Tournament Tipping

This may be a touchy subject for quite a few tournament players as it may seem like I/we the dealers are acting greedy. This is actually a commonly asked subject when people are asking me questions. What should I tip at the end of a tournament or how do dealers get paid for tournaments.

For cash games we make our money per hand. If we deal 15-25 hands for a half hour at a poker table we make tips for each hand that our wonderful customers choose to tip. For tournaments everything is based on a pooled “fund” for the tourney. When I first started dealing the tourney structures were terrible. Can you imagine the world series of poker for years would give out chip for chip value for the tourneys. For example the $1500 would get 1500 in chips. Of course they would have very long levels and slow structures but still 1500 in chips for a $1500 tourney? The main event got $10000 in chips for the $10000 main event. If you give 10000 in chips for a $100 local tourney  players would complain. For larger tourneys a % of the prize pool was put into the “fund” for the dealers plus whatever they tipped at the end.

When dealers push into a tournament table you may see them sign in to some sort of tracking system, whether its automated or just pen and paper. What happens is all these “downs” as we call them, are also totaled up. So lets take a $200 local tourney. There are a few ways for dealers to get money before the tourney starts. First is a dealer appreciation that comes right off the top with the house “juice”. So for our $200 tournament, 20 may go to the house, 5 to the dealers and 175 to the prize pool. A second way is with add ons. The house will give you an additional amount of starting chips for the tournament if you add on 5 or 10 dollars, which typically goes right to the “fund”. The third way is just taking a percentage right out of the prize pool. So for our example $200 tourney 5% goes to the dealers so 10 of the 200 and 190 to the prize pool.

When players cash they have the box for the dealers which is obviously the tips. Let me tell you most guys except the top couple are pretty pissed off at the way they got knocked out and usually don’t tip too well. The formula is all the tips and the add ons or appreciations are pooled up and then divided by the total “fund”. This gives us an amount per “down” dealt. Some dealers may get 1 down per tourney or some may deal their whole night in the tournament. Depending on the place you work for and how much they appreciate their dealers the way they structure the total payout can be on par with cash games or much, much worse.

Back when everyone thought they were Chris Moneymaker the structures were terrible, the economy was good and people loved poker. The total number of “downs” in tournaments was much less and so our pay per down was very nice. As many of you have noticed, the competition for your tourney dollar has forced casinos to fix the structures. More chips, more levels. What most of you wouldn’t even think about is that with more chips and levels there are a lot more dealer downs into the exact same prize pools. People are also tipping less as they feel this is their hobby or job and cuts on their bottom line. We understand this, not much we can do about it. The problem is that with more chips, levels and hands played, how much MORE do you have to be lucky? How many times were you saved in a coin flip or even worse dominated by  a bigger pair and hit your two outer? We work hard to provide very fair, accurate and fast paced tournaments. If the house doesn’t increase our “fund” with an adequate add on, percentage of the prize pool or appreciation, we can only hope that the players will reward us with good tips. From experience this is increasingly not the case.

If someone asks me about what to tip the dealers, based on all this information, I feel 5% is a good starting point. I’m not saying this because I’m being greedy, its because tournament downs are on average HALF of what a cash game down is. The factors or the house not adjusting our fund, the tips not being anywhere near what they used to be, and the fact that players are spoiled with huge starting stacks and levels that play well into the late night. With all this you should remember the dealers that are saving your ass multiple times during the tourney. If you cash, think back to how many times you got it in bad and should’ve been knocked out? Who saved you? That’s right => This guy(or girl). Of course it’s your money and all tips are appreciated, but since I get this question quite a bit, this was my extended answer.

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11 thoughts on “Tournament Tipping

  • September 5, 2014 at 11:35 am
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    Does the size of the tournament make a difference on the percentage one would tip. I usually play low buy in tournaments for recreation, 50.00 to 100.00 with small field sizes of 27 or so players. If I cash in those I try to give 10-20% back but figured that in a larger tournament 200.00 to 500.00 buy in I would tip 5% – 10% which would likely be quite a bit larger tip than the low buy in recreational tournaments. What do you think?

