Washing a deck of cards

Washing a deck of cards is more than just another term for cleaning a deck of cards. Washing, also called scrambling, is a simple, but effective, method of quickly randomizing a deck of cards, especially one that has recently been verified.

To wash a deck of cards, just spread it face down on the table in two rows. Then, use your hands to slide the cards around the table in a circular motion. Periodically, change your motion in a random fashion, moving the cards clockwise, counterclockwise, away from you, toward you, etc. After a few minutes of this, gather the cards back up into a stack and square it up. The deck can now be shuffled in a normal fashion.

While this might seem like an amateurish way of shuffling cards, it randomizes the cards much more quickly than traditional riffle shuffles. Casino dealers wash decks of new cards immediately after verifying them whenever deck changes occur and new games are opened.

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Cleaning your playing cards

Over time, a deck of playing cards will spend much of its life in contact with either a table or players’ hands. Neither of these are particularly clean: tables often have dirt and food residue on them, and human hands usually have at least a layer of skin oil on them, if not more dirt. All of this nastiness has a tendency to end up on your cards.

Paper cards tend to absorb the dirt and oils, to the point where eventually they simply have to be replaced. Since Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards are not porous, the gunk just sits on the surface of the card. Under some conditions, top-layer inks (which are not as well-bonded as those closer to the card surface) can also be displaced from the backs of the cards and settle around the edges of the cards, forming a patina that looks like a fuzzy haze of red or blue on the face of the cards. A dirty deck of cards can usually be identified by the presence of this patina and slight stickiness during game play.

Fortunately, it’s easy to restore your cards to like-new condition. You just have to clean them! Fill the kitchen sink with warm water—not too hot, as hot water may warp the plastic—and add a mild dish soap. We found that Dawn® Antibacterial Soap works well. Dump the whole deck of cards into the sink. Then, use a soft towel—a microfiber towel works well—to clean the surface of the cards, especially near the heavily-handled edges, where the patina and skin oils tend to build up. Don’t use abrasive soaps, like those containing pumice, or an abrasive cleaning tool, as these may damage the surface of the cards. Run the cards under cool water to rinse off the soap, then dry them off with a paper towel, or leave them sitting on a bath towel until the water dries. Don’t use a heater or hair dryer to speed drying.

After the cards are dry, you should notice that your cards handle much better, and with much less stickiness! It’s probably a good idea to verify them before putting them away to make sure that you didn’t lose any cards during the cleaning process.


Verifying a deck of cards

Verifying a deck of cards

Before any deck of cards is put into a game, it’s always a good idea to verify it first. Verifying a new deck of brand new cards is done to ensure that the deck was manufactured correctly and to catch any production errors before they have a chance to affect your game. Verifying a used deck of cards is done to ensure that no cards have gotten lost and that the cards have not been damaged or marked by players seeking an advantage.

Verifying a deck of cards that has never been played with before is simple. First, remove the packaging and spread the deck on the table, face up. New cards are always supplied with the cards in sequence, so it is easy to see if there are any cards missing or any duplicates. (Before Denexa was founded, one of us purchased a deck from a competitor, and because we didn’t verify the deck first, we didn’t realize until midway through a game that the deck had been shipped with two copies of the 2♦.) Check for any printing errors as well. Then, collect the cards and spread them face down. Now, check the backs, looking for any printing errors that will cause the card to be identifiable in play.

Verifying previously-used decks of cards follows a similar procedure. However, you will need to sort the deck back into sequence to ensure that all cards are present. We recommend doing this after your game breaks, before you put the cards back in the box; this allows you to check the play area for any missing cards.

Denexa Games stands behind its products, and we do our best to ensure that your cards won’t have any of these issues. However, should you run across a defect, we will be happy to send you replacement cards. A Guarantee Card is included in each deck with instructions on how to contact us in this situation.


Dealing the flop, turn, and river


Two of the most popular poker games today, Texas Hold’em and Omaha, both share a defining characteristic—five community cards, dealt face up in the middle of the table. Despite the apparent simplicity of the task—it’s just dealing five cards!—a lot of players do it wrong. Here, we’ll explain the right way to do it, and the most common pitfalls for amateur dealers.

