What is the etiquette of tipping at a casino?
September 25, 2014 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Please bring me up to speed on the etiquette of tipping various folks during a casino stay. Everything from the valet to the dealers to the servers. How do you know how much to tip, and how do you know how often? For instance, in poker, do you tip every time you win a hand? How do you know how much to tip a valet? Other folks in a casino experience that you should tip that I might not realize? (Personal anecdotes from people who have actually worked in a casino or work in one now are very welcome.)
posted by jbickers to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
occasional low-stakes blackjack player here, if i'm getting good cards, i'll tip the dealer a dollar chip every 20 minutes or so. i don't know if karma exists in a casino (or anywhere else), but i can afford it and i don't want my dealer to resent me.
posted by bruce at 11:46 AM on September 25, 2014

When playing poker at a casino, it is common to tip the dealer when you win a pot. I'm a low stakes recreational player, so I tip a dollar or two on a win. I'd imagine the higher stakes you play, the more you would tip. If you are a professional, regular player, I'd imagine the you tip a fixed amount or some percentage of your winnings at the end of a session.

As for table games, I usually "play for the dealers". In blackjack, you can place a bet in front of your bet to signify it is for the dealer. If it wins, the dealer gets the bet and the winnings. If it loses, well...it's the thought that counts, right? When playing craps, you announce a "two-way" bet. That means half of that bet is for you and half is for the dealers. Same result: win they keep it all, lose and it goes to the house.

Valets get tipped standard hotel rates, i.e. whatever you are comfortable. I would say at least a dollar per bag (minium of $5), and $5 each for pickup and dropoff of your car at the valet. Of course, if you are a high roller, or otherwise being "comped" by the property, you should be tipping more.

Drink or restaurant servers are the same as outside casinos: 20%

If you want to try to get a room upgrade, try slipping a sizeable tip ($20-100) under your credit card when you check-in. Sometimes the front desk attendant will upgrade the room for free as a thank you for your generousity.

Generally, a tip is for service. You don't have to go around passing out money to everyone you see. But if you were pleased by the service you received, then a gratuity is appropriate.
posted by LouMac at 12:05 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Occasional low-stakes roulette player. I toss a dollar chip to the dealer whenever I hit on a number straight up, and three chips whenever I hit big on a number, as in I have more than one chip on it, and other chips bordering it. I never last long enough at a craps table to tip. I tip $5 to a valet each time we hand off the keys, and I tip the casino floor servers $1 per free drink that they bring.
posted by kimberussell at 12:09 PM on September 25, 2014

If I'm going to a casino that offers free drinks to players, I tip the servers at least a dollar per drink. That keeps the beverages flowing.

I'm a proponent of tipping hotel cleaning staff if they are doing an adequate job. It's a hard job and I appreciate it being done well. In the past, I've done that at the end of the stay, but I've recently reconsidered tipping a little every day since it's not always the same housekeeper.
posted by jazzbaby at 12:25 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is more hotel than casino, but you did say you were staying at the casino: it's good to tip the maid service crew-- you can tip them once at the end of your stay (other opinions above on that), and figure $2-5/night for cheap-to-good hotels, more for premium hotels or if you happened to create some cleaning challenges, like a big spill, a hair-dye incident, any kind of biohazard, etc. Always tip big if you murder someone in your room-- the cleaning crew could be character witnesses at your sentencing. Small bills are extra-preferred here as they are probably going to need to split tips, and avoid tipping with chips here.

If you have a hotel maintenance issue, you don't need to tip.

As for drink or restaurant servers, it's not hard to get free drinks in many casinos, so tip $1-2, depending on how well the drinks keep coming, maybe more if your party is putting the server through the ringer with complicated or frequent orders. I think tipping with chips is appropriate here, but watch what other people do, or if there are no other players, just ask; he/she's not busy when that's the case.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:27 PM on September 25, 2014

Oh yeah: Concierge is a complicated one, but generally don't tip for directions, tickets and shows, do tip for deliveries (as you'd tip a pizza delivery, based on how hard it was to acquire and transport) and any kind of confidential service he or she is willing to offer as a criminal co-conspirator: drugs, prostitutes, livestock, raw-milk cheese, kindereggs, etc. (I don't judge, but the USDA definitely does.)

