The Tipping Solution

by , Jul 21, 2007 | 1:51 am

Some of you say that you want to get a breakdown of what Harrah’s takes out of the pot and how much the dealers make. It’s none of your business. Some of you have done some horrendous math which indicates that dealers for the main event only made $10.15 per hour, hogwash. Hey, I’ve never used that word before. That was fun. How can you divide the total tip by 700 people working 11 days? I didn’t notice 700 dealers at the final table.

Do you know how much the person at the Gap makes when you go in to buy your plaid shorts? Do you know how much the guy makes that is changing the oil in your Yugo? How much does the Slot Manager at Caesar’s Palace make? Who cares about any of this, and who cares how much dealers make except for dealers and the people hiring them?

What should a dealer make? I say pay them whatever they need to be paid to attract reasonably talented people. The answer I’m guessing is probably somewhere between $20 and $35 per hour. For a full time employee, that’s an annual salary between $41,600 and $72,800.

Excepting errors, does the dealer have anything to do with me winning or losing a tournament? If you say yes, start collecting stamps not playing poker. Since the answer is no, why should I tip them? Do I want them to make a good wage? Of course I do. So here’s the plan. In this plan I will use the WSOP as the example:

The WSOP establishes a ranking process whereby they use years of experience and floor-people rankings of dealers to establish an hourly rate for each dealer. The most experienced and best dealers make the $35/hour rate and the least experienced, lower ranked dealers make $20/hour and the others fall somewhere in between. Should WSOP tournament dealers make more than other dealers? Maybe they should and most likely yes. They are temporary employees (no health insurance and other customary benefits) that sometime incur travel expenses and often work extra long shifts.

Now that the WSOP has figured out how much each dealer makes, they can calculate approximately how much in total that will be for each tournament and divide it by the number of players in the tournament and prominently display it on your buy-in receipt. STOP! You are not interested in that anymore are you? You forgot, it’s none of your business and why should it be? The WSOP will take 9% or 10% out and that’s it. The dealers pay, their profit and other expenses are all part of that number. And if you don’t like that number, bye bye. Go play the World Series of Poker somewhere else. As my good buddy Robert says, “Vote with your feet”. As for me, my feet will be at the Rio.

If you were a dealer, wouldn’t you like to know how much you are going to make per hour before you accept a job and get surprised at the end with small paycheck? Of course you would.

I have played golf at non-tipping clubs before, and I really liked it. Everyone gets the same high quality service and the employees are paid an above average wage. Everyone’s happy and no pressure with workers having their hand out all the time. And if the employees aren’t good, no problem it’s easy to find a replacement because they are paid an above average wage for the work they do.

WSOP, you have my approval to pay dealers, based upon the hours they work and the quality of their work an above average wage, and I don’t mind if you charge just a little more so that this discussion can be over forever. However, we are now a non-tipping club. You will not ask me to tip and any employees accepting tips will be fired. Your employees will treat everyone as if they are a good customer that is contributing to their pay.

Why did we ever start tipping anyway? Just for the record, you can ask cash game dealers and I believe they will tell you that I’m a consistent reasonably good tipper. Do I tip in tournaments? When I came in 3rd at the WPT in Reno, I won $256,000. I tipped $5,000. Several friends asked me what I tipped, and they all told me that I was an idiot and that the tip had already been taken out. Did I tip at the 2007 WSOP? Yes, but it was not at my discretion, it was already calculated for me.

Two final thoughts:

Did Jamie Gold and Yang stiff the dealers? If you call $150,000-$200,000 a stiff, I guess so. But, if you call that a stiff you’re a nut-job.

Who pays the tip, each entrant or the winners? First answer this question. Does the WSOP have $925 or $9,800 tournaments? No! All of their tournaments are even numbers and would be even numbers no matter what tipping system is used. So, if I didn’t cash in an event (loser) would it have saved me any money if they didn’t take the tip out? No again, I would have paid the same amount. The main event is $10,000 no matter how you slice it. The tip comes out of what the winners receive, not what the losers pay.

24 Comments to “The Tipping Solution”

  1. donkstrike

    What other business in the United States allows the following:

    1) The customer has a stated charge for “services provided” that is known to the customer prior to engaging in the activity.

