Always Tip Your Dealer

dealerBlackjack dealers are some of the most interesting people you will ever meet.  Their job is a mix of entertainer, counselor, teacher, cheerleader and salesperson.  Just like any profession there are people who show up to earn a paycheck and some that truly enjoy what they do.

I always try to have some level of rapport with my dealer and I have no problem changing tables if the dealer has a poor personality or attitude.  If you’re going to spend a decent amount of time with someone and potentially lose money you at least want to do it with someone you can tolerate.

In all my conversations with dealers they typically will chat about almost any possible topic from casino gossip to receipe ideas, but the thing one item they tend to be coy on is appropriate tipping amounts for dealers.

I do my best to be consistent and generous and when I’ve had the occasional dealer or pit boss who will give more than a ‘whatever feels comfortable’ response I feel that I’m in line or above the average tipper.  These folks don’t make much money on an hourly basis so  tips are an important part of their livihood.

So how much do you tip your blakcjack dealer?  This is by no means iron clad, and if you are a dealer please weigh in, but my advice is to tip in proportion to your wagers and your wins.

If you sit down with $100 and get wiped out in 10 minutes then you might not tip or throw the dealer a few bucks if they are very friendly.  However, if you sit down with $500, play for an hour or more and walk away with $800 you should have been tipping the dealer along the way to the tune of $20 – $60 bucks.

If you bet for the dealer along the way you can actually make your tips work harder – for the beginner a bet for the dealer is when you place a chip in front of your own bet and when you win the dealer wins giving them a tip double your original amount.

I typically place a bet for the dealer after I win a blackjack hand or when I’m on a good run and win a double or split hand.  I will also throw the dealer $5 to $50 after a session if they were fun to play with, the bets I’ve placed with them along the way didn’t win often, or I’ve won a solid amount.

The dealer doesn’t control your cards, but they can make or break your overall experience at the tables so make sure you treat them well.

How do You Compare to the Average Las Vegas Gambler?

I’m a huge fan of data, gaming and Las Vegas so when I saw the 2013 Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Visitor Profile Study came out I eagerly dug in to see how my gaming habits compared.  Not surprisingly I’m at the high end for some of the gaming related stats and on the low end on the entertainment activities.

In the tradition of Jeff Foxworthy here is a little ‘You Might Be a Gambler If…’

  • You visit Las Vegas more than 1.7x per year
  • You spend more than 2.9 hours/day gambling while in Vegas
  • You budget more than $529.57 for gaming per trip to Las Vegas

I recently did another post asking if gamblers are a dying breed and this survey suggests that we may not be dying, but in Las Vegas other activities are definitely taking a larger share of the overall pie.

There is an interesting mix of factors, on one hand 15% of visitors said their primary purpose of the visit was to gamble, which is the highest number since 2009 and almost double the 8% figure in 2012.  On the flip side of that stat is only 71% of total visitors gambled during their trip, this stat has consistently declined from an 83% high in 2009.

My take on this – the economy is back so conventions and Vegas leisure trips are picking up which means the pool of people visiting Vegas is growing so the percent of gamers in that larger pool is shrinking.  On the flip side the average gambler now has a little more money in their pocket so they can afford to make a dedicated gaming trip so the gaming only trip is also on the rise.

Overall Vegas is picking up momentum again and that is a good thing for everyone whether you are a blackjack player, club kid, or foodie.

Say Less, Play More Please


Even though I prefer to play blackjack by myself, I’m a fairly nice guy to play with if you happen to sit at my table.  I generally keep a low profile, give a fist bump for a big win, cheer for you to get a 10 on an Ace, and have friendly conversation with the dealers.  The one thing that will turn me against you is if you try to tell me how I should play my cards.

On the list of my personal blackjack etiquette faux pas this is near the top of the irritaion charts.  I will give you my opinion if you ask me directly, if you ask the dealer and they are the wishy-washy type who won’t commit to an answer, or you read this blog – otherwise you play your cards however you’d like and let me do the same.  And if you don’t like how I play a hand, pick up your chips and move to another table, that’s exactly what I will do when you play a way that bothers me or you try to give me advice.

At low-limit tables I can give it a pass in many cases people are being friendly and assume you aren’t a regular player.  At the higher limit tables the advice givers tend to think they know better than everyone else and want to control the game.

To be fair I had a short stretch when I thought I was the only one who had figured out a decent system and gave advice to a few unlucky folks who sat down.  Luckily I caught myself when another advice giver started spouting off and I could see my reflection in his annoying behavior.

I look forward to sitting next to you at my table as long as you let me play my way and you play yours – enough said.

Don’t Go Wasting Your Emotions

I pounded the table, a chip was lodged under the rail which made the rail bounce back and rattle more than it should have as my stack of chips tumbled over.  This was at Ballys Las Vegas and the music was off so everyone within three tables around me including the pit boss all turned and stared.  I kept my head down, embarrased, stacked my chips back and quickly placed my next bet.

