The Top 10 Dos And Don’ts Of Casino Etiquette

The Top 10 Dos And Don’ts Of Casino Etiquette

I have spent more than 30 years on the casino floor, and one of the things I wish I could get more players to understand is that casinos have A LOT of rules. 

And because casinos have millions of dollars laying around on their tables and in their slots, these aren’t like the rules at Monopoly that maybe you can bend when no one is watching.

First off, someone is always watching. Modern casinos have thousands of cameras and dozens of surveillance staff.

Second, those friendly guys in suits behind the table may be all too happy to make you a player’s card or comp you with a meal.

But their first job is to closely watch the games and the dealers in their section to enforce the policies and procedures the casino has put in place to safeguard all that money.

The list below isn’t all rules, some of it is just common casino courtesy, but it should at least give you some idea of what is expected on the casino floor.

Every member of the casino staff is used to new guests, and they are going to politely explain what’s expected if something does go wrong.

1. Don’t Have Your Cell Phone Out

This one goes back to times before cell phones, when casinos didn’t want you taking pictures on the casino floor.

Partly this was about security and not wanting people casing the joint.

But it was also because the rich and famous, or in some cases infamous, didn’t like having pictures of them at the crap table splashed all over the press.

Fast forward to today and all the capabilities engineered into that little computer in your pocket represent the most serious threat to game protection that casinos have ever had to face.

You can use it to count cards, or its camera to catch the dealer’s hole card.

You can use it to signal what cards have been dealt to an accomplice who can then use a computer to tell you how to play your hand using code words, all while apparently having an innocent phone conversation.

More recently, there have been apps that can use your phone’s video capabilities to predict what section a roulette ball might land in.

Roulette wheel
Image: Hush Naidoo Jade Photography/Unsplash

There was even a group of Russian hackers filming slot machines, streaming that to servers back in eastern Europe that could figure out where in the long sequence the machine’s random number generator (RNG) was, and then tell them the exact millisecond to press spin to get a win!

Suffice it to say, most casinos do not allow you to even have your phone out while you are at the table.

And if you are filming while playing slots, don’t be surprised if you are asked to stop.

While pictures away from tables have become a little less frowned upon, security may stop and ask you not to if you are blatant about it.

If you set your phone down on the table or decide you’re going to take a quick call, the dealer or floor person will ask you to step away from the table.

This is just a regular part of casinos’ policies and procedures. If security asks you not to take pictures, they are just following the rules.

Don’t take offense.

While every casino’s thoughts on phones being used may be a bit different, any time you have your phone out on the casino floor, someone may come along and tell you this individual casino’s expectations.

Just listen and follow their instructions.

2. Don’t Overdo The Drinking

In about half of American casinos, alcoholic drinks are complimentary. Complimentary doesn’t mean a free, all-you-can-drink buffet of shots and beers. 

Cocktail servers make predetermined rounds throughout the casino, and they will pass by any given slot or table about every 20 to 30 minutes.

It’s quite possible you may have to wait that long to order your drink. The floor person or dealer is generally unable to get you a drink any faster.

You are only allowed ONE drink at a time.

You will need to finish or relinquish any drinks you may currently have before you will be served another. Any signs of intoxication will result in either the cocktail server or other casino staff calling the beverage manager to do an evaluation.  

If they decide you’ve had enough, you will be asked to leave the casino floor.

Too much drinking means no more gambling.

The general rule of thumb here is that your good time ends when it comes at the expense of some other guest’s good time.  

While your significant other may find your slurring, table slapping, and foul-mouthed behavior charming, odds are that neither the other people on your table nor casino staff will see it in the same light.

We want all our guests to have a fun, exciting night.

But once your behavior becomes either problematic for other people at the table or disruptive to the point of holding up the game, the casino is likely to decide your good time has come to an end.

Cocktail servers
Image: Vital Vegas

Side note on comps:

Normally when you sit down, the dealer or floor supervisor will ask you for your loyalty card. This card is used to keep track of your play, average bet and buy-in.

The casino will use this info to offer you comps, like food or free rooms, so try to always get a card at player’s services before you begin to play.

At most casinos, you can ask the floor supervisor to make you a new account with your driver’s license right there at the table if they aren’t too busy.

If you play a few hours and gamble a good bit, don’t be ashamed to ask the supervisor for a comp for something to eat.

Many casinos are only too happy to offer you a meal in hopes of getting you back to play, and it certainly never hurts to ask.

3. Do Make Sure You Buy In And Cash Out Properly

Every table or slot will display its minimum and maximum bet clearly. On table games, it is generally found on either a lighted sign or a placard to the right of the dealer.

Check the minimum before you sit down so that you don’t end up playing at a $25 or $100 game when you only plan to gamble $50 dollars.

Wait until the hand is completed, then pass your money toward the dealer, and they will give you casino chips in return.

The dealer may ask you what denomination chips you would like, but in most cases, they will simply give you what they feel is the right amount of each denomination for the game in question.

