Blackjack Etiquette – To Hit or Not to Hit?


Walk into a land casino, and you’ll see that the Blackjack tables are frequently crowded. This card game is one of the oldest and most popular casino games out there. The main reasons being its ease of access to beginners and fast-paced gameplay.

Although there is no official handbook on proper Blackjack etiquette, players do adhere to certain unofficial “rules” while playing the game. Don’t worry, failing to respect some of these norms would not get you kicked out of the casino or removed from the table. In fact, dealers are used to working with beginners and are more than happy to help. Still, if you want to make sure you do not accidentally tick off some experienced players the next time you walk into a land casino, then read on.

Blackjack Etiquette

First things first, when sitting down at the table you should wait for the current round to finish before buying in. If you need chips, place your real currency on the table and ask the dealer for change. If you don’t ask for change, you may confuse the dealer as some casinos accept both cash bets and chips.

Hand Signals

If you’ve spent some time at a Blackjack table, you’ll quickly realize that players mostly communicate by using silent motions, which will certainly look confusing to a beginner. Here is what the most common signals mean and you should use them to avoid improper etiquette.

  • Hitting Etiquette – When you want the dealer to hit, a simple tap on the table next to your cards will suffice. If playing at a “face down” Blackjack table, you will need to make a slight scratching motion using your cards over the table.
  • Stand – A quick waving motion over your hands will notify the dealer that you’d like to stand. In “face down” tables, you will need to slide your cards under your staked chips.
  • Double Down – Doubling down is one of the times you will need to voice your intent. Simple say “double down” and double your stack of chips.
  • Split – Just like doubling down, splitting needs to be vocalized for the dealer to register your intention.
  • Surrendering – Surrendering, also needs to be vocalized, but that doesn’t mean there is no hand gesture for surrendering. If you’d like, you can draw an imaginary line that spans from your cards to the dealer’s. Players rarely do this due to its redundancy.


You may be wondering if it is customary or even expected of you to tip the dealer. The answer is that tipping isn’t mandatory at casinos, regardless if you’re playing Blackjack or not.

However, most players on a good roll do tend to leave tips, and you may be frowned upon otherwise.

Context is important, nobody will expect you to tip if you’ve just won $10 with your $5 bet.

Order Your Chip Stacks Correctly

This is a minor piece of “chip etiquette.” If all of your chips are in one stack, rather than split per denomination, you should always place the highest value chips at the bottom. If you fail to do this, the dealer may be forced to do it for you.

Don’t Touch Your Chips

Besides proper ordering of your chips, you should refrain from touching them once the game is in motion. When the dealer has begun dealing, and the round is underway, don’t touch your chips until that round has finished. This rule has been put in place to prevent cheaters from changing their bets mid-round.

Keep Your Advice to Yourself

You don’t want to be that annoying player that the table scorns for talking too much and interfering with other people’s decisions. Regardless of how you feel or how “obvious” your co-players next step is, it’s best you focus on your own cards at all times and let other players do their own thing.

Now that we’ve gone through the basics of Blackjack etiquette and how you should behave at the Blackjack table, let’s have a look at some easily-remembered rules that go beyond etiquette, but will instead increase your chances of winning and make you a better player.

To Hit or Not to Hit?

Whether you should hit or not depends on a variety of factors on the table, but there are times where you should hit regardless of the situation on the table, the dealer’s hand and the card status of other players on your table.

Always hit a hard 11

A hard 11 is the strongest possible hand you can be dealt in Blackjack. The reason is simple; it is always assumed that there are more 10s in play than cards of other value, meaning your chance of “winning,” e.g., getting a 21 are the greatest at that point.

Always hit when you have less than a hard 11. This is something beginners intuitively pick up, but I feel I should mention it anyway. If your initial hand’s hard value is less than 11, there are no theoretical upsides to not hitting at that point.

The Soft 17 Rule – Friend or Foe?

The Soft 17 Rule is a much-talked about rule in Blackjack, one which most often confuses players, as the 17 itself is not that bad of a hand, but as it is a “soft” 17, you may have better luck with hitting. A soft hand is any hand containing an ace, as the ace can count as both a 1 and a 11 – whichever suits you best. An example of a soft 17 is an ace + 6, or an ace + 3 + 3. In contrast, a 10 + 7 would be a “hard” 17.

So, what to do when you’re dealt a soft 17? Hit! You always want to hit a soft 17, regardless of the situation on the table. This may seem counter-intuitive as a 17 is a good hand, as I mentioned above, but you would be actually losing money in the long run by standing on a soft 17.

Proof of this is the house edge increase on tables in which the dealer hits a soft 17. This brings me to my next point, which is that you should always play at a table where the dealer stands on a soft 17 if given the choice. This choice is rarely afforded though, so don’t think too much of it.

Should I Double Down on a Soft 17?

The answer to this one is not as straightforward as merely hitting, as it depends on the dealer’s hand. Most players always pass up on the opportunity to double down a soft 17, missing great opportunities for winning. The rules for this one are simple:

When playing a game with multiple decks, double down on a Soft 17 if the dealer’s upcard is 3, 4, 5 or 6.

If playing a single deck game, you should double down when the dealer’s upcard is 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6.

When to Surrender in Blackjack?

Surrendering never feels good, but there are times in which you are strongly advised to do so. You should surrender if:

You have a hard 16, and the dealer’s upcard is a 9, 10 or A

You have a hard 15, and the dealer has a 10

To Split or Not to Split?

Splitting is reserved for more the experienced players, as almost every table has different rules on when you’re allowed to split and when you are not. It also heavily depends on the dealer’s hand, which is why rules on splitting can get complicated quickly. However, here are some definite scenarios on splitting:

  • Always split if you have two A’s or two 8’s.
  • Never split if you have two 5’s or two 10’s.

If you follow some of the rules I mentioned above, they will go a long way to separate you from the total beginner. Nonetheless, I strongly advise you to master basic strategy. Blackjack basic strategy instructs you what to do in every possible theoretical scenario on the table. Most casinos have no issue with letting you hold a basic strategy chart in your hand while playing but consulting a chart every time it’s your turn may prove tiresome for the table, yourself included. After all, playing Blackjack should be an enjoyable and entertaining affair.

Petko Stoyanov
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About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.