Table manners

It takes more than luck and skill to win at the tables

There are three aspects to every casino game: luck, skill and karma. Skill is the knowledge that takes your luck as far as it can go; karma is the luck you make.

I’ve been a dealer in Las Vegas for four years, and karma occupies everyone in casino culture. Dealers talk about it on their breaks; tourists ask about it before they sit down to play; fellow players never hesitate to chime in during a game. But for my money, the fastest way to bad karma is bad behavior at the tables.

Many gamblers have theories about how others should act (e.g., dealers should give up good cards and lots of money). However, few have a real sense of how they’re perceived.

Incidentally, the more skilled players tend to have the worst karma. While they can always remember a luckier day, they have to blame someone for their losing streaks.

The greatest myth about Vegas is that you can do whatever you want. It’s essential to the Vegas mythology, yet so obviously untrue. That’s why, whether novice or shark, everyone can benefit from a few rules.

Rule: Don’t abuse the dealer for bad cards.
Why: We don’t get anything out of people losing their money, except grief.
Culprits: People who’ve never worked customer service.
Break It: Never.

Rule: Don’t use more than four colors of chips in a bet or endlessly ask for higher chips and then want change.
Why: It makes a lot of needless work for the dealer.
Culprits: Control freaks.
Break It: When you’re intentionally trying to be a jerk, which in all things, including gambling, is unnecessary.

Rule: Don’t quit during a hot streak.
Why: It’s the best chance to beat the house.
Culprits: Amateurs.
Break It: As soon as you start losing again.

Rule: Don’t forget to tip after a blackjack.
Why: It’s bad form to put small change on top of your bet.
Culprits: Penny-wise and pound-foolish types.
Break It: Never. Going back to a table where you have won big — but haven’t tipped — isn’t as lucky as you think it will be.

Rule: Don’t make up your own blackjack strategy; buy a basic strategy card and stick to it.
Why: You piss other players off when you go your own way, because how you play affects their cards.
Culprits: People who don’t play nicely with others.
Break It: Only when you’re playing alone at a table.

Rule: Never fight with the man in the suit.
Why: You won’t win. Even if you think you’re right, he already knows he is.
Culprits: Human chihuahuas.
Break It: When you’re gunning for the title “persona non grata.”

Rule: Don’t stiff your waitress.
Why: A dollar is pretty cheap for a free drink.
Culprits: Cheapskates.
Break It: Only if you never want to see her again.

Rule: Don’t wear the same “lucky” shirt every day.
Why: We recognize you, and not in a good way.
Culprits: The superstitious.
Break It: If that shirt has tripled your net worth.

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