TIPS FOR TIPPING
By Rob Wiser
HOW TIPS WORK IN THE CASINO, AND WHY A LITTLE GENEROSITY CAN GO A LONG WAY
To tip, or not to tip? This is a question a lot of players wonder about when they’re gambling in a casino. For other players, the thought of tipping their dealer never crosses their mind—which is ironic, because they tip other casino employees as matter of course.
You wouldn’t stiff your valet, your bartender, or the guy who carries your bags up to your room, would you? So why should it be any different with the lady who’s been dealing your cards and helping you win money for the past two hours?
A lot of players fail to understand that dealers are part of the service industry, and rely on tips to make a living. Their base salary usually isn’t much better than minimum wage. Good dealers, like good waiters, are going to serve you in a professional, prompt and friendly manner. On the other hand, once in a blue moon, you will come across a lousy dealer. (I remember playing Blackjack one time and getting slaughtered by a terrible run of cards. Every time I lost a big bet, the dealer would say: “Ouch!” or “Man, that’s gotta hurt!” It was the one occasion where I absolutely refused to tip no matter what.)
The big difference between dealers and waiters is that part of the dealer’s job is to take your money when you lose. This is where it starts to feel personal. If you’ve had a rotten run of luck, you’re probably not going to feel generous, and won’t tip. This is understandable, and dealers expect this. Hey, if your waitress served you a shit sandwich, you wouldn’t be in a benevolent mood even though she wasn’t the one who prepared it.
But here’s the big point you need to remember: Unless you’re being an obnoxious jackass, the dealer wants to see you win. Yes, they actually prefer to see you beat the house. The dealer doesn’t get a cut of your losses, nor do they get penalized if you win a bunch of the casino’s money. Their job is to simply deal the game in a professional manner, and hopefully receive a little something extra from appreciative players.
In most casinos, dealers that are working the same shift will pool their tips and split them up evenly. If you’re interested in knowing whether your dealer gets to keep tips or has to pool them, just ask. Some players will tip a bit more generously, knowing that the money is going into their dealer’s pockets.
Pooling tips is a policy that makes sense for casinos. Otherwise, the dealers working at the high-limit tables would rake in a huge amount of cash (some high rollers are known to tip thousands of dollars), while the dealers at the low-limit tables would barely make a living. Pooling tips encourages all of the dealers, no matter what area of the casino they’re stationed in, to be courteous and professional.
It can, however, create friction among the dealers. I remember a friend of mine, a gorgeous blonde with a great personality, used to deal roulette in the high-roller area of a Strip casino. The players loved her and she would get $100 tips left and right, yet she had to share the money with the surly old dealers who worked the $5 tables and made no effort to befriend their players.
Whatever the casino’s tip-sharing policy is, your generosity will be appreciated. The amount you choose to fork over is up to you. There is no appropriate percentage, as in a restaurant, where you’d normally tip at least 15% of your bill.
Some players never tip, and don’t think twice about it. (Even if a dealer is annoyed about being stiffed, they’re never going to mention it to you, which leads these players to believe it doesn’t matter.) Other gamblers think tipping big will help them win. While it will certainly please your dealer—and could earn you a reputation as a “George,” casino-speak for a generous tipper—it won’t influence the outcome of the game at all.
There are several ways you can tip a dealer, if you are inclined to do so:
You can give it to them directly, usually before you get up to leave the table. Just slide the chip (or chips) towards them. The other method, which dealers prefer, is to place a bet for them. Their job can get tedious, and by making a bet for them, you’re generating a little excitement.
To do this at a Blackjack table, just place a chip on the layout next to your bet. It doesn’t need to be the same amount as your main bet; it can be any amount you want. Then, if you win your hand, the dealer wins, too. The $5 bet you placed for them is now a nice $10 tip. (I usually tip this way, once or twice per hour. The size of the bet I place for the dealer depends on how well I’ve been doing.)
Craps, a more complicated game than Blackjack, involves a crew of dealers who can help you out in various situations. For example, if you’ve been making the same bets and forget to make one, or forget to take odds on your passline bet, they can remind you. Therefore, it never hurts—and can actually help—if you make a bet for the dealers soon after you start playing. Get them on your side. (It’s best to place your bet for the dealers on the passline, since it has better odds than the different proposition bets.)
You wouldn’t believe the verbal abuse and other rude behavior some of these dealers have to endure every day at work. Even a little bit of appreciation counts, and why not spread some good karma around. After all, if there’s one person in the casino you want rooting for you, it’s the person handling the cards.
Rob Wiser is the author of three books, numerous Hollywood screenplays, and writes for over a dozen national magazines. He is an expert on the worldwide gaming and casino industry.