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Tipping Point

Hey folks. I returned to Tuna Club yesterday for their 5/10 LO8 game, and after playing for two hours, I promptly left at 9pm, down a whopping $10 (after $24 in time charges, that technically meant that I was up $14 in actual play). It was a semi-boring game, no offense to the players who were generally congenial. In fact, I started to get a bit perturbed at how players were flashing cards to each other and mumbling about hands under their breaths to each other. I wouldn't say it was any out-and-out collusion, but rather the type of "collusion" that occurs when people are playing a new game for fun, are not properly protecting their cards (incidentally, I was guilty of this at least once) and don't mind sharing their cards with players out of the hand. Still, it's just bad form.

I spent most of the game with my headphones in, listening to a trance music podcast (free several-hour-long trance mixes for free? Thanks, Apple!). I made light hearted conversation and played as tight as I could, which was still probably not tight enough. The table had fluxuating numbers, but for a while, we were 10-handed, and you can't play anything but the nuts in those situations. My two big hands came with AKK4, when I rivered the nuts, a Broadway straight without any low on the board, and 2367, when I rivered a fullhouse. In both hands, I was arguably chasing, but I think the odds were right...I think. Lots of action!

Also, shout out to Sean, who I usually see at the old Wall Street Game, which is now more appropriately called Matty's Room, since the game emigrated to an underground card room where Matty Ebs helps out. It was good seeing a friendly, unexpected face. Somehow, everyone seems to know each other at these games, and even though I've been to Tuna Club probably 10 times or so, I still feel like the outsider. That's not necessarily anyone's fault but my own, and quite frankly, it is probably due in part to the fact that I don't play nightly. I mean, don't these people have jobs and families?! The answer is probably, No.

Meanwhile, wifey Kim was getting home from her friend's place. I miss my wife. Yep, you heard it right. We have been so busy these last few weeks between traveling and work that I wanted to spend some time with her before she fell asleep. So, faced with the choice between more slow poker (slow, mostly because I was card dead for most of the game) and wifey Kim, wifey Kim won out. She always does. It didn't hurt that I was almost even (at my lowest, I was down $110 or so, at my highest, I was up $50 or so). So, pack up I did and headed home.

I was supposed to play at Matty's Room, but that didn't work out, mostly because his start time was 8pm and by the time I got a text that his mixed game (HORSE) was actually about to get started, it was closer to 9pm. I swear, poker players are some of the tardiest people I know. So, sorry Matty. I wanted to play in your game, but it was past my bed time.

That's enough of a recap. It's time to turn to a very serious issue that I need your help to figure out. Tipping. Specifically, live tournament poker tipping.

There is a "new" trend going on in many casinos around the country. Card rooms are taking a portion of the prize pool and using it as an automatic dealer toke (for those non poker fanatics, toke = tip). I've seen numbers ranging from a few percent to 5%, but make sure you check your local casino's rules, because it's not something they outright tell you. Normal tipping rules suggest a tip of about 5% of profit, with some places expecting as much as 10% (it's up to you whether or not to follow that "expectation"). But if the prize pool has already been raided 3% for the dealers, for instance, should you be obliged to give the full 5 or 10% to the dealers as a tip.

I think this one is pretty easy for me. The answer as I see it is No. They already got a cut of my win by taking it out of the pot to begin with. So in such situations, I'd be inclined to reduce my usual tip. However, the trickier part is how to handle NYC's underground card rooms. The card rooms are already designed to squeeze as much money as possible from the players, hence the $6/half hour time charge, but some rooms also include a "dealer toke" (also common at some casinos) for tournaments, for which you are given extra chips. In other words, in the weekly Sunday $150 tournament, $20 goes to the fee, and you can pay an extra $10 "dealer toke" which goes directly to the dealers for another 1,000 in chips. Since starting stacks are 3,000 or so, 1,000 chips is definitely worth $10 (the other 3,000 cost $50/1,000).

How does this play out? Well, when I won $390 profit this weekend in the $150 tourney ($550 total - $150 buy-in - $10 dealer toke), the dealers had already received ten $10 tokes (it was a small tourney with 10 players). Should I consider those dealer tokes when tipping out?

