Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Show Us Your Tips!

It's no secret that I live on tips. Hell, half of Las Vegas does -- bellmen, cocktail waitresses, cab drivers, cab hailers, dealers, dancers, waiters and waitresses, room service, valets--all of us are dependent on tips for our income. And there are quite a few other people out here who don't 'depend' on tips like I do, but certainly supplement their income with the occasional toke--front desk clerks, doormen, pit clerks, slot hosts, housekeeping, etc.

I've written at length in the past about the proper ways to tip your dealers, the post itself earning a sticky at the top of a forum at travel2vegas.com. But it seems that clarification only causes more questions, and always seems to stir up a debate. But a reader decided to go right to the source and sent me the following email:


Just wanted to drop a line saying wassup, enjoy reading your blogs. You are a helluva writer, keep up the good work!

I go to Vegas quite a bit (every weekend last summer!), I just got back from my 3rd trip to Nevada in the past 5 weeks so its safe to say I gamble quite a bit. In your blogs, you talk alot about these "fleas" and non-tippers, and such, and it got me thinking about how I tip, what is considered a good tip, etc.

I happen to play craps and blackjack. For blackjack, my average bets are probably 2 hands each of $75 - 155, but I dont play very long....maybe 15min? Regardless of the win amount (usually between $500 - 1500) I'll probably just tip a green chip after coloring up.

For craps, depends on the win but if i am up big (few thousand), I'll give dealers $55 across action or flat tip between 15- 50 after the roll, or both. My last trip, I won $5000 on a roll, and gave $55 accross action with 75 flat tip. Again, I dont play too long, maybe 30 min at most. I never tip on losses, only after wins.

As a dealer, do you have any type of expection for tips? I know that win amount probably plays into it a bit, and it varies from dealer to dealer, but I'm curious to hear what your take is on this. From my player perspective, I know that you guys make a living on tips, and as a dice player I know how hard you guys work (I tend to press this that hard) so I try to get you guys up. But at the same time, I dont feel obligated to give a huge tip after a big win since i am the one who is putting my own money at risk. So once I clear a certain win threshold, the tip amount will only vary so much.

What is your take?



Well Jim, first of all, thanks for the kind words, it's much appreciated.

Let's tackle blackjack first. If you're only playing 15 minutes at a time, handing over a green chip when you color up is plenty generous, and the dealer should be pretty happy with that. If only every player were so thoughtful.

However, the real world doesn't always work that way, and in my experience, 99% of players go for a huge win and stay until they're broke. It never fails. I'd say that only 10% of the players I deal to will leave with some money--most of them stay much too long, or psychologically have decided that this is the money I came to spend and won't leave until it's spent.

If you're on a slight winning streak, and decide to stick around longer, you may want to put an occasional red chip (or hell, even a buck) out for the dealer to play along with you. I know that if I'm dealing to a guy playing green action and he's up a few hundred bucks and still not tipping at all after 15 or 20 minutes, then chances are he's a stiff and I'll then be trying to bust him. Yes, there are ways--we can adjust the shuffle slightly, we can burn a card after making change for another player, we can adjust the depth of the cut slightly--nothing is guaranteed, but just like the bosses changing a dealer or changing cards to cool off a player, a dealer can do the same thing, within limits. I also know that the house edge is going to catch up to him, usually sooner than later, and if he hasn't tipped on the winning streak, he's certainly not going to start once the cards turn against him. And yeah, it's a rare player who tips well when they're getting their ass handed to them. Some might throw up a bet and say "Let's see if bribery works" or something like that, but blackjack players in particular seem to take it personally when they lose and will never tip the dealer once it starts going south.

As far as your style of tipping goes with craps, it sounds very generous. Dice dealers love to be in the game along with the players, and they will certainly be rooting for you to win if they're involved. But why wait until you leave the table before putting them across? Sure, a flat bet hand-in is *always* appreciated, but if you're going to put the dealers in the game, why not be in there with them. I know it sounds kind of trite, but it's sort of like saying, Well, I got mine, and I don't think it's gonna be any better, so I'm gonna take the money and run--I know the dice are getting cold, so here's some bets that may or may not pay off, fellas...

I dunno, if a player puts me up, I'd rather he be out there with us. If the streak is good, and you're gonna tip 'em anyways, why not let the dealers ride it also? Teamwork and camaraderie and all that. Maybe that's just me, though. When I'm playing, I want the dealer on my side, so I have his bets right alongside mine at the same time. Good karma, good manners, call it what you want, but that's the way I've done it. And I see it every night--if a player is taking care of the dealers, the boxman will almost always side with the player over the house on a judgement call or any controversy there might be on a payoff or bet. If you wait until the end to George it up, you'll lose that advantage.

One thing I've seen in several casinos over the years, and it's happened for me a few times, is that if a player is putting up 2-way hardways, and the number comes easy, the stickman and the boxman sometimes "forget" to take the bet down. It happens hundreds of times a day in this city, and I've benefited from it myself when I've played dice in the past. Besides, dealing dice is just about the hardest job in a casino, and even if you're the most experienced stud of a dice dealer, you absolutely *cannot* go an entire eight-hour shift without making a mistake--the game is just too complicated. So if a dealer makes a mistake, the boxman could either go strictly 'by the book' or use his discretion and provide better customer service. My two years behind the green felt tells me that players who tip absolutely get much better customer service.

As far as expectations for tips go, honestly, yeah, on some obvious situations, a tip is generally expected. If I'm in Chinatown, and payoff a thousand-dollar bonus to somebody and they stiff me, as soon as I go on break, every dealer in the place will know that person's name, description, and what they're wearing, and will do their damndest to bust them. The floorpeople also know, because they have to watch the payout. Half the floopeople in any casino are "dual-rates", meaning some nights they deal, and some nights they stand floor in a suit. So if somebody is stiffing the dealer, their rating will suffer, and comps won't be nearly as forthcoming.

On the dice table, I've learned not to have any expectations for tips. Some people don't know how to, some are just stiffs. I try and help everyone at first, but if they're not tipping after awhile, then I just dummy up and deal. If their odds are wrong, or they ask for something dumb like a $5 eight, then I won't say anything, and just give them what they ask for. For example, if a stiff is betting the field and gets distracted by their buddies or a cocktail waitress or something, the stickman won't remind them to pick up their winnings--he'll just call out 'all goes in the field' and send the dice. If they lose the entire bet as a result of that throw, bummer. Dealers will look out for you and your bets if you are tipping. If not, you're pretty much on your own. If somebody is tipping, I'll remind them about their come bets, or odds on come bets after a new point is established, or any of the dozens of little things I can do for them. If not, I don't say a word.

Also, my outlook may be skewed by the fact that I work in the toughest dice pit in all of Vegas. Our casino has a reputation for having the toughest players in the city--they're not tourists, they're "fleas with money" as I heard one boxman describe them. They're not bad players because they don't know what they're doing--precisely the opposite. They *all* know what they're doing, and they all seem to have healthy bankrolls, so it takes forever to bust them, even if they stroke you all night long. They have no concept of the term 'same bet' --everything is pressed, taken down, or propped after every roll.

And our regulars couldn't be considered the most generous fellows in the world. Any extra singles they have go directly in the prop box, not the toke box.

It's much easier to deal to them after you get to know their 'systems'. But the first few hours at the table after not being on dice for a couple of weeks is a real workout.

My goal, however, is to drop an average of $40 per hour every night, no matter what game I'm dealing. In an eight-hour shift, I'm at the tables for six hours, so I'm going for $240 per shift. Some nights, if I'm on $10 blackjack or higher all night, I'll drop a lot more than that. If I'm in Chinatown dealing Pai Gow all night, it's tough to crack a hundy. But in my casino, I'm one of the dealers on the high side of the bell-curve, bringing the average up. I almost always drop more in tokes than we make per-dealer, and there are a handful of dealers who cost us money (but that's the same in every casino, I'm afraid).

I hope that answers your question, somewhat.

I did get a kick, however, out of a tipping thread over on T2V where a foreigner posed a question on who and how much to tip when they come to Vegas, and that asshat Ken2V had to chime in. Basically, he went down the entire list of people in Vegas you should tip, and how much to tip them:

Drink Servers
Bell Staff

But when he got to dealers, he had this to say:

Dealers--toke what you feel if you feel like it at often as you like or not at all. Don't buy into the mythology that: not tipping will kill your luck, you MUST tip dealers because they chose shit-paying jobs, you are a loser if you don't.

Heh. That nonsense wasn't posted to answer the question or be helpful, it was aimed directly at Yours Truly because when it comes right down to it, the guy is an arrogant prick and the bottom line is that he can't stand the fact that I am better at verbal jousting than he is. So he takes shots at me every chance he gets.

The problem with his argument in this particular case is that he went for snark instead of addressing reality. It's true--stiffing the dealers will not kill your luck--Oh how I wish it were so! But the fact that he singles out dealers as the only ones who chose 'shit-paying jobs' shows the depth of his ignorance. Every one of the jobs he listed as those who should be tipped are 'shit paying' in their own right. Hell, cocktail waitresses are paid even less than I am by the casino, yet somehow they didn't choose a shit-paying job. Every other job on that list pays minimum wage, or something right close to it unless it's a union house. The rest of their income comes from tips. Yep, I barely make minimum wage as far as the house is concerned. But I make more in tips than I ever did trading options at Schwab.

It's only a shitty job on those days when arrogant pricks like that come to the table. But then I'm reminded of that famous quote from The Godfather, This is the life we've chosen...

Assholes come with the territory.


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