    2) The employee knows what these charges are, how they are dispersed, and accepts them when they sign on.

    3) The employee berates the customers for not making additional payments for “services provided” beyond those already agreed upon by all parties.

    Sounds like a recipe for going “out of business”.

    Any and all complaints regarding pay, from employees, should be addressed to the employer NOT the customer.

    Many dealers are confusing “cash” games where tips are understood to be part of the pay from the customer to the dealer for their services and tournaments where the pay is packaged into the total expense for the customer.

    The best solution, as Tom said, is to vote with your feet. Neither the customer nor the employees are forced to play or deal in tournaments.

  2. DanM

    But we’ve already seen in the immediate aftermath of the UIGEA that poker players, for all we claim to know about math and edge and odds, are willing to pay superpremiums to play. Such is the life of degenerate addicts.

    That’s why poker is such a good business — addictive products tend to be profitable. Just ask Starbucks or the tobacco companies.

  3. Card S. Linger


    What other business is like poker?

    Well, let’s explore that premise.

    It has long been understood that players. most of them anyway, will tip dealers when, and if, they win.

    When they do not, yes, we complain, usually to each other. If you didn’t get the bonus you were expecting, the annual raise, the yearly Christmas gift that your company givwes out, wouldn;t you complain?

    If you told your neighbor that the company decided to forgoe annual bonuses this year becasue a bean counter advised against it, would you expect him to be sympathetic, would you have warm fuzzy feelings for the bean counter?

    or would you just say to yourself. Hey, I was never “promised” an annual bounus, It was never guaranteed to me in writing so when they changed their minds, okay, so be it. Maybe next year.

    I’m guessing you would be as upset as the dealers are when the guy who won the big prize DIDN’T tip.

    It doesn’t matter why he choose not to tip, it doesn’t happen and yes, we are upset. Just like you would be if your bonus, raise or gift was 86’d on you.

  4. Laurie

    Thank you Tom for that post. I agree somewhat but my mind is ofcourse a pile of mush by now from this crap storm that has been happening since the 17th. All my intentions were was to just tell the truth of what went on in that room. I am a very good dealer, good enough to be on tv and be able to pick and choose my jobs. I am very happy with my pay and never thought that Jerry Yang “stiffed” me or my coworkers. I am very happy with the way the WSOP went for me this year and I have NEVER bitched or complained to players that “Im not getting tipped enough”. I think those sub-par, burnt-out dealers should be canned on the spot. The plain and simple fact is that no matter what happens with the way dealers are paid at the WSOP, they will always complain. I as one of the many great dealers out there will always get punished because of the actions of the bad ones. When they all whine about Jerry not tipping, I get lumped in with them. I DONT CARE that he chose not to tip, I only cared that Chris encouraged him not to instead of it being his choice. Think of me what you will. I smile no matter what, even when those certain players blame me for loosing a pot cause I brought the King on the turn. Im to blame when they loose and I had nothing to do with it when they win. So, I think Im going to take my final check, which I still dont even know how much it will be, and go somewhere on vacation where poker does not exist.

  5. pisswilley

    ya know what we do in the “real world” linger… when we are unhappy… we quit… change directions…. go some place else, do something else…. so all i have to say to u is… boo hoo hoo

  6. Tom Schneider

    One thing that I want to make very clear is that Jerry Wang DID tip. Do not use the word “stiff” relating to anyone at the 2007 WSOP. He did not leave an extra tip.

    If he added extra to the tip so that each dealer got an extra $200, how many dealers would go up and say thanks for the extra tip Jerry?

    Funny thing is that I could see more reason to tip the employee at the Gap than a dealer. The person at the Gap can do extra things for me to help me out. A dealer shouldn’t.


    If the calculated tip isn’t enough, the players don’t know that and shouldn’t know that. When a restaraunt adds 18%, I assume that their waiter would be happy with that. It’s not my job to calculate the wages of the waiter and determine if they are making a market wage. If the waiter is not satisfied the owner needs to change the % or find other work. If it becomes too high the customers will vote with their, what? FEET.

