Casinos can be confusing and overwhelming places for a newcomer. It's not just the bright lights, loud sounds, and big crowds either, there is also the matter of how you should behave, a.k.a casino etiquette.
Nobody wants to embarrass themselves on their first visit to the casino! Let's take a look at the dos and don'ts that will help you feel confident when going gambling.
12 Top Dos & Don'ts At Casinos
Casinos are usually pretty accommodating when it comes to novice gamblers, but it's still worth familiarizing yourself with the basics of proper casino etiquette. You'll feel more self-assured and avoid any potentially embarrassing situations - making your experience better overall.
Dress for the occasion
It's worth checking the casino's dress code before you show up. The rules can vary greatly from casino to casino, but generally you'll need to make at least a little bit of effort with your attire.
That's not to say you need to wear a tuxedo (although it's always better to be overdressed than underdressed, so long as you are comfortable), but that even casinos with no official dress code will still expect you to wear clean, unripped clothing - and will frown on certain shirts and footwear.
And even if your t-shirt and flip-flops are okay on the casino floor, they still might not be smart enough to get into a casino restaurant or bar. And it's common for casinos to enforce more formal dress codes in the evenings compared to the daytime.
Some casinos are stricter than others and it makes sense just to check on their website or by giving them a quick phone call - rather than just showing up and hoping for the best. Outside of Vegas, most casinos have a "smart casual" code, where you need to wear the kind of clothes that would get you past a fussy bouncer into a bar or club.
Look good, feel good - and you'll find people treat you better too.
Learn the rules
Although casino staff will be happy to offer guidance for newbies - and you aren't expected to understand every little nuance of every game - you will make things much easier for everyone if you understand the basics before you show up.
If you're going to play a game you've never played before - like Baccarat or Craps - learn the rules. This isn't just etiquette, it's common sense. Gambling on games you don't understand is not wise!
The easiest way to familiarize yourself with casino games is to play online - you can even do this with play money, as you just need to get comfortable with the rules of any table games you're planning on playing in the casino. Alternatively, you can always watch Youtube videos that explain different games.
Many casinos also offer free beginner lessons at certain times of the day (normally the mornings) where they show novices the ropes for their table games - and often they will have sessions for Poker etiquette too.
Learn the hand signals
Blackjack is one of the most popular casino games and so it's worth brushing up on your blackjack table etiquette before you go.
The two main actions in Blackjack are "Hit" (for another card) and "Stand" (to stick with your current total). You might also need to "Double Down" (where you double your stake for one extra card only) or "Split" (where you turn a matching pair into two separate hands). You can say these to the dealer, but it's better for everyone if you learn the basic hand signals.
Done properly, these eliminate any confusion and allow the casino's cameras to clearly see what you asked for in the case of a dispute (as they don't pick up sound).
- Hit is signaled by either touching a finger on the table or waving toward yourself in a "come-here" motion.
- If you want to Stand, then you should wave your hand over your card with the palm down, in a "no-more" gesture.
- If you want to Double Down or Split, then this is done by adding a second separate bet and holding up one finger (Double Down) or two (Split).
Don't touch your cards - most brick-and-mortar casinos offer multiple-deck Blackjack, where your cards are dealt face up and you are not meant to touch them.
The golden rule of gambling is to never risk money you can't afford to lose. It's easy to get carried away at the casino - in fact, they have been designed with this very intention in mind. Don't let it happen to you. You need to think about how much you want to play with for this visit and use this to determine what stakes you can play, and what bet sizes you'll use.
Spend a bit of time planning ahead and it will make things so much smoother when you're at the casino. You'll feel more confident, and you won't annoy other casino-goers or staff by being indecisive at the tables.
Of course, the best laid plans often go awry, so you need to be vigilant and make sure you stick to them by not getting horribly drunk or succumbing to peer pressure. Try to visit casinos with friends who are a good influence and not a bad one!
Remember that casino ATMs usually have ludicrously high fees - so it makes sense to take what you're willing to spend as cash and then stop if you spend it all.
A trip to the casino is meant to be an enjoyable occasion that's about having fun. Don't spoil the atmosphere or act like you own the place. Good manners cost nothing, after all.
You should usually ask if it's okay to sit down when you first get to a table. Always refrain from commenting on others play - and don't demand sympathy when you get unlucky.
Nobody likes a sore loser, and (outside of the craps table) an over-exuberant winner is also annoying. It's a lot easier to keep your emotions in check if you are reasonably sober and playing within sensible limits.
Treat everyone you meet in the casino with respect and you'll have a much better time.
Tip your dealers
Tipping can be a controversial subject. After all, casinos make billions in profits each year yet they pay their dealers a few dollars an hour, forcing them to rely on tips to survive.
But remember that healthy gambling should be all about good vibes and generosity - and not penny-pinching.
You may not agree that it's your responsibility to subsidize the casino's wage bill, but the fact is they will make you pay one way or the other - and by not tipping the only person you're hurting is the dealer.
Other people you should tip include wait-staff, keno runners and slots attendants (if you are lucky enough to win a hand-paid prize).
Tipping isn't mandatory but it's good gambling etiquette - and even better karma. Tipping makes you feel good and it makes the dealer feel good. Face it: big tippers enjoy life more than stingy folk!
Don't sit at a table if you aren't betting
Table games have limited seats, and these are reserved for players who are gambling - not spectators. It's fine to watch, but you need to stand slightly back from the table. This is true even if it's your friends at the table.
And whatever you do, don't distract the players with your chatter. If you want to talk, go to the bar instead.
Don't touch the chips
Once you've placed your chips on the table that's it - you can't change your mind. Never move or remove your chips - trust the dealer. And never, ever touch somebody else's chips.
For example, Roulette is a common game for people to make rookie mistakes in. Roulette has table-specific chips. Each player is given a different color - this is so everyone knows whose bet is whose. Take note of what color is yours!
After the roulette ball has settled, you must wait before you grab for your chips. First the dealer will place a marker on the winning number, then they will add all the winnings, and finally they will remove the marker. Only then can you touch your chips again.
You are then free to place bets for the next spin of the wheel, up until the point the dealer says "No more bets".
One other thing - when you are buying into a game, don't hand the dealer your money. Just place it on the table. It makes it easier for the cameras to record in order to avoid disputes later on.
Don't ask the dealer for gambling advice
You can ask the dealer for advice on anything to do with the rules and procedures of the game you're playing (although doing this too much is going to annoy everyone). But one thing you can never do is ask them for advice on how you should play. They are not allowed to influence your gambling decisions in any way.
Doing so could cost them their jobs - so don't put them in an awkward position by asking for anything other than basic advice about how things work.
Don't use your phone
It seems like everyone is glued to their mobile all the time these days, but you need to take it easy in the casino. Many casinos also ban or block smartphones at tables or near machines.
Admittedly, this is a rule that gets broken a lot, particularly at the poker table. But it's very bad etiquette to use your phone when you're at the table. Taking photos or filming is the biggest no-no, followed by taking calls, and then texting and browsing.
If you have to take a call then just let the dealer know you need to step away from the table. And make sure you keep your phone on mute - nobody wants to hear your annoying ringtone!
Don't drink too much
Boozing and gambling go together - but you have to know your limits. A drunk player is usually more annoying than even a complete novice who keeps making mistakes. And a drunk novice is the worst of all.
Not only that but drinking is not good for decision making. You don't want to wake up with a killer hangover, an empty bank account and a sense of shame.
That's not to say you should completely avoid drinking at the casino! Don't be afraid to have a few drinks if that's your thing - but don't get sloppy. You came to gamble - you can get legless some other time.
Don't bring your children
Casinos are not child-friendly places, nor they are pet-friendly places. There's nothing for kids to do for starters - and plenty of things they should not be doing! Casino-goers are there to relax and gamble - the last thing they want is to worry about their language or conversation subjects because someone brought their kid along.
You might be okay walking through the casino on the way to some other place in the complex, but if you try loitering or playing games with a kid in tow then don't be surprised when you get asked to leave by staff very quickly.
Some casinos - especially those in tourist resorts - have kids' play areas. So it's worth looking into this if you're thinking about taking your kids to Vegas instead of Disneyland!
Casino Etiquette: FAQ
Answers to the most common questions about the casino etiquette and how to behave in a casino.
What is the dress code of a casino?
Every casino has its own dress-code rules - some require formal attire while others are fairly relaxed. If you can't check the rules for whatever reason, then err on the side of caution - dress as you would for a fancy restaurant. You can't go wrong with smart casual, with the emphasis on smart.
Avoid dirty or torn clothes, tennis shoes, sportswear, manual workwear, flip-flops, shorts, and offensive t-shirts.
Poker rooms tend to have much more relaxed dress codes, though.
Where to find a casino's rules?
Casinos usually have their dress code and other rules available on their websites. Just google the name of the casino followed by "rules" or "dress code". Or you can always call their front desks with any queries you have.
Can you use your phone at a casino?
You can use your phone in the casino, but not at the tables. And you shouldn't film or photograph anywhere on the casino floor. Remember to put your phone on silent too!
How much should I tip a dealer?
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to how much you should tip a casino dealer. It depends partly on the game you are playing and the stakes. A good rule of thumb though is about 10-20% of your table buy-in.
How to prepare to go to a casino?
Before you go to a casino, you should make sure you understand the basics of casino etiquette, learn the rules of any table games you're planning on playing - and most importantly decide on a budget that you will definitely stick to.
Going to the casino doesn't need to be daunting - just follow our tips on proper casino etiquette and you'll have the confidence to make the most of your experience. Plan ahead, make sure you're dressed properly, and above all have fun!