McHaffie: MCU lesson 094 / Tipping

Note: Not at the old Poker1 site. A version of this entry was first published in Poker Player newspaper in 2007.

This is part of a series by Diane McHaffie. She wasn’t a poker player when she began writing this series. These entries chronicle the lessons given to her personally by Mike Caro. Included in her remarkable  poker-learning odyssey are additional comments, tips, and observations from Mike Caro.

Diane McHaffie index.

Diane McHaffie is Director of Operations at Mike Caro University of Poker, Gaming, and Life Strategy. She has traveled the world coordinating events and seminars in the interest of honest poker. You can write her online at

Diane McHaffie

Lessons from MCU

— With bonus content by Mike Caro (pending) —

Lesson 94: Should you tip the dealer?

How much should you tip in a real-world poker game? Should you tip at all? Many dealers only earn minimum wage or a little more? I know, I was surprised, too. Tips are important to them.

You probably agree that it’s proper to tip when you win pots. Mike feels that even professional players in big games should routinely tip the dealers, even though some don’t.

Skilled, conservative players will pay less in tips. Why? Because these players aren’t involved in as many pots, so they win fewer, therefore paying tips less frequently.


Surprisingly, lower-limit games often earn the dealers more in tips than bigger games. This is because people involved in the smaller games tend to be more generous with their chips. To them, those chips are purely recreational and expendable. Mike says that another reason lower-limit games might be more lucrative for dealers is that some big-game players simply tend to be stingy.

Beware! Over-tipping will eat into your winnings. If you aren’t winning a considerable amount, then tipping is going to make a significant difference. Mike’s tipping is often rather generous despite his warnings. Mike says that it makes him “feel good” to tip the dealers. And I’ve seen him hand $100 bills to strangers, just as an unexpected token of thanks to them for doing a good deed or a good job. Still, at poker, Mike advises professionals to tip what’s appropriate – usually $1 or $2 a pot and only occasionally more if the pot is enormous. He says that if you add it all together at the end of the year, tipping excessively, rather than tipping appropriately, can make the difference between losing and winning.

Strategy is affected

Set a course of action for tipping and stick to it. If you’re playing in $3/$6 games and the pots are pretty small, you shouldn’t feel the need to tip at all – or tip just 50 cents. On medium pots you should probably tip a dollar, and on the bigger pots, $1 or $2. The $1 or $2 tip would still apply to most larger pots in $5/$10 games or even if you’re playing in much bigger games than that. Many players think the size of tips increases in big games, but this isn’t always true. Professionals often feel they’re paying a gratuity for the same service, no matter what size of game. In restaurants, you tip by the amount of the check; but in poker it’s not customary to tip by the size of the game.

Strategically, tipping affects which hands you can play. Factor in how much profit from a pot will be subtracted by the tip. Mike says you need to avoid playing a lot of medium strength hands, just because of the tipping. These hands would average a tiny profit in the long run if there were no tipping, but because there is, they’re actually unprofitable. Yes, tipping really does affect strategy!

A few players will pay the new dealer a set amount as he or she comes to or leaves the table. Then they can play the medium hands as well as the strong ones, because how many hands they win won’t change the amount. This alternative tipping strategy is something you might consider – but be sure to explain to the dealer the unusual manner in which you intend to tip, so it will be understood in advance.


Mike recommends tipping four-to-five percent in a large tournament. In smaller tournaments, with smaller prizes, tips from five to 10 percent are not uncommon. Even if you don’t finish first, but place high in the money, you should still tip. Factor in your entry fee, buy-ins, and re-buys and subtract that from your profit to determine how much to tip.

So, tipping is proper. But tipping diminishes your bankroll, so tip reasonably. — DM

Next entry in Lessons from MCU seriess


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