MCU poker tip: How tipping is like the rake

You should think of tipping in poker the same as the rake. The winners of the pots pay. Therefore, there’s a penalty for winning, and you need to play somewhat more conservatively.

When the method of paying the house is seat rental (called “collection” in some places), everyone pays the same amount and there’s no penalty for winning pots. In that case, you can play marginal hands that average only pennies in profit.

No penalty

With tipping, a few professional players pay a fixed amount when a dealer sits down or after he or she is done with the typically half-hour shift. If you do this, and don’t vary the amount — win or lose — there’s no tip penalty for winning pots, and you can actually play somewhat looser.

So, the way you approach tipping in poker requires a strategy adjustment. If you tip in the traditional way — whenever you win a meaningful pot — then you’re essentially adding to the rake. Since the rake is a penalty placed on the winner of the pot, it means many borderline hands that could be played profitably in a time-charge game cannot be played at all. Add a traditional tip and the restriction on hands you can play profitably is a little more severe.

Tighten up

When you rent your seat, instead of paying rakes, you can select more hands to play. But if you tip, even though rental and not rake applies, you need to tighten up slightly. It’s like adding a partial rake to a rental game. That’s one of the reasons some advanced players pay dealers by the half-hour. It’s theoretically the same as a time charge and doesn’t affect your poker strategy.

In case you’re curious, I almost always follow the traditional method of tipping. I tip when I win pots. But that’s a personal choice. — MC

Published by

Mike Caro

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Known as the “Mad Genius of Poker,” Mike Caro is generally regarded as today's foremost authority on poker strategy, psychology, and statistics. He is the founder of Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy (MCU). See full bio → HERE.

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