Tips on tips for those coming to Vegas

This is a republish of a blog I did this spring at another site.  I’m transitioning here and this info still applies so I thought I’d share it here.

I apologize for my blogging absence.  If you were to see my poker log, you’d see that I’ve been spending a lot of time at the tables and not at my computer desk.  Despite layoffs, purse strings tightening and all this talk of recession, the tables have been good.  Even better, it seems stupid people haven’t given up gambling.

However, I have noticed a different type of cost cutting going on and my friends who work as dealers have confirmed it.  It comes in the form of tips. I thought I’d help out those of you who don’t know what tipping practices might be in my fine city and out some of you cheapos, educating you on a little good karma.

Las Vegas is very much a city that is built on service.  Greased palms, the $5 handshake, or a bill slipped in a g-string (if that’s your thing) just add to the experience.  Most anyone in a customer service occupation makes most of their living off of tips.  You should see it in their service.

When people come to Las Vegas, I see several people who aren’t sure what to do.  Maybe the tipping standard is different where they’re from.  Maybe they haven’t played a live game before.  So, here’s a guide.

At the poker table – In a cash game you genreally tip at least a buck for a pot, unless all you’ve won is the blinds.  For a tournament, you subtract your buy in from your winning and tip on the profits…. somewhere between 5-10% is pretty standard. If you happen to win a high hand, that’s essentially free money and 5-10% is also a good rule.

Also an important note: Poker dealers in Las Vegas each keep their own tips.  They don’t pool them.  So, you tip the dealer that gave you the winning hand, don’t wait until the end of night to see how you end up overall.  I consider the tip as much a cost of doing business as the rake that gets taken out of the pot.  Personally, I happen to know many dealers in my favorite rooms so I wouldn’t consider cheaping out on them.

Valet – a service not everyone employs, but a single girl often does.  Standard is $2-3 when you get your car.  Personally, I always do $5.  That consistency has gotten me a spot in the valet when it may be full to others on more than one occasion.

Cocktail waitress – you don’t pay for your drinks while you’re playing at a Vegas table or slot machine so you generally tip the waitress $1 every time you get a drink.  At the slots, every second drink is passable, so long as you aren’t playing the $5 slots.

Housekeeping – when you tip is up to you.  It’s been my experience that if you tip early in your stay ($3-5) it’s likely you’ll get extras in your room if possible (mouthwash, extra lotion, an extra chocolate on your pillow). At minimum you should also do it again at the end of your stay, at $2-4 per day.

Taxi – The standard is 10-15%.  If you are here on business and want a blank receipt you need to make sure you tip at least $5.  No tip and receipt request, don’t be surprised if the cabbie fills in that receipt for you and documents that they picked you up/dropped you off at one of those fine establishments on Industrial (aka Strip bar central) – good luck then expensing that cab ride.

For those flying, sky cap is at least $1 per bag, I’d lean towards $2.  Same amount for the bellman taking your bags to your room.

Of course, we have those other standard service industries that also rely on tips

Restaurants – good service is usually tipped 15-20%.  Groups are generally charged 18%.  If you’re at the bar, its generally a buck per round, more if you’re doing a bunch of complicated drinks.

Masseuse – For most spa services 15-20% is standard.

**I have to say, this post was inspired by two things.  One was friends in these service industries talking about people feigning ignorance about tipping and just not doing it.  The second was witnessing a Canadian visitor at the poker tables who was blatantly fitting the bad Canadian stereotype.  It can be summed up by the following joke:

Q: What’s the difference between a Canuck and a Canoe?

A: A canoe tips.

Now, I’m originally Canadian, born and raised, and I’m a decent to generous tipper so I’m not sure why Canadians get such a bad rap but I have definitely seen many examples of it.  At the poker tables I’ve seen it bite them in the ass on more than one occasion too.  Open to hearing why Canadians think its ok to be so damn cheap.  It goes directly against the ‘polite Canadian’ image in my opinion.

Feel free to comment if I forgot anyone.  I know I didn’t cover the ladies on Industrial… I’m hoping there’s a guy or two who can provide some enlightment.  That’s just not in my realm of experience.



  1. About housekeeping tip –
    This doesn’t just apply to Vegas but every place. You should tip the housekeeper daily during your stay. The reason is that, if you wait until the end of your stay, then the housekeeper who had been cleaning your room all week might finally have a day off on the last day you end up leaving a tip, and, likely won’t be the one to get your tip. If you tip daily, then it’s more likely that the housekeeper cleaning your room that day will get the tip. And if you know who is going to clean your room, it’s OK to tip him/her personally, as I have heard stories (my mom was a housekeeper) that sometimes the “housemen” or the person who restocks the mini bar will sometimes pocket the tip before the housekeeper gets in to clean the room!

  2. Uh, I play poker professionally, standard tipping for net tournament winnings is 1%-3%. However, I almost always leave nothing as 3% is withheld from the prize pool nearly everywhere in Las Vegas for the dealers/floor staff. To summarize, read the information about a tournament structure as gratuities are often already included in your buy-in, FYI.

    • You’re a cheapskate Kevin. Standard tipping for poker tournaments is generally 5% of your profit. The amount taken to facilitate the tournament is the base rate paid to dealers. It’s not really a tip. Add ons are often directed to the tip pool.

      IMO, to put up with poker players, the dealers deserve something in addition to what the house pays them.

  3. He may be a cheapskate, but the difference between being a winner and a loser in poker is razor thin. If you play professionally and you’re playing a lot of tournaments, you will often experience dry runs that will break you or nearly break you. It’s a tough life, much tougher than the life of a dealer. I think 1-3% is actually generous when you look at the overall exorbitant rake a tournament player usually has to put up with.

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