Mastering Etiquette: 20 Key Tips for Interacting with Asian Players in Casinos

Right now, we’re celebrating Lunar New Year, so it’s a very busy time in Las Vegas casinos with all the guests trying their luck in the year of the dragon. Last week we put out a whole video about Lunar New Year and all the amazing stuff that happens in Vegas, so if you haven’t see it, check out here.

Today is a more evergreen topic, something you as a dealer should know about all year round. When you’re dealing baccarat or pai gow, you’ll encounter a majority of Asian players and especially Chinese players so you’ll want to be aware of cultural differences. You don’t want to accidentally upset or offend a player with behavior we might think is okay, but to them is not. Some traditional customs in gambling might not make sense to people who are not from Chinese culture, but they are common practices among Chinese players. Understanding important Chinese gambling superstitions, gaming characteristics, and communication styles will help you make a more comfortable experience and higher quality service for your Chinese customers.

Here are 20 very important etiquette tips for interacting with Chinese players that will keep them satisfied, happy, and at your table.

Tip #1: Don’t Be Rude About a Player’s Ritualized Behaviors

This is a tip across all cultures, but especially for Chinese gamblers because this is their religion. You don’t want to be disrespectful of someone’s religion or beliefs. In Western cultures, gambling and religion are often believed to be opposed, always in a state of conflict. Most of the time, gambling and religion go really well together. There are several factors such as mystery, fate, the unknown, destiny, getting something valuable from mysterious higher powers, and the wish for a better life. These are sacred to many Chinese customers and you don’t want to disrespect that.

Tip #2: Don’t Rudely Stop Players from Squeezing the Cards too Hard While Playing

As dealers, we don’t want our players to damage the cards. But Chinese players will often have a tighter grip on their cards, which is stimulated by their culture’s views on luck, fate, and destiny. They tend to play for longer, have a higher illusion of control, hence the use of the baccarat card to predict the next hand, and, and they like to show off their gambling skills. They’ll often practice other behaviors different from ours, like peeling cards slowly, showing other players their cards, and discussing and predicting each others’ chances of winning. All of it is totally acceptable and valid.

Tip #3: Don’t Be Impatient When They Peel Cards Slowly While Gambling

As a casino dealer, being impatient interrupts these rituals which could bring bad luck to their game. It could also make a player leave, which in turn would lose money for the casino. I know it’s important to keep the pace up when dealing games, but not at the expense of losing customers. Rituals take time. Since the chance of winning can’t be physically controlled, many Chinese gamblers look to metaphysical solutions promised by many of their culture’s superstitions.

For example, many baccarat players shout out the word “ding!” In Mandarin when peeling cards to stop bad cards from appearing. They might also shout out “cheui” or “jin” in Cantonese to blow away the number they don’t want or maybe reduce the size of the number. Some say this is likely a result of the Chinese luck-tables—-comparing predictions and real outcomes to test their skills, and trying to peel cards to change gambling outcomes or get the number they want.

Tip #4: Respect their History and Culture

Once again, this is a blanket statement for all people, but there are some beliefs you should know for Chinese guests in pareticular. For example, one specific taboo is to never speak of anything related to ghosts during the lunar month of July, which is referred to as “Ghost Month”. Another is to never carry a book into the pit. The word for book in Chinese is very similar to lose. One more is to never gift anyone a clock because, like carrying a book in the pit, the word for clock—“Zhong”—is too similar to the phrase “song zhong”, or handling funeral affairs of seniors. It’s an unlucky term for people still alive.

Tip #5: Offer Ways to Save Face When They Lose Money

The notion of ‘saving face’ is a long-established practice in Chinese culture. “Face” is an abstract yet significant concept that affects one’s status among peers and profoundly impacts interpersonal relationships. It means to preserve one’s dignity and honor in situations of embarrassment or humiliation. In Chinese, face, or mianzi, is strongly associated with a person’s public image and honor. China has embraced this concept tightly, using it as a self-regulating system to avoid embarrassment and negative repercussions should anyone fail morally: broken relationships, tarnished reputations, compromised social status, and yes, losing at the casino tables.

