Tips and Tokes
Dealers, keno runners, food and beverage servers, slot attendants, and casino porters are all members of the service industry. Base pay for these workers usually is minimum wage or slightly higher, and they rely on tips for much of their income. In many cases, especially for dealers and wait staff, half or more of their income may come from gratuities.
Tips for Service
Tipping rates vary depending on the kind and quality of service you receive. At the casino's coffee shop or restaurant, you should tip the way you would at any other restaurant. A good rule of thumb is 15 percent of the bill if the service is decent, 20 percent if the service is exceptional. If your meal or a portion of it is comped, calculate the tip based on the total before the comp is applied.
You might give the valet parking attendant a buck or two for bringing your car around. If you hit a decent win at the slots, you might slip a few coins to the attendant who verifies your win. Keno runners also appreciate recognition for the service they provide you. At most casinos, you'll receive free drinks on the gaming floor, but it's a good idea to give the beverage server a dollar every time you get a drink; servers return more promptly to people who tip.
Tokes for Dealers
“Tokes” is casino jargon for tips, especially for dealers. A few casinos allow their dealers to keep their tips, but at most casinos, tokes are pooled and shared among all the dealers on a shift. The sharing system makes good business sense from the casino's point of view. It encourages all dealers to be friendly and helpful. If a dealer has a bad attitude, that will be reflected in the tokes from his or her table, and the other dealers will pressure their colleague to clean up his or her act. Sharing tokes also prevents low-limit tables from becoming “slum tables” that no dealer wants to work. After all, a dealer at a $5 blackjack table deals just as many hands — and often more — as a dealer at a $50 table.
Dealers offer a service the same way waiters and waitresses do. They deliver the game to the player in a cheerful, efficient, and friendly fashion. And, even though the dealer represents the house, and therefore your opponent, at most table games, dealers really want their players to win. The reason is simple: winning players are more likely to toke. But as the player, you should toke even if you're not winning. It isn't the dealer's fault if you lose, and if the dealer is cheerful and friendly and helping you enjoy yourself, win or lose, toking is appropriate.
Depending on the region, casino dealers can make anywhere from $25,000 to more than $60,000 a year. But at most casinos, starting base pay for dealers is around $5.50 an hour — only $11,440 a year. The rest of a dealer's income comes from tokes.
There are several ways to toke. Some players flip chips to dealers after a winning hand or round. Others prefer to make bets for the dealers once an hour or so. You can do this by placing a chip next to your own bet on the layout. Your bet for the dealer can be any amount; it doesn't have to equal your own bet. Be aware, however, that if the bet wins, the dealer will keep both the bet you placed and the winnings from that bet. That makes this form of toking an expensive proposition, especially if your wins are modest (or even nonexistent).
Another, less expensive method of placing a bet for the dealer is to put a $1 chip on top of your own bet and tell the dealer it's “riding on my coattails.” If you win, the dealer also wins, but the $1 bet stays put for the next hand or round. If you keep winning, the dealer keeps collecting a toke. But you're tipping the dealer with the casino's money, not yours. You can place coattails bets at virtually any table game; just let the dealer know that's what you're doing.