Blackjack dilemma: Which table and which chair?

Most players don’t think much about the above when they want to play Blackjack. They are usually so excited to play that they rush into the casino and plop themselves down at the first table they see with an unoccupied chair.

Not much thought is given to how the dealer deals the cards. Or how many decks of cards are being used. Is it a full table or right an empty one? Many also don’t look at what the payout is for a Blackjack or what the betting limits are. Yet all of these things are important, as well as which chair you take a seat in.

A few things to consider in Blackjack

The first criterion to take into account is the betting limits on the table. This will prevent you from sitting at an overpriced table. You really won’t be the first one to sit down at a table, put down money and get chips and then bet a chip when that value is way too low.

If you have a limited bankroll, only play at tables with low betting limits. If you’re not sure if a particular casino offers, say, a €5 minimum blackjack game, check first.

Game rules may vary

If you only play blackjack at Holland Casino you won’t have this problem. All establishments apply the same rules. But if you’re going to a casino abroad or if you like to play at an online casino, this is important.

Nowadays blackjack rules are not the same everywhere. Some tables have very good (player-friendly) rules, while for others the rules are not so good. It is the player’s responsibility to distinguish the good from the bad. The three most important rules of play for players are:

  • Player’s blackjack pays 3-2 and not 7-5, or worse 1-1
  • You can double after splitting the pair
  • Dealer passes on all 17s

At these casinos you will find many variants of Blackjack



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Important side issues

Once you’ve tracked down a table with a reasonable set of playing rules, check how many decks of cards are being used. It’s easy to see if the dealer is using one or more sticks. If a casino uses more than two decks of cards, it will usually be six or eight decks and the cards are dealt from a “Shoe”. If you are not sure if the game uses six or eight decks of cards, ask the dealer.

Generally, a game with one deck has better odds for a player than a game that uses more decks. You can still come across them in Las Vegas, but often with a poor Blackjack payout. That’s why it’s important to know the full set of playing rules associated with a particular game (including the number of decks) to decide if the game is worth playing. The ultimate goal is to play in such a way that the house edge is as low as possible.


Many casinos today use what is called a continuous shuffling machine (or CSM) to shuffle and deal the cards. With this device, the cards are inserted back into the CSM after each round is completed. They are then shuffled randomly with the unplayed cards. (Most CSMs contain five or six decks.) When a casino uses a CSM, the dealer can deal more hands per hour.

After all, there is never a pause to manually shuffle the cards. Therefore, players with a CSM dealt game will expose more of their bankroll to the house edge, resulting in a higher theoretical hourly loss. In short, playing at a table with a shuffling machine is more disadvantageous, but in Holland Casino it already can’t be otherwise. Online, on the other hand, most casinos still shuffle by hand.

It’s also better to play at a full table because you’ll play fewer hands per hour and thus be less likely to be blindsided by the house edge.

Which chair at the table is best?

Finally, which chair is best? From a mathematical standpoint, it doesn’t really matter which seat you take at a blackjack table. (Even if you play at a table full of inexperienced players, your odds of winning are not affected in the long run.) My advice to recreational players who may need (or want) a little more time to decide how to play their hands correctly is to sit to the right of the dealer. That’s because once the dealer has finished dealing the first two cards to each player, she will immediately point to the first player to her left for a hand signal (indicating what the player wants to do … pass, ask for a card, etc.).

After the first player has completed his or her hand, the dealer will take turns going to each player for a play decision. Therefore, if you take a seat to the right of the dealer, you have a little more time to decide how to play your hand (or to check your blackjack strategy card to make sure you are playing the right game). However, the anchor seat (i.e., the last seat) is often seen by other players as the seat where a more experienced player sits, and you may not want that extra pressure or control from the other players. In short: choose seat #5 or #6.