For example, when dealing baccarat, you should never say ‘lose’, as in ‘player wins and banker loses’. Instead, always call the hand so your players can hear the results. When calling the hand, you’ll also want to avoid displaying favoritism for one hand over another. You must remain neutral, and never say ‘win’ or ‘lose’ when announcing your hand.

Every casino is different, but the call I was told to memorize went like this: Player shows (total amount), Banker has (total amount). Action taken.” Always announce the winning hand first. Then call the winning number over the losing number. So it’ll sound like this: “Player shows 4, Banker has 4. Player hits (and it’s a 10 card), Banker hits (it’s a 5). Banker 9 over 4.”

This is a great way to help your customers “save face”. You’re not announcing that a customer is a loser or has lost; you’re stating the outcomes as they are and the customers understand the results.

Tip #6: Show Understanding of Their Superstitions

Chinese people tend to be superstitious, and many of these superstitions have existed for thousands of years. Some common superstitions involve colors, numbers, animals, and objects with good or bad luck, and there are lots of superstitions when it comes to gambling.

Numbers specifically are very important to Chinese customers. For example, baccarat players will fight over seat eight because eight is a lucky number. Now, usually seat four is missing because that’s an unlucky number. But if the casino made a mistake and didn’t remove it, players will fight to not sit there.

The number 8–or “ba”--is a lucky number because it sounds like the word “fa” which means prosperity. The number 6 symbolizes smoothness of an event and success, and the number 9 means everlasting. Casinos know this, so they’ll often give their Chinese high-rollers hotel rooms with the numbers 8, 6, or 9.

And while 8 is the luckiest number, 4 is very unlucky. It sounds similar to the Chinese word for death. And because 4 is so unlucky, some hotels like the Mandalay Bay don’t have any of the 40th floors and the Wynn doesn’t have the 4th floor or any of the 40th floors either. So at the Wynn, the floors go from 39 to 50, all to make sure players have the luckiest time possible.

Tip #7: Don’t Touch a Player’s Shoulder While Playing

Most Chinese people do not like to be touched, especially by strangers. They generally don’t touch strangers unless it’s unavoidable, like in a crowd. However, close friends or people of the same gender may stand or sit close to one another or walk arm in arm. And in the casino, they believe someone touching their shoulders or upper body will sap them of their luck.

So don’t hug, slap their back, or put an arm around someone’s shoulders while you’re on the casino floor. It’s a good rule regardless of someone’s cultural background when you’re working in a casino. Be respectful of other people’s personal space, especially if they’re a customer.

Tip #8: Show Understanding of Their Ritualized Thoughts and Behaviors

For Chinese gamblers, washing their hands during a session in the casino can change their luck. If they’re losing, good handwashing can turn things around, according to superstition. If a player is winning, they’ll avoid washing their hands as the good luck would be washed away. This means as a dealer, don’t call a player out for not washing their hands after using the bathroom. Instead, make sure you wash your hands at every break.

Tip #9: Don’t Decline Favors or Requests in Public

A Chinese person’s preoccupation with saving face and politeness means they will seldom give a direct “no” or negative response, even when they don’t agree with you. So focus on hints of hesitation and read their body language for a better answer.

Tip #10: Don’t Be too Direct or Straightforward

China is a high-context communication style culture. They communicate with implicit or subtextual messages where the meaning can only be inferred from the context, and the receiver of the message reads between the lines. Being too direct or straightforward can often be seen as rude or offensive.

Tip #11: Don’t Show too Much Emotion or Use too Many Gestures During a Conversation

On top of implicit messages, Chinese people rely heavily on indirect communication, meaning posture, tone, and expression. This is to maintain harmony throughout the conversation and prevent a loss of face on either end of the exchange.