I wish I could say this was years ago when I was young and impetuous, but this was early 2014 and I should have known better.  Yes the errant chip under the rail made it worse than it really was, but I’ve played enough hands to know that even when it looks like you have a big hand won anything can (and usually does) happen.

In this case I had a $75 bet, split 8s to make it $150 against a 5 – split hands were 17 & 18 vs a 5 + K, next card was a 5 which was one of the three cards that could beat me.  Yes it was a bad beat, but no excuse for showing emotion.  

Inexperienced players always lament the bad beat, but it so often happens that the dealer hits the one card that can beat you.  The best way to handle a big loss is the same way you should handle a big win – a small under your breath curse on the loss and a mini table knock on the win.

In a nutshell – act like you’ve been there before.

At Casinos Time Usually Means Less Money

In the movie Casino there is a great scene where Robert De Niro fakes a broken private jet to keep a high roller in town for another night knowing that he would lose back the money he had just won.  This is a perfect illustration of a rule that everyone in the casino industry knows to be true -> more time at the tables = more money for the casino.

It is simple math – if every game has better odds for the house than for the players then the longer you play the more money goes into the vault.  The dealers and pit bosses know this fact and they almost always will give you the advice to take your winnings and run before you give it back, even though they know you probably won’t listen.

I’ve known this to be true since I first started playing blackjack, but it has consistently been the hardest thing for me to get right.  A perfect example is my last trip to the tables when I won around $1000, but came home with only $500 because I was too stubborn to step away or at least change tables when I was ahead and the momentum started to turn against me.

The worst part of my mistake is that I knew the cards had gone cold, the dealer knew my luck had turned, there were plenty of other tables available, and I had no one to blame but myself.  This was a self-inflicted loss and it is hard enough to make money playing blackjack so you can’t help the casinos and expect to end up on the right side of the balance sheet on a regular basis.   

Are Gamblers a Dying Breed?

I’m very intrigued by the entire casino industry and how they make decisions on the best way to separate me from my money.  One recent line of discussion that I’ve been following is the consistent stream of news about the declining role of gaming as a percentage of casino revenue and the challenges this is posing to destinations that haven’t diversified.

Atlantic City is on the verge of shuttering casinos, regional casinos are not growing at their pre-recession pace, and on the Las Vegas Strip the revenue composition has changed from roughly 60% driven by gaming down to roughly 40% in 2013.  With all this news you’d think that gaming is going extinct.  The truth is a little more complicated.

If you look at total gaming revenue the current environment is slightly below the pre-recession levels, but it has grown from the late 90s and early 2000s.  When I talk to my inside sources – dealers and cab drivers in Vegas – they are fairly pessimistic.  Their general view is that Vegas and other gaming destinations have turned a corner and have decided that night clubs and entertainment are their future rather than the hard-core gaming crowd.

My personal opinion is that the gaming industry is poised for a growth spurt.  Macau is booming, Japan may open up, and Las Vegas has tons of upside if the average American can just add a few extra bucks in their pockets they want to blow it in Vegas – and the average American doesn’t hang out at high-end night clubs with $20 Bud Lights.

I do think that the Vegas Strip and regional casinos could do themselves a favor and make a little more room for the lower rollers – my friends don’t play as much as I do and feel like even a $15 blackjack table can be a bit expensive so when they get on the floor and can’t find a seat at the lower limit tables or sometimes even find a table that is in their price range.

I’m sure super analytical people are crunching numbers and making these decisions, but in my casual observers opinion the big casinos are pricing out the casual player in many occasions.  Next time I meet a casino exec at a conference I’m very interested to hear their POV on this theory.

The Gambler Is a Wise Man

‘You gotta know when to walk away, know when to run’ – Kenny Rogers is a wise man.  My last trip to the casino was productive, but in reviewing my play I left another $500+ at the tables by not listening to the gambler’s sage advice.

At the first table I was playing alone and running slightly better than break-even when another player sat next to me and instantly turned the tide in his favor and away from me.  I knew this was bad for me as soon as he sat down and after losing $100 I knew I should cut my losses and leave, but instead I stuck around and watched my entire $300 buy-in go away.

After that weak performance I staged a comeback at a $50 table and turned a $500 buy-in to $1400 at one point and then rode that high down to a respectable $1200, but then was stubborn and didn’t listen to my inner voice, stayed with the same table and ended up at $800 when I finally pulled the rip cord.  At my last table of the day I again went on a strong run and turned $500 into $1200, then rode out the last shoe to end at $1000.

The moral of the above story is much like the old horror movie when the house moans ‘get out’ and your gut says it’s time to get out then GET OUT!  Take the money, don’t get greedy, move to another table and start your run over again.  It seems easy enough, but even after hundreds of sessions I still have to learn when to walk away.