Unspoken Rules: A Guide to Casino & Table Game Etiquette

Casino graphic showing a roulette, Ace cards, gold dice, and a slots machine

The rebel in all of us would like to believe that casino rules are made to be broken. However, we all know we should follow the rules – especially the unspoken ones. Every casino (online or otherwise) comes with its own rules, social cues and etiquette – take it from us – better to play it safe than sorry.

Why Knowing Casino Etiquette and the Casino Rules is a Must

Winning and an Entertaining Experience

The casino world can be divided into two groups: those that want to win big and those that want a big night of entertainment. Although there are some that sit on the fence, what is true for all gamblers and casino goers is that the casino rules are what make the entertainment and winnings possible each night. If you find yourself on the wrong side of the rules you can expect to be penalized or worse. That’s a sure-fire way to end the night on a sour note! Whereas knowing how to play casino games keeps the flow fluid, the laughs longer and the excitement high.

Keeping the Peace and Avoiding Stepping on Anyone’s Toes

What you do at a casino has a telling effect on everybody else who is part of the experience. Familiarizing yourself with casino rules and etiquette is invaluable for everyone involved. Mutual respect, socially acceptable behavior and general etiquette are a mandatory minimum. Before you feel as though you are shouldering the heavy weight of responsibility alone, you’ll be pleased to know that casino dealer etiquette is equally important and expected. Both sides of the table must play their part.

If the winnings and experience aren’t quite enough incentive to be on your best behavior then you might want to remember that there’s always an eye in the sky (surveillance). Disregarding the rules can get you more than penalized; a ban is also possible too.

We’re all human and we can forget. Bookmarking this article will make sure that you have a readily available and comprehensive guide for how to gamble at a casino. It covers virtually every rule you’ll ever need to know to enjoy each casino experience fully while tactfully avoiding offending any of your fellow gamblers. Whether you’re a veteran of the gambling scene or a rookie who wants to know everything there is to know about how to play casino games, you’ve come to the right place.

Casino Etiquette: Basic Dos and Don’ts

Even the word “etiquette” sounds proper and maybe even a little snobbish, but etiquette isn’t a customary code of behavior reserved for the select few. Etiquette is a list of unsaid rules and polite behaviour that is expected from society or a group in a particular setting.

2 people wearing suits shaking hands as a sign of etiquette

The rules of etiquette are constantly evolving alongside society’s collective preferences but below are a few casino rules that you can bet your bottom dollar have stood the test of time and show no signs of changing.

Lillian Gish once said, “You can get through life with bad manners, but it’s easier with good manners.” We agree. You will do well to make sure the following dos and don’ts of proper casino etiquette become deeply ingrained. You will stay in the good graces of all casino goers anywhere if you do.

Know Your Rules

Have you ever sat down to watch the sequel of one of your favorite movies of all time and have a friend constantly ask you questions about every little detail? At first, it’s understandable and maybe even endearing. However, sooner, rather than later, it stops being endearing. It becomes pull-your-hair-out annoying, doesn’t it? We know it does.

It’s one thing to be a beginner but it’s an entirely different kettle of fish to be a beginner who hasn’t even bothered to learn the basics of what to do at a casino. This is a basic fundamental guide to beginner’s casino etiquette. Take the time to learn the rules. It will save your fellow gamblers a lot of frustration and some premature grey hairs if you do.

What’s more, learning the rules of your favorite games will give you a better chance of getting more enjoyment out of every game and your night of gambling. In addition to helping you enjoy your first casino experience, learning the rules of the games will help you win more favor with the other players at the table.

Generally, most casinos facilitate an induction of sorts which allows you to take a tour of the casino and learn the rules of each game. The online casino world also gives you the opportunity to learn the ropes before you unwittingly part with your money because of inexperience. For example, BetMGM lets you play a host of different games for free so that when you’re ready to play for real money online, you’ll be confident and ready.

We always strongly recommend being prepared in advance, whether online or at a real casino. It is a far better strategy to take into your first foray into the gambling world.

Forget the Phone

As unnatural as it may seem in today’s times, the moment you walk into a brick-and-mortar casino your mobile friend should be placed firmly in your pocket. The only time gambling and smartphones go hand-in-hand is when you are playing in an online casino via a mobile app. No matter how incredible your night’s experiences may be, you will just have to settle for savoring it all in memory. You’ll be just fine – it’s how they used to remember nights of gambling in the old days too.

