We all understand the importance of tipping service providers like waitresses and bellhops who rely on tips for a large part of their income, but if you're a newbie to casinos in Las Vegas or other cities, you should know that it's often appropriate to tip your dealer as well. The key is knowing how and when to do it.
When you're playing at the tables in Vegas, you'll learn pretty quickly that there are rules for everything. When you're placing a bet, you need to stack your chips in one stack. In a single-deck blackjack game you hold your cards in one hand, and in multiple deck games the cards are turned up in front of you and you're not allowed to touch them. The rules are endless, but the dealers are usually very helpful and they will walk you through it if you're a rookie.
Treating the dealers well is great way to make your time at the tables as enjoyable as possible. Many of the dealers enjoy joking around with the players, and you can have a great time with your friends or strangers at a table when you have a funny dealer. Other dealers are quiet, but they'll perk up if you start talking to them. Tipping is just one way that you interact with dealers and most dealers are very appreciative when you tip.
The first thing to learn is how to tip the dealer. Usually, you don't just hand them some chips as a tip. The custom is to place a bet for the dealer alongside your bet, so that the dealer has money riding on your hand along with you. So in a blackjack game, let's assume you're betting $20 on a hand, which means you'll be placing four $5 red chips in a stack in the designated circle or spot in front of your chair on the table. With that size bet, you might see players place a bet for the dealer of anywhere from $1 to $5 (or more), and the dealer bet is placed between your stack of chips and the dealer outside of the circle or the designated area so it's clear to the dealer and the eye in the sky (the cameras monitoring the action) that this is a bet for the dealer as opposed to chips you forgot to put on your own stack.
At this point you'll play the hand, and the dealer usually won't acknowledge the bet with a “thank you” until the hand is over and the dealer is either paying off the bet or collecting your money. One thing to keep in mind is that proper etiquette requires that you double the dealer bet during the hand if you're doubling down or splitting your own bet.
In games like craps, there are all sorts of ways to place a bet for all the dealers at the table. One common bet would be to place chips on one of the “hard” numbers, like a hard 8 (which means the dice have to come up with two 4s to win). These bets have a higher payout and the dealers appreciate these bets. If you're betting the hard 8 yourself, you might place two chips on the table in front of the dealer and say “two way hard 8.” The dealer will understand that one chip is a bet for you and the other is for the dealers (the smaller one in case you place a $5 chip and a $1 chip).
In terms of when or how much to tip, that's totally up to you. There's no 15% or 20% rule, and it really boils down to common sense and how you feel about the situation and the dealer. Most players are happy to tip when they're winning, and Vegas etiquette would be to take care of the dealer when you're winning a pile of money. Most people would tip along the way from time to time with bets for the dealer as described above, though sometimes you'll see winners hand the dealer some chips when you're leaving the table after a big run. Another good time to tip is after you're had a nice run of great hands, or maybe a huge double-down win or blackjack.
Other times you'll want to tip just because a dealer is very friendly and is showing everyone a good time. A good dealer can make the entire session fun for everyone, and unless you're losing badly you probably want to place some bets for him or her. Conversely, you can throw out a small tip just to loosen the dealer up in the hope that the table will become more fun.
Finally, most people rarely tip when they're losing, and no dealer is going to expect tips when the cards aren't going your way. If you go to a table and have a bad run, leaving without tipping is entirely appropriate. That said, some players like to tip even when they're losing with the idea of changing the karma at the table.
So have a great time on your next Vegas trip and hopefully you'll be one of those winners who understands the importance of acknowledging the dealers.
Check out our Get Real Guide for Men regularly for more tips for the everyman!