One common function of Concierge/Bell Desk is holding your bags for a time when you're checked out of your room, but not necessarily headed out of the casino: $5 for up to 2 bags has been my rule, repeat for more bags.
posted by Sunburnt at 12:36 PM on September 25, 2014

I think tipping with chips is appropriate here, but watch what other people do, or if there are no other players, just ask; he/she's not busy when that's the case.

If you're playing at a table and the server brings you a free drink, tipping with a chip is perfectly acceptable. Neither party wants you to waste time digging out cash. So if you play table games, keep a number of $1 chips handy. Asking the dealer for change while the server is standing there is awkward and sometimes takes a bit of time to actually execute if a game is in play.

$1/$2 for a drink is perfectly fine. Tip even for soft drinks and water. That server depends on your tips.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:39 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

LouMac's advise is pretty good, especially on the "tip a bet for the dealers" thing for non-poker gambling. $1 per pot won at poker is more than adequate at all levels where one would reasonably be asking such a question. High stakes players are actually generally worse tippers anyhow, in my experience. If you play no limit and win a massive pot, feel free to tip a bit more.

The only tip suggestion of his that I think is much more generous than average is the $5 and $5 out for valet parking. I tip $5 out and nothing in and always get the impression that $5 is a better tip than average from their reactions.

Also the upgrade trick for the front desk is pretty well standardized as "the $20 trick."

The other thing that is somewhat weird is that pretty much everyone in the service business in Vegas is able to exercise discretion in exchange for a tip. Seats can be improved, full restaurants find tables and so on -- usually for $20.

Tableside cocktails are pretty standardized at $1. More will get you frequent attention and enthusiastic thanks. I always tip housekeeping and find that $2 a day seems sufficient to get very warm reactions for normal towel exchange and wipe down kind of cleaning.
posted by Lame_username at 12:47 PM on September 25, 2014

I play poker and blackjack. At blackjack, I don't tip per winning hand. That makes no sense to me. I tip when I get up from the table. If I am a net winner, I usually tip about 7% of my winnings, but no less than $20. For example when I am a $1,000 winner, I give $75 to the dealer. If I am a small winner or a loser, I still leave $20. Most blackjack dealers, especially on the lower stakes tables are very helpful on telling you what "the book" says to do with your cards, hit or stick. Even if I am losing, likely I would have lost more without the help of the dealer or I would not have had as enjoyable time. Poker I treat similarly.

If I am paying for my drinks, I give a $1 per drink. If I am being comped on my drinks, I usually give $3-5 per drink. At the pool, I tip the person who gets me a lounge and sets up the towel $10. Valet parking I give $5 every out and if I have a special request like, "I am going back out in an hour, can you please have it ready or easily accessible?" I give the in $5. The valet that brings my bags gets $5 per bag. The staffer that points my drunken ass to the appropriate elevator bank and which way to turn when I get to my floor gets $5 too.

I have never tipped the front desk for a better room as I am only in my room fleetingly when I am in Vegas and they will often upgrade me anyway. I find when they say, "Welcome back 724" they know I was there recently and treat me as a good customer.

There are few people I wouldn't consider tipping if they did me right, went above and beyond or had to do extra work because of something we did. One visit, my friends and I were in a lounge and had had many adult beverages. We also were eating pizza for some reason. Well, as these things happen, one of us (not me, really) no longer wanted his pizza and drinks and well puked on the floor next to our table. When the porter came to clean it up, we tipped him $30 (out of friends wallet).

I also try not to put tips for anything but restaurants on the room charge. I give cash or chips to the extent I can or have it on me.
posted by 724A at 1:49 PM on September 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Tip the dealer if you can. My mom was a single mother working at a casino and we relied on the generosity of players if she ever got tips, it helped that she was an awesome dealer and good at her job. Definitely tip if you win big.
posted by lunastellasol at 2:26 PM on September 25, 2014

I was a floor waitress in a UK casino back in the nineties and we and the cloakroom attendants were always tipped in chips. Minimum value was fine, and everyone was treated pleasantly however much they tipped although I usually avoided the known flashy tippers because they often expected way more attention as a result and I was not there to make friends.