The correct way

Dealing the flop

After the initial betting round has been resolved, the dealer taps the table with their hand. This is to attract the players’ attention and inform them that the flop (the first three board cards) is coming out, so that if betting action is still taking place, the players can speak up. After this, one burn card is dealt, face down. Most dealer procedures advise tucking the burn cards under the chips in the pot for safe keeping, although casinos may have variations on this rule (such as tucking a corner of each burn card under the face-up card it preceded). Three cards are dealt, face down, then the group is moved into position in the center of the table, flipped face up, and spread out all at once.

Dealing the turn and the river

The turn and the river are the cards dealt after the second and third betting rounds, respectively. The procedure for dealing both of these is the same—tuck one burn card under the pot, and turn one card face-up, placing it to the right of the previously dealt cards.

Common mistakes

  • Mixing the burn cards and the discards. The burn cards should be kept separate from the discards, in order to demonstrate that three cards were burned properly.
  • Dealing or flipping up the flop cards one at a time. This may cause players to react to each individual card, which can give some players information about how each individual card affects each player. To prevent this, always deal the three cards face down, and expose them as a unit.
  • Dealing the flop, turn, and river ahead of time and leaving them face down until it’s time to expose them. The purpose of burning a card before each segment of the board is dealt is to shield the backs of the board cards until just before they are exposed. This helps to limit the effect of cards deliberately marked by cheaters. Dealing the flop ahead of time defeats the purpose of the burn cards. It’s also possible that the board may be prematurely exposed by errant chips during betting.

Blackjack, part 2: Blackjack dealing procedures

blackjack1In part one of our series on Blackjack, we covered the basic rules of blackjack, as seen by the player. Now, we get into some of the intricacies of how to deal Blackjack well. Most of these procedures are in place to ensure the game is run smoothly and consistently, as well as to allow the overhead surveillance cameras found in casinos to track the game. While they may seem unnecessary or out-of-place in a home game, they create a more realistic, casino-like game, adding to the fun for your players.

Blackjack dealing procedures vary greatly from casino to casino and even from dealer to dealer. These are the procedures found in local casinos here in Oklahoma. You might notice differences in your local casino. Note that all references to “left” and “right” in this post refer to left and right from the dealer’s perspective.


As mentioned in part one, dealing Blackjack right requires a number of props, including a shoe, a discard holder, and a chip rack. While it’s not necessary to have these, they make the game run a lot smoother and contribute to a professional feel to your game.

One thing we didn’t mention is a Blackjack layout. Real Blackjack tables have a felt surface with graphics silkscreened on them, designating seven player positions where hand bets and insurance bets are to be placed, as well as aiding the dealer in placement of the cards. While such a thing is not strictly necessary, it helps keep the game organized. You can find layouts printed on felt, for Blackjack as well as many other casino games, inexpensively available on the Internet. These layouts can be placed over a normal table like a tablecloth, allowing you to set up your own faux Blackjack table.

To set up your table like a standard Blackjack table, place the layout with the text facing away from the dealer, then put the shoe to the dealer’s left hand side, near the end of the insurance line, and place the discard holder to the dealer’s right. Chips should be near the edge of the layout in the center of the table, just in front of the dealer. Make sure to leave plenty of room between the chip rack and the text “BLACKJACK PAYS 3 TO 2” to allow room for the dealer’s hand.

Dealing the cardsblackjack2

Before dealing, perform a visual sweep of the players’ bets to ensure that they are between the maximum and minimum bets. Ensure that all bets are in whole unit amounts (otherwise, paying a blackjack will be impossible). Check to make sure that the bets are neatly stacked and have the highest-denomination chips on the bottom of the stack, followed by the next-higher denomination, all the way up the stack. Also, be wary of a lone chip of a different color sandwiched in between chips of the same color. This is to make it easier to correctly pay the player out should they win, and make it easier to return the chips to the rack should they lose. As the dealer, you’re entitled to correct the player’s bet before dealing. Once the cards come out, ensure that the player doesn’t touch their bet. If the bet needs to be moved (e.g. to make room for a split or double wager), only the dealer should touch the bet.

When dealing, you’ll remove the cards from the shoe with your left hand. Cards to the two leftmost positions will be dealt with the left hand, and cards to the other positions (including the dealer’s hand) will be passed to and dealt with the right hand.

Cards are generally placed in a stairstep fashion, with the first card dealt on the insurance line next to the right of the player’s betting box or circle, and subsequent cards dealt below and to the left of the first card. Care should be taken to keep all cards visible; generally, you want to leave the center of each card exposed. If space is getting tight, perhaps because the player has drawn up to a four- or five-card hand, or because of repeated splits, it is usually acceptable to slide the hand back toward the player a bit to create more room, condense the card spacing a bit, or start dealing the cards back toward the player, forming a V pattern.

When a player doubles down, deal the third card at right angles to the other cards to signify that the player cannot receive any more cards. Likewise, if you do not allow drawing to a split pair of aces, turn the second card of each hand at a 45° angle to signify that no further cards can be dealt (there is usually not enough room to put the cards at right angles in this situation).

If a player has blackjack, pay them out immediately, on their turn, not at the end of the hand. After paying out the winning player, collect the cards and put them in the discards, so you don’t erroneously pay the blackjack out again.

If a player busts, collect their winnings and put them in the rack immediately. Then, collect their cards, and place them in the discard holder. Don’t use the cards as a scoop to ferry the winnings over to you; it’s too easy to lose control of the chips and send them rolling off somewhere unrecoverable. Collecting the hand immediately helps you when the hand is over, reminding you that the wager has already been settled, and allows the player to get their wager ready for the next hand. If all players bust, simply reveal your hole card and begin dealing the next hand.

When it’s time to reveal the dealer’s hole card, you can slide a corner of the upcard underneath the hole card and use the upcard as a lever to flip it face up. Remember, a good dealer applies a little bit of showmanship to their dealing to make the game more interesting!

After a hand is over and all bets have been settled, give the players some time to place and adjust their wagers before you launch into the next hand. Players may want to check the amount of chips they have available to determine the size of their wager, or make change. If you start the next hand too early, you may end up leaving some players out of the hand because they’re not ready to play yet.

Making change

The dealer is responsible for making change if the player requests it. This will usually happen at two points in the game: when the player needs to break a large chip into smaller chips to make a wager, or to color up the player’s chip hoard to larger-denomination chips, usually at the end of the game.

To make change for a player, bring the chips into the area in front of the dealer, where the dealer’s hand goes. Imagine a vertical line passing through the center of this area; incoming chips will go to the left of this line, and outgoing chips to the right. Place the incoming chips to the left of the line, break them down, and count them. State “cheque change: one hundred” (or whatever the value of the chips to be changed is; in casino jargon chips are sometimes known as cheques) in order to allow the player to correct you if they think your count is incorrect. Then, place chips equal to the value of each row to the right of the line, breaking them down to allow the player to verify the chips are correct. Gather the incoming chips and place them in the rack, then gather the outgoing chips and pass them to the player.

PayoutsSizing into a chip stack

After a hand is complete, you will have to pay out the winners and take the losers’ wagers. Bets are settled from right to left, which is opposite of the usual flow of the game. You will be doing something at each active player position, even if they didn’t win: if the player lost, you’ll collect their winnings; if the player pushed, you will knock on the table with the back of your fist to show that the player pushed and you didn’t just skip them. Of course, you will skip over the vacant positions and those that have already been settled, either because the player busted or because they got a blackjack. After all bets have been settled, collect the cards and get ready for the next hand.

As with the cards, all payouts for the two left-most positions are done with the left hand, and all other payouts are done with the right hand. Payouts done with the right hand go to the right of the original wager, and vice-versa.

If you grab an incorrect or insufficient number of chips, never leave a player partially paid out while you correct the error. They could tamper with the chips while you’re distracted. Instead, collect the incorrect payout and place it in front of the rack while you make corrections. Then, pay the player out correctly.

Non-blackjack payouts

Regular wagers of only one color of chip are the simplest to pay out. Just grab a big stack of that color—no need to count exactly!—and size into it. Return the excess chips to the rack.

For a multiple-color wager, you’ll first need to separate the chips into stacks of each denomination (put the highest-denomination stack closest to you, with progressively lower denominations toward the player). Then, remove an equal number of chips of each color from the rack and form a stack, keeping the high-denom chips on the bottom, and use each of the player’s chip stacks to size into your stack.

You can also color up the chips as you pay them out. This keeps a player from becoming overloaded with low-denom chips, and encourages them to use the high-denom chips to bet higher. First, if there are multiple colors of chips in the wager, separate them into separate stacks. Then, splash each stack out to verify whether or not each stack can be colored up to the next-higher chip value. Don’t stack it back up—leave everything splashed out. Then, collect the payout from the rack and pay it out, placing chips of equivalent value next to the original wager.

Blackjack payoutsblackjack3

Because blackjack payouts are one-and-a-half times the initial wager, paying them out is somewhat more complex. Exactly how this is achieved depends on how the initial wager was made.

The simplest payout occurs when a player has bet an even number of chips of the same color. Simply collect one-and-a-half times that many chips, collect them into a stack, and size into it. You should be left with chips in your hand equivalent to half of the bet. Drop these chips on top, resting on the two even stacks of chips. This is called bridging the payout.

For all other wagers, including single-chip and multiple-denomination wagers, you will not be able to bridge the payout, since it will consist of multiple colors of chips. (Consider a simple bet of one red chip, or $5—a blackjack payout on this bet is $7.50, one red, two white, and one yellow chip!) Instead, you’ll begin by splashing the bet to verify its amount. Then, mentally figure the total amount of the payout, and place these chips in front of the rack, splashing them so the total amount of the payout is clearly visible. Then, collect the payout into a stack and place it next to the wager, by dropping the bottom chip off the stack and balancing the rest of the stack on this chip’s edge. This is called heeling a payout and is used to signify that the stack contains chips of several denominations.

Remember, blackjack payouts are done on the player’s turn, not at the end of the hand.

Dealer blackjacks and insurance

After dealing the initial hand, but before allowing the first player to act, look at the dealer upcard. If this is a ten-valued card (ten or face card), peek at the hole card. Gently bend the corner of the card up with one hand, using your other hand to shield it from the players. If you see an ace, reveal it, and collect all wagers (except for players who were dealt a blackjack, who push; make the customary knock on the table to indicate a push). Otherwise, initiate the play of the hand as normal.

If the upcard is an ace, you must offer insurance. Before peeking at the hole card, turn the dealer’s hand ninety degrees (parallel to the chip rack); this is done to emphasize that an ace is the upcard (and also allows the hole card to be inserted properly into the dealer’s no-peek mirror device on a casino table). Indicate that insurance is offered by slowly waving your hand, palm side up, over the insurance line, from left to right. Ensure that all insurance wagers are no more than half of the original wager. When all players have placed their insurance bets or declined, indicate insurance bets are closed by waving your hand, palm side down this time, over the insurance line from right to left. Then check for blackjack. If it’s present, reveal it, and collect the original wagers before paying out the insurance wagers. To pay out an insurance wager, follow the procedures for a non-blackjack payout, except size into the chip stack twice—insurance wagers pay 2 to 1, rather than even money. If there is no dealer blackjack, return the dealer’s hand to it usual orientation and continue the hand as normal.


How to shuffle multiple decks of cards

Six decks of Denexa 100% Plastic Playing Cards, shuffled together

While two-deck card games are somewhat common, there are some games out there that require the use of more decks of cards than that. The most frequently-played of these are casino games: blackjack, which typically uses six decks, and baccarat, which uses eight. If you’ve ever thought about playing these games at home, you soon run into the conundrum of how one goes about shuffling 312 cards. Casinos, of course, have expensive shuffling machines to speed this process, but even those break down sometimes, so every dealer is still trained on how to shuffle multiple decks of cards by hand.

So how do you do it?

  1. First, grab a cut card and sit it in the center of the table. Break the deck into four more-or-less equal stacks, placing two to the left of the cut card and two to the right of it. We’ll refer to these as stacks 1 through 4 (from left to right).
  2. Grab about one deck’s worth of cards from stack 1 and an equal amount from stack 3. Shuffle these two stacks together and place them on the cut card.
  3. Repeat with stacks 2 and 4, placing the newly-shuffled cards on top of the previously-shuffled cards resting on the cut card.
  4. Continue alternating shuffling cards from stacks 1 and 3 and stacks 2 and 4 until the entire deck has been shuffled.

