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One Time, Dealer: Tournament Poker Dealer Sounds Off On Tip Shaming

Traveling Tournament Circuit Dealer Answers Your Questions About The Game

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a dealer on the circuit grind? Have a question about behavior, etiquette, or anything else related to running a poker game? Do you want to know what dealers really think about while they’re pitching cards? What it takes to become a dealer? How you should treat dealers? Are dealers people, too?

Send your questions for The Dealer Chick (TDC) to editor@cardplayer.com, and read on for more advice, adventures, and real talk about life on the road for a traveling poker dealer.


Hey Dealer Chick,

My local cardroom runs a high-hand promotion in which the high hand in each half hour wins a cash prize ($550). This bonus entices many casual players to play.

One such man, sitting in the five seat, had been losing and rebuying since I sat down, until he rivered a straight flush. His hand held up and the floor brought him his jackpot — five white $100 chips and two yellow $25 chips. 

Seat Five was ecstatic and was pocketing the chips when the Table Captain says, “Aren’t you going to tip the dealer?” Seat Five was crestfallen, still behind and not wanting to give up $25, but reluctantly tossed the dealer a yellow chip. Then the Table Captain added, “Is that all?” Seat Five glared at the Table Captain before tossing his second yellow chip the dealer’s way. 

Don’t get me wrong, I always toke. Nonetheless, I thought the Table Captain’s behavior was out of line. I also wondered if the dealer should have accepted the first, and then the second chip? What’s your perspective on this, and on jackpot tipping in general?

Thanks,

Curious Toker


Dear Curious Toker,

Thanks for the steady tips, we appreciate it. Table captains (TC) annoy me. When a player tries to run my game or my players, I say, “Thanks, but I’m the TC. That’s why they gave me the sexy black shirt and let me sit in the big chair.”

On this table, the self-appointed captain made tipping his business. I usually love players who stick up for dealers. Few people do, so part of me wants to cheer. Let’s not deny the obvious: every dealer wants both $25 chips. But, it’s wildly inappropriate for anyone to tip-shame.

I could forgive TC for speaking up one time had he worded his comment as a reminder for the table. It’s not horrible table manners to remind everyone that dealers work for tips. Since you said that Seat Five looked “crestfallen,” I’m guessing that he threw the first $25 because he felt real guilt over his initial instinct to pocket all the money.

I’ll give Seat Five further benefit of the doubt and assume that even though he’s a casual player, he normally tips, but tonight he was stuck hard. So, he gave in to TC’s demands. He probably could have lived with that choice without resentment. But to further guilt him into giving more? Oh, hell no.

The truth is, this situation puts the dealer in a tough spot. Do I throw the first chip back and risk insulting Seat Five? Do I throw both chips back and make TC feel admonished? Dealers never want to choose a side for fear of upsetting a good customer, but most dealers do exactly what this dealer did: pocket them both and move on. The dealer should have tossed them back because it was the right thing to do, but let’s be cynical and look at it another way. If that dealer was truly thinking about his/her bottom line, both chips still should’ve been returned. Chances are good that the dealer’s unwillingness to accept tips given under protest would’ve been viewed favorably by every other player at that table (including Seat Five on a day when he’s not so stuck) and resulted in more money down the road.

Obviously, the dealer’s actions annoyed other players, or you wouldn’t have written to me. After TC’s first comment, I would’ve politely said, “Thank you, but it’s every player’s prerogative to tip or not.” Then I would’ve offered the chips back to Seat Five and let him push them to me a second time if he was okay with it. Later, I would’ve found a moment off the table to thank TC for his efforts while politely reminding him that while his intentions were good, he can’t do that to other players.

Even if TC knows Seat Five to be a chronic stiffer, it’s never appropriate to tip-shame. The irony is that this whole situation goes away if Seat Five just stands up to TC. Why do players let table bullies decide their actions? Seat Five should’ve told TC if he’s that tore up about it, feel free to throw your own chips to the dealer. The point being, it’s no one else’s place to weigh in on what another player does with their money.