Some players have a habit of coloring up (converting smaller denomination chips to easier-to-carry larger value chips) when they’re winning.

This is disruptive for other players as it slows down the game. First when the dealer has to color you up, and then again when the player must pull those higher value chips back out and have them broken down by the dealer again.

It also means the casino has to constantly interrupt the game with fills of lower-end chips.

People come to play, not watch the dealer constantly making change. Wait until you’re done or for the dealer to ask before coloring up.

When you are ready to leave, wait for the end of the hand, then push all your chips towards the dealer.

Importantly, don’t push them into the betting circle. Don’t worry about stacking or sorting them; the dealer will be far quicker than you.

You will then take these higher-value chips to the cage to be cashed out for currency.

Usually but not always, you can find the cashier in the farthest corner from the exit, this is to give you plenty of time to consider putting some of your winnings down on another table or in a slot.

Image: Vital Vegas

Side note on chips:

Roulette chips are called non-value. They are unlike other casino chips in that their value is determined by how they are marked up on the roulette wheel.

If you buy in $100 and ask for $5 chips, you will notice the dealer put one of your color chips by the wheel along with a lammer (plastic marker) that says 100. That means that every stack of your color is worth $100.

If you buy in for dollars, they will mark your color as 20. $20 dollars a stack, and so forth and so on.

Always color up these chips at the roulette table before you leave as they aren’t worth anything anywhere else.

Also, to avoid confusion, the casino allows only one person per color, so if you need to buy chips for your significant other, you’ll need to get them a separate color.

4. Do Get To Grips With Basic Game Rules And Procedures

There are dozens of different table games and thousands of slots. It can be confusing, so if you have a question don’t hesitate to ask the dealer or find a slot person to explain the game.

In the case of table games, each casino may have slightly different rules on a table or slightly different procedures for how a game is dealt. But we will cover some of the most common here:

Most casino table games require you to be seated at the table while playing.

This is simply about the cameras having the best possible coverage of the cards being dealt. If standing and hunched over your cards, it prevents surveillance from keeping track of those cards.

Most blackjack and even some carnival games are dealt face-up.

If the cards aren’t placed in front of you and are dealt out on the layout, do not touch them.

If dealt to you, you may pick them up. Most casinos will require that you only use one hand on blackjack and even some carnival games.

If in doubt, ask your dealer.

When it comes to signaling, in handheld blackjack games you ask for a hit by lightly scratching the corner of the cards next to your bet. You signal to stay by tucking your cards face down slightly under your bet.

If you have a blackjack and want to split or double, just turn your cards face up, the dealer will know what you require. Try to never cover or block your bet from the view of the dealer with your cards.

In face-up blackjack games you ask for a hit by scratching with your finger. Stay is a horizontal wave of your hand. Split or double is just pointing with two fingers.

In many of the carnival games the signals are similar to blackjack. If you wish to play or need another card just scratch, and if you’re done with your hand just set it down.

Again, the dealer will be happy to answer any questions.

When it comes to the actual play of your hand, though, the dealer may not be allowed to offer advice.

In the case of blackjack, this may be for the best as most blackjack dealers don’t know basic strategy, so you can simply print out a basic strategy card before you go play.

This is also true for the carnival games.

You can find easy-to-understand rules on how to set your hand, what hands to play, and what hands to fold on your phone before you start playing, instead of having to rely on ill-informed dealers or mistaken advice from other players.

5. Do Set A loss Limit

It’s important that when you sit down at a table you have an idea of what you can afford to lose.

Some people only bring that amount with them to make sure they don’t chase losses if things go bad. Others just have the willpower to get up and take a break after losing whatever limit they have set.

Either is fine as long as you know that you’ll stick with the agreed-upon limit.

Having a set amount for each gambling session will ensure that you don’t lose everything in the first few hours and that you’ll be able to continue to enjoy your trip even if you lose the first few times you play.

It also keeps your emotions in check and provides a circuit breaker for when you just want to keep throwing money on the layout no matter how bad the cards.

Some people also like to set limits on what they would like to win. Perhaps they’ve gotten up a good amount only to lose it all back in the past.

While not as common, having an idea of what you’ve come to win will also make you a more disciplined gambler and help protect your bankroll long term.

Table games
Image: Renato Marques/Unsplash

6. Don’t Tell Others How To Play

Don’t tell other players how to play their hand as much as you may be tempted.

Players get to play their own cards and while not every dealer may enforce this, it’s still a rule. If asked for advice, be sure to give it, but if not, then just play your cards.

On some carnival games, you won’t even be able to offer advice if asked as house rules prevent you from looking at another player’s hands.

This may seem extreme if, let’s say, your wife doesn’t know how to play.

But some of these poker games can be beaten if players know too many of the cards that have already been dealt to players, so the rules are made to prevent that.

As well as not telling others how to play, don’t ask or give money to strangers at the table.

It’s certainly within your right, but the casino will often put out anyone that they believe is panhandling or asking for money.

