Dealers - FAQ

Great site! I am interested in your thoughts on card clumping. The theories I have read seem to have some merit in regard to the method dealers now use to pick up cards (naturals first, then breaks, and finally standing hands), and then insufficient shuffling of 8-deck shoes to fully mathematically randomize. This would seem to lead to a reduced probability of dealer busting, thus breaking down the Basic Strategy odds. Keep up the great work!

Bob from Hooksett, New Hampsire

I haven't studied card clumping, but in my opinion it is not a legitimate advantage play. I have never known a professional gambler or writer I respect to give card clumping any respect.

How much do casino dealers generally get paid?

Eric from Columbia, USA

For this question I deferred to a friend of mine who is a blackjack dealer in Biloxi, here is what she says:

Every casino differs as far as tokes however there is somewhat of an average. Your typical dealer will average anywhere from $9 - $11 in tips and makes an hourly wage of $4.50 to $5.00 per hour. So I always like to think we average $15 an hour. Some of the bigger casinos like the Grand and Beau Rivage, however, make more than that. Their toke rates stay at $14, $15 and $16 per hour so they make close to $20 an hour (that's including their hourly base pay). You only get benefits (insurance, 401-K) if you are a full-time employee. Some casinos will make you a full-time employee automatically after 90 days while other casinos will keep you part-time until full-time positions are available.

I'm a dealer at Casino Niagara and want to know what the odds of a dealer making a hand are when the up card is a 5. It seems to me and the other dealers that we all agree that we make a hand more times than not, and usually a good one at that. Also, what are the odds of a dealer having a blackjack with an ace as an up card?

John from Niagara Falls, Canada

You're right, it is more likely the dealer will make a pat hand. From my blackjack appendix 2, the following are the probabilities of the dealer's final total given a 5 as an up card. This assumes the dealer stands on a soft 17, which I believe is what you do.

  • 17: 12.23%
  • 18: 12.23%
  • 19: 11.77%
  • 20: 11.31%
  • 21: 10.82%
  • bust: 41.64%

Assuming 8 decks, there are 16*8=128 10 point cards in the deck. Eliminating the ace there are 52*8-1=415 possible cards under the ace. Thus the odds of a blackjack are 128/415 = 30.84%.

Mike, On my last trip to Vegas, a dealer I've come to know said he was "toying with the idea" of standing on a 16 against a dealer's 7 because only 5 of the 8 cards give the dealer an automatic win. How does this strategy play out?

Chris from Gaithersburg, Maryland

This would be a bad play. For example, my blackjack appendix 9B shows the return both ways by playing 10 and 6 cards against a dealer 7. Hitting has an expected loss of 39.6% of the bet. However, standing has an expected loss of 47.89%. There is no easy explanation I can give why hitting is better. You have to consider everything that can happen, weight it by its probability, and take the sum. Overall hitting is better of two bad plays.

I wonder if you could comment on the Casino practice of switching dealers. It always seems to happen that the table is on a winning streak and then the casino switches dealers mid-shoe. All of a sudden, everyone starts to lose. Do you think that certain dealers tip the balance more in the casino's favor?

Hobbes from Toronto, Canada

The casinos switch dealers when it is time for someone to go on a break or go home. Switching dealers does not change the player's odds unless the player is a card counter and the game is single- or double-deck, where a new dealer necessitates a fresh shuffle.

Love your site! In your blackjack section, you discuss tipping, but you don't suggest an amount. I'm going to Vegas for the first time in about two weeks, and I never knew you were supposed to tip dealers AT ALL, let alone how much. Do you have any recommendations on tip amounts?

Sarah from Chicago, USA

There is no firm standard but I would recommend tipping about half your average bet per hour. More for good service, less for bad.

Mr. Wizard, cool web site. Recently I was playing Blackjack and myself and friends were very generous to the dealer playing tip hands for him. We roughly broke even after about an hour or so. Later in the night I was playing Deuces wild poker. The dealer from the BJ table came over to deal and I played some tip hands for him again. I hit a Wild Royal for about $1600 and about 20 min later hit a straight flush for another large win. My question is this, since there was only 1 deck and I was the only player and the dealer shuffled and cut the cards himself do you think he may have set the deck because I was generous to him?

Mike from Jacksonville, USA

That was nice of you to tip generously. The Wizard definitely supports tipping the dealers when given good service. I’m 99% sure that you were just lucky. If the dealer did have the ability and will to cheat for the players he probability would have arranged for an accomplice to get the big wins and they would have split the money later. I have heard of stories of dealer overpaying players who tipped well, as long as they always tipped back a portion of the overpayments. Of course I don’t approve of any form of cheating.

I thought your information on tipping was helpful. My question is how do you tip at a black jack table? Where do you put it, when do you tip, how much do you tip?

Brian from Greensburg, U.S.

