you place the cash you want to exchange for chips in the betting circle the dealer might think you’re betting it and deal you in before you know what’s going on.

The right place to put your money to exchange for chips is well in front of the betting circle and sit close enough to the dealer to get his attention. It’s also good form to do this while he’s dealing the previous hand. This way he’ll know that he has to take care of you after he pays off bets and before he deals the next hand. Never try to hand your money (or anything else) to the dealer—for security reasons he can’t take anything from your hands. Just place it on the table so he (and the overhead security cameras) can see what’s going on.

Make sure to buy in using a sufficient amount to play several hands. For example, at a $5 table, you’d probably want to buy in for $40 or $50. The dealer will pick up your cash, push it down into a slot in the table and count out your chips. If you have any specific denomination requests this is the time to do it—otherwise, the dealer will likely give you an assortment. Once you get your chips take a quick look to make sure you know what denomination each color represents. Some are fairly standard—white is usually $1, red is usually $5, green is usually $25 and black is almost always $100. That being said, some casinos use funky colors or elaborately designed commemorative chips so it never hurts to double check.

If at any time during the game you want to ‘change’ chips for a lower denomination just place the chip in the same place you did your ‘buy in’ cash and the dealer will take care of you. If you end up with a bunch of low denomination chips and want to consolidate them into higher value chips you can do the same thing (you can tell the dealer ‘color me up’ if you want to sound knowledgeable).

Once you’re finished playing and ready to exchange your chips for cash the dealer can’t help you. Instead, you’ve got to go to the casino cashier (also known as the ‘cage’) and have them cash you out. The casino cashier can do just about any financial transaction—changing large bills, counting out change (at the few casinos that still use change), converting chips, etc.

BETTING

The actual betting process in blackjack is fairly simple—you put the correct denomination chip in the betting circle and the dealer gives you a couple of cards. If you lose, he’ll pick up your cards and take your chip. If you win, he’ll pay you off in the correct amount leaving the chips right next to your original bet. Make sure you ‘pocket your winnings’ quickly or you might end up inadvertently ‘letting it ride’.

Once you’re happy with your hand you indicate to the dealer that you’re going to ‘stand’ by inserting your cards under the chip(s) you have bet. If you need to add to your stake—splitting or doubling down—just place the proper amount right next to your original bet. The dealer may move the chips around or straighten up a bit but you’ve done your part.

There’s no hard and fast rule about this but you should keep your excess betting chips neatly organized. Not only does it help you keep track of your overall financial position it allows you to place your bet quickly and accurately. Even if you’re a novice, everyone at the table will appreciate that you’re making an effort to keep things moving along.

TIPPING

Casino dealers love tips. Tipping is not only good form but it’s in your best interest if you plan to visit a casino regularly—if you get a reputation as a good tipper you’ll get better service across the board. You won’t have to wait to get drinks refilled and you’ll be treated like a valued regular. If you get a reputation as a bad tipper, the opposite is true.

When and how you tip is up to you. Some players tip periodically throughout the game by tossing the dealer a chip or two. Other players wait until the end of the game and give the dealer a chip as they’re leaving the table. You can also ‘place a bet for the dealer‘. Put an equal bet next to your original bet and let him know that’s what you’re doing. If your hand is a winner, he’ll take your original stake and winnings. If it loses, he’ll scoop it all up—but he’ll thank you anyway. Logic would suggest that dealers would rather just have a straight tip but based on conversations with dozens of casino employees they like having ‘bets placed for them’ just as much.

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