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Tipping points

13 July 2007

Dear Mark: I have a problem about tipping blackjack dealers in the casino. I figure they get a high enough salary dealing cards, so why should I feel obliged to tip them, especially when their job is so easy and they don't do anything to help me, like tell me what's under their face or ace when I'm losing? The only thing I ever get from the dealer is a nasty look or a sarcastic remark when I light up a cigarette. Eddie T.

"Easy" in your mind, Eddie, might be performing tedious mental calculations like counting to 21 and dealing countless hands in a smoke-filled casino to chain-smoking Lucky Strikes players like yourself, but the fact remains, the majority of a dealer's pay comes from minimum wage and through the gratuities of casino patrons. As for losing and expectations of help from a dealer, I hope you wouldn't really expect the dealer to bend the rules if you decide to tip. If so, fuhgeddaboudit!

Naturally, Eddie, you are under no obligation to tip. If you are winning, however, and the dealer is being courteous and helpful (not to include cheating), it is customary to show your appreciation with an occasional gratuity.

The custom of tipping has its roots in England more than 200 years ago. Samuel Johnson is given credit 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 acronym of this phrase is apparently the origin of the word "tip."

You could look at tipping, Eddie, as a donation to "Lady Luck." (Biased thoughts from someone — that would be me — who was a longtime compensation-for-service employee.)

Oh and one more thing, Eddie. Drop me a line if you ever stop smoking. I promise not to call you a quitter.

Dear Mark: Thanks for the tip on what to watch for when playing on a "no hole card" blackjack game. I'm curious though as to if you ever dealt the game that way, and which do you prefer? George K.

I've dealt the game both ways, George, and although the pay-and-take and time between hands obviously running slower when played without a hole card, my personal preference was dealing through a hand without dealing myself one, simply to derail the too many Eddies (see above), who think they're cute and ask me what my hole card was, figuring, "What the hell, it isn't his money, he doesn't care."

Believe me, dealers won't risk their jobs over yours, Eddie's or anybody else's bet. There's nothing wrong with asking for advice, but not after the dealer looks under his or her face or ace.

Dear Mark: What happens to the blinds when no one calls them in Hold'em? Tom M.

It sort of depends, Tom, on where you're playing.

Known as the chop, it is an agreement between the two players who posted the blinds to have them returned when no one else enters the pot, and since many establishments only collect a rake on hands when there is a flop, by agreeing to one rather than playing through a hand, you avoid being subject to that rake.

Although you'll seldom if ever see the chop in a Hold'em tournament or a casino ring game, players, myself included, still like this rule on tables where there is plenty of action, mostly because you move on to a "real" hand more quickly.

Incidentally, Tom, in gamblese, chop could also mean splitting a pot when both players have an equal hand at the showdown, or in a High-Low Split game where the high hand divvies up the pot with the low hand.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Nobody is always a winner and anybody who says he is, is either a liar or doesn't play poker." Amarillo Slim

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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.