I saw a terrible dealer mistake early on in my very first live blackjack game. This was about twenty years ago at Isle of Capri Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana. The player next to me clearly indicated stand but the dealer dealt him an exposed hit card. This is a tough situation – not only does the player dealt an improper card need resolution, but the house has to do something about that exposed card.
Blackjack dealer mistakes aren’t as big of a deal as you might think. They’re normal, they’re even expected. Casinos have procedures in place to handle them. It’s a totally normal thing that, if handled properly, shouldn’t interrupt play all that much.
This post covers what happens after a blackjack dealer mistake. It’s important you know what to do as a player when a dealer mistake happens and how to behave while it’s being resolved.
Common Blackjack Dealer Mistakes
Preventing mistakes at the blackjack table is a two-step process. Casinos train blackjack dealers to avoid making mistakes and they train floor supervisors to identify and correct them when they occur.
Situation #1 – A player signals stand but the dealer gives that player a face-up hit card anyway.
The big problem here is the exposure of that card, which gives players still in the game a slight advantage since they now know a little more about the makeup of the shoe.
Situation #2 – The dealer runs out of cards.
This mostly happens in a single-deck or two-deck blackjack game. It’s only an issue if there are no cards remaining, and one or more players want to take a hit card.
Situation #3 – The dealer mistakenly takes an extra hit card.
Dealer behavior is strictly regulated by game rules. Sometimes, dealers miscalculate the value of their hand and take a hit card beyond what the rules allow. This is most common when the dealer’s hand contains an ace.
Situation #4 – The dealer reveals his downcard before a player is given an opportunity to hit.
Again, the big problem in this situation is the additional knowledge that the player has based on the dealer’s revealed card.
Situation #5 – A player is only dealt one card.
If this is caught before any cards are revealed, it’s a little less of a problem, but still considered a dealer mistake.
Situation #6 – A dealer misidentifies a player’s hand as a bust and removes the player’s wager and cards.
The big problem here is that cards and chips have been moved around and it’s going to be a big mess to work backwards and identify or fix the mistake.
Blackjack Dealer “Mistakes” as Cheating Tools
All of the situations described in the above section are understandable.
Even with a full table and only dealing 60 hands an hour, the number of times a dealer has to make a proper decision is startling. If the table’s only got a player or two, they’re putting out hundreds of hands for each hour of work. A typical blackjack dealer works six-hour shifts five times a week- that’s hundreds of thousands of hands of blackjack a year.
A mistake here and there isn’t just forgivable, it’s expected. No one can repeat a task that many times perfectly.
But there’s long been a dark side to dealer mistakes in blackjack.
In the past, unscrupulous blackjack dealers made mistakes in order to help players cheat, or in order to rip off the house all for themselves.
I’m not sure this happens as much in the modern era, thanks to increased surveillance and security methods and the fact that blackjack dealer cheating requires at least one other partner in crime. But it’s true that some blackjack dealers will use what look like honest mistakes to help cover up a scam.
If you watch blackjack dealers, you’ll notice they never take their eyes off the table. If they drop a chip, they ask for assistance from a floor supervisor or other employee to pick it up. If their shoe is untied, it stays untied until break time. They have no pockets in their uniforms. Why are all of these things true? To prevent a cute little “oops” from turning into a rip-off.
Here’s the thing, casinos are great at two things – keeping an eye on you and recognizing patterns of behavior. A cheating blackjack dealer would have to make an inordinate number of mistakes in order to use their accidents as cover. It’s just not realistic to think that a modern blackjack dealer is going to get away with palming chips by coughing into his sleeve or whatever.
What Happens After a Blackjack Dealer Mistake?
I’ve spent more than a little time in this post establishing that blackjack dealers make mistakes and it’s okay. But what really happens after a blackjack dealer makes a mistake?
Let’s go back to that first live blackjack game of mine sometime in the year 2000. I assumed the dealer would correct the error on his own. That’s not what happened. The dealer casually requested the presence of a floor supervisor. The super came over, took stock of what happened, and knew what to do right away.
The job of casino management isn’t to make things right for the casino – they’re working to protect customers. If a blackjack player isn’t satisfied by a supervisor’s suggestion, they’re welcome to work out another way to receive satisfaction. It’s all handled in a very friendly way, with the casino’s eye toward retaining you and your gambling bankroll.
Some casinos go out of their way to distinguish between mistakes that benefit the player and mistakes that benefit the house. Usually, mistakes that benefit the player are totally forgiven, and the player simply gets a freebie on the house. Mistakes that benefit the house are normally corrected more rigorously. The casino doesn’t want to seem to show favoritism towards its own coffers. It’s a bad look for customer service.
The best advice I can offer for blackjack players who believe they’ve been part of a dealer error is to ask to speak to a shift boss or someone at that level of management. You have to do this politely, remembering that this sort of thing is relatively common and that a properly-trained and trustworthy floor super isn’t going to be offended by your request.
Common Solutions for Common Blackjack Dealer Mistakes
Let’s re-consider the six dealer mistake situations outlined above. I’ll outline what most casinos would do in those situations, based on what we know now about how management handles mistakes.
I covered a typical response to situation #1 – the exposed card will be offered to other players at the table, and if no one takes it, it will be used as the dealer’s hit card, if he requires one.
In situation #2, the dealer runs out of cards without being able to issue a hit card to one or more players. This is a single-deck problem for the most part, and casinos handle it by reshuffling the discards and finishing the hands.
In situations where the dealer accidentally takes an extra hit card (Situation #3), the extra card is simply burned, and all hands play out as usual. In most casinos, they’ll reshuffle the shoe after this happens.
Our situation #4 had a dealer reveal his downcard before at least one player has a chance to take a hit. This is easy to deal with – casinos will let the player take a hit if he wants it, no questions asked.
If a player is dealt just one card, as in situation #5, the floor supervisor will authorize him to receive another card and stay in or fold his hand. Then each player at the table is given the option of staying or folding their hand. Cards are generally reshuffled after this mistake.
Finally, in situation #6, where a dealer misidentifies a player’s hand as a bust and takes away their cards and chips, the cards will be “backed-up” to recreate the round and prove what happened one way or another. This is one reason why dealers pick up cards in the order they were played.
What happens when a blackjack dealer makes a mistake? It happens more often than you might think, and it’s usually not a big deal. There’s an entire system of checks, balances, and routines put in place by casinos to deal with this very common occurrence.
Dealers learn in their training that mistakes are inevitable and are instructed how to handle these situations. You don’t want your dealers worrying too much about dealing a perfect hand every single time.