What’s the etiquette for tipping your blackjack dealer? How does it work?
Tipping is a tricky topic regardless of the context. It can be just as awkward to work out an appropriate tip for a restaurant server or bartender. On a casino floor, a place where you’re supposed to spend lavishly and act in a celebratory manner, the pressure to tip heavily and frequently can be intense.
When You Make Money, I Make Money – Tipping the Blackjack Dealer
I took the title of this post from a phrase you’ll often hear table game dealers say. When your blackjack dealer says, “When you make money, I make money,” they’re really suggesting that you tip them when you win. Under the casino lights, with a free cocktail in your hand, it can be difficult to interpret exactly what the dealer means. Is she implying that the two of you are working together like a team? In that case, why doesn’t she tip you when the house wins?
Let’s go through the basics of casino dealer tipping in the form of a Frequently Asked Questions post.
How Much Do Blackjack Dealers Earn?
The average starting wage for a table game dealer is between $8 and $10 per hour. Let’s do some math and figure out how much these people are really bringing home.
Let’s pretend a casino dealer can find 40 hours of shift work per week – this isn’t typical, as most dealers struggle to break 30 hours. But, for the sake of argument, how much would they make at a full 40-hour work week? Between $320 and $400 a week, and that’s before taxes and other deductions. That’s about $18,000 a year, give or take. For a family of three, that’s below the poverty line.
Do all casino dealers make this low amount? No – experience plays a big role in hourly pay, and in being assigned the “best” (most likely to tip) tables and customers. I was able to find a casino dealer position on Indeed for a casino in Colorado that’s offering $38 an hour, almost four times as much as the entry-level salary I wrote about above.
Still, looking around the Internet, it seems like the average pay for a blackjack dealer is around $14 or $15 an hour, which even at 40 hours a week is a tough wage to live on in most gambling cities.
For a dealer making $8 an hour to earn a more livable $20 an hour, she has to average $12 an hour in tips, which breaks down to $1 every five minutes. That’s totally manageable, especially during a good shift with the right players around the table. But, if nobody tips, the dealer’s going to struggle to pay their bills and feed their family.
Why Should I Tip My Dealer?
If the above paragraph highlighting how little money dealers make didn’t convince you, I can think of a few other reasons you might want to tip the person dealing your blackjack game.
Tip your blackjack dealer because you’re a good person. You know that people working in service positions depend on a little extra money in exchange for good service. This is a thing in every setting in American life. We tip the person who parks our car, and we tip the person who cuts our hair. You should tip your dealer because they’re providing you a valuable service.
Tip your dealer because it’s good casino etiquette. If you don’t tip when you win, at least a little bit, you’re running counter to good gambling etiquette. You don’t want to be the guy that’s known for not tipping, not just because you’re likely to get bad service, but for the same reason you don’t break other gambling traditions. It’s just not right.
Tip your dealer for good luck. Look, I’m not a spiritual person and I don’t necessarily believe in “luck” as a concept that can be kowtowed to. But if you believe in that sort of thing, what good can not tipping a service employee do you? Won’t the gods of the cards frown on you for your insouciance?
When Should I Tip My Blackjack Dealer?
Knowing when to drop a tip on your blackjack dealer is a little complicated. There’s a strange sort of energy surrounding the tipping process, and some of this knowledge only comes from experience.
I’ll say this – blackjack dealers generally only expect tips when you win or when you’re on a really good run. Some players will choose to leave a big tip at the end of their session, others will spread their tips out a little at a time. Still others will tip when other players won’t, just to keep the dealer happy. I’ve known players who drop a $1 tip every five hands or $2 every ten hands or whatever.
The trick to knowing when to tip your dealer is to do it when it feels right, when you can afford it, and when they deserve it. There’s no hard and fast rule, just a lot of nebulous traditions that you can learn to navigate by spending more time at the blackjack table.
How Do I Give My Blackjack Dealer a Tip?
Typically, blackjack players tip the dealer one of two ways:
By placing a bet on the dealer’s behalf. In this circumstance, you’re placing a bet on the table just like you would for yourself but alerting the dealer that you’re placing the bet for them. Some tables prefer you to place a dealer bet next to your own, some prefer that you place it on top, it just depends on the location.
By handing the dealer chips or cash directly. Usually, you say something like “This is for you” or “Here’s a tip” and then hand them the tip directly hand-to-hand. Other players prefer to place the tip near the dealer rather than pass it hand-to-hand.
Your best bet in terms of knowing how to hand the money to your dealer is to ask them what they prefer. Some dealers prefer tips placed as bets; others would prefer you just hand them the money.
How Much Should I Tip a Blackjack Dealer?
It’s a good idea to base your blackjack tips on your bet size while also considering your winnings. I’ll explain.
If I’m playing at $5 or $10 per hand, my dealer isn’t expecting me to tip them $20 every half hour. The opposite of this is also true – if I’m playing at $25 a hand, I need to be handing over tips in a similar size.
Also, if I’ve just had a huge win, I should tip accordingly. The same goes for a smaller win – the tip should match the size of the payout.
If you don’t want to tip by payout, but just in exchange for service, it’s best to consider how much their dealing is worth to you. If you play blackjack for an hour, and you had a good time and the dealer was good at their job, pay them what you’d pay for an hour of entertainment.
I’ve kept dealers happy at blackjack tables by just throwing them $1 every five minutes, with additional tips for big wins. Nobody’s ever complained, and I can tell that they appreciate the regularity of the tip more than they’re bothered by the small amount size.
At $1 every 5 minutes, I’m paying my blackjack dealer an extra $12 an hour to serve me, and that’s a really good rate. It also comes at a cost that I don’t really feel, adding just $12 to my hourly blackjack expenses. That’s usually not much more than one or two bets.
When Should I Not Tip My Blackjack Dealer?
Be very careful about declaring yourself the god of blackjack tipping. Remember that your dealer is working and think about how often you’re performing at 100% at your job. I generally think even bumbling dealers deserve a few bucks an hour. After all, they’re performing a service that’s very vital to blackjack players. Without dealers, there’s no game.
I’d say you should only consider skipping out on a tip when the dealer does something actively stupid or insults you or something serious like that. I’ve had dealers nitpick and even harass me – just a bad blend of personalities. I still tipped them, thanked them for their service, and then bounced to a different table.
I would err on the side of always tipping blackjack dealers, even when they do you wrong. It’s always better to be the bigger person and walk away happy.
At the end of the day, casino dealers are service industry employees, most of whom depend on tips for their living. These are people who wouldn’t work for the casino wage – without the tipping element, they wouldn’t be dealing blackjack, they’d be selling cars or earning a real estate license or something.
Your attitude toward tipping casino dealers is usually a mirror of your general attitude toward tipping. The amount you tip your blackjack dealer may also depend on how much time you spent in the service industry yourself. Nothing will convince you of the need to tip a service employee more than a few years bussing tables or serving drinks.
Hopefully, this post helped clear up the minefield that is casino blackjack dealer tipping.