Now you have a completely shuffled deck with a cut card on the bottom, ready to be cut by another player.

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Cut cards: a simple but effective way to ensure game integrity

If you’re dealing or hosting a card game of any sort, especially one with money riding on it, it’s always a good idea to use a cut card. A cut card is a heavy, opaque plastic card the same size as the deck of cards you’re using (they are available in both poker and bridge size). They are available in a variety of colors, including red, yellow, green, and blue. They are inexpensive; you can pick up a pack of five of them for less than two dollars.

What do you use a cut card for? Simply put, it protects your game by shielding the bottom card of the deck from the players’ eyes. This may not seem like a major concern, but imagine you are playing poker, and one of your players sees the queen of hearts on the bottom of the deck. Knowing that this card will not come into play, that player has an advantage over their opponents—they know that heart flushes are slightly less likely to occur, all pairs, trips, straights, and full houses involving queens are less likely, and four-of-a-kinds, straight flushes, and royal flushes involving the queen of hearts are impossible. That’s a lot of free information! That player is less likely to hold on to a pair of queens in their hand because they know that they will never get quads, and their chances of getting three of a kind are halved.

So, if you get a cut card, how do you use it? When it’s time to cut, just sit it next to the deck, textured side up, and instruct the person cutting the cards to place the cut portion of the deck onto the cut card. When you complete the cut, you will have a ready-to-deal deck of cards, with the cut card on the bottom of the deck, protecting the bottom card. Couldn’t be simpler!


Using a chip rack to count poker chips

Using a chip rack to count poker chips

Last week, we showed you the basics of how to count poker chips. This week, we’ll show you how to use a chip rack to help count large amounts of chips.

Chip racks (sometimes called chip trays) are designed for standard casino chips. Most 11.5g composite and clay chips will fit in these racks. They are made of clear acrylic and can be found at many online retailers—Amazon has several offers of a ten-pack for $12 to $14.

If your chips are the same thickness as a standard chip, each tube of the rack will accommodate exactly 20 chips. Since a standard rack has five tubes, that means a full rack will contain 100 chips. So, if you have a large number of chips, just create a 20-chip rack stack (break it down as described last week to verify that it contains 20 chips) and use it to size into your remaining chips. When you create five big 20-chip stacks, you know you have 100 chips, a full rack.

What about when you’re getting the chips out of the rack? How do you verify that the rack contains 100 chips? One way is to actually get the chips out of the rack, verify that the five stacks are even, and break one down to show that each stack contains 20 chips, but there’s an easier method. All you have to do it remove one chip from one of the end tubes, and then run it along the length of the rack, pushing it against the chips, as shown in the picture. If any of the tubes contain only 19 chips, the chip will naturally fall into the tube.

One word of caution: the first time you put your chips in a rack, make sure that it does, in fact, hold exactly 100 chips. Particularly thin or thick (nonstandard) chips may fit 95 or 105 chips to a rack.

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How to count poker chips

A rack of red poker chips, with a stack of twenty broken down in front of it.
Huge piles of chips are one of the first things that come to mind when someone mentions poker, but most people probably don’t stop to think why chips exist in the first place. Isn’t it a hassle converting all that cash into these weird play money discs, only to exchange them for money again later? But there’s an excellent reason for that—chips are easier to count than cash! Casino cash offices have millions of dollars of specialized equipment for counting cash, but the only equipment for counting chips are plastic racks, a smooth surface, and a clerk’s bare hands. Anyone can learn how to count poker chips like a pro!

Selecting chips

The first step to counting chips is to get some chips that are easily countable. Not all chips are made alike! Casinos use chips that are flat, smooth, and made of clay that gives them some friction and “stickiness” to make them easily stackable. They have labels with custom-printed artwork to distinguish the chip from those from other casinos, and images which appear under a blacklight to deter counterfeiters. Such chips are expensive, costing more than $1 for a single chip! The durability of these chips makes them cost-effective for the casinos, but hobbyists simply can’t afford to spend that much on chips.

