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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: The gentle art of tipping

23 July 2010

Dear Mark: What would be the appropriate amount to tip someone that pays you your slot jackpot win? It was a thousand-dollar jackpot. Nancy F.

Credit Samuel Johnson for establishing the tradition that has evolved into the present-day tip. In the 18th century London coffee houses, Johnson and his friends would hand their server a slip of paper with coins attached. On the paper was written, "To Insure Promptness." The modern acronym of this phrase, "tip", apparently derives from the handy strategy of that band of cronies.

Fast forward a couple hundred years and even Sammy probably couldn't come up with a set amount of what you should tip slot personnel on a hand pay. In a casino restaurant with good service, upwards of 15 to 20% is the norm. But table service is different from counting out 10 Ben Franklins; moreover, the $1,000 jackpot doesn't take into consideration that it may have cost you $800 to get your windfall.

That said, most front-line slot employees get paid minimum wage or close to it. Additional income comes through the gratuities of casino patrons, like you, Nancy. Slot employees need those gestures of gratuity to make a living.

Whether you tip or not, Nancy, and how much, is essentially up to you. As one who over-tips, my 2¢ worth would be wide of the mark. So I called a friend who has worked for over 30 years in the slot departments of five different casinos to get his take. He recommended $15-$25 to the slot attendant who made the hand pay if the individual had been helpful and pleasant towards you, and you didn't have to wait forever to get your winnings.

The bottom line, Nancy, is to tip only what you are comfortable with, and tip only for good service. Even I, with 20 years on the inside, won't tip a put-out casino employee.

Dear Mark: I have been playing video poker for about a decade now and have yet to hit a royal flush. I get to the casino about four times a year, usually play on quarter machines, and typically stay about four hours. Shouldn't I have hit a royal by now? Sherry C.

Scarce as they are, Sherry, hitting any royal, even with a draw, is a rarity. Even with identifying machines with a decent payback, and employing perfect play, those elusive royal flushes appear, on average, once in every 40,000 hands.

Let's crunch your individual numbers. Sounds bad, but it's painless. Four hours of play per session, multiplied by four times a year over a decade, and let's say 200 hands an hour, would put your hand total at 32,000 hands. That's still a bit short of the 40,000-hand average of hitting one.

Will you eventually hit a royal? I can't say with 100% certainty that you will. I know plenty of players who have hit way more than their fair share of royals, others who have hit far fewer than they should have. What I can say is that the more you play, the more you increase the likelihood that you will hit one.

In the meantime, Sherry, the house edge, without hitting a royal flush on a 25-cent Jacks or Better 9/6 machine, is 2.5%, all while you'll keep yearning for that royal.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: The most sensible advice that may be given to would-be gamblers, or inventors of systems to be used at Monte Carlo, may be summed up in a single word: 'Don't.' - Francois Blanc (1806), the nineteenth-century entrepreneur who established the Monte Carlo Casino
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.