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Best of John Grochowski

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Recommendation to Tip Dealers Generates Controversy

13 November 2001

Several weeks ago, I relayed to you a letter from a dealer who wanted me to put in a word in favor of tipping. I did, pointing out that casino dealers are low-paid service employees who make their living via tips.

That doesn't mean players must, or even should, tip rude dealers, incompetent dealers or dealers who are more focused on hustling tips than giving decent service. But dealers who are friendly, competent and make gaming a more pleasant experience earn their tips.

It's not a unanimous opinion. I received three phone messages and a couple of e-mails from readers who said they never tip, and didn't think anyone should. All raised the same points, and one closed by saying, "Think about it, and I'm sure you'll agree."

Well, I don't agree. Let's go down the points one by one, then leave this topic for a year or three:

Casino dealers are there to take as much of the players' money as they can. Their function is not the same as that of waiters and waitresses who are there to serve customers.

No. The casinos are there to take your money, and they do it via the mathematical edge that is designed into the games. The dealers are there to serve the public. The dealer doesn't want to take your money. Winners tip more.

How does a dealer serve the public? Part of it is just being friendly, chatting with players and putting them at ease. A good dealer will pick up on the needs of individual players, something that for a blackjack dealer might range from slowing the game down for novices to just keeping quiet and dealing the cards when one-on-one with a player who clearly doesn't want to interact. A good craps dealer will recognize a player's betting patterns. Haven't you ever forgotten to take odds, only to have a dealer ask, "Do you want your odds with that, sir?" In Las Vegas, I once even had a craps dealer PAY me on an odds bet I didn't make while I was chatting with a waitress.

A good roulette dealer will make sure players have time to get their bets down before spinning the wheel, and will offer to help players who can't reach all the way across the table to place the bets on the layouts.

A good dealer will keep an eye out for a supervisor who's slow to pick up your rating card and will let the supervisor know when you make an additional buy-in, things that directly affect the comps and bonus cash vouchers you can expect. When you leave the table, if the supervisor hasn't been able to keep a close enough track on how much you've been betting, he or she might rely on the dealer for an estimate of the average bet that is the basis of your comp rating.

Tipping increases the house advantage and decreases a player's chance of winning.

A card counter I know, who pays as close attention to the house edge as anyone, once told me he uses comps as his guideline. He calculates the value of the comps he expects from his play, and tips the dealer about that much. My friend still gets the full value of the game, but in effect passes on the freebies.

Let's say you wager $25 a hand for 100 hands per hour. That's a risk of $2,500 per hour. Let's also say you play 10 one-hour sessions, for a total risk of $25,000. And let's go out on a limb and say you have five winning sessions--more winners than average. Dealers don't expect you to tip when you're losing, so only in the five winners you tip $5 twice an hour. That's a total of $50 in tips, or 0.2 percent of your wagers. Don't you think you get far more than that back in comps and cash vouchers?

Dealers work for a casino. They should be fairly compensated by the house. Casinos make millions and millions each month. They shouldn't expect players to help them pay their employees.

We can talk about ought-tos all day, but reality is that the men and women who work as casino dealers rely on tips to feed their families. If you don't tip, you're not depriving the casino. You're depriving these men and women.

If the casino did dramatically increase salary for dealers, there would be a cost to players. The natural reaction of a business with increased cost is to either find ways to cut back or to seek increased revenue. That might mean decreasing the number of table games and replacing them with even more slot machines. Short of that, an operator might try to make up the costs by adopting rules that increase the house edge on the table games.

Better-paid dealers and a no-tipping policy might seem like an attractive possibility, but are you willing to pay the price in fewer, tougher table games?

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski