Arts + Entertainment

12 Tips for Proper Casino Etiquette

Know exactly what to do when you hit the gaming floor at the Encore Boston Harbor Casino.


casino chips

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If you’re imagining donning your sleekest tux and swanning into the Encore Boston Harbor Casino to order a martini, you really don’t want to make some kind of beginner’s gaffe and reveal you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing there. Not to worry: We asked Doug Williams, VP of table games at the Encore, for some tips and pointers about casino etiquette. Read on, and avoid embarrassment at the poker table.

Should I wear my tux?

Williams says there is a dress code, in that you can’t show up in a bathing suit fresh from the pool, but it’s relatively informal. “This isn’t the old days like you saw in James Bond movies. You don’t have to wear a suit and tie. People dress casual,” he says. Beyond that, it’s pretty simple: “You are required to always have a shirt and shoes on, just like if you go into Walmart.”

How do I pay for things?

Unlike everything else you do these days, casinos are very cash-oriented. Encore won’t accept credit cards or ATM cards at the gambling tables, so Williams says you need to make sure you have cash on hand. On the plus side, you don’t need to get chips first—your dealer can make the exchange for you. You can’t use the chips to pay for other things, though.

What’s the tipping situation?

A lot of money moves around at a casino, but there are strict rules regarding how dealers interact with it. “No dealer is ever allowed to take money from your hand. It’s nothing personal, but it’s one of the rules,” says Williams. Instead, you’ll place money on the table for betting or tipping purposes—just be clear about what the money’s for. You can tip during the game or after it, depending on how you’re feeling, but it is customary to tip at some point. Except for the poker dealers, all dealers pool tips at the end of their shifts. Oh, and you can place a bet for your dealer, if you want to earn brownie points.

Do I need to know anything special about handling cards?

If you’re holding cards, make sure you’re only doing it with one hand. Why, you ask? “Because people that use two hands are able to switch the cards easier than a person with just one hand,” says Williams. Cheaters ruin everything. Also, there are rules for hand signals in blackjack. “In blackjack, the most important thing is clear hand signals,” Williams says.  “When you want to hit the cards, you point at the table and you touch it with your finger. And if you don’t want to hit the cards, you put your palm flat and diagonal and just wave over your bet, and that means that you don’t want to hit it.” Confused? Just ask the dealer.

Can I throw chips in as the dice are rolling in craps?

It’s a real faux pas to try and get in a late bet when you’re playing craps. So much so, in fact, that it doesn’t count if you try to do it after the dealer has released the dice. If you’re playing, make sure that the dealer confirms any bet you’re trying to place before they roll.

I’m still lost!

Don’t panic. The casino has plenty of gaming guides to explain the rules of each game. Just request one for whatever game is still confusing you. Plus, there are “dynasty games,” where you can get a few practice runs in on a terminal without having to worry about affecting anyone else’s gameplay.

How much celebration is too much celebration?

Within reason, you can make as big a fuss as you want. “Don’t go in the pit, and don’t stand on tables,” pleads Williams. Most importantly: “Don’t throw chips in the air and turn it into a riot.” Other than that, yell and dance and paint the town red. “As long as you don’t offend your neighbors, it’s fine,” says Williams.

I know I can drink at the table, but what if I get hungry?

We all know the casino got a special exemption to keep serving drinks until 4 a.m. if you’re actively gambling, but you’re pretty much out of luck if you want to eat. No one wants to play blackjack after you’ve left fry grease on the cards. That said, the more serious poker players have options, because they tend to play for longer. But it’s still limited to finger foods, and other things you can eat tidily. “You’re not gonna get a meatball sub,” says Williams.

What are the rules around ’gramming the whole experience?

If you’re gambling, you’re not going to be ‘gramming. Cell phones aren’t allowed during game play, and you can’t take pictures or video on the casino floor. Do not ask your dealer for a selfie, either. The only pictures you might see being taken are for the casino’s official social media accounts if someone wins a jackpot. Don’t worry, they ask permission first, so you can keep your big wins all to yourself if you want.

I want to citizen’s arrest someone who I think is cheating!

OK, chill out, McGruff. While the casino does have a form of see something/say something, Williams emphasizes that you should never approach someone yourself to accuse them of cheating. “Your best bet is to walk away from the situation but remember where you were at, and just tell it to the closest personnel of the casino you can find,” he explains. Encore also won’t give up your name when investigating, so whoever you narc on won’t know it was you.

Ooh, what’ll happen to them?

It’s a pretty serious process! “There’s nothing worse in the casino world than for me to walk up to you and accuse you of cheating when you’re not,” says Williams. They’ll review tape in detail before approaching someone. That said, if you find a state police officer tapping you on the shoulder, “You know you’re in trouble. They won’t ask to talk to you unless they have film proof.”

This place is huge. How do I get out of here??

Given that we’ve all seen the Encore looming on the horizon for ages now, it shouldn’t be any surprise that in person, the space is giant. Williams recommends taking a picture of the elevator you take to get in. The floors are color coded, and elevators are labeled by directions. When you’re leaving the gambling floor hours later to go home and finding your way out seems overwhelming, you can trust that a casino employee can direct you out if you show them the elevator you took in.

Read more about how to have the most fun possible at the Encore Boston Harbor Casino