Man placing his phone in his back jeans pocket, with an aqua blue background

Furthermore, beyond just ensuring you are focused, present and engaged, it’s also important to keep any urge to snap pictures and record videos at bay. It’s really not up for debate because most places have strict policies against such behavior. Throwing caution to the wind to capture a few pictures for your Instagram feed could result in the confiscation of your handheld companion. In more serious cases, it could bring your night to a premature end as you are escorted out the exit, presumably not to return for a while.

Remember how we spoke about keeping the peace with fellow gamblers? Minimizing your mobile time is part and parcel of that process. While you might find a discussion around what to have for dinner fascinating, the present company certainly won’t. Chit chat on your phone during a game slows the flow of play, comes off disrespectful, distracts players who take their winnings seriously, and lessens your chances of walking away from the table a winner too.

Keep Your Cool

History has shown us on more than one occasion that tempers can flare in the heat of competition. In gambling, the stakes are even higher with money as well as your pride on the line. There’s always a point before we see red that we can feel our temper rise – it’s at this point that we encourage you to consider taking a quick little timeout. Before you play the blame game, bite your tongue, take a step back, and take a break. If anything, you should remember that it’s calm minds that think clearly. This approach will keep you in the casino’s good graces.

Cartoon man wearing a suit meditating outside under clouds in a blue sky

When you get back, you will have the presence of mind to execute a better strategy and help tip the odds in your favour. Keep your cool.

Look Sharp, Think Sharp

We’re all familiar with that incredible rush of excitement we feel as we near the entrance of our favorite nightclub only for it die a swift death because of something as small as a poor choice of clothing. To say the exact same thing could happen at a casino wouldn’t be far-fetched. It’s important to dress for the occasion. Even more important than that is to check what the dress code is before leaving the house. Different establishments will have different dress codes. The reality of the casino rules is that if you find yourself inappropriately dressed you will be turned away. Night over.
Save yourself the trouble and ask.

Group of friends playing roulette dressed up in suits and dresses

If you desperately want to be comfortable in a pair of sweats and sneakers, you can always opt for online casino games. There is far more leeway granted there – guaranteed. You can even play in your pajamas!

Don’t Let the Booze Get the Best of You

Venturing out to a land-based casino is an occasion in itself which can be improved by the fact that it’s an adult environment where you can let your hair down and win big. That is all well and good, but anti-social behavior won’t be taken kindly, so don’t overdo the drinks. It’s easy for one drink to spill into two or more but set yourself a respectable limit. Not only will you avoid the regret of recklessly spending and betting your whole bankroll, you will also keep yourself from alienating yourself from the other casino goers. We’ve all had the misfortune of having one drink too many – don’t let that be your story, especially if it’s your first time at a casino. Everything in moderation.

Buying Chips

At face value, this probably seems like the simplest facet of gambling and casino etiquette, and in some respects it is, but in many, it isn’t. It’s okay, we’ll lay it all out for you and save you a few blushes. First things first, make sure you find out what the minimum and maximum bets are for each table as there is no guarantee they will be the same.

Timing is everything when it comes to buying or cashing out chips. If you happen to sit down with a hand in play, take your time and wait until the hand is over. This is when you can buy your chips. In the meantime, you can always keep yourself occupied by getting your money ready. Everybody wins.

When exchanging your money for casino chips you must remember to lay your cash down on the table. Yes, it might feel like you’re carrying out a mobster deal but to the contrary, it is actually to prevent any shady dealings taking place. Another precaution in place to prevent bribery is the eye in the sky (the numerous security cameras around the casino). This video surveillance is in place to ensure that fundamental casino etiquette is being observed.

The next tip is an exercise in humility that could very well save you from getting unwelcome attention. Don’t count your big bills in full view of everyone. It will draw unwanted attention as well as leave a bitter taste in the mouths of those who have just lost their fair share of money.

Handling Chips

There’s a time to handle and a time to leave your chips alone. For example, you should never move or remove chips during a spin of the roulette wheel or a hand of blackjack. Certainly, don’t lay a finger on other players’ chips either. The dealer will place your winning chips on top of your bets on the table. This is where you come in. It is up to you to decide whether or not to remove the chips. Keeping them there will effectively “let it ride” onto the next bet.

