Giving Gratuities to Dealers and Others

Most people view gaming as a form of entertainment. And just as you tip a restaurant server, valet, coat-check assistant, or cashier at your favorite coffee shop, offering gratuities to the service staff you encounter in the casino is customary.

Most casino employees, like other workers in the service sector, rely heavily on the generosity of the people they serve in order to supplement their wages. Hard-working dealers, cocktail servers, bellhops, and the like depend on your support, so offering tips — or tokes, as they’re known in gambling lingo — is a customary practice in the casino.

Although some people feel that casino staff have become jaded — eagerly expecting (if not outright demanding) a tip whether or not their service justifies it — most staffers genuinely strive to serve and make your casino experience a pleasant one. So be prepared to tip your service providers; maybe you’ll increase your odds of generating positive casino karma!

Tipping your dealer

Servers, valets, bartenders, housekeepers — you’re already familiar with tipping many of the service personnel you encounter on a daily basis. But dealers are unique to the casino world, so tipping can pose a dilemma to the gambling novice. When do you tip? How much do you give? How exactly does the money change hands? This section helps pare down when tipping your dealer is appropriate and how to tip correctly.

Spreading the wealth

Dealers make most of their income from tips. But casinos don’t work the way a restaurant works. When your food comes on time and your server remembers to put the horseradish on the side, the extra buck you toss him goes directly into his pocket. However, casino tips are almost always pooled, and with good reason.

Pooling eliminates any direct incentive for a dealer to cheat on behalf of a player.

Pooling provides equality for dealers, some of whom deal at low-end tables while others get the high-rollers who toss black $100 chips around like they were nickels.

Tips are usually pooled based on shifts, which allows for a simple daily calculation for everyone who worked at the same time.

If you think you can get by without tipping your dealer, you may be surprised to feel the overt pressure to tip at the table. Some dealers are out-and-out rude if a winner fails to share his good fortune with them.

So the first question is, under what circumstances is a tip to the dealer customary? The standard practice is to tip when you’re winning, but winning or losing has nothing to do with the dealers. Tipping is a way of showing appreciation, but it doesn’t change the odds, help you in the future, or give you better cards. Tipping only changes the way dealers, players, and pit bosses treat you while you’re sitting at the table. So if you want to be loved, tip generously whether you win or lose.

How to tip the dealer

The most common method of passing a tip to your dealer is placing an extra bet in front of your regular bet. You also can place any amount on top of your bet for the dealer. Adding to your bet basically makes your dealer a partner with you on that hand. Dealers usually enjoy being able to participate in the game.

Giving the dealer a chip or two when you leave the table after collecting your winnings is also common. Dealers often have you color up (exchange your many smaller denomination chips for chips of higher value) before you leave a table, so make sure you set aside some small chips for the dealer before this process.

How much to tip (or not)

Casinos have no universal tipping standards such as those recognized for valets or bellmen. Most dealer tips are based on how much you’re betting or how much you’re winning. Unfortunately, most gamblers tip far more than they realize — and win far less than they think.

For example, suppose you bet $10 every hand at a full Blackjack table (typically six players). You decide to tip only when you get a Blackjack (an ace and a face card, or 10). Because a Blackjack pays you an extra $5 (at 3- to-2 odds), you share that bounty with the dealer by placing a $5 bet for her on the next hand. That action translates into approximately $15 worth of tips for the dealer every hour (or one tip every 20 minutes).

Your expected loss during that same time period is $6.70. So your modest tipping actually gives the dealer more than twice as much money as you lose to the casino. If everyone at your table follows this same tipping practice, the dealer averages close to $100 an hour in tips!

Now that I’ve told you how not to tip, you may still be wondering how to tip. Keep these few guidelines in mind when tipping:

Think of tips like dog treats. The quantity of cheddar cheese is less important to Fido than the frequency. He’ll roll over just as enthusiastically for a sliver as he will for a chunk. So spread out your tips and make them in small amounts.

Start off on the right foot. Making a small bet for the dealer when you first join a table is always appreciated.

Make amends. If you’re getting bad service or you’re playing with a rude or indifferent dealer, a tip is a good way to end the cold war and get the dealer back in your corner. But if that’s not your style, or if you simply don’t think he deserves it, by all means don’t hand over a gratuity.

Keep track of your tips. Most important of all, keep a very rough estimate in your head of how much you’ve tipped. The number may surprise you.

Tipping doesn’t have any hard-and-fast rules. A casino or dealer will never kick you out or ban you for refusing to tip. Remember that these guidelines are simply that — guidelines. Observe how more-experienced players at your table give gratuities and make note of the rapport they build with the dealers. Before long, you can develop a feel for what’s appropriate and what isn’t. Just as important, you get a feel for what kind of tipping pattern fits your personality and budget.

Tipping other casino employees

From the valet who parks your car to the cocktail server who delivers your complimentary drinks to the hotel housekeeper who turns down your bed, you encounter plenty of casino employees who anticipate a gratuity of some sort. Some services — waitresses and concierges — are universal, and others — slot attendants — are unique to casinos.

This section provides a quick rundown of tip situations you can expect to encounter on your casino adventure. Table 4-1 breaks down the customary tip amounts for all the different service workers who may serve your needs.

Pay attention to the following tips for tipping the different casino personnel and hotel, restaurant, and bar staff in a casino hotel:

Cocktail servers. Many casinos provide free drinks while you’re playing any game in the house. Like most other casino employees, cocktail servers receive low wages and count on your tips. Depending on your first few tips, cocktail servers can leave you either high and dry or refreshed and relaxed. A standard tip is $1 for every one or two drinks, and you can always use chips for tips.

Servers record what you order based on where you sit in the casino. They work by sections, and each server stays in her area. Therefore, if you move, don’t expect your server to find you and deliver your drink.

Other hotel workers. Just as in any resort hotel, the service personnel at a casino hotel expect a commensurate gratuity, more or less, depending on the level of luxury and hoopla provided by the house. Therefore, even though you only pay $1 to park your 1998 olive-green Chevy at your hometown country club, consider upping that amount to at least $5 if you’ve rented a Ferrari and pull into the driveway of Caesars Palace. The same goes for your other service providers.

Be prepared to tip the cast of characters by having plenty of one- dollar and five-dollar bills handy before you arrive.

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