7 Table Tips for First-Time Blackjack Players

Blackjack Hand With a Blue Blackjack Table Background

Gambling at a casino for the first time can seem daunting, so it’s important to know what you should expect. No matter how many times you watch your gambling movie of choice, nothing adequately prepares you for the moment you sit down at your first table. The opportunities for action are seemingly endless, and it’s feasible to find yourself sitting down to play any number of table games.

If blackjack is your game of choice, you’ve chosen one of the world’s most popular table games. The chances of finding an empty table, especially during peak hours, are small, so you’ll most likely be sitting down with gamblers who have been around the block a few times. To make sure you’re up to the challenge: here are 7 tips for first-time blackjack players.

1. Know the Basic Rules

It’s important to note the distinction between strategy and rules of real money blackjack. While each gambler has their strategy they use while playing, blackjack’s rules apply to everyone at the table. Gamblers curate strategy over years of playing, and that strategy can vary significantly from gambler to gambler. If it’s your first time playing, don’t worry about the strategy behind your moves too much.

Before you sit down at a table, you must research the game, especially if you’ve never played it casually. The rules are relatively straightforward and can be understood in minutes, but if you sit down completely unprepared, you could set yourself up for disaster.

There are few things worse than playing next to someone clueless and unprepared. It interferes with the game’s flow and can completely shift the table’s vibe and fortunes. Don’t be the one who messes up the energy at the table. Look up the rules to have a basic understanding before you start gambling away your money.

2. Admit You’re New

There is no shame in telling the dealer and your tablemates that you are a beginner at blackjack. Don’t know what to do? You are within your right to ask the dealer what “the book” dictates for the situation. Most dealers I’ve interacted with love to see the gamblers at their table win because it leads to more tips.

A bonus of admitting your naivete is that it can lead to productive conversations with some of the other players. Sure, you might encounter the grouch who is a mainstay at the casino and doesn’t have time to sit through a new gambler’s introduction to blackjack.  However, In my experience, most players are eager to help you win. So, when you first sit down and slide your money across the table, be honest, it will help in the long run.

3. Sit in the Middle

This tip is more complicated for new players, but trust me when I tell you to try to get a seat in the middle of the table. In blackjack, arguably, the most crucial table position is known as third base or the person who plays last. Certain gamblers are under the assumption that the person playing third can determine the entire hand’s outcome for the rest of the table. The specifics of this are convoluted and add unnecessary stress to newer players.

Overhead View of a Red Blackjack Table

While third base’s importance is always up for debate, some gamblers will be unfairly critical of decisions made by the last person to play. For example, if the dealer is showing a 2, you have to assume he or she has a ten underneath and will draw another 10 to bust. If the person playing third has a soft 17 and hits, as basic strategy dictates, some gamblers will judge that to be unnecessary and can take away a dealer’s bust card.

Third base comes with some added pressure that new gamblers don’t need. Let a more seasoned gambler man third and deal with the flak. Even if you’re confident in basic strategy and play by the book, some people will take exception to your style of play, and you can open yourself up to heightened scrutiny.

4. Don’t Drink Too Much

The appeal of drinking a few beers or mixed drinks while playing cards is undeniable, especially if you’re a younger player who just turned 21. My first time at a casino was in The Bahamas for my 18th birthday, where the drinking is 18. I still remember walking up to a table with a drink in my hand, throwing down my money like a hotshot, and getting my teeth kicked in. My inexperience, combined with the constant allure of table service, did not bode well for this gambler.

If you’re reading this and you’re unfamiliar with casinos, go easy on the drinking. Casinos are a business and want to take your money. One way they can shift the odds to their favor is to make sure gamblers are slightly off their game by supplying them with alcohol. Serious players need to stay sharp at all times, and continuous action, counting, and strategizing can be taxing.

Alcohol policies vary from state-to-state and casino-to-casino. Whereas Las Vegas typically provides free alcohol as long as you’re sitting down and gambling, other casinos charge money for drinks, which can be a blessing in disguise.

If you’re gambling for the first time at a casino that provides free beverages, try to rise above the temptation and get into a good rhythm before partaking in a drink.

5. Take Care of Your Dealer

Dealers rely on tips for their income. With meager hourly wages, most live off of the generosity of the people sitting at their table. One of the unwritten rules of blackjack that has nothing to do with the way the game’s played is to make sure you’re helping the dealer out. This is especially true for new players who rely on the dealer for advice and instruction.

After a win, it’s courteous to throw your dealer a few chips. Tip a dealer 20-25% of the winnings: if I win $25, I’ll slide a $5 chip to the dealer, but this is all up to you. Superstitions abound in these table games, and I’m off the mindset that if you take care of your dealer, they will take care of you.

A fun twist on tipping is to make a bet for the dealer. To do this, place your bet in the normal position and put another chip at the front edge of the designated betting area. If your hand wins, the dealer also wins, doubling their tip.

6. Act Like You’ve Been There Before

Blackjack tables are full of gamblers who fit different stereotypes. You have guys who are loud and braggadocious, players who are aggressive and quick to blame dealers, and even some who will hardly say anything. No one likes the first two types listed, and sometimes it’s hard to get into a good groove with gamblers who are introverts by nature.

Closeup of a Man's Hand on a Blackjack Table

Emotion is part of the game. Big wins are exciting, and severe losses can be soul-crushing. Regardless of the outcome of each hand, it’s vital to keep your cool and remain even-keeled. As a new gambler, you’ll already have extra eyeballs on you, waiting for you to make a mistake or commit an error. Don’t give your fellow players cause to judge your style of play. Certain younger players tend to get too emotionally invested, so it’s important to remind yourself that you’re playing a game.

7. Don’t Overthink It

Blackjack popular for a reason. It’s easy to understand and gives gamblers the best odds of any table game at their casino of choice. If you come prepared and stick to a basic strategy, you can walk away from the table as a winner.

Even if your first time results in a net loss, don’t sweat it: it’s part of the cyclical nature of the game. Keep your bets conservative, and don’t put yourself in a position to lose big. If things don’t go wrong, take a break,  walk around to see all the casino has to offer.

Conclusion

Don’t let the thought of gambling for the first time scare you. Casinos are a great time if you come with a plan, know the rules of the game, and stick to a basic strategy. The sight and sounds that come with walking through the doors for the first time may seem overwhelming, but you’ll find the novelty wears off quick.

Get comfortable and relax because everyone at your table has gone through the same thing as you. Trust your instincts and preparation, take care of your dealer, and have fun. Before you know it, you’ll feel right at home.