Gaming etiquette

How to be loved by your fellow gamers

First of all, I’m a gamer. I love the sound of the slot machines cackling and the faces of winners as they haul in their chips. I even love the look of the dejected gamer, taking the walk of shame to the ATM as he whips out his card to refuel his bankroll. Mostly, I love the people.

In the greater Sacramento area, we have more than 20 gaming establishments. With that many casinos and card rooms, it’s hard to understand gamers who lack “casino etiquette.” I’m not talking about staying-on-17 and always-splitting-aces etiquette, I’m talking about how to act and how to play the “right way” when you walk into a gaming establishment. So I’ve put together 10 ways to be classy gamer. Following this guide may not bring you riches, but it will bring you love and respect from fellow gamers, and isn’t that the measure of a true winner?

1. Understand the rules of a game before you sit down to play.

There is nothing more annoying than a beginner holding up a game. And beginners have nothing to do with age. I’ve sat next to 87-year-old silver tips just as clueless about how to play blackjack as a 21-year-old sorority princess in town for the Mary Kay convention. Don’t always expect the dealer to help you out with the basics of the game. These people are dealing as many hands as possible within each dealer rotation. Dealers are there to help, but they’re not your gaming assistant. So when you get stuck, flip a friggin’ coin and go on with the game.

2. Don’t coach!

It is beyond aggravating to sit at a table where each hand is critiqued, analyzed and followed with a brief explanation of what the “right” play would be. Listen, Knute, I don’t need my play dissected like a middle-school science teacher operating on a dead frog. I understand that all casino games have established rules (see rule No. 1). Your comments are as welcomed as a visit from my mother-in-law on Super Bowl Sunday.

3. Don’t upset the gaming god.

You can upset the gaming god by simply affecting the play of others around you. For example, it’s important to wait for the right time to join a game. Busy casinos have limited seats, and you should understand what’s happening at a table before entering. If the players are on a rush (a winning streak that can’t be stopped by anything human), be polite and ask if you can join. Most of the time, the other players will welcome you to the table. If they don’t, wait a hand and let the dealer usher you into the game. The last thing you need is the gaming god raining down on your bankroll.

4. Tip, and tip again.

Fabulous casinos with bright lights and allure are run by people like you and me, people with kids in school and mortgages to pay. So, when you win, tip. When you win big, tip big. There is nothing more boorish than winning and forgetting to tip the slot attendant, cocktail waitress or dealer. When playing table games, make a bet for them. If you win, make another. It’s the right thing to do, but mostly, it’s the smart thing to do. Why? Remember rule No. 3. The gaming god brings down his wrath on tight-asses who don’t tip.

5. Don’t be a slot stalker.

A slot stalker is a person who waits for a machine that hasn’t paid off in a while to “free up.” Slot stalkers think that since the machine hasn’t paid off recently it’s bound to pay off soon. It’s called the “gambler’s fallacy.” The stalker waits for you to get a beer, stretch your legs or go to the restroom. As soon as you leave, they pounce on your seat like a hungry lion jumps on a geriatric, three-legged gazelle searching for water in the Serengeti. If you stalk and win, people will resent you, and you need people to love you to win. Again, pay homage to the gaming god.

6. Don’t be a game stalker.

This is different than a slot stalker. A game stalker is a wannabe gamer that enjoys watching you play but never joins in on the fun, roaming casinos like Bedouins while listening to piped-in Muzak and chain-smoking Virginia Slims. For some 21st-century neophytes, watching other people gamble is a full Saturday night. To me it’s a little creepy. If you don’t want to play, don’t come. If you play and lose your money, go home. If you lose your money but are waiting for a ride, grab a seat in the bar. Either way, don’t stand over me and stare like I’m Lindsay Lohan and you’re the paparazzi. Give me space to work my magic on the gaming god.

7. Don’t overcelebrate.

Winning in a casino is exhilarating. When jackpots are won, lights are flashing and bells are chiming; it’s hard not to go crazy. But remember, the sweet little lady sitting next to you is secretly wondering why she didn’t play the slot machine you’re playing—and she’s pissed. Proper etiquette is that you have less than 30 seconds to go apeshit over your win. After that, you must become meek and almost apologetic. So after spending 30 seconds high-fiving your buddies, kick back with a refreshing alcoholic beverage and enjoy the moment. This will keep the gaming god happy and your fellow slot players thinking that they might be next.

8. Don’t complain.

When you’re losing, it’s hard not to complain, but do you really like to be around complainers? Losing in a casino is inevitable. Look around. Your losing hands purchased those big-ass lights and lavish decorations. You know the odds going in, and they’re not in your favor. Nothing is more bothersome to other gamers than some clown commenting on his sad luck and how much money he just donated. Be a stand-up gamer, sulk away with dignity. With losing inevitably comes winning, so you’re that much closer to a big payoff.

9. Don’t mess with the help.

People who work in casinos are just like you and me, except that they go to work where we go to play. Hassling a dealer because you didn’t win is like screaming at an oak tree because it didn’t produce apples. Dealers have no control of the cards. You choose whether to hit or stay, so if it doesn’t work out, go home and throw some shit around, but don’t blame the dealers. Also, don’t misinterpret a smile or a laugh from a server as a signal that they find you irresistible. Servers, bartenders and cocktail waitresses may be gorgeous, but your chances of hooking up with one of them are about as likely as Toby Keith undergoing a sex change and headlining the 2010 Lilith Fair tour.

10. Hit and get.

After you win in a casino, stash some dough and move down the road. You don’t have to go home. The night may be young, but the chances of the same machine paying off twice in one night are highly unlikely. Continually winning at the same table is equally daunting. So hit and get. Move to another table. Move to another machine. Have dinner in the restaurant. Grab a drink in the bar or take in a show. There is a lot to do in our local casinos, so explore and have fun.