It is a semi-oval shape, with the players sitting around the oval part of it, and the dealer standing behind the flat part, his back to a central area called the “pit.” In the “pit” you’ll find a number of casino management personnel, including the aptly named “Pit Boss.”
The table will bear a sign containing information as to what kind of Blackjack game is being played there, and what the rules are. For instance, it will indicate the table minimum bet and the table maximum bet. Other conditions listed on this sign may be, for instance: blackjack pays 3-2, insurance pays 2-1, dealer must draw to 16 and stand on all 17’s. You must pay careful attention to these signs since each table – even within the same pit – may have slightly different rules. In general, however, it is mostly the table minimums and maximums that change. The most likely alteration is that the table minimum will be raised, particularly at peak times such as evenings and weekends when the casino is at its busiest.
There are between five and seven seats for players at each table, each seat indicated and delineated by a rectangular shape on the table. Something else you will see on the table is what is called a “shoe.” A “shoe” is basically a container that holds the cards. It can be made from wood or plastic and is rectangular in shape. The cards are both deposited into it and dealt from it, and a shoe can contain anywhere from one to six decks of cards.
It is important to know that you cannot give cash directly to the dealer. Instead, you must put it down on the table, at which point the dealer will take it, put it into a slot, and hand you chips. There can be no person-to-person exchange of cash for chips.
With a minimum of one player at the table, a game can begin, and while other players can join the table at any time – sitting down in whatever vacant seat they find – they cannot actually start playing until the hand-in-play is finished. The dealer will deal clockwise from his left to his right.
Another important thing to remember about Blackjack is that you are playing against the dealer, not against the other players, so it doesn’t really matter what cards the other players get. Obviously, none of the players wants the dealer to win, which is why some players will go out of their way not to be the last player to receive cards: they fear that if they take one too many cards (or one too few) they will be the recipients of blame, for being the one who caused the dealer to win. On the other hand, there are those – card counters and other expert players, for instance – who seek out being in last position, since seeing what cards are being played gives them an advantage.
Being the first to receive cards has certain disadvantages, namely having the least amount of time to study one’s own hand (and the dealer’s card) and to consider whether to ask for more cards or hold steady.
Selecting the right table for yourself is crucial. The first thing to look at is the table minimum, especially if you’re coming to the table with a fairly low bankroll. For instance, if you’ve got $100 to $200 to play with, you’re best off choosing a table with no higher than a $5 minimum. Especially for the novice player, this insures a decent amount of playing time, taking into account the ups and downs of the game.
Another thing to look at is how many other players are at the table. Again, for the beginner it is advantageous to be the only player at the table. For one thing, you can count cards with much greater ease. For another, you can feel less self-conscious about how you play, and whether you’re playing “right.” You also have more access to the dealer’s time and attention. At the beginning especially it is important that you feel relaxed about asking the dealer questions; despite the fact that he is your “opponent,” he is the one who can be most helpful to you in terms of suggesting a good move or explaining a rule that seems unclear to you.
If you do not have the luxury of choosing a table with no players, then at least choose a table with players who strike you as compatible. Over time you will determine whether you are someone who prefers playing in first position or last, or somewhere in the middle, and this will be another factor in how you choose the right Blackjack table for you.