Male dealer handing out chips to a woman playing roulette on a green table

At the roulette table, your dealer will give you chips that happen to be a different color to everybody else’s. Don’t be alarmed. This is intentional as it helps you recognize your chips and differentiates one set of chips from another. Take note and don’t hesitate to ask for assistance when it comes to placing your chips for a bet.

Cashing Out

As we discussed above, roulette chips have different colors to your generic cash chips. Before you leave your table, you will need to make sure that you get your dealer to exchange the roulette chips for generic cash chips. Remember one of the biggest principles of casino etiquette and be considerate of others. Alert your dealer that you want to leave when he/she is not distracted. Typically, this will be at the end of a spin.

What’s more, when cashing out, try to remember that dealers appreciate it when you cash in smaller denominations for larger ones. Between hands, when they’re not as busy, give your dealer your neatly stacked pile of chips, allow the dealer to count the chips and change them in for you.

Don’t forget that red chips are worth $5, greens are $25, and blacks are $100.

Respect the Dealer

There is literally no room for negotiations or bargaining in a casino, and why should there be? Can you imagine if everyone was granted the benefit of a second hand or was able to interrupt the flow of play at any given time? It would ruin the passage of play. The expectation is for gamblers to listen to and respect the dealer. If the dealer says, “No more bets”, that’s it. There will be no more bets.

The dealer keeps the passage of play fluid and entertaining so listening is of the utmost importance. But what if you’re new to the scene? Our advice to you is to take the fresher class and observe a few games before diving in. It will give you invaluable insight into beginner casino etiquette. All you need to do is to do as everyone else does, including listening to the dealer.

Tipping is Tops

Anyone who has worked in the customer service industry knows just how far a tip can go. Every little bit counts and goes a long way. In fact, a big portion of a card dealer’s earnings comes from tips. Dealing is demanding business and requires a significant amount of emotional, physical and mental energy. They are at the core of your casino experience. While constantly on their feet they have to keep their spirits high, smiles wide, and deal efficiently to make sure that your night is a night to remember, for all the right reasons. Now you’re probably wondering how much to tip a dealer. There’s no hard and fast rule to tipping but it is an unspoken expectation of table game etiquette. Nobody expects you to part with your last dollar but for small wins, a $1 shouldn’t be too hard to spare. If you’re on a hot winning streak, you can show a little gratuity with a $5 tip when you leave the table.

Icon showing a hand throwing a poker chip with the reflection in blue

Don’t be That Guy

In many cases, the guy who’s being THAT guy is completely oblivious to it. That’s why we’ve decided to outline a few things you should reflect upon just in case you run the risk of being that guy. After all, nobody’s perfect.

Don’t Splash the Pot

Splashing the pot may sound remarkably like splashing the cash. We assure you, it isn’t. Splashing the pot refers to when a player, with very little regard for anyone else, throws their chips into the pot. This is done when making a bet, call or raise. It’s a gross display of bad betting etiquette because it makes recognizing the number of chips added difficult to determine.

Don’t Make String Bets

Making a string bet is the act of putting in a few chips at a time when making your bet, and then continuously adding more, little by little. Though often an honest mistake committed by many a beginner navigating through their first time at a casino, it can also be used tactically. String betting slows down the passage of play. In addition, by making a bet of a few chips at a time, a player can get one over fellow gamblers by reading into the reactions of his/her opponents with every chip added. The reaction of opponents will be an effective tell of whether or not to increase the bet. Easy to avoid and simply not worth doing, avoid conflict and accusations of cheating by avoiding string betting. It’s proper casino etiquette.

Don’t Abuse the Privilege of Smoking

Cigar, poker chips, whiskey glass and playing cards on a green casino table

It’s nobody’s place to judge what you put in your body but we are certainly all entitled to an opinion when it comes to what affects our own bodies. Not everyone is okay with inhaling secondhand smoke. It’s good casino etiquette to ask neighboring gamblers if they would be put off by your smoking.