  7. donkstrike

    “What we got here is… failure to communicate”

    Here’s a tip for all dealers that is worth much more than $200.00.

    To be successful in any endeaver you MUST underpromise and overperform. Simply put, never put yourself in a postion where you either cannot exceed expectations or that you set your expections up for dissappointment.

    Take two of the dealers who have posted here.

    Laurie’s expectations were that she would make a specific amount, she did and is satisfied (although, obviousley offended that Ferguson might have cost her a couple of hundred dollars). Card S. Linger had expectations for the WSOP that included numbers that were too high, probably unrealistic, and is disappointed about his outcome.

    Both made the same money per down. One is happy and the other is dissapointed.

    It’s all about expectations and being realistic.

  8. Jimmy


    Great to hear a player that has a voice bring these points up. I have always believed that wages should be a matter between employer and employee, and not between employee and customer. I think your proposal makes a lot of sense, and would go a long way towards making this a non-issue as it should be.

  9. Phoenix

    I wish I dealt some of that tournament so I can complain, But you know what, I dealt cash games through out the WSOP and I must say thank you for all those bad dealers, because let me tell ya, I did pretty ok, had alot of compliments on my skills and and extra green birds and red birds 🙂

  10. DanM

    Phoenix, I’m not sure you count because you are one of the very best dealers around. Actual card-pitching skills aside — your multiple college degrees had to be good for something, right? — I have never once heard you reference tips at the table, which probably has something to do with why you do well in that department.

    By the way, thanks for pimping Pokerati at the tables … and thanks for not pimping on that day I let you know surreptitiously that I didn’t want the players to know I had a clue about poker. (I made $3,000 that session!)

    Good luck on your new gig and life in Vegas. I will miss being able to hire you for charity events in Dallas. I’m sure it is only a matter of time before you, like Laurie, are dealing the biggest games around.

  11. angusT

    Laurie Said:
    I only cared that Chris encouraged him not to instead of it being his choice.

    Chris hold a gun to his head? Twist his arm?
    No. Chris told him that his prize was $150K smaller because of the money Harrahs took out for tips and that he would leave $0 additional.
    The choice was Yang’s. And in light of the information provided by Chris, he decided to leave $0.
    But you wanted Yang to be left in the dark.

    I don’t play my cards ‘in the dark’. I look at them. I gain as much information as I can, from as many sources as I can. Then I make the best informed decision I can.

    I do the same with tipping. In a live game, I have a pretty good handle on the situation, and I tip on all but minuscule pots.

    Tournaments are different. Especially when the House takes out ‘tip money’ up front. Without information, don’t expect players to do what you want them to do. They see “X% take out for staff” and they think the dealers are adequately compensated.

    Keep us in the dark, but I don’t want to hear the word ‘stiff’ again.

  12. Marvin C

    What is tipping for? I believe it’s either for great service or to ensure great furture service. I get”Cheers” service in restaurants when I over tip.

    I don’t believe a tournament dealer provides better service than another tournament dealer or that I would have the same dealer again. The tip that Harrahs took out of the enry fee should have suficed.

    I lived in St. Louis when the casinos first opened there. The dealers kept their own tips at first. We had fast, well dealt games with very few dealer errors. Unfortunatley, the union insisted on splitting tips. All of the good dealers left for Tunica.

    The new dealers sucked. They were slow, watched TV instead of following the game, and made many errors. One was so bad that wheen she sat down, we left the table. We had, “Five men walking,” which Linda Johnson wrote about. Fortunately she was replaced.

    One dealer made a “Bad Beat,” mistake. I wasn’t in the game, but was at the next table.The dealer turned the river before the last player’s action, and which would have made a “Bad Beat.” I should have tipped that dealer since the “Bad Beat” continued.

    I tipped well when it went to the dealer directly. I quit tipping when I knew some of my tip was going to dealers who cost me money, or to the Blackjack dealers.

  13. DanM

    Marvin, all you say makes sense, but just as in poker there is a difference between cash game play and tournament play … i think the same thing applies to tipping. The clear conclusion of all this tipping discourse seems to be:

    In cash play, individual tipping is the way to go.

    In tournament play, set dealer income is the way to go.