Interestingly the dealers weren't allowed to accept tips under house rules, I don't know if that's a UK thing or just the chain I worked for but might be useful to check if there's a tipping policy where you're headed.
posted by freya_lamb at 3:17 PM on September 25, 2014

Former casino cocktail waitress here. A dollar a drink for comped drinks is decent unless you're ordering fussy things. If you're paying, a dollar a drink is okay, but don't make the waitress dig out silver if you need change. It's irritating as all get out and difficult to do while balancing a heavy tray.
Chips or tokens are fine unless they're promotional chips. My casino used to run specials where they would give out chips that had "no cash value". They could only be wagered and the cage won't cash them in.
At US casinos nearly all positions take tips. Good luck!
posted by checkitnice at 5:47 PM on September 25, 2014

I spent time working in a casino cage, and all tipped employees (other than dealer, their tips were pooled in the pit) would come up to the fill window to cash out their chips/tokens/shitty $1 bills (the kind that wouldn't fit in a slot machine because they were ripped or otherwise gross).

- Waitstaff: as others have said $1/drink is typical, though more gets you more attention if you're looking to get in a few drinks.

- Valet: Everyone gives the valet a couple bucks without thinking. They were the envy of the casino, walking out with $100/night in cash after a 6 hour shift. In retrospect it's not that great, but when one was making $7.50/hour and paying taxes/FICA/etc, it was easy to curse oneself for never learning to drive a manual.

- Housekeeping: Not the hotel staff, but the actual people on casino floor. They would occaisionally be tipped if someone made a mess, in proportion to the mess made. It wasn't constant (most people just walk away from their messes) but regular enough.

- Slot attendents: Most machines have gone ticket-in ticket-out (TITO) but back when coins were the predominant slot currency, slot attendents made decent tip money. They would get a dollar or two from regulars when a machine needed a coin refill or or a minor malfunction addressed. This was mainly insurance paid by the tipper to make sure "their" machines would be looked after so they could continue gambling ASAP. Large payout would be made in cash ($1000 is a lot of nickles), requiring a slot attendent to verify the amount and make the payment. The tip would usually depend on the amount ranging from a few bucks to a few hundred bucks. Slot tips (like the pit) were pooled and paid out on pay day.

- Cage: We got tips in the cage occaisionally. They were pooled as well and amounted to $30/$40 each pay period. Tips came mainly from frequent customers who would, for instance only play $5 at a time. They would come up again and again to turn their coins/money/tickets back into (a diminishing number of) $5 bills. A portion came from employees when they cashed out. Valets with $91 would leave the buck. Customers would also leave their odd bills or small change. No one really expected it.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 6:48 AM on September 26, 2014

I played blackjack and would ask the dealer if he/she preferred the tip given to them or bet for them, and I think every single one of them took the play. I often tipped when I sat down, always tipped when I got up again, and usually tipped after a good run. If you're playing for low stakes but getting rated (for comps), tipping well doesn't hurt at all, as a well-tipped dealer might overstate your case when talking to the person who used to be called the pit boss (although I believe most of the casinos now use some other title for that function). Note the stakes required for rating will vary by casino, crowd, and any other number of factors, so don't expect to be rated at the one $10 table.

I have the same advice as everyone else for tipping your cocktail servers. We usually tipped a dollar a bag plus an extra buck to the bellhop, and a buck in and out for valet parking. If the valet parking attendant loads or unloads a bunch of luggage, obviously, tip more. We generally leave $2 per night for housekeeping (at any hotel anywhere) unless circumstances dictate otherwise.

As for the "$20 trick" at the desk, it has been endlessly debated on TripAdvisor and other forums, without any real conclusion to be drawn. We never bothered to tip and got upgraded about half the time anyway, simply because we're nice. We're usually in a good mood when we get there (hey, vacation!) and a smile, cheerful demeanor, and basic courtesy seems to go pretty far. If nothing else, you're making the desk clerk's day not suck for as long as you're there being easy to please and not a jerk.
posted by fedward at 2:35 PM on September 26, 2014

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