Friday, December 26, 2008

Here's a tip for partying at casinos on New Year's Eve

A long time ago in a desolate land beyond the mountains (Nevada) I worked as a craps dealer at casinos in Las Vegas. Such work varies between incredibly fun and infuriating, with New Year's Eve being one of the most difficult nights to work. It is a crazy busy night because people want to go out and have fun. They are more interested in drinking than gambling, which would be OK, except people usually end up drunk at a gambling table.

Many of my experiences from my days as a casino dealer are recounted in a book I wrote called Get Dicey: Play Craps and Have Fun. The book explains in detail everything about craps, which is a fascinating and fun game.

As many people are getting ready to hit the casinos to celebrate New Year's Eve, I am providing this excerpt from the chapter in Get Dicey that concerns etiquette.


Working for a Living

The last item of etiquette to consider concerns your dealers. Although working the games can be a glamorous exciting job, the dealers, and many other members of the casino staff, rely on the gratuity of players. Dealers are paid very low wages, usually close or at minimum wage. The generosity of other people allows dealers to have a reasonable existence within society.

In other words, dealers make a living from tips.

How much should you tip a dealer? No set method for calculating a tip exists because the circumstances of players’ experiences can vary widely. As a rule though, tip if you win. A winner who gives the staff nothing is a bitter disappointment to the workers.

The best way to tip is to do it while you are playing. That way, win or lose, you have compensated your dealers for their efforts. The most common method for tipping the dealers is to place a bet for them. Table limits do not have to be observed for a dealer bet. On a $5 game a $2 bet for the dealer is fine. Of course, dealers like big bets too.

When deciding what kind of bet to make for your dealers, remember that dealers love pass line bets like Scooby Doo loves Scooby Snacks. Many well-meaning players put dollars up for the dealers on prop bets, but because prop bets have such a low chance of winning, they usually lose. It is like being paid in lottery scratchers.
It is also acceptable just to give the dealers a tip. For example, if you won a big bet, you can just toss back $5 to $25 and say “for the dealers.”

If you happen to get lucky and win a couple thousand dollars, it would be appropriate to give the dealers $100 or $200, depending on the size of your heart. A player who tips generously, even lavishly, will be dubbed “George” by the dealers. It is the code name that dealers use to inform each other who is paying their bills. George gets better service, genuinely friendly smiles, and good karma.
The situation can occur in which you lose all your money very fast and you feel completely dissatisfied with the experience. Dealers will understand if you do not tip in such a situation.

Why should you tip your dealers? Essentially, because they need to eat (at least until they are replaced by robots), but it also should gain you better and friendlier service. A craps dealer who is being tipped should keep an eye on your interests. Did you forget to bet your odds on a come bet because you were talking to the cocktail server? The dealer will remind you. In general, tips make dealers happy, which should make your experience more entertaining. If a dealer remains cloddish and rude after you have displayed tipping behavior, you can save your money. A person who does not try to deserve a tip needs to get a clue.

Another point to mention is that dealers actually do work hard. Players see them go on break every hour and think dealers have it cushy, but believe me those breaks are necessary. A dealer, no matter what the game, has to be completely mentally tuned to his or her game when dealing. It is mentally taxing, and the attention span on the average human only holds for about fifty minutes.

Dealing is also very physically demanding. The people are on their feet and bending their backs. They earn the money they make.

I will acknowledge, however, that dice dealers are notoriously lazy as cats. This is just because they are conserving their energy for a hot game. They are like the floating crocodiles waiting for the wildebeest herds to enter the river. That is when the work needs to be done. When things get busy, a dice dealer can lose weight during a hectic shift.

Hopefully you have not found the rules, superstitions, and behavior suggestions too oppressive. Having a good time is completely the point of playing craps at a casino. Whoop it up and try not to hit anyone with your elbows. Minding your dice player manners will also let you experience the little subculture that can emerge at the craps tables. The experience really can be splendid. Casinos can be civilized places too, almost like Rick’s CafĂ© Americain from the classic film Casablanca where Nazis chat gently with their fugitives.


In these difficult times tipped employees are often suffering from significant drops in their income. So, if you can afford to go out and party on New Year's Eve remember to spread the happiness around.

And if you'd like to learn how to play craps or at least prevent your buddies from throwing away their cash on terrible bets, read Get Dicey. In addition to paperback, it is availabe in an instant download ebook.