Where possible, try to stretch out the time between cigarettes for your non-smoking counterparts. Similarly, do everything in your power to avoid blowing smoke into anybody’s face. Once done, put out your cigarette butt using the ashtray provided while fully snuffing out any residual smoke.

Don’t Cuss or Swear

We’re all adults in a casino environment but that doesn’t necessarily mean everyone is ready, prepared and indifferent about the use of profane language, swearing, and cursing. Many people, though not vocal about it, feel uncomfortable around strong language. Since being considerate is part of table game etiquette, do your best to refrain from using strong language.

2 black and white speech bubbles indicating swearing and no swearing

Don’t Give Advice Unless Asked

You know Larry from the gym? Larry, who is well on in his years but swears by his former glory days as a fitness heavyweight. The feeling you get when you see him making a beeline for you to offer some unsolicited advice is much the same feeling casino goers get when they are continuously offered unsolicited advice. We’re not questioning your knowledge but rather strongly advising you not to share it unless otherwise asked.

Along with unsolicited advice, your opinions and criticisms of fellow players are equally unwelcome. Speak when spoken to and keep the criticism to yourself.

A Few More Fundamental Rules of Casino Etiquette

Keep Your Cards in Sight

Now, this needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. While your cards should be within sight and in full view of everyone, what exact cards they are should only be made known to you. The aim of ensuring that everyone can see your cards is to ensure that competing players can tell that you are still active in the hand. This will prevent any of your fellow casino gamblers from accidentally acting out of turn.

Know When You Can Handle Your Cards

Your hand may be yours but you are not entitled to touch them whenever you please. Knowing when you can will help maintain a fluid passage of play and ensure your gambling opponents still find you endearing.

In a selection of games, your cards will be dealt face up. The unwritten law of casino etiquette here is when your cards are dealt face-up, you never touch them.

Alternatively, if your cards are dealt face down, then you can only touch your cards with one hand. Forget this rule or decide to touch them with two hands anyway and you can expect to be reprimanded instantly.

Woman wearing a black hat, holding a royal flush in her right hand

Other than that, be kind to your cards. Treat them as valuable possessions so don’t bend them or use them as coasters for your drinks. Many an unsavory casino player has tried to cheat their way to a win by bending specific cards. Don’t do it. Furthermore, if touching your cards with two hands comes naturally or happens automatically, you might want to sit on one hand to ensure that you don’t. You might feel silly doing it at the time but keep in mind it’s far more humiliating to be continuously reprimanded for using both hands.

Be Patient

Haste makes waste. In the case of casinos, haste also makes for some less than ideal long-lasting impressions. Regardless of how desperately you want to sit at a table, poker machine or slot machine, patience still remains an important virtue to have. Sadly, this isn’t the playground where a not-so-gentle nudge is a way to get your way; in a casino, you must take your time and wait your turn. Table game etiquette always comes first. Wait until there’s an opening for you to take a seat at a table or to use a machine. If you happen to be standing among people who show no indication of what their intentions are, simply ask them if they are waiting to play.

When it comes to winnings, if you happen to be at a table of multiple winners, the courteous thing to do is wait patiently for your share of the table’s pot. Dealers operate in sequence, so rest assured you will get what’s due to you in good time.

Know the Stakes

It’s not only a matter of proper casino etiquette, it’s the logical thing to do. Before you place your bet at any table it is important to first find out what the minimum and maximum stakes are for that table. As with most aspects of betting etiquette, it is important not to be disruptive or to disturb the flow of play. Not only will it lessen the quality of your experience, it may very well rub your tablemates the wrong way. Make the effort to find out what the stakes are before you take a seat and place the appropriate bets while you’re there.

Manage Your Bankroll

This is probably a no-brainer but better safe than sorry. If there’s one core casino rule that every player needs to acknowledge it’s that you manage your bankroll. The whole gambling experience is designed for entertainment and the opportunity to win big. Where anxiety, stress, and negativity creep in is often where we have lost sight of that. The key is to manage your bankroll accordingly. Don’t wager money you can’t afford to lose. In other words, don’t bet money that you know you need for day-to-day expenses or life. Certainly, don’t borrow money for the sole purpose of more gambling.

