CHOOSING A BLACKJACK TABLE

Playing table games in a casino can be very intimidating. There’s no reason it should be. Most players are sympathetic to newcomers. Most dealers are trained to be accommodating and patient to new players—it’s just good business. You can make it easier by learning what to expect before you get to the casino. Some of the information below are fairly uniform casino rules, others are more a form of ‘etiquette’ or expected behavior. It’s all really easy to get the hang of and will make you comfortable at a live action blackjack table right from the start.

LAND BASED CASINOS VS. ONLINE CASINOS

Obviously, most of the information that follows applies to land based casinos. Online casinos take the intimidation out of the equation and many of the tasks that we discuss below are automated. That being said, many of the same concepts about choosing a table based on limits and rules still apply. Even if you’re primarily an online player it never hurts to understand what to expect if you ever decide to try your luck in a land based casino.

CHOOSING A GAME

So you’re in the casino looking to play some blackjack. You cruise up to the first table you see and sit down, right? Wrong! There are a few considerations that are essential to choosing the right table for your bankroll and level of play. Keep in mind that in many casinos (particularly in Nevada) you’ll find a variety of different limits and rule sets within the same property. Since this crucial game information can vary from table to table, you need to make sure you know what to expect before you sit down to get into action.

Limit: You’ll see the minimum and maximum allowable bet posted on a sign that sits on top of the blackjack table, usually to the dealer’s left. Different properties have different bet limits. A high end property like the Wynn Las Vegas will have higher minimums and maximums than properties in downtown Las Vegas or elsewhere. At the Wynn, you probably won’t find a table with lower than a $10 minimum. Elsewhere on the Strip you might find some $5 minimum tables. Downtown—and particularly in remote locations like Wendover and Elko—you might even find $2 minimums on a slow night during the week. The busier the casino, the less likely you are to find low limit games—it’s the law of supply and demand in action.

When you’re first starting out you want to start at a low limit of no more than $5. If you can’t find a table with a $5 minimum you should go to a less upscale casino or come back when it’s not as busy. It’s a good idea to avoid especially busy or especially slow nights for your first taste of live casino action. If it’s too busy, you’ll have trouble finding a low minimum and everyone will be pressed for time and not in the mood to help a newcomer. If it’s too slow, you may end up playing heads up against the dealer and that’s no way to learn. The best plan is to go to a moderately busy casino late afternoon during the week. It’ll be busy but not too busy.

Rules: You’ll find all of the applicable rules for a specific blackjack table on the table felt. Occasionally, you may see special promotions or ‘house rules’ on a sign similar to the bet limit sign. Picking the table with the right rule set is extremely important. Read through our discussion of blackjack rules and find the most player friendly table you can.

Decks: The number of decks in play at a particular table overlaps somewhat with rules in that certain games offer statistically better odds for the player. You shouldn’t worry too much about this when you’re new to the game. There are two major distinctions in how games are dealt and they’re related to the number of decks used. ‘Hand dealt’ games, as the name suggests’ are dealt from the dealer’s hand. The cards are usually dealt face down and one or two decks will be in play. ‘Shoe dealt’ games are dealt from a dealing shoe with the cards dealt face up. These games will use 6 or 8 decks.

Advanced players typically prefer games with fewer decks (though there are some exceptions). The fewer cards in play means less variance for strategy and less difficulty for counting and other tactics. For beginning players, the shoe dealt games are a better option. The cards are dealt face up so you can see what other players are doing and learn from it. Furthermore, more decks means less shuffling so you can play more hands without a break.

Mood: This may sound like a very superficial concern but you’d be surprised how important it is. Simply put, you want to pick a table where the players and dealers seem to be in a good mood and having fun. This not only makes the experience much more pleasant but you’ll be more comfortable if you’re among people that don’t mind answering questions or helping with ‘rookie mistakes’. Even for most advanced players there’s no reason to be at a table where everyone is miserable.

Style: For a beginning player, you want to sit down with players that are content to stay and play awhile. For that reason, you’ll want to avoid tables too close to the casino entrance. These tables get a lot of players who throw down a few chips, play their hand and leave. It’ll help you get a feel for the game if you choose a table with a fair amount of ‘continuity’. New players coming and going can also slow down the game since they may need to cash in chips and otherwise settle in. If you can find a table with a good dealer (they’ll change periodically) and a pleasant group of players plan to stay there for awhile.