There are certain gestures you should also avoid with Chinese guests. Don’t point with your index finger; use an open hand instead. And don’t use your index finger to call someone over. Use the hand with fingers motioning downward as in waving. Don’t snap your fingers. Don’t show the soles of your shoes, e.g. crossing your legs certain ways or putting your feet up on furniture. And don’t whistle.

Tip #12: Be Polite, Modest, and Well-Mannered

The Chinese have a long and rich culture, and many cultural factors affect their daily lives. When it comes to gambling, the Chinese have their own distinctive characteristics and communication styles. So casino staff who aren’t familiar with Chinese customs might struggle with delivering stellar customer service if they don’t know common Chinese cultural considerations.

One thing to learn today is that Chinese communication has five distinct characteristics. The polite style is called “keqi”—or more specifically, polite, courteous, modest, humble, and well-mannered.

Tip #13: Don’t Interrupt the Game by Offering Drinks or Other Services

Chinese gamblers take gambling very seriously. They care more about the results than the process. They often won’t drink alcohol during games even if it’s free because they believe it might lead to a loss of control over the game. They’ll usually choose non-alcoholic options like hot tea or water while playing.

Tip #14: Don’t Look Unhappy When Players Don’t Tip

Lots of cultures all over the world don’t practice tipping, including the Chinese. Some might not know they are expected to tip the service staff when good service is provided. So don’t get upset or mad if they don’t tip. Just move on.

Tip #15: Be Dependable and Reliable

This is good, practical common sense for anyone in the customer service industry because that’s what dealing is: customer service. You want your players to trust you because their money is in your hands!

Tip #16: Respect Your Elders

Chinese culture is heavily rooted in a hierarchical system where a core value is showing respect and honoring our parents and elders. The elderly are seen as family, social treasures, and very wise. You’ll want to address older folks as Mr. or Mrs. out of respect, and don’t call them by their first names. Be honest and open about what you don’t know because pretending to be knowledgeable may offend them. Pay attention and listen carefully to the elderly. It’s also very rude to interrupt them while they’re speaking, too!

Tip #17: Be Quiet and a Good Listener When Dealing

Silence is an important and purposeful tool used in Chinese culture. Pausing before giving a response indicates that someone has applied appropriate thought and consideration to the question. It’s polite and respectful. Wisdom, authority, and expertise are core values to Chinese customers, so you’ll want to pay extra special attention to what they’re saying—or not saying! They probably don’t want to be bothered by casino employees while gambling. So if you’re a dealer, please respect players who wish the dealer to be silent and not engage in conversation.

This is another important type of Chinese communication, too: “tinghua”, which refers to a more listening-centered style. To the Chinese, not everyone is entitled to speak. Those who can often have seniority, authority, age, experience, knowledge, and expertise.

Casino dealers are considered an outsider, or “wairen”, to Chinese customers, whereas their friends and family are “zijiren”, or insiders. They’ll often talk a lot to insiders but rarely speak to strangers. So if they don’t speak much to you, it’s okay! Be quiet and listen instead.

Tip #18: Establish Connections and Long-Term Relationships

Chinese people usually don’t like to do business with strangers and will make frequent use of middlemen. Whenever possible, they’ll try to use established relationships or an intermediary known by both sides to make the first contact. So if you are already friends or know one another, it eliminates the need for a go-between.

Tip #19: Mix Friendship with Business

Chinese people like to make friends first, then do business. The reasons vary, as you can imagine, but generally, friends are more prone to listening, they’ll give you the best price they can, and if there’s a problem, friends will help you solve it. Ultimately, you can trust a friend!

Tip #20: Be Friendly!

Another obvious tip for anyone in customer service. Nice, friendly dealers often attract more players than rude ones. So be friendly!

All casinos offer the same games, so for casinos to stand out and prosper in a competitive environment, they have to offer an exceptional guest experience. By knowing more about how you can have successful and amazing interactions with your Chinese guests, you’re improving not only the casino’s bottom line but your own. Many of these tips are applicable to the job in general, like be friendly, be polite, be dependable. It’s up to you to ensure your players are happy and having a great time.


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