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.Brought to you by Your Poker Dealer