Don’t touch the cards

At tables where cards are dealt face up never, ever touch the cards. It's almost certain you'll forget this at some point, and the dealer will snap at you. Don't take it personally. Just look sheepish and apologize. Make the mistake a second time and you may get a sarcastic comment sent your way. Do it more than that and they may ask you to leave the table.

Some tables deal face down and allow the players to pick up their cards. Go ahead and touch at these tables, but use only one hand. When your forget and grab them with all 10 digits -- which you'll do -- you'll get reprimanded just like mentioned above.

Hard vs. soft hands

A hard hand is one in which there is only possible total for the cards you hold. For example: A hand consisting of 2, 5 and 10 always equals 17. Only an Ace can have different values, so there's nothing you can change in this hard hand example.

A soft hand is one in which at least one of the cards is an Ace. Remember, Aces are valued at either 1 or 11, whichever is advantageous to the hand. For example: A hand consisting of 7 and Ace can equal either 8 or 18.

Soft hands are hit more aggressively than hard hands, since there are no cards in deck that will automatically bust a soft hand.

What is "insurance"?

When the dealer is showing an Ace as their up card, players are given the option to make an additional bet for half the amount of the original wager, called "insurance.". If the dealer's hidden card gives them a 21, the insurance side wager pays at 2:1. The upshot is that player neither wins nor loses anything on the hand.

If a player has a been dealt a blackjack against a dealer's Ace showing, the dealer may phrase the question as "Do you want even money?" instead of "Do you want insurance?" It's just to ways of offering the same side bet.

Mathematically insurance is a terrible bet. Never take it.

Don't tell others how to play

Sooner or later you'll be at a table with someone who plays horribly. They'll hit a soft 19 or stand on a 14 against a high card. The urge to give them some friendly advice -- like, "Since you're the dumbest player I've ever seen I'll do you a favor and tell you how to play your hand." -- is going to be strong. Don't do it, though. They're free to lose their money any they want. And their mistakes are just as liable to help you as they are to hurt you. So bite your tongue.

And when someone gives you unwanted advice, smile gently and say, "Thanks. I'm comfortable playing my own way, though." Usually this is enough for people to get the idea that their genius insight isn't being requested or desired.