The vast majority of the time the player makes a bet for the dealer. This is done by putting the tip on the edge of the betting circle, close to the dealer. Think of the tip as orbiting around your bet, where the betting circle is the path of the orbit. If you double down you may or may not also double the dealer’s tip. If you split then I believe you must also make another bet for the dealer. Sometimes when a player leaves the table he will just leave a tip for the dealer, like on a table in a restaurant.

You’ve already shown me how to be profitable playing Craps. Thanks! Now your site is teaching me Blackjack. One question: When you’ve got, say, two 5’s and you want to Double Down, you say to put an additional wager next to your original bet. How does the dealer know you don’t mean to split? Thanks! Your site rocks!


Thank you for the compliment. To answer your question the dealer will just ask you what you want to do. Normally all decisions in blackjack must be visible, however this is the only exception I can think of. However if you want to avoid being asked when it is your turn simply hold up you index finger to denote that you want one card. Most dealers know what this means. Coincidentally I just learned yesterday that in Bulgaria if you wish to double you put your extra bet behind the original bet, and if you want to split you put it next to the original bet.

Another reader wrote in to state that in North Dakota it is the state law to follow the Bulgarian rule for doubling and splitting.

You have a very good site but I think it puts too much of a priority on minimizing the house edge and not enough on minimizing volatility. Don’t you think the player is trying to minimize both? Perhaps you should put more of an emphasis on bankroll longevity.


While you may like a low-volatility game the next guy may like a high-volatility game. I do indicate the standard deviation of most games here but that is about as far as I care to go with this angle. I believe the gambler should pick his game partially according to its volatility but once playing always play by the proper strategy and never hedge your bets.

In an earlier column you expressed the opinion that dealers should be allowed to keep their own tips. You are way off base on this one. Here is what typically happens when dealers are allowed to "keep their own" at least in Washington in the Seattle-Tacoma area. If you are a female you will do well, if you are an Asian male you will also do well, if you are an Asian female you will do even better, if you are a BEAUTIFUL Asian female you have hit the jackpot! If you are a white male like me well good luck to you buddy because you are going to need it!! So I must disagree with you when you say "Keeping one’s own tips is an incentive for good service, which benefits everybody."

One Asian female dealer where I work regularly does $200 or more a night in tips. She has done this dozens and dozens of times. I have done it once or twice. Is she doing something so completely different than what I do? I hardly think so. In fact I know so because she and I both worked at another casino where I was a floor supervisor and she dealt (we both deal at the casino where we are now) and she didn’t do anything special. In fact she hardly said anything at all to the players!


You make a good point. However I could argue that is violates open market economics to have women subsidizing men or Asians subsidizing Caucasians. That is essentially what is happening by tip sharing, by your own argument. As one white male to another I sympathize with your situation but I am also against institutionalized favoritism according to race or gender. So I believe that tip sharing should be optional.

I am a dealer in a small rural casino and disagree with your comments against tip sharing (April 4 2004 column). The reasons tip sharing would not work here are:

  1. A dealer works the same game for an entire shift. There is a big disparity in how players tip depending on the game. For example Caribbean Stud and Let it Ride players are very bad tippers.
  2. Some shifts tip better than others. 75% of tips are earned on the swing shift.
  3. Our casino is close to the Canadian border and if a dealer gets stuck with Canadian players for the shift then he will go home broke for the day.
  4. The dealers who are friendly with the pit bosses will get the good games and good shifts.

Furthermore I disagree with calling tip sharing "institutionalized favoritism." If dealers share their tips, every dealer receives the same pay for putting in the same hour of work. Thus, it seems to me that tip sharing reduces institutionalized favoritism, rather than contributing to it as you allege. Letting people keep their own tips would mean the good looking woman would earn more than someone else doing the same job, simply because she is a good looking woman. That would be a policy of institutionalized favoritism.


Thank you for your comments but I stand by my opinion that tip sharing should be optional. That attractive women get tipped better may sound unfair but it is the free market at work. I would argue that a beautiful female dealer is performing a better service to the public just by giving people something to look at. I definite institutionalized favoritism as an institution (such as the casino) taking money from one class of people and giving it to another. Players may not tip fairly but as long as it is according to their own free will then it is not institutional but voluntary favoritism.

In the case of your casino if tip sharing were optional I would expect only the men who are not friendly with management would opt to join the pool. If the casino didn’t do a better job at rotating dealers and treating them equally then some dealers would quit, forcing the casino to take action. It may also lead to more female heavy workforce through attrition but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Men have a competitive advantage at other jobs, like lifting heavy objects.

It is hard to study economics, as I have, and not have a healthy respect for free enterprise. Tip sharing is a form of socialism, which will obviously benefit some, but as a whole will only results in inferior public service due to insufficient incentives.

