Blackjack players

What Is Betting Behind in Blackjack & What Is the Etiquette?

Blackjack playersThe problem with land-based casinos is that there is a finite amount of room that they are able to offer their guests. Though you’re unlikely to struggle to find a table on which you can sit and play at maximum stake amounts that you’ll be happy with in Las Vegas, the same isn’t true when you’re visiting London, Liverpool or Cardiff. As a result, there is sometimes the option to play behind someone else, but if you haven’t done that before then you might be a little bit concerned about how it works and what the etiquette is.

We talk of land-based casinos, but some online sites also offer you the chance to bet behind on their live tables. You could theoretically do it on the computerised games that are decided by Random Number Generators, but given the fact that they can be played by an unlimited number of people there really isn’t much point in doing so. Regardless of whether you’re in a bricks and mortar casino or you’re stood behind someone virtually at an online one, there are certain rules that you need to know about in order to get the best possible experience out of the blackjack.

What Is Betting Behind?

People at a Blackjack tableThe Light Writer 33 / Bigstockphoto.com

Imagine a scenario in which you’ve gone to your local casino, the only one nearby, and you head towards the blackjack table. The physical space is limited, so there is only enough room on the table for five players in addition to the dealer and there are five people sat with cards in front of them. There is no room for you, but you still want to play some blackjack and so you make a choice to take up the casino on its offer of the chance to ‘Bet Behind’. In physical casinos, this way of playing is often referred to as ‘back betting’, but the principle is the same regardless.

It goes without saying that casinos love the concept of betting behind. It allows them to potentially make twice as much money in exactly the same amount of time that they would normally only make with one player. Indeed, at land-based casinos it is common for them to allow as many as two other players to bet behind one other player, so the profit is there to be made if the cards go the House’s way. The other interesting thing to note is that it isn’t just players that aren’t sat at the table that can bet behind; people sat at the table can choose to bet on another player’s hand.

You’re Tied to the Player You’re Betting Behind

One of the most important things to realise about the concept of betting behind is that your fortunes are tied to those of the player that you’ve put your chips behind. You don’t have any say of what they choose to do and so whether you win or lose your bet will depend entirely on their actions. You win and lose in line with what they’re doing, though we’ll come on to discuss whether it is good etiquette to offer your advice on what decisions they should take. As you will have figured out, betting behind is about putting your trust in someone else, given you can’t bet behind your own hand.

There are a myriad of reasons why someone might choose to bet behind another player. Casinos are establishments that are filled with the superstitious, so if it appears as though a player is on a ‘hot’ streak then there will almost certainly be someone that wishes to jump on board that train. Equally, some people just like to have as many bets going at one time as possible, so they will bet behind in order give themselves more wagers running alongside one another. It is a choice to do it and a choice that won’t work out well every time because that is the nature of gambling.

What Happens When They Do Something Outside the Ordinary?

Blackjack player

In its most simplistic form, blackjack is a game that sees you take on the dealer and try to get as close to 21 without going over it. If you manage to get closer to it than the dealer then you win, whilst if they get closer to it than you or you go over 21 then your bet is a loser. Anyone that has spent even a small amount of time playing blackjack, though, will know that there are all sorts of other choices that you can make depending on the cards that you’re dealt. You can choose to double your bet, for example, just as you can choose to split your cards and play them as two separate hands.

What Happens if They Split, Double or Surrender?

The question is, what happens if you’re betting behind someone and they opt to split, double or surrender? The answer is that it depends on which of the options the player takes. Though your fate is linked to theirs in normal play, meaning that even if they choose to hit when on 20 then you’re stuck doing that with them, as frustrating as that might be. As a result, something that is relatively normal, such as surrendering, remains tied to the player. In other words, if they surrender then you will also lose half of the stake that you’re playing with as you’ll surrender too.

Meanwhile, when it comes to splitting, doubling and even re-splitting, if the casino allows it, things are a touch more complicated. Whilst surrendering involves losing half of your hand, splitting or doubling requires you to pay more money, so it isn’t as simple as you being forced to follow the lead of the player that you’re betting behind. Of course, no everything works the same in the sense that doubling allows a player to double their stake in return for one more card but splitting lets you keep on playing. As a result, you can choose not to double, but you’ll still be stuck only getting one additional card.

