Casino Etiquette

There are various rules of behavior, or casino etiquette, expected on the gambling floor. There are correct ways to buy chips, place your bets, and cash out. Unless you have gambling experience, casino etiquette can seem daunting, and this article is intended to walk you through the proper way to act at any major casino.

Navigating the Casino

Casinos can be overwhelming to the newcomer. Many of us wander around the fast-paced floor confused, while massive crowds of people all seem to know exactly what they're doing. What's more, there is the constant watch of surveillance cameras, security detail, pit bosses and dealers compounding the pressure.

Before you ever join a game, you should be aware of both the written rules and general expectations of casino gambling. The most basic principle is not to be a disruption. Do not stand awkwardly in the way while you try to get your bearings; stay discretely off to the side as to minimize both your pressure and other people's frustration.

Don't hesitate to ask if the casino offers gaming instructions. Many casinos will actually provide guided how-to tutorials of major games during specific times of the day. Some casinos even have play money tables, where you can learn the game rules and how to play without wagering real money.

Cell Phones and Cameras

There are specific guidelines surrounding the use of electronics. In general, the use of personal electronics is not encouraged, and cell phones and pagers are strictly prohibited while seated at a casino game or present at a sports book. In fact, major casinos typically have thick walls that block cell reception.

Taking pictures is also discouraged. There was a day when casinos strictly forbade the use of cameras, though this is no longer the case. The no-camera rule was initially implemented to protect player privacy, but as the negative stigma surrounding gambling dissipated, so did the rule's enforcement. Nevertheless, casinos are still a bit camera-shy.

Joining the Games

Stepping up to a video poker or slot machine won't exacerbate an anxiety attack, but not all games are so simple. Table games such as blackjack and craps have specific rules of etiquette that must be followed.

You treat joining a casino game the same way you would merge with traffic: the goal is to enter without affecting other drivers. It may be beneficial to observe the table for a few minutes before sitting gown. This will help you "get up to speed" with the procedures and avoid disrupting the game when joining. When you do join, the first thing you should do is take note of the small placard stating the betting minimum and maximum for the table. If you have a drink or an ash tray, only place them in the designated areas indicated on the table. If none exist, ask the dealer; do not just set them down.

Buying Chips

There is a right and a wrong way to buy chips at the table. Money should be placed on the table between you and the dealer; dealers cannot accept money that is handed to them. When you first sit down, do not buy in until the current hand ends. Chips should only be bought or cashed between hands.

Once you have chips, know their values. You may ask a dealer to make change for a larger value chip, but never ask him or her to trade small chips for large ones unless you are cashing out.

Placing Your Bet

Table games have designated areas for placing your bet. You should place chips you intend to wager in the center of the designated area so it is clear they are in play. Once your chips are in play, do not touch them again.

Refrain from placing your next bet until all of the previous round's winnings have been collected from the table. Likewise, do not collect your winnings until all players have been paid.

Whether you are betting or collecting chips, there should never be a situation in which you are required to reach across the table. If you cannot reach something, ask the dealer. You may ask other players if you feel comfortable, but if another player asks you to do anything involving their chips, slide them, rather than pick them up, so it is clear you did not take any.

Handling Cards

Once the bets are placed and the hand commences, there are additional guidelines to which you should adhere. A general rule of thumb with card games is: Never touch your cards if they are dealt face up.

If the cards are dealt face down, only touch them using one hand; you will be harshly corrected if you use two hands. Avoid bending or folding the cards. This is a strict rule in place to prevent players from marking the cards. Lastly, once the first card is dealt, never touch your bet.


Certain casino games require the use of hand signals to indicate how you wish to play your cards. Verbal instruction can be misheard, so you will have to use these signals. Blackjack is one such game, and below you will find the hand signals when the cards are dealt either face up or face down.

Blackjack Hand Signals

Keep your hands in view, on or above the table, at all times to avoid drawing the attention of security.

Cashing Out

You should only cash out between hands. When you are ready to cash out, arrange your chips in orderly stacks and allow the dealer to count them. Once you receive your money, it is improper to count at the table in the open. Not only is this poor etiquette, but it draws unnecessary attention to you.


While tipping is not a requirement, it is good practice. The amount you tip is a judgment call, but should not be dependent on you winning. The dealer is paid an hourly rate that is independent of whether you win or lose, and gratuity should be based solely on services rendered. Of course, no dealer will shy away from a larger tip if you win big.

In addition to tipping the dealers, be sure to tip the cocktail waitresses. Standard protocol is to tip $1 per drink, and this includes water. This small generosity is a mainstay of proper casino etiquette. Check out the recommended readings below or return to our article index for a complete list of casino articles.

Recommended Reading

Tipping Etiquette

Benefits of Online Casinos