Casino dealers clap their hands to prove they are not hiding any chips or cash. Casino dealers must clap or show their hands when leaving the table, but they may be required to do so whenever they are touching chips, too.
Generally speaking, casino management wouldn’t expect any of their dealers to try and steal chips.
Besides being quite hard to do, especially with so many cameras — who would ever risk their job, and potentially risk being prosecuted, to steal a few $100 chips?
But casinos are pretty much like a bank, and they must enforce many procedures and rules designed to prevent cheating.
This could even apply to the way casino dealers and customers wear their clothes.
For instance, hats may not be allowed on the main casino floor, just so the “eye in the sky” can see everyone’s identity.
Similarly, casino dealers are usually not allowed to have any pockets because, again, they could use them to hide and steal chips.
When do dealers clap their hands?
Here is a list of situations in which casino dealers usually have to show clear hands, or clap them.
Keep in mind, different casinos have different procedures, and this list may not be complete.
- When they go on break
- When they go to a new table
- After they pass a stack of chips to a player
- Before touching chips
- Before touching money (banknotes)
- When they shake hands
- When they open or lock a chip tray
Long list, isn’t it? But this is to ensure that no chips or money will be stolen.
Because clearing hands is supposed to turn into a habit (supervisors will enforce the rule until it becomes second nature), some dealers end up doing it outside of the casino as well.
For instance, they may be at a store and get change in cash, and clap their hands before taking the money.
For poker dealers, procedures are usually less strict, so they may have to show clear hands only when going on a break.
Dealers could steal chips if they didn’t clap their hands
Although the vast majority of dealers are honest, and would never risk their job anyway — it doesn’t apply to everyone.
Having worked as a casino dealer for quite some time, I’ve heard of at least two employees who were fired after management caught them red handed.
One would give incorrect change to a customer on purpose; one tried to hide a few chips in his trousers.
Clapping or clearing hands doesn’t guarantee the dealer cannot cheat, but it makes it a lot harder for them to do so.
The dealer who hid chips in his socks
A few years ago, a dealer at the Cromwell Mint Casino in London stole at least £12,000 by hiding chips in his socks.
He would grab chips from the tables and place them in a false pocket in his trousers.
He would then pass the stolen chips to a friend, who would cash them out at the same casino a few days later.
Eventually, he got caught by management, and obviously lost his job (you can have a look at this article by PokerNews for the full story).
Had he known the risk he would be facing, I doubt he would have even thought about it.
But this is a clear example of why all casinos have so many rules and procedures.
Other casino dealer procedures that look strange
- Swiping a hand over the blackjack table. As soon as a blackjack hand ends, players will have a few seconds to place their bets on one or more boxes. The dealer will then swipe their hand over the table to make it clear that no more bets will be accepted and the cards will be dealt.
- Tapping the table before dealing the flop. Poker dealers usually knock the felt twice before dealing the community cards. It’s a standard procedure, although some dealers skip it either out of laziness or to try and speed up the game. Tapping the table lets the players know the betting round is completed. This can prevent mistakes or disputes.
- Cutting down inside bets on roulette. Let’s say you’ve put thirteen chips on a number, and it comes in. Before the dealer can pass you the wager, they need to make sure your bet is clearly identifiable. To do this, they will cut down the stack into fives — vertically. So if it’s a tall enough stack, it will look like some kind of colorful Lego tower.
- Spinning the ball when no one is playing. Have you ever noticed roulette dealers keep spinning the ball indefinitely, even when there is absolutely no one at the table? In some casinos, customers can play roulette on the machines (use a screen to place bets on a live table), so that’s one of the reasons why. But in general, the procedure is to keep spinning the ball, and the wheel, until the table is closed.
- Refusing to take cash from a player’s hand. As a dealer, I remember many times in which a customer tried to hand me a stack of chips, or a bunch of notes. I always told them to put the cash on the table instead, which probably sounded strange. But even after caring or clapping their hands, dealers are not allowed to take anything directly from a player’s hand — it’s a no-no.
- Announcing bets and cash changes. For security reasons, dealers may have to announce chip changes, payouts, mistakes etc. even when it’s obvious. Not only does it help the players follow the game, it also prevents cheating as everything is recorded by a microphone. You can check out my article about all the common casino phrases.
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