Table Games 101

Poker101

Poker table rules
Poker rules
Poker etiquette

Welcome to Poker 101. Poker is a staple on the gambling scene, and in today’s online and land-based world of casinos it comes in a whole host of different variations. Thankfully, the rules remain largely the same across the board. You will notice subtle differences and additions to the poker rules which have the effect of enhancing your playing experience in different ways.

The words Poker 101 written on a yellow legal pad

Common Poker Table Rules

Regardless of what variety of poker games you play, you can expect a certain structure to be common among all of them. Thankfully this means that an understanding of rules and poker etiquette in one game will put you in a good position in another.

This includes contributing your share of money to a central pot alongside other players. Afterwards, players will be dealt their hand which will vary in the number of cards depending on which variety of poker is being played. Some of the cards dealt may be face down. Once you and your fellow poker players have studied your cards, the real fun will begin.

Betting will now begin, taking place in rounds. The player with the best hand (hopefully you) will be awarded the winnings at the end of the betting rounds. Occasionally, the winner of the coveted pot doesn’t even have the best hand but wins because all other players fold.

Get Down with Your Deck

We probably don’t have to point this out but for the sake of making sure, we will. It is of critical importance to understand the deck of cards when playing poker. There are a fair amount of poker variations that use a single deck of 52 cards. However, there are also poker games that will use Jokers or even add more decks. Fortunately, that does little to complicate the general flow of things as the number of decks has no bearing on the ranking of cards.

The Ace will maintain its rank as the highest card while the Deuce will still be the lowest. There is one exception to this nearly flawless poker rule, Deuces Wild. In Deuces Wild, the Deuce is wild and can be substituted for any card which in turn makes the three the lowest card in the deck.
How to Win: Hand Rankings

How to Win: Hand Rankings

Another staple among poker games is the ranking of hands. They always remain the same. The objective is to end up with the best-ranked hand known as the Royal Flush. It is the highest-ranking hand because it is also the rarest hand in the game. It consists of a straight flush with the ace as a high card.

Next in line in the rankings is the straight flush, then four-of-a-kind and a full house. These four hands offer the highest payouts because they are not regular occurrences for any one player.

The hands at the lower end of the spectrum which are far more commonly held include:

  • The Flush
  • The Straight
  • Three-of-a-kind
  • Two Pair
  • Pair
  • High Card
Diagram of all poker hand rankings explained

In scenarios where more than one player has a four of a kind, three of a kind, two of a kind or a pair, the winner of the round will be the player with the highest kicker card. This is the card that does not make up the winning combination.

Do Your Homework

While we have given you a pretty good indication of what to expect in a game of poker, the subtle differences in different varieties of poker should be learnt. You must know the different poker rules for each variation you enjoy playing like the back of your hand.

The benefit of undergoing the not-so-strenuous task of learning rules is that you once you do, you will be able to put together strategies to increase your chances of winning the pot. Poker is undeniably a game of chance but it is a game of chance where the uncertainty of chance can be reduced by an effective strategy and set of skills. Take the time to hone your skills so you can influence the outcome of each game and get an edge over the competition at your table.

Blackjack etiquette and rules

Blackjack is by far one of the more simpler card games available to play at any brick-and-mortar or online casino. The aim of the game is to score closer to 21 than the dealer. However, be careful and strategic because if you go bust (your hand exceeds the value of 21) then you automatically lose the round. Apart from the suspenseful nature of the game, the fact that the odds against the house are significant makes blackjack a popular attraction among casino-goers. The attractive odds put you in a good position to beef up your bank balance with some winnings if you learn how to master casino blackjack etiquette and rules.

The Basics

Before you receive your cards, you need to make your bet. Afterwards, your dealer deals you your cards, placing two cards face up. He/she then deals themselves a hand where one card faces up and the other faces down.

Blackjack also involves a series of hand signals which signal how you want to play your hand. These hand signals are mandatory because oral instructions alone won’t be enough. Learning these signals is an integral part of casino blackjack etiquette. You don’t want to be the cause of delays or confusion because of a few hand signals you could have taken the time to learn beforehand.

Dealer hands out 2 cards to a player who is placing chips on the green table

When the cards are face-up, these are the hand signals:

  • Hit: Tap the table.
  • Stand: Wave your hand, palm open, parallel to the table.
  • Double/Split: Place your matching bet next to, never on top of, your original bet. If you have two fours or two fives, you should hold up one finger if you are doubling, and two fingers if you are splitting.