  14. Marvin C

    I agree. In tournaments the house collects the tips up front. Even local tounaments at DFW clubs add a “Dealer Toke” for extra chips.

    In cash games, individual tipping is the way to go if the dealers are good. I don’t tip bad dealers that cost me money, although I did generously tip the dealer that turned the Qc, giving me a straight and an opponant a flush; before the last person acted and replaced it with the Qd, still giving me the straight but not the flush.

  15. Phoenix

    this F*cking Marvin guy! Who are you! I mean, “I don’t tip bad dealers that cost me money”!? Shoot the post man for delivering you bills on the wrong time of the month, damn fool! We just deal the cards while and oh yeah! I hold a f*cking shot gun up your head telling you to play that 4/9 off lose a 20 dollar pot, and oh thanks for that 479 dollar pot you won, but oh You couldn’t hit my 4/9 so I’m not gonna tip you this time around, because you cost me money.

    Do you hear this? its me pooping over your cards.

    When you got a cell phone and you had to pay all these extra taxes and payments?
    When you bought a house, did you know about all those closing costs? and amenities you pay every month?
    And when you play table games, you have to auto-pay commissions when you win?
    Theres fees on everything guys.

    I didn’t have to deal the tournaments, thank the poker gods, but damn my friends did, and I feel sorry for all the bitching they have to hear, and the abuse. It doesn’t hurt to throw an extra 1%.

    Sorry Dan, I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, Im going back to bed, and see what happens.

  16. Marvin C

    The dealers that cost me money are the Bozos who make dealing mistakes such as the Bozo who flipped one of my hole cards that would have given me the Nuts in a huge threeway all in pot, I would have been the fourth, or the dealers that don’t control the game, or the dealers that muck live hands, or the dealers that deal so slow that no one wants to play, or the dealers in Omaha 8 that announce there is no low, or the dealers that would rather be somewhere else.

    I have lost money because of all of those events.

    I guess you would also want a tip from a “Bad Beat” jackpot even though the money has come from pots where tips would have been given if deserved.

    I tip dealers with class. I assume I won’t be tipping you Mr. Phoenix.

  17. DanM

    Gee Phoenix, make me look bad for saying all those nice things about you, why dontcha. Believe it or not, some dealers are not as good as you are. There was this one guy at the WSOP who repeatedly said, “Check, bet, or bluff” when it was someone’s action (post-flop, no less!). That was completely unacceptable, particularly when I was in a bluffing situation. I asked him to stop it, and he refused. So I stopped tipping him — with a totally clear conscience.

    Look, I think we are all beating a dead horse here … it has nothing to do with cards. Good tipping in cash games happens for dealers who make the experience more pleasurable, regardless of whether you win or lose.

  18. itsoverjonny

    Damn Phoenix! Relax! It sounds like that little skinny kid ain’t hittin’ it right!

  19. Phoenix

    Ok I apologize, well some what. I read the above lines quick and then snapped into an opinion.
    I am never that mean, and damn! I sounded mean. I’m sorry
    I just didn’t like how he said, “I don’t tip bad dealers that cost me money”.
    Because you know in a cash game, I get that alot. When they win a 10g pot, they look at me and say I remember that one time I tried to bluff and you gave him a deuce to make him pair up. So I’m gonna skip the tip this time.

  20. Laurie

    AngusT…..and everyone else
    This is the LAST time I will look at these pages, post anywhere in them, so have at it. I NEVER CALLED JERRY A STIFF Tom! Y’all piss and moan that we the dealers never tell the truth on our income then when one does, y’all take shots at twisting the words and making it so I never wish to come back. I have become exhausted at tring to help shed light on the discussion and have cought nothing but crap for it.
    Angus…..How in the hell did you infer and assume that I wanted Jerry left in the dark when I clearly stated I only wanted him FULLY informed on how it all works!
    My son told me something the other day that makes PERFECT sense to me now, “Arguing on the net is like running a race in the special olympics. even when you win, your still retarded”

  21. Tom Schneider

    Laurie, I didn’t say you called him a stiff.

    By the way, your son sounds funny, could you have him start posting and arguing here?