Instead of clay chips, home poker enthusiasts must rely on cheaper plastic-based chips. The very cheapest of these are thin and lightweight plastic chips with interlocking ridges to keep stacks of chips from toppling over. Such chips are to be avoided; the interlocking feature of the chips makes them very difficult to count! Instead, you want something more like a casino chip, with smooth surfaces. Some texture is good, to help add clay-like friction that that is missing in a plastic chip. Many retailers offer a composite chip, which is composed of a metal slug (to add weight) with plastic molded around it. These chips often include artwork of dice engraved on their faces. These chips are reasonably-priced and readily available, and will do just fine for most players. For players wanting a more casino-like feel, generic clay chips are available on the Internet, such as Da Vinci chips (pictured), which are sold in batches of fifty for $20.

Assigning values

Now that you have your chips, you need to assign values to them. It’s important to use values which are conveniently spaced apart, so that chips can be colored up or colored down (changed between denominations) easily. You don’t want one chip to be worth twenty of the next color down! You also want your players to understand the easily understand value of the chips, and if your players have played in a casino (or other games) before, they will expect your chip colors to match what they’ve seen.

Here is one standard chip color scheme, used in many casinos:

  • Yellow—50¢
  • White—$1
  • Red—$5
  • Green—$25
  • Black—$100
  • Purple—$500

Beyond the $500 level, chip colors are not standard from casino to casino. Of course, if you play penny-ante poker, it hardly makes sense to have $100 chips; instead, you can divide this chart by 100, and have your white chips valued as 1¢.

Note that each chip is worth either four or five of the next chip below it. This makes counting the chips easier!

Counting your chips

Sizing into a chip stack

Now you have your chips, and you know how much each is worth. You’re in a game, and you want to know how much money you have. Here’s how to count your chips:

  1. First, separate your chips by color, and arrange each color into a stack on a smooth, flat surface. A felt table or chip count board works best, but any flat surface should do (avoid uneven surfaces like a bed or carpet).
  2. Select a color to count (e.g. red chips).
  3. Carefully count chips from the bottom of the stack, forming a smaller stack. Stop when you get to the number of chips which would equal the next higher chip (e.g. five red $5 chips equals one green $25 chip).
  4. Place the main stack next to the small stack. Now, bracing the big stack with your thumb, slide your index finger across the short stack, then use it to tilt the big stack away from the small stack, as shown in the photo. This process, known as sizing into the big stack, should produce another small stack equal to the height of the first one.
  5. Keep sizing into the stack repeatedly until you don’t have enough chips to make a full stack. Place these chips on the table individually next to the stacks.
  6. Run the back of your index finger across the top of the chip stacks to verify that they are all the same height. If any stack has too many chips, you’ll knock it off, or if it’s missing one, you’ll feel your finger dip.
  7. Splash the last chip stack out on the table. This is toppling the stack so that it’s fanned out on the table, as shown in the photo at the top of this post. This allows you to visually verify the number of chips each stack contains.
  8. Perform this procedure for each color of chip, starting a new row for each color. It’s typical to have the highest-value chips closest toward you, with the value of each row  further away from you diminishing (a procedure which is done in casinos to keep unscrupulous patrons from snagging the high-dollar chips after they have been counted, but is useful at home to keep things orderly).
  9. Now, counting the chips is simple multiplication. If you have five stacks of five red $5 chips each, then each stack is $25, so you have $125 worth of red chips.
  10. If you have multiple denominations of chips to count, start with the largest denomination and work your way down to the smallest. It may help to use a calculator to count very large amounts of chips of separate denominations (add each denomination’s count to a running total in your calculator).

Before passing any quantity of chips to a player, it’s a good idea to break down the stacks of chips, as shown above, to allow them to visually verify that the correct amount of chips is present. You should do this when presenting a player with a buy-in, making change, splitting pots, etc.

It’s typical to make mistakes handling the chips at first, but repetition will help you become more familiar with the feel of your chips and the mechanics of sizing into stacks and counting. Keep practicing!

See also


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