If you bust then lay down your cards face up by your bet. Resist the urge to throw them in anger. It will do you no favors.

Bets and Payouts

Betting etiquette and rules are arguably some of the most important things to consider. In blackjack, your payout will depend on the amount you lay down to bet as well as how you beat the dealer. These two factors will determine whether you are rewarded with higher or lower winnings.

If your hand ends up being closer to 21 than the dealer’s than your winning payout is given at 1 to 1. If the dealer busts but you don’t then no matter what hand you held, you will also be paid out at 1 to 1.

If the gambling gods just so happen to smile on you that day and you get dealt a blackjack with your first two cards – an Ace and any other card valued at 10 – then you will be paid out at 3 to 2. Don’t worry if this is a lot to digest at the moment as you can bookmark this page and brush up on these facts before your next casino visit. If you plan to play in an online casino, you’ll be pleased to know that many versions of blackjack come with these rules typed out for you on the virtual table.

Finally, if you and the dealer ended up with hands that are equal in value, it results in a push. This means that you simply get your bet back. The same would happen in the event both you and the dealer get a blackjack.

It’s important to note that there are numerous versions of blackjack in existence and both the bets and payouts may vary to the ones described above.

Card Values

The card values in blackjack are almost self-explanatory. The number cards are equal in value to the number written on them whereas the Jack, Queen, and King are equal to 10.

Male hand holding a red 10, Jack, Queen, King and Ace of Hearts cards

Aces, on the other hand, can have one of two values – 1 or 11. If you opt to have your ace valued at 11 then your hand becomes soft. A soft hand allows you to hit for another card without the possibility of busting.

In addition, unlike poker, the suit of the cards has no effect on the value of a card combination.

Online Casino Etiquette and Rules

Read. Read. Read. Remember. Read some more.

When it comes to online casino games, it’s incredibly important that you don’t try and wing it the same way you would with a new gadget. We’re all guilty of casting the instruction manual to the side.

Each online casino game has its own casino rules that outline how to play, win and how much is at stake and could be won. Not skipping out on reading rules isn’t meant to be a chore; it’s supposed to allow you to enjoy all the fun on offer in online casino gambling. It will put you at ease as you play and allow you to formulate a winning strategy over time.

When it comes to casino etiquette, online games are probably a lot easier to deal with because there is limited social interaction in comparison to the brick-and-mortar alternative. That means less opportunity for disrupting the flow of play or rubbing a fellow gambler up the wrong way. However, there is still real money up for grabs. Finally, if you find that you are a part of team frugal and struggle to part with money for tips, you will be glad to know there is no tipping required or expected online.

If all else fails

If there’s one piece of common ground that we can all collectively lay claim to it’s our capacity to make mistakes. These things happen to even the best of us, casino veterans included. Fingers crossed that the mistakes you make never progress or reach a point where you bear the burden of a penalty or get escorted out. However, if you do have the misfortune of breaking casino etiquette’s code of conduct, all is not lost. The first call of action is acknowledging your fault and owning it followed by a swift and sincere apology.

This will usually suffice and ease any tensions at the table. After all, everyone there has come with the same basic intention of having a good time. The only real scenarios where things may not pan out as smoothly as you’d like are when you have violated the casino rules intentionally and repeatedly. The other unforgivable instance is when your violation has been so offensive that the only resolution would be to remove you from the premises and consider banning you from returning indefinitely.

Time for the Real Deal

Now that your confidence is running at an all-time high and your mind has been filled with the full length and breadth of slot rules, blackjack, and poker rules, it’s time to put yourself to the test.

A great place to start is an online casino that welcomes self-proclaimed pros, beginners, and lovers of casino games.

Follow BetMGM’s hassle-free registration process and get access to more than 400 different online casino games at no charge and with no obligation. Currently, we also have a promotion running that offers you a 100% deposit match up to the value of $1000 and $25 on the house. The promotion runs until the end of December 2019 so there’s no better time to showcase your newfound knowledge of casino rules and etiquette.

Your BetMGM account lets you manage your bets and update your personal details effortlessly. Simply deposit real money into your account and you will be able to place bets with real money, sending you well on your way to winning big and enjoying endless entertainment.