Start with a little
casino etiquette!

Nov 11, 2003 3:04 AM

It’s natural to be confused by all the fast action in a Las Vegas casino. After all, most newcomers have little or no gambling experience, except for their Friday night poker games or office football pools. While there are no hard-and-fast rules of conduct, these guidelines will help you enjoy your casino experience.

Perhaps the most intimidating area of the casino is the pit, where you’ll find clusters of blackjack tables, roulette wheels, craps tables and other games. The area behind the tables is reserved for pit bosses (supervisors) and other casino personnel, so avoid walking into these areas unless invited by the bosses.

While dealers will be willing to explain the games to you, it would be helpful to review the rules of the more popular games ahead of time or attend one of the free lessons offered by the larger casinos.

Most table games ”” blackjack, poker, craps, roulette and baccarat ”” use chips for play, so you must buy in, that is, purchase chips for cash or a marker (credit voucher). The chips come in various denominations starting at $1.

These can be used at different games and may be redeemed for cash at any time. When choosing a table game, always check the minimum table bet, which is usually displayed on a small plate. For instance, the casino’s blackjack tables may have minimums ranging from $5 to $500 a hand. Generally, the table minimums are higher on The Strip than at downtown casinos.

Feel free to ask the dealer for help during the game. Besides explaining rules, odds or procedures, dealers will often advise the proper strategy, such as when to hit, stand or double down in blackjack. If a dealer is rude or unwilling to help, find another table or leave the casino. You should never be made to feel embarrassed just because you’re a newcomer.

Playing the slots is a lot simpler than gambling at the tables: You can play at your own pace, move around freely and never have to confront dealers, bosses and other gamblers. Well, almost never.

Despite the hundreds if not thousands of machines in a casino, you may find some patrons playing more than one machine at a time. The casinos are divided in their policy of whether to allow one player to monopolize more than one machine, but don’t expect a casino to tell a customer to stop gambling.

Many more disputes among players arise when one leaves a slot machine ”” expecting to come back ”” and returns to find someone else playing the machine. The common practice to reserve a machine is to place a coin cup or bucket on the seat, but there’s no guarantee other players will honor or recognize this significance. If you must leave a machine, ask a casino worker, such as a floor person or change person, to watch your machine for you. They seldom refuse this courtesy.

If you want a break for dinner but feel attached to your particular machine, ask the floor person to shut it down until you return. This is not an uncommon practice if the machine won’t be inoperative for more than an hour or two.

Under no circumstances should you leave a machine unattended when you have accumulated credits on it, nor should you leave buckets of coins or other valuables in the tray below the machine. There are scavengers looking for loose coins or unattended machines with unplayed credits.

Tipping is common in a casino, but it is never a requirement. Instead, it should always be a reward for friendly, quality service. When tipping at the tables, you can tip the minimum bet or place an extra bet for the dealer.

For slot winners, the common practice is to tip the change person or whomever else you deem worthy (a cocktail server, casino host, etc.) an amount equal to 5 percent to 10 percent of your jackpot.