    What about a 1600.00 tournament?

    Reply
    • September 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm
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      Great question. It all depends on what the house does for the dealers. They should disclose or you can ask when you get paid. Small buy ins generally don’t have big prize pools, but they usually have quick structures. 5-10% is perfect. With $100-$300 tourneys if they have long structures the prize pool isn’t that great and lots of dealer downs so 5-8% is nice.

      With the bigger tournaments like the 1k-2k they have long structures but generally have nice prize pools to tip from and good dealer percentage or add ons. 3-5%

      Reply
  • September 5, 2014 at 5:23 pm
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    “If you cash, think back to how many times you got it in bad and should’ve been knocked out? Who saved you?”

    I’ve heard it said that dealers deliver the mail, they don’t write it. In other words, I tip for service not based on how lucky I was.

    Reply
    • September 5, 2014 at 7:07 pm
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      So how many times have you tipped at the end when you didn’t cash?

      Reply
  • September 5, 2014 at 6:34 pm
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    While I agree totally with your main theme, you completely lost me at the end when you say dealers deserve tips because you saved us with a certain card on the river (paraphrasing). If that’s the case, what do you deserve when you put my opponent’s one-outer on the river? Can I reach into to your pocket and help myself to some chips for that?

    You deserve to be tipped fairly for keeping the tournament flowing smoothly, for doing your job accurately and reasonably fast, for keeping all the players in line, etc.

    But if you want to take credit for that river card that saved me, do you want to take the blame for the river card that busted me?

    You know you don’t mean that.

    I’ve done blog posts complaining about players not tipping or tipping poorly. Your post was excellent up to the point where you are asking for tips because you put the “right” cards on the board.

    Unless you are cheating on our behalf? I don’t think that’s what you meant.

    Reply
    • September 5, 2014 at 7:13 pm
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      My point is that we get paid minimum wage. The rest is expected to be made up through add ons and tipping at the end. I watch the percentage of tips go down every year. With longer structures you are getting more “labor” out of the dealers for less money. Like I said I will piss off some of the tourney regulars who are by far the worst tippers at the end. The ones who play the most and give the least. So if you are tipping 1% for service I highly doubt that. You can tell yourself that but I’m sure you are the one complaining the structure isn’t long enough. Where does a good structure come from? A bunch of minimum wage employees “donating” more of their time so you don’t have to whine about it. I’m expressing my opinion that 5% would bring it closer to our cash game wages. This is what we are worth.

      Reply
      • September 5, 2014 at 9:27 pm
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        I agree about the tipping 100%., I just don’t think you want to make your case for it based on whether or not a player gets good cards, that’s all. Of course, it would be nice if the casinos just paid you enough without us having to tip, but that’s not the world we live in.

        Reply
        • September 5, 2014 at 11:46 pm
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          It was just a small part of the argument. If you cash you obviously ran good. I saw a guy get it all in 8 times behind, win all 8, on the final table and win the tourney for 100k and tip $100

          Reply
  • October 19, 2014 at 4:18 pm
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    Its enemy’s you didn’t talk about the Dealer toke fee we usually give at sign up. Isn’t that payment for all the dealers as we’ll?

    Reply
    • October 19, 2014 at 4:28 pm
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      The “add on” or “appreciation” goes to the dealers, but there are so many dealer “downs” it’s not very much at all. It’s just a base at what “should” be tipped. Of course it won’t happen, the sad part is the less we make in tourneys the poorer the service.

      Reply
  • October 6, 2016 at 6:51 am
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    I agree with most of what was said, as well as most of your blog post. I appreciate the dealers for the job they do and the service they provide. I highly doubt that most players tip when they don’t cash in a tournament. I suppose that is just how it is. However, when I cash I always believe in tipping, and I’ve witnessed that most players that cash will tip. In the low-stakes (under $200) tournaments it’s common that there is prize-pool splitting at the end. When that happens, most of us normally make an agreement that we all tip $XX from our winnings. This helps put peer pressure on some that are cheap so we are all tipping a fair and equal amount to compensate the dealers.

    Reply

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