I’ve dealt two Bad Beat Jackpots in my poker career. One was worth $34,000 and the other, $116,000. Both were dealt to almost full tables. I received the same tip from both, although on the second one, where the “loser” took home fifty-grand, most of the tip came from table shares.

The $50K winner tossed me $400. Was I momentarily bitter about that $400? Yes. Not because I didn’t realize that a $2,160 tip on one hand is amazing, but because he tipped the least and won the most. It felt greedy on his part. I realized I was being greedy, too. Maybe that $50K paid off his house, or his kid’s college tuition. Or, maybe he’s just a nitty bastard. Either way, the amount of work I put into dealing that hand was in no way more than any other hand. This just happened to be the hand that won him a bunch of money.

Do I deserve more because he hit a jackpot? Truthfully, no. I want to be included in the good fortune. I’ve learned to expect everything and nothing. Tipping is the industry standard for showing dealers appreciation. We expect them because it’s how the industry has set up our pay, but we know it’s ultimately up to the players where their money goes.

The thing that gets me about this industry is this: there is more than enough money to go around, and yet it’s never enough. I dealt both bead beats – ten days apart and in two different casinos — during a month when my hours had been cut and making rent would’ve been impossible without those tips. Even though dealing those two hands saved my butt, I still let greed cloud my judgment. As if the extra four grand that month wasn’t enough, simply because it wasn’t what it could’ve been. If only the $50K winner had been as generous as his table mates. Why couldn’t I have pushed the pot to the guy he beat, who left me over twice as much as he did for half the winnings?

It’s easy to get desensitized to money in this business. Easy to get mad when you think your share isn’t big enough. Easy to convince yourself that shaming someone else for how they spend their money is doing a good deed because your heart’s in the right place. Whether it’s how someone slow-played their hand or their reluctance to share their good fortune, it’s easy to covet another’s luck and judge their choices. What we should be doing is staying thankful for what we do have and minding our own damn business while we patiently wait for karma to teach her lessons — and not be offended when we’re the ones who must learn them. ♠

 
 
 
 

Comments

Mario123
18 days ago

I've always found that the dealers are pretty fair with the tips they expect to get but the problem, like in this example are the other players who, in my opinion, are overly worried about looking cheap so they tend to over tip and encourage others to do so.

I was in Atlantic City several years ago when the bad beat was over $150,000. The dealer was fantasizing about dealing it so I asked him how much tip he'd be looking for. He said he'd have happy with $5,000 which was a bit more than 3%. Without even listening to the dealer, a player at the table decides to answer my question and claims that players must tip 10%, which was 3 times more than the dealer said he would have been happy with. When I brought what the dealer said to the opinionated player's attention, he insisted that 10% is standard.

 
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floppingaset
18 days ago

10% is kind of the unwritten rule for smaller jackpots 10 grand and less. But that's smaller jackpots But when jackpots get that huge 2 to 5% is fine.
I hit a bad beat jackpot at red rock when they had the Jumbo bad beat I got 30 grand I tipped the dealer $2000 he was ecstatic.

 
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Raya
18 days ago

I am gambling, the dealer is not. The dealer is turning cards like a machine. I will never tip more than an hourly wage.

 
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Annoyingplayers
18 days ago

I’m a poker dealer in California I wouldn’t be surprised if your food comes cold service acts like they forgot about you...if you ever win pots are a stretch to reach and bring in. When I deal to garbage players like you I make sure your not heard on the table.

 
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Annoyingplayers
18 days ago

As a dealer I disagree with this article. Why throw them back? Why is it the right thing to do? Players love to blame the dealer for everything if I’m sitting there taking the heat I will be taking the 50.

 
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Vucci
15 days ago

If you play poker for a living (or aspired to be one) the rules of tipping is simple. CONSISTENCY.

I don't tip huge but every pot i take down, i throw a $1 for the dealer for their work. Wheter its a small 30 dollar pot or 4 way multi all-ins for $6000. Just as how there are variances in winnings and losing, my tip eventually will even out the spread distribution.

Basically its about respect to the dealer profession, and also I considered it part of the expenses to sit down and worked the table.

 
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