In the end, I tipped $40, which was about 10%, mostly because that's what is "expected" in these rooms. Since I'm a tourney regular, I don't want to piss off the staff or look cheap, especially since I won the last three tourneys I played there. However, aren't I just throwing money out?

So that's the question. When there is a "dealer toke" for extra chips, should you consider that when determining your dealer tip at the end of a tournament? I'm starting to think that the answer is a resounding yes, but I could use a second opinion.

Until next time, make mine poker!

posted by Jordan @ 11:19 AM,


At 3:29 PM, Blogger Astin said...

No actually. The toke for more chips is generally optional, but at a rate that makes it hard not to take. Still, I've played in games where there are those who didn't take the toke option at my table. So a tournament of say, 10 people, could only see $80 go to the dealers, which would be split 2 or 3 ways for potentially a few hours of work depending on the structure.

When I played the Caesars megastack, I noticed the pool didn't add up to buy-in * no. of players. I asked the dealer, and there was an unadvertised 3% toke. I commented about it, and he laid it out something like this:

The casino takes ALL the juice (so that $20 in the $100+20 goes to house), with none of it going to the dealers. There's a $5 or $10 toke option that most people take. For the tourney I played, that added up to around $5k for the dealers. Seems like a lot, but there are 50-60 dealers to start the tournament. 3% of the pool was another $4k or so. The house pulled in over $15k on the $30 fee.

While I can only assume that the tokes are split up fairly (ie.- an hourly basis that's further split between how many dealers are in the game as it progresses), so that the guys who did the whole tournament get paid a fair bit more than the one who was only in for an hour, it's still a far cry from 16 hours of cash game tips.

So, while I can see the % toke as being considered in the tipping calculation at the end, I don't think the OPTIONAL extra-chip toke should be.

At 9:21 AM, Blogger BigTPoker said...

At some point it just all adds to be ridiculous. Consider that there is likely a casino out there somewhere with a:
1. club entry fee
2. mandatory coat check (with fee)
3. drink minimum
4. server mandatory gratuity
5. table/tourney buy-in
6. table rake
7. dealer toke
8. expected dealer tip

Just count it all together. Money lost is money lost. If you're there to make money that is all that matters.

If you're just there to have some fun it won't make much difference. But if you're serious and are there to make money, 3-5% here and there certainly adds up and makes your goal more difficult.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Hammer Player a.k.a Hoyazo said...

I think anywhere between 3 and 5% is generally accepted as an acceptable tip for the dealers in a live (casino) tournament. It may be greater for an underground club due to the risks involved, I don't know, but casino-wise I think as long as the dealers are ending up with at least 3%, then they shouldn't complain. I'm sure dealers would tell you that 5% is a minimum, but in reality I would say 3-5% is pretty standard in my admittedly limited experience.

At the Venetian Deep Stack this summer, they were taking 3% off the top for the dealer, plus another half a percent from each buyin as an additional "dealer toke" that was theoretically optional but which everyone takes. For us chopping at the final table, a 3.5% mandatory tip to the dealers regardless of performance, length of time or anything else seemed right. If the dealers hadn't gotten anything out of the prize pool, I would have certainly tipped them up to the same 3-5% level.

At 11:10 AM, Blogger Schaubs said...

And here I thought this post was going to be about Malcom Gladwell's book...

Good post nontheless.

At 11:13 AM, Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Schaubs, the title was definitely inspired by Gladwell's book. I think I may've written about it in the past, though.

At 12:13 PM, Anonymous Gunslinger said...

What's the name of that podcast? I'd love to try it out at the tables.

At 1:39 PM, Blogger HighOnPoker said...

Gunslinger, it's called, Trance Tuesdays by I don't even know if they still put out new ones, but I'm sure you can find the old ones, and with each being several hours long (2hrs+), all you need are a few. If you have trouble finding it, let me know and I'm sure I can email you a few.

At 2:17 PM, Blogger Drizztdj said...

Despite the dealer toke and extra chips. I still gave another 3% of my winnings to the dealers at Binions.

Especially for how long the O8 tourney lasted (15 hours).


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