Tipping is part of experience at the poker table

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According to etiquette expert Patricia Rossi, author of the book, Everyday Etiquette, “tipping is important because it shows people who are waiting on you and helping you that you are grateful.”

Undoubtedly, while playing poker, we all have experienced both good and bad dealers. A good dealer will always be friendly and hospitable, answering your questions and generally improving the experience. The dealers have the choice whether to add to your poker game experience by being patient and pleasant or, on the other extreme, never smiling and being brusque or grumpy.

If they are adding to your experience, tip them; if not, don’t tip them. On an ethereal level, some players may consider tipping the dealer to be a small offering to the gods of good luck.

On the other hand, some poker players will not ever tip a dealer. Others tip only when they are well ahead during the poker session. Some players rationalize: “The casino does not tip me when I lose; the dealer is just doing his job. Let the casino pay him better if low salary is a reason for tipping the dealer. Tipping the dealer makes it harder for me to go home a winner.”

Playing for several hours, those small tips can really add up. Think about it: With 30 hands dealt per hour, that amounts to 210 hands over a seven-hour session. With nine players at the table, if one chip ($1) is tipped by the winner for each hand played, that averages over $20 per player for the session — even more in short-handed games. That is significant in low-limit games.

Some dealers never say “thanks.” Does such a dealer deserve to be tipped? Some do their utmost to speed the game along, sometimes making it difficult for players to keep up, and more likely to make the wrong decision in a game where there is so much to consider. That’s fine for the casino; the more hands dealt, the greater its profits via the rake.

Does that dealer deserve your tip? And, how about the dealer who seems to be on a power trip, and seizes your hole cards while your attention is momentarily diverted — and then pushes them into the muck?

Perhaps most important: How skilled is that dealer? Does he or she make mistakes that irritate or confuse the players, often causing long delays?

So let’s say you agree that you’re going to tip your dealer. the question then becomes, how much?

Of course, there is no fixed rule. For me, if I am not losing, I will tip the dealer one chip when I win a small or modest pot; two (occasionally three) chips when it’s a huge pot. But no tips for a dealer who is not deserving.

On that score, every player must make his own decision. To each, his own. 

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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