MathProf thoroughly explained the mathematical side of tipping (“toking”). But I have a simple way of handling the issue: Don’t tip at all, except in special circumstances. Stanford Wong agrees. In Chapter 26 of the e-book version of Professional Blackjack, Stanford wrote:
The problem with tokes, at least in my experience, is
they are not cost effective. When you toke you give up
value but you do not receive any value in return. The
honest dealer dispenses no favors in return for a toke.
Toking will not stop a dealer from shuffling up on you if
you have been identified as a card counter. Toking will
not cause the dealer to deal down closer to the end of the
pack. Toking will not cause the dealer to make an
incorrect payoff. A toke may make a dealer smile, but
will not change the expected value of the next hand.
Usually a toke does not even make the dealer smile. You
derive no benefit from a toke — it only reduces the size
of your win. Tokes are an unnecessary cost of doing
I almost never toke. I gain more in dealer errors than
what I give up in tokes.
Dealers are overpaid. At minimum wage, adding the excessive tipping most ploppies engage in, their actual wage is around $12 per hour at the worst dumps (about $25,000 per year), and around $35 to $40 per hour at the carpet joints (about $75,000 to $85,000 per year).
The high-end dealers make more than most police officers, nurses, or teachers make. Yet the dealer has a job that requires no formal education, no real skills, and only a few weeks of training. Many dealers don't even bother to learn to speak English, and many have minimal or NO "people skills."
Yet people line up to take dealer jobs. Why? Because dealing is a better job than they are able to find elsewhere. There are a few exceptions, particularly bright young people who may be dealers for a short time while going to school or getting ready to embark on other careers, but need immediate employment.
Granted, it's an unpleasant environment and lousy work, frequently dealing with disrespectful, hostile, and often drunken members of the public. I doubt if I, personally, would last a single day as a dealer. But that doesn't take away the fact that there is no dealer shortage anywhere that I'm aware of. So the job must not be that bad for those willing to do it.
I tip generously those who provide a service to me, in positions where tipping is normal and customary, such as in restaurants and cocktail waitresses in casinos. But I don't tip a plumber, electrician, or auto mechanic. They certainly provide a service -- why don't they deserve tips, but a dealer does?
In thousands of hours in casinos, I can think of only a handful of times when dealers went out of their way to provide me with any quantifiable service that should earn them tips -- better penetration, not loudly shouting "checks play," dealing as quickly as they were able, etc. Most dealers are on autopilot; normal working people trying to get through their routine workday. Few know anything about advantage play, and fewer still would recognize the offering of a tip as a subtle request for the better playing conditions that are within their power to dispense.
For the ploppy, who is in the casino to be "entertained," and is willing to lose his or her money for the dubious "entertainment value" they receive, the people skills of the dealer may add value to their entertainment experience. Such a person should, and almost always does, tip the dealer. They are receiving a service from the dealer, in that their time at the table is more pleasant. The ploppy has negative EV and is eventually going to lose all his or her money. I'd rather the dealer gets some of that money than the casino owner.
For an advantage player who is in a casino simply to make money, tipping is a waste, except for the instances that it provides cover and/or longevity. I don't care if the dealer is pleasant or not. In fact, my favorite type of dealer is one who deals quickly and never says a word -- a deaf mute would be the perfect dealer. No useless, idle chit-chat, no nosy questions. Just the cards flying as fast as possible, to maximize my hands-per-hour.
Other than at the times when tipping buys cover and/or longevity, it's just another business expense that can usually be cut out. Would you pay a higher price for gasoline because the gas station cashier is pleasant? Would you pay a higher price than you have to for any commodity product? Needlessly giving away a portion of your profit is the same thing. It directly affects your bottom line. I don't see the point in deliberately lowering profit for no good reason.
Some disagree. My friend Don Schlesinger has said:
I would like to raise another side to the toking controversy:
Would you normally eat in a restaurant and not tip a
satisfactory waitress? Would you normally take a cab ride
and not tip a satisfactory driver? If the answers are “No,” then
the reason has to be one of social acceptability and custom.
Cab drivers and waitresses could not work at those
professions without counting as expected revenue the
tips that go with the job. And saying that they provide
a service is not the answer. The arena usher who takes you to your
seat never gets tipped here; in France he always does. ...
I am fully aware that when I do tip I do it solely
because I believe the dealers work hard, have no union,
no job security, and work for tips.
Don and I have agreed to disagree on this topic. For me, it’s still: Don’t tip at all, except in special circumstances.