Open letter to The Rules Guy on ‘Tipping in poker’

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Consider this an open letter to The Rules Guy (TRG). Recently, he wrote a column in CardPlayer magazine that literally begs for comment.

Responding to a question regarding tipping in the casino, he wrote: “tipping is, for all practical purposes, part of your cost of playing poker, a form of rake.” TRG would have you tip almost everyone in the casino who provides some form of service – not just the cocktail waitress who brings a drink from the bar, but also the floorperson (“who makes procedural decisions at your table” – whether or not you agree), and many others.

Why Tip?

Tipping, TRG observes, is “a way to reward consistent service and to ensure goodwill in the future.” But, what if the service rendered, is not consistent? What if it takes over a half hour to summon a food server; and then, when your dinner arrives, it’s luke warm, and the server forgot to bring the cup of coffee you ordered?

My Comments,

Questions for TRG

Suggesting the tip will “ensure goodwill in the future,” sure sounds like encouraging and condoning bribery. Think about it! Politicians sometimes go to jail for accepting bribes.

In the best interests of our poker world, should casino workers have to depend on tips to earn a wage based on what they bring to the game – and to the casino? Employees are hired and paid to provide the services that will bring success to the business. That should be reflected in their salaries and raises.

From the Players’ Viewpoint

There are millions of poker players who have “thin” wallets and “skinny” bank books. They enjoy the game of poker – its mental challenge and social interaction. They can only afford to play low-limit games, while hoping to go home winners. Many senior citizens are in that category, living off their Social Security earnings and meager savings, while faced with escalating costs for food, gasoline and rent.

Many of these people really cannot afford to tip – as TRG suggests. Should they be discouraged from playing in casinos because they feel it necessary to tip the dealer when they (finally) win a pot after a long dry-spell? Who compensates them to make up for their losses when they got rivered the previous hand?

What about adverse happenings?

Does a dealer who constantly scowls and appears bored, deserve to be tipped?

Suppose you observed the dealer stealing chips from the pot; and also you suspect he is in collusion (cheating?) with certain players at your table. What if you point it out to the floorman, and his response is to berate you, while boldly denying your charges? (That happened at a local casino. A few months later, that dealer was gone. Perhaps the ceiling camera or other players observed his “dealings” – and complained.) Would you have the players at his table tip him every hand? What about that floorman?

Recently, I learned of two players at a table speaking to each other in a foreign language. A new player suspected collusion. When he complained to the dealer, he was summarily dismissed. (He was so disturbed he racked his chips, cashed out, and left the casino – perhaps forever.) Should the other players at that table tip that dealer?

And what do you say when different floormen rule differently on similar occurrences? (Refer to my recent columns in Poker Player Newspaper following up on “How Would You Rule?” – in the Feb. 10 issue.) Should they all be rewarded with tips?

A Bigger Issue

Because of the rake and other means for siphoning chips from players (not to mention differences in skill), we estimate 80 percent or more of the players lose money. Meanwhile, the casinos enjoy huge profits. (How did my Mattapan, Mass., childhood acquaintance, casino owner, Sheldon Adelson, become a multi-BILLIONAIRE?) If the casinos were not profitable, they would have long before ceased operations. Sure, they have huge expenses, including workers’ salaries. But couldn’t they use some of those big profits to pay their employees more appropriate salaries with overtime pay, so they don’t need to depend on tips from the players for a decent livelihood?

What do you think? Be honest with yourself.

“The Engineer,” a noted author and teacher in Greater Los Angeles, is a member of the Seniors Poker Hall of Fame. Contact George at [email protected].

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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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