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Real Poker: Tipping: The Relationship Between Players and Casino Staff

by Roy Cooke |  Published: Nov 22, 2017


Want to get a provocative subject going in the poker room? To hell with religion and politics, discuss tipping; it’s way more controversial.

The casinos love the fact they place the burden of paying their employees on their customers. It’s much cheaper for them, and ideally it encourages their employees to treat the customers well. Some aspects of the system work well. But the costs are borne by the warmest souls, it creates a cronyism culture, and often the employees and customers feel tipping is an obligation, creating a bitterness that is bad for poker’s image.

For most poker room employees, tips are how they make a living, feed their families, and make a life for themselves. It’s a well-paying, though demanding job with limited educational and entry requirements. In the old days, it was mostly who you knew, not what you knew that acquired your station. While that’s still a significant force, things are based much more on merit than they used to be.

I’ve often heard tips as an acronym defined as “To Insure Prompt Service,” and the argument that tipping is part of the cost of playing poker and all players should tip out of an obligation to poker to keep the staff qualities high. But does it really work that way in reality? In some cases, yes. In others, definitely not.

A number of casino employees deem their job as being to hustle tips. While often effective, this attitude shows more than they think, creates cronyism, a bad image for poker, and rewards the employees for all the wrong reasons. That said, it also encourages other employees to give good service to the customers, albeit only to those who tip. Some do recognize that their job is to serve the entire poker room in which they work and genuinely focus on making their room a better experience for all.

Most recreational players tip out of expectation. They want to enjoy their poker experience and don’t want to make waves even when treated badly. Since they play only a few hours, their costs are minimal. They expect to be treated well, and they should be. They are the heart of the economics of poker. Without them the games would dry up and die. Even if they are problematic to deal with, poker room employees should give them a wide benefit of the doubt for the good of poker. It’s in the best interests of all!

To the serious player who is looking at poker for economic upside, and playing many hours per year, tipping is a large expense. That said, those employees who contribute to poker’s well-being contribute greatly to providing you that opportunity. And I believe they deserve to be rewarded for their efforts.

But many casino employees don’t put in much effort. I’ve even heard some vocalize to their customers that they don’t care. However, they seem to expect us to care enough to toke them. This group doesn’t deserve to be rewarded for their efforts. And not tipping them can go a long way in maintaining the employee expertise that tipping is supposed to provide us.

That said, I think it’s important to treat staff with common courtesy. We all make errors, we all have bad days and judging people only by their worst moment isn’t objective. So I’m not recommending that you not tip an individual over one issue. I also think that those that make an effort, but struggle to perform well, deserve to be rewarded for their effort.

As players, we can influence the way cardrooms are conducted. We shouldn’t feel obligated to tip. However, we should reward those who make the effort to serve the poker community and make our lives a better experience, by making their lives a better experience. We can accomplish that with both showing respect, helping them in the details of their work and with money.

Working in a cardroom is a tough job, particularly in a high limit cardroom where the customers’ emotions of winning and losing meaningful money constantly come into play. Treat nicely and help those who put out the effort to enhance your poker experience and tip them well. Work with them towards our common goals of making the cardroom a more efficient and pleasant place. If you’re a serious player, good staff will get you dealt in more hands, create less downtime, make recreational players more comfortable, cause you less aggravation and stress, make poker more pleasurable, and make you more money.

Give little or nothing to the ones who don’t give a crap, and give the money you saved to those who do! Your life is enriched by their efforts. When people are giving to you, the personal and morally correct thing to do is reward them in kind. Make them feel their efforts are appreciated; it will better the situation for all.

And to those who don’t care enough to make an effort; If you don’t care about my perspective and expect me to care about yours, you’re going to be very disappointed. ♠

Roy CookeRoy Cooke played poker professionally for 16 years prior to becoming a successful Las Vegas Real Estate Broker/Salesman. Should you wish any information about Real Estate matters-including purchase, sale or mortgage his office number is 702-376-1515 or Roy’s e-mail is His website is Roy’s blogs and poker tips are at You can also find him on Facebook or Twitter @RealRoyCooke. Please see ad below!