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In the April 10 issue, I wrote a poker column about “Figuring cost to playing.” What does it cost you to play poker in a casino? The cost-to-play includes your share of the casino rake, the drop for the Bad Beat Jackpot, and tips you give to the dealer when you win a pot. (It’s this cost-to-play that helps casino owners pay the bills and still become so wealthy!)

After reading my column, a poker friend – call him D.D. – gave me a copy of a related column written awhile back by CardPlayer magazine’s featured columnist, Roy Cooke, entitled, “Tipping: The Relationship Between Players and Casino Staff.” Cooke has created a great piece of work. I found it interesting and thought our GamingToday readers would also enjoy learning about it; and, furthermore, I have something to add.

Cooke focuses on one aspect of the cost-to-play, namely players tipping the dealers in casinos. He explains the many pros and cons – and, of course, some controversial aspects about this well-accepted practice of tipping. Some players would argue the casinos make enough profits from them and the dealers – paid employees as they are – should not have to depend on tips to support their families.

Presumably, as the old saying goes, tipping serves “to insure prompt service” – to keep the staff qualities at a high level. Then he asks, rhetorically, “but does it work that way in reality? In some cases, yes. In others, definitely not.” On that basis, he suggests tipping only those who truly deserve it.

I call your attention to the fact that tips can add up to a significant amount. With just $1 (one chip) given to the dealer for each hand played, that would total $30 per hour when 30 hands are dealt per hour. (There could be more.) Assuming the dealer works for 8 hours each day, that totals $240 in added income per day; $1,200 for a five-day work week; $60,000 for the year – over and above the dealer’s salary.

Now, adding to the controversy, have you noticed how some dealers seem to work hard at speeding up the game, avoiding delays, and urging players to quickly move on with the hand? The more hands dealt per hour, the more tips (money) the dealer gets; and the more the casino gains when the dealer drops that money into the box under the table top. Should such a dealer be tipped? For me, that depends.

The custom has developed to tip the dealer when you win a pot. If I am ahead, that’s an easy decision: I’ll give the dealer one chip ($1) as a tip; if it’s a really big pot, two or three chips. But,  suppose you are losing quite a bit and then – finally! – win a good-size pot.

You played your hand well to build the pot. Now you are coming back, hoping to win one or two more good pots to get even – perhaps get a bit ahead. Should you tip that dealer? Discussing this with D.D., he replied he would not tip the dealer until he is at least ahead for the session. Sounds reasonable.

In this regard, I would go one step further: If the dealer is disrespectful of the players or always has a scowl, I am not going to reward with a tip at my expense. He does not deserve it.

To our readers: What’s your opinion? Your comments are invited.

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About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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