Take the gamble out of dealing with sticky situations in casinos

May 31, 2010

Even regular casino patrons are unsure how to act or react in unusual situations in the casino. Here are a few situations that occur and how to deal with them.


TABLE GAMES: If while engaged in a table game you feel a need to leave the table for a few minutes, but you like the table and don’t want to give up your seat, leave your chips, as few as one, at the table, and leave. The chip freezes your spot.

It is best to let the dealer know you are leaving for a few minutes but plan to be right back.

If a player wants to seek a seat at another table but doesn’t want to relinquish his seat at the current table until he has another seat, it can be done by locking up his current seat, locating a new table seat, locking it up and then returning to the original table to remove his chips, thereby unlocking the seat.

LIVE POKER: On a poker table, ask the dealer to lock your seat. In this situation you don’t even have to have any chips on the table.

This is handy if you need to hit the ATM for a refill, although I usually caution against this need. There may be a time limit imposed by the casino – usually 10 minutes. If you exceed the limit the dealer, with supervisor approval, can pull your chips and open the seat. You will get your chips back when you return, but then have to wait for another open seat if you want to continue playing.

If a player wants to seek a seat at another table in the poker room, it can only be done with approval of the floor person unless the change is to a table with a different game in progress. In that case the same procedure outlined for table games can be used.

POKER TOURNAMENTS: If you have paid an entry fee but are late for the start, your seat will be held to at least break time. If you have to leave the table during the tournament for any reason, the seat remains yours. The down side to either situation is that your seat will be dealt cards in every round and immediately mucked. As the blind positions hit your seat, the blind amounts will be taken from your chip stack and placed in the pot. If you are absent for a long time, you could be “blinded out.” That means the blinds keep eating away at your stack until there are none left.

SLOT MACHINES: Ask a floor person to lock up your machine while you take a short break for whatever reason. It is best, in this case, to leave a few credits on the machine. The floor person will usually put a tag on the machine or turn the chair around. Don’t be gone too long, however, because the floor person can’t baby-sit the machine forever and if he or she leaves, a vulture might pounce on the machine to cash out.

If that happens, contact security. They can review tapes of the area and may be able to ID the vulture and take action.

Some players will ask the person playing next to them to save their machine but there is a risk that player may turn into a vulture. That also places an imposition on the other player who really may be ready to leave and feels forced to remain until you return. Or the person may leave after a few minutes and your machine and its credits are at risk.


The dealer is in charge of the table. But dealers are human and are prone to make an occasional mistake. What happens if you see a mistake? Some of the mistakes a dealer can make and advice how to handle them follows.

OVER- OR UNDER- PAY OUTS. A player is not required to correct a dealer if he overpays you or any other player. Once overpayment is made, the casino, in Nevada anyway, has no legal right to rescind a payment, a distinct difference from common law. If you are a regular at the table and are known by the dealers and floor people, you may want to question the pay out, but keep it low key. The dealer doesn’t want mistakes he or she makes to be known to the other players or the management.

If the payoff is insufficient, leave the chips the dealer paid out on the table and ask if the count can be verified. If the dealer is positive that he is correct, ask for a floor person (a “suit”) to verify it. Apologize if you are wrong. If right, accept the apology from the dealer and floor person humbly. Don’t make a big thing out of a simple mistake.

Over or under payouts are more common on the roulette table and craps table than in other games due to the multiple bets and interacting bets. At least on the craps table there are multiple sets of casino eyes on the transactions. On the roulette table, there is only one set of casino eyes on the table and with payoffs of 1 to 1, 2 to 1, 5 to 1, 6 to 1, 11 to 1, 17 to 1, and 35 to 1 per single chip and with multichip bets and over lapping chip bets, the math can get confusing.

INCORRECT DECISION: If a dealer makes a wrong decision that affects you, you are not obligated to call attention to it if it benefits you but if it adversely affects you, ask for a correction. If a blackjack dealer stays on a soft 17 when the casino rule is for the dealer to take a hit on it you don’t need to call attention to it is you have an 18 or above but if you have a 17 or below, call the dealer’s attention to the error before payouts are made. Some other players at the table will either thank you or accuse you of ruining their hand.

At the poker table, the dealer may not notice than a straight or flush is present and indicates two pair or three of a kind is the winning hand. Any player at the table can call attention to the error, preferably before the hands are mucked into the card pile. I once was watching a tournament that I had busted out of and that happened without the player with as straight realizing he had the winning hand. I spoke up, the dealer retrieved the cards and I immediately made a friend and an enemy. Unfortunately the enemy I made plays in many tournaments against me while the friend was a new and infrequent player at that casino.

CONSPIRACY: If you feel the casino management has the dealers conspiring against you, forget it. If you think the dealer and a player are conspiring against you, be very observant, get specifics, and discreetly have a talk with the pit boss.

Usually scams are against the casino and are orchestrated by dealers and players.

Sometimes mid- or upper-level management might be involved. Casinos can’t afford to cheat customers because its license is on the line. A dealer who conspires with a player can not only lose his job but his livelihood because once tainted, no other casino wants him in their employment.

Reach Bruce Camenga at

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