In splitting, you can opt to continue playing just one hand, therefore not doubling your stake, but you might end up in a situation whereby you end up playing the losing hand and the player you were betting behind has one winning hand and one losing one. All of that being said, it can often be a case of House rules. It is not out of the realms of the possible that you might be playing somewhere where the House rules are that the player betting behind has to play an extra stake when the main player chooses to double or split, so you are left with no choice.

Playing Online

If you are playing online then it is worth having a look at the settings of the game that you’re part of. It is common for online casinos to have it as their default that you need to double if a player you’re betting behind doubles or split if they opt to split. Yet in the settings menu there can be the option to turn this off, meaning that you can make the choice hand by hand. Again, it is dependent on the exact casino that you’re playing at, so don’t assume anything and always have a look to see what you’re options are before you choose to bet behind someone else.

Taking Insurance

Another option that is far from ordinary is the ability to take insurance. This is where you pay an extra fee in order to cover yourself from the eventuality of the dealer hitting blackjack. Because this is an added extra that is decided before a card is dealt or once the dealer has their face-up card on display, you will typically be given autonomy to make your own decision. It is usually not the right one to take out insurance, simply because you’re increasing the House Edge. As a result, if you’re sat behind a player that is taking out insurance then you’re free to make your own choice not to.

What Are the Pros & Cons of Betting Behind?

One of the key questions that most punters will want to ask is what the pros and cons are of choosing to bet behind. After all, if it isn’t something that is going to work in your favour then what is the point in doing it? The answer is that it allows you to get involved in betting immediately, without needing to wait for a seat to become available at a table. If you’re the sort of person that believes in players running ‘hot’ or being ‘streaky’ then this option allows you to take advantage of just such a situation. Given the fact that most online casinos provide stats on players sat at their tables, this can be a good thing.

Of course, for all of the perceived benefits of choosing to bet behind, the reality is that you lose your control of a hand and if you’re not sure what the person that you’re aligning your fate with is going to do, this can be a stressful experience. Most players know how to adopt Basic Strategy, but many gamblers ignore the stats and will often follow their ‘feeling’ in a particular situation. So it is that you might be betting alongside someone that plays in a way that ends up increasing the House Edge and you just have to suffer the slings and arrows of that outrageous fortune.

What Is the Etiquette?

Low key casino players

The truth about blackjack is that it is one of the casino’s most strategic games. Play it correctly and you can reduce the House Edge down to as low as 0.5%, depending on the game that you’re playing and the rules of the casino. By betting behind, you’re removing the chance to keep the Edge as low as possible and instead placing your fate in the hand of someone else. This can lead some people to feel as if they’re entitled to have their say on the right strategy being employed by the player that they’re betting behind, but what is the etiquette on that front?

Choose Wisely

One of the first things that you should remember is that you don’t have to bet behind any old player on a blackjack table. Instead, you’re entitled to take your time and see how each person plays before making the choice of who it is you’re going to bet behind. This is perfectly fine, as long as you observe quietly and don’t get involved in commentating on what any given player is up to. The only unseen card in blackjack is the dealer’s second one, so you’re not going to be picking up on anything that everyone else around the table hasn’t already spotted.

Ask Permission

Once you’ve identified a player that you want to bet behind, etiquette says that you should ask them if they’re ok with you doing so. Just as you might be superstitious, so too could the player that you’ve spotted as a good bet behind option be and they might feel like someone else depending on their decisions will change their fortune. If they say no, accept that with good grace and try to find someone else to bet behind. If they say its ok, remember that you’re putting your fate in their hands and it is not ok to pressure them into making certain decisions or criticise the decisions that they do make.

Keep It Low Key

After that, all of the usual blackjack etiquette comes into play. That is to say, don’t try to touch the cards or the chips of the player that you’re betting behind, nor your own chips. Treat everyone at the table with respect and do what you can to fit into the atmosphere that is in-play. Some players love having a chat with others, some players prefer to play in silence and keep their own council. See if you can figure out what the mood of the table is and follow what other players are doing so as to not upset the apple cart. Most people don’t want your advice so unless they ask for it, keep it to yourself.

Author: Neil Garza