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Side bet’s a nice tip

Nov 11, 2003 3:08 AM

Occasionally, one of the players on my game will ask me how much money I make as a dealer. As tasteless and tactless I may find the question, I usually respond by telling them that I make minimum wage. At this point I am subjected to some incredulous response.

Yes Virginia, Las Vegas dealers are paid minimum wage or just a few cents more. We depend on tips (tokes, zukes) to make up the difference. As much as I would have loved to tell my annoying friend that I make "minimum wage and TIPS" any reference I make to tipping on a game can be construed as "hustling" and is an invitation to unemployment.

I sometimes hear someone remark that they shouldn’t be expected to tip since they are a small action player. When I hear this I am reminded of a letter to Ann Landers I read years ago from a reader saying that since she was a senior, on a fixed income, she shouldn’t be expected to tip restaurant waitresses. Ann ripped her, saying that if she can’t afford to tip, she can’t afford to eat in a restaurant.

Some players defend tipping by saying it makes the dealers friendlier and more helpful. This may be true, in fact it certainly is. But dealers are supposed to be friendly and helpful to all players, whether they are "George" (tipper) or not. I personally dislike stiffs because they are abusing the system. If no one tipped, casinos would have to pay dealers a lot more money than they are paying them now. If the casinos had to do this you had better believe there would be some serious changes in the way they do business.

I imagine the first thing to go would be the small minimum games. I doubt that there would be anything less than a twenty-five dollar minimum game. The second thing, which would go the way of the dinosaurs: all forms of comps, including the free drinks and cheap hotel rooms. In fact, I don’t think it is beyond the realm of possibility that casinos would have to charge admission.

Of course some players don’t mean to abuse the system, they either don’t understand the importance of tipping, or they don’t know how to do it. There are two basic ways to tip the dealers: hand-in or two-way bet. A hand-in is when the player merely sets checks on the table and says; "For the dealers." This is usually done when the player is leaving the game. The only trouble with this is that the dealers don’t know you are George, until you are already gone.

A two-way bet is any bet that the player makes for himself and the dealers. This is especially popular on the prop bets. A player might throw two dollars to the stickman and say; "Two-way hard six!" This means he wants to bet one dollar for himself and one dollar "for the boys" on the hard six. The stickman will put one dollar in the player’s betting spot and one dollar in the center of the box, indicating it is a bet for the dealers. If the bet wins, the stickman will pay the player nine dollars and leave him up the same way. But when he pays the dealers, he will take ten dollars "and down." Dealers are not allowed to stay up on winning bets.

By far the most popular two-way bet among dealers is the pass line. A pass line bettor merely places another bet on the pass line, next to his pass line bet. Usually table minimums don’t apply to dealer bets. If the player takes odds on the dealer’s bet, he has now achieved the status of "King George." When the shooter makes his point, the dealer will pay his bet as he pays the other bets, but won’t pick it up until he finishes paying the other players.

So show your appreciation to the boys and girls that take care of you when you play, it’s how us dealers make a living. You might be surprised how much more fun the game is not only for the dealers but also for you.

(Dale S. Yeazel is the author of "Precision Crap Dealing" and "Dealing Mini-Baccarat." They are E-books on CD-Rom available for only $20 each (plus tax) at Gamblers Book Shop and Gamblers General Store in Las Vegas.