That $25 chip you gave someone because of a sob story won’t do them much good if they are asked to leave.

7. Don’t Upset Superstitious Craps Players

Craps table
Image: Vital Vegas

There’s a reason why many players feel that craps is the best game on the casino floor.

When a player has a hot hand, and the chips are piling up in the rail, it really is a feeling like no other.

But when those dice turn cold, you can quickly see craps players turn superstitious.

It’s this alternating cycle of hot and cold dice that has turned so many lovers of the game into unreasonable believers in bad luck and hexes.

And while dice is a difficult game to learn in the best of circumstances, certain behavior can apparently bring the ire of the Craps Gods down upon the table.

Chief among these is buying in, in the middle of a roll.

When possible, always wait for a seven out, or at least for the player to make a point before throwing your money down on the layout, or you may be faced with an entire table of muttering, coughing players.

One trick that seems to assuage some of these old-timers is to buy in with cash at a blackjack or another table on your way to dice.

It seems it’s the cash hitting the table, not some new player handing in chips to the dealer, which sets off all this calamitous bad luck.

Also, right up there with using the Lord’s name in vain is saying the actual word “seven” at a dice table.

I’m pretty confident that you can no longer be lynched for this, but I don’t see any reason to put it to the test, either.

Another common newbie mistake is putting your hands in the way of the dice. Once the stickman calls “dice are out” immediately get your hands out of the layout.

Should the dice hit your hands, it’s quite possible that many of the others will remember you for life and refuse to play with you for years to come.

Talking to or touching a hot shooter is likely to remove them from their “zone.”

If you want to ask the shooter a question, it’s probably best to wait until they are done shooting to avoid a glare – or worse.

Yes, craps players have some idiosyncrasies, but don’t let that stop you from coming by and trying by far the most fun game in the casino. 

Stick to these rules, listen to your dealer, pay attention, and you too could soon be making new players uncomfortable with talk of jinxes and shouts of “watch your hands.”

8. Don’t Put Your Stuff On The Tables

As I mentioned at the beginning, casinos have a lot of rules. Aside from the important ones we’ve already mentioned, keep in mind:

No purses, wallets, bags, or anything of the like on the table. They can block the eye in the sky’s view, can be used to hide things, or just generally get in the way.

Always keep your drinks in the cupholders provided. On dice, do not dangle your drinks over the layout, there is a shelf just below the rail for drinks. One spilled drink will stop everything and may even lead management to close the table. You don’t want to be the person that ruined everybody else’s good time.

9. Do Dress To Impress

Many casinos across the US have a very relaxed attitude toward dress codes

But if you’re playing on a cruise ship or in another country, there is very likely to be a dress code on the casino floor.

You can call ahead or look for it on their website, and it will also usually be posted by the main entrance.

Even in the more laid-back Las Vegas casinos used to dealing with the throngs of tourists, there is likely to be an unmentioned dress code.

For instance, most casinos frown upon “beachwear” and will often ask visitors to cover up.

Guests wearing T-shirts with profanity or vulgar images may be asked to have them turned inside out, and even in Vegas, there are laws on the books on how much skin you can get away with showing.

If you’re hoping to swing by a club or nice restaurant while you’re out, be prepared for a much stricter once-over.

Shorts and ball caps are generally out, as is baggy clothing, and even sports jerseys. In some cases, jeans and T-shirts may be excluded as well.

It is always, always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

There are many casinos and clubs not only in Las Vegas but around the world, all with different ideas about proper dress, but the better you’re dressed, the more likely you are to get into any one of them.

10. Do Make Sure You Tip The Staff

In most American casinos, front-of-house staff like dealers, valet, and beverage servers generally make far less than the minimum wage.  

While this tipping culture has been hotly debated over the last few years, it doesn’t change the basic fact that the nice person who is bringing your drink is probably only being paid $2.35 an hour by the casino.

They are counting on tips to be able to feed their families.  

And this holds true across almost all the guest-facing staff at a casino, from slot attendants to porters, who also make less than minimum wage generally.

As customer service professionals, they’re going to do their best to make sure you have a great time regardless, but a well-timed gratuity can go a long way toward making sure that the people taking care of you also feel appreciated.

casino sign outside hotel
Image: Camilo Jimenez/Unsplash

Most Importantly, Have Fun!

Yes, there are a lot of rules. We warned you.

Relax, though: Casinos want you to have fun – and they’re counting on it.

They do their best every day to weigh your good time against the safety and security of all that money.  And while it may seem like a lot, it’s mostly common sense.

So, get out there and enjoy!

You’ll pick up the basics of what you can and can’t do pretty quick, the dealers and staff will make sure you don’t get into too much trouble as long as you listen, and they spend a large part of their day teaching new players in any case.

Never risk more than you can afford to lose, but if you’ve budgeted a little of your travel budget for gambling, head on down to the casino floor and see what all the excitement is about.

There’s a reason why Las Vegas attracts over 40 million visitors a year, and it’s not just the endless buffets.