Blackjack Hand Signals & Etiquette

Hand SignalsBlackjack is a game which emphasises concentration and focus in order to win, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to learn the important rules of table manners (get it?). First and foremost, you should be confident in your knowledge and understanding of the rules and terminology of 21 before joining a table. The choice of where and how you play is up to you, and your enjoyment should be the number one priority, but it’s equally as important to be respectful of other players and dealers so everyone’s experience is as smooth as yours.

Know the Rules…

While the casino environment is highly entertaining, we are dealing with real money and real people, and real money and real people need real rules. Casinos go to the utmost lengths to maintain control and ensure security.

Here are the basic and more important rules to adhere to when playing 21:

  • Buy chips between hands only, and have your money ready to present to the dealer.
  • Never ask to convert small denomination chips for larger ones.
  • Never touch or change your bets after the first card is dealt and placed on the table.
  • Place additional chips next to your original wager rather than on top of it.
  • Cards dealt face up cannot be touched at all.
  • Cards dealt face down can be touched but with a single hand only.

Most dealers and other players are helpful in providing instructions should you forget a particular hand signal or misunderstand a rule, for example. However, needing constant help and reminders on how to play can unfairly slow down the game. Other players may become impatient of such inexperience, and the dealer has more important things to worry about than constantly teaching someone the rules they should already know. So brush up on the everything you need to know before hitting the tables.

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…and Hand Signals

•If you’ve mostly played blackjack online or if you’re new to the game, it’s understandable if you are rusty on the hand signals used within B&R casinos. Each signal varies depending on whether the blackjack game played is face-up or face-down, but all are easy to remember:

  • In face up games, the hand signal used to indicate a hit is a tap on the table next to the cards. In face down games, gently scratch your cards across the felt.
  • In face up games, a wave of your hands over the cards signifies a stand. In face down games, slide your cards under their initial bets.
  • In face up games, if you want to double down, simply voice your intentions and place another stack of chips (equal in value to your original bet) directly next to your initial bet on the table. If you also want to perform a hand signal, although not necessary, hold your first finger up indicating you only want one more card (this applies for face down games, too).
  • In face up games, if you want to split, you also are required to voice your intentions and place another stack of chips (equal in value to your original bet) next to your initial bet on the table, slightly further apart than you would when requesting to double. The hand signal for a split, which applies for both face down and face up games, is to raise your index and middle fingers in the shape of a ‘V’.
  • There is no standard hand signal for surrendering, but if a player wishes to surrender, they can place an index finger above the table and draw an imaginary horizontal line from their cards to the dealer’s cards. But you need to voice your intentions first.
  • If you bust in a face down game of BJ, simply lay down your cards face up beside your bet. Don’t throw the cards in frustration, as much as you might want to.

Note: If you are dealt a matching pair, it is important to make your intentions clear, because you may wish to double or split; so hand signals are quite useful. Having said that, you still need to verbalise what you intend to do.

If might sounds obvious, but make sure you know whether you are playing a face up or face down game of 21 prior to commencing, in order to avoid any confusion.

Respect the Dealer

The dealer is not your enemy, nor is he/she someone to expect any favours or sympathies from. The dealer is there to handle the game on behalf of the casino. Friendly banter and conversation is fine, but you should always remain mindful of their primary role as a dealer, and be respectful when playing at their table.

If you want, you can ask a dealer for some advice on what your next move should be, but don’t make a habit out of it. They may provide you with an insightful answer, they might give you a vague answer, or they may refuse to offer any advice at all. Whatever they choose to do, chances are they will be polite about it, so you should too. If you choose to follow any advice given which doesn’t pay off, you can never blame the dealer for your misfortunes, as any advice given will most likely be based on basic strategy, which as we all know, doesn’t always work.

I have witnessed a few players express strong frustration with a poor hand, displeased at the dealer and expecting some sort of favour. Seriously. Your hand is your hand and nothing can be done to change the cards dealt, so enjoy the game and make your next decision based on careful thinking. We know you will, we’re just here for some reinforcement.

Observe From Afar

If you happen to come across a blackjack table you’re more inclined to watch rather than join, observe and enjoy the game from a distance to avoid interfering or distracting the participants. If you’re staring at a player’s cards behind their back it can be rather agitating or invasive for those who are concentrating, and it can be a distraction for others. If there’s an empty seat on the table, be mindful to leave it available for other potential players.

Note: Most casinos allow you to bet behind a player (back betting). This means you can bet on another player’s hand, but that player remains in control of the hand. If they win, your bet also wins, and the same goes for a loss. So if you don’t wish to sit at a table, but opt to bet behind someone, you can do so by placing your chips behind the controlling player’s chips.

Control Your Drinks

Remain in control of your drinks while you’re at the BJ table. We all love a night out on the town with a few drinks and some great games, but it’s important to be mindful of your behaviour and avoid excessive drinking. Drunken behaviour will turn other players away from a table and is almost guaranteed to get you escorted.

If your casino serves drinks on the floor, be respectful of other players and decide on what drinks you want in between hands. There are few things more irritating than waiting for a player deciding whether to order a beer or a bourbon and coke. Most casinos are going to allow you to place your drinks on the table while you play, so just be careful not to spill them. We obviously aren’t immune from mistakes, but we can try our best to reduce the risk of knocking over a drink by staying alert. I’ve seen spillages happen numerous times before, and it’s a bloody hassle for employees and all players involved when the table gets soaked in alcohol, as there is always going to be a lengthy pause before play can restart.