  22. DanM

    It should be noted that I did use the word “stiff” in the hedline. I then later noted that Yang wasn’t really a stiffer. Fair and balanced or hypocritical? Fine line … Hard to say … But for the most part It’s kinda like the New York Post calling Jacko “wacko.” Good literary fun. Sells papers, too.

    But so long as we are arguing semantics, when did it become so acceptable to call things “retarded”? Also not a fan of this new knuckle-punching that has become the new high-five at the poker table, but that’s probably a topic for another post.

  23. peko

    I have been around the poker indusry for about half a decade now as a dealer, player, and now a tournament director. I will say that when I work I rarely ever go in the break room. It is often a miserable place where there are dealers bitching about stiffs. This is not true about all dealers but these dealers tend to be the most vocal. They have a bad outlook about the dealing profession. Dealing can be a lucrative job weather you bitch or not but it makes it less enjoyable when you bitch. The outlook that the dealers should have is that they are just there to deal the games and be professional and freindly. Some players will be very generous while others not so generous, they should all be treated with equally proffesional service. The good tippers will make up for the players who tip less and you will a make a good average tip rate despite players who don’t tip much.

    That being said, the reason I work in this industry is the money that the tips bring in make it a profitable profession. I don’t work for the hourly rate or the extra money the casino withholds to pay us. The money comes from the extra tips. The house money that is taken out isn’t meant to fully compensate dealers, it is meant to supplement the tokes. If not tipping extra became a trend then the house would in fact have to increase the withholdings to pay the dealers more. The initial house withholding is not, in and of itself, enough money to entice the good dealers to work the events. In order to get the good dealers they need to know that there are generous tippers out there that will increase their pay. However, I reiterate they should treat all the players equally, tip or not, and allow the average tips compensate them, handsomely I might add.

    I don’t think Jerry Wang or anyone should be looked down upon for not tipping and I don’t think Chris Ferguson is all to blame, but I think he could of handled the situation a little differently. Maybe he should have said, “The house takes out x% to compensate dealers and floor staff, any tip beyond that is up to the individual. I personally don’t tip extra, however, some other players do. A typical tip is between %2 and %5 while some very genrous players will tip up to %10.” This is what I tell players when they ask me how much they should tip. It may have been better to give Jerry some more information about the range of the typical tip from winning players, rather than his own guidelines. If Chris’s practices became a trend the poker industry would certainly have to withhold more out of the prize pools to compensate dealers. Otherwise the good dealers would go elsewhere and we would be left with the junior varsity dealers handling important big games and events and I don’t think anyone wants that.

    One final thing I want to mention was about a post earlier that talked about not tipping dealers cause they made mistakes that cost them money. I think that dealers should be compensated if they do a very good job regardless of the outcome of a hand. Mistakes are going to happen sometimes even with the best dealers and I’m sure there have been times when those mistakes benefitted you but you only remember the ones that cost you. The mistakes should be looked at as random. They may help you or hurt you and dealers should be compensated when they are doing their job well, not based on the outcome of hands.


  24. Lori

    Sorry, Dan. I haven’t been on here in awhile. Miss me?

    HAHAHAHAHA!! I dealt the series too. This is all extremely amusing to me. I had a blast in Vegas on and off the table. I didn’t make the money I expected to, but it is what it is. Suck it up! Next time don’t be so butt hurt over having to deal cash and/or sattelites. Yeah, it is slave driving, but if you do it with a smile on your face and you can make players laugh… you’re golden

    I do have a comment for who ever said you don’t tip due to dealer error…WE ARE HUMAN!! You must play online a lot. Its pretty hard to flip a card on a monitor. I bet you never played a hand wrong either…oh, that was probably our fault too. Oh, and if you bitch too much at my table, gauranteed I will probably flip your cards on purpose just to put you on tilt for the rest of the tables benefit in order to get you the F out of the game faster. 🙂 It amuses me. (Dan, was that a run on sentence?)

    Thank you, Dan for your tipping the dealer for the experience you have at the table win or lose. I believe that I am fairly entertaining when I deal.

    I will leave the retard comment alone. I have way too much to say about that. I’m satisfied with considering the source…. that alone makes me giggle.