I’m a pit boss at an Indian Casino in Northern California and I’ve been following the discussion about Tip Sharing vs. Going For Your Own (April 4, May 13 columns) and I have to say from what I’ve seen, dealers much prefer the go for your own. In fact, because we’re a go for your own house, we have dealers from all over the state (and even from all over the country) trying to get a job here because we’re so close to the Bay Area. Even dealers from far bigger casinos such as Thunder Valley (near Sacramento) and Cache Creek (also near Sacramento) are trying to get a job here because they don’t pool their own tips. I also experienced something similar with another Northern California casino that wasn’t as nice as the one I’m currently at. There was almost a dealer mutiny whenever it was discussed about going to a pooled system.

In Scottsdale, the hottest casino to work at right now is a go for your own joint that has over 100 tables. The dealers there are consistently making several hundred dollars per day working there and everyone from across the country wishes they were there.

The only dealers that I see that wish it were pooled are those that lack personality or have poor dealing skills (or both). The only way those dealers make any money is to pool their tips. And just for the record, the top moneymakers at the casinos I’ve been at are ALWAYS men, and not even very attractive men. While some of the really attractive ladies do indeed make good tips without even trying (or so it seems), the best dealers are truly entertaining personalities with a fast, clean game.


Thanks for your comments.

I am a casino dealer in a non-tribal facility in the lovely state of Washington. I saw the comments (April 4, 2004 column) that people posted on tip sharing and I couldn't resist adding a few words of my own. I work in a "keep your own" house and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am not a beautiful Asian female. I am white male, I have Friday nights off, I do not always get the good tables, and I consistently average over $900/week in tips. The casino that trained me to deal cards was tribal and tokes were shared. I worked there for just over 3 months and finally I got fed up with having to share my hard-earned tokes with the chump on the next table with no personality. I say, let me keep my own. I will be rewarded for my own work. It also helps to keep me sharp. I can't afford to have a bad day at work. I have to put a smile on my face and at least try to have a good time and be professional and courteous. This is obviously a benefit to me, the casino, and the players. I don't care if a "pooled" house has a toke rate of $50/hour. I will never share tips again. My advice to other white males (or any other economically repressed dealers for that matter) is to go to work every day and concentrate on being the best dealer that you can be. Do not worry about how much money is or isn't going into your toke box. You will get stiffed sometimes, it doesn't matter. Try to provide the best service you can, when you go to cash out at the end of your shift, there will be money there.


Thanks for your comments. I had a feeling the other dealer was overstating the race/gender effect on tipping.

We recently went to Casino Niagra in Canada I was playing blackjack with a full table of players. The play went around the table as normal, I stayed on 17. When it came to the dealer she had an 8 showing flip her unshown card was a ten equals 18. She then proceeded to take a hit on 18 (by mistake)and threw up a Jack which was a bust on 18. I felt this should have been a misdeal or a push for all but the dealer said no it was not valid since the house rules are dealer Stays on 17 and above and Hit on 16 and all below. I disagreed with the call and the pit boss came over and stated the dealer is correct and you lose. I sure would appreciate your thoughts as I totally disagreed with the call. Plus I had a large bet riding so maybe it is just my sore losing side coming out. I sure can’t wait to get an experts thought on this once and for all.


I side with the casino. The rules state the dealer stands on 18. The dealer has no free will and once she got 18 the 18 is firm. The extra card dealt does not alter the dealer’s 18 and it was correctly burned. In a one or two deck game some casinos will reshuffle in that situation.

My question is based more from observations on your part and rumors that I’ve heard on my part. If it’s true that Las Vegas dealers, when they are taught at dealer school, learn how to spin and roll the ball the same way then is it true after observing how a dealer spins, one can determine the quadrant of the wheel the ball might land on?


No. Dealers are taught only the basics and nothing nearly that skillful. In fact if a dealer had that control he could simply get an accomplice to bet wherever he planned for the ball to land and they could easily make millions.

What incentive does a dealer have to "tell on you" if he suspects you are card counting. Why would a dealer care if you are card counting or not? Doesn’t it mean bigger tips for him?


Good question. If the counter were tipping then the dealer has the choice of not telling and getting more tips or tattling to get on the good side of casino management. I think it in large part comes down to the attitude of the dealer, whether he is rooting for the player or the casino. Dealers who are loyal to their employer first will probably tell, and tipping may not help. Dealers share tips so the dealer you give your tip to may only get 1% of it. Tipping cynical dealers who resent tip sharing won’t buy you much cover. In my opinion dealers loyal to the casino are more likely to be women than men and Asians over any other race. One of my blackjack books goes into this in more detail but I can’t remember which one. The decision to tip is hotly debated in the counting community and many counters follow the Stanford Wong philosophy of only tipping if the cover it buys you is more than in value than the tip itself. This may explain the joke that the difference between a counter and a canoe is that a canoe sometimes tips. Other counters tip anyway whether they think it buys them cover or not because they believe in tipping.

Three questions of etiquette and ethics.

  1. Blackjack dealer makes a mistake in your favor. Do you point it out? Do you tip?
  2. The etiquette of challenging the dealer where you think he made a mistake in favor of the house against you.
  3. You wrongfully challenge the dealer, is anything more than an apology expected?

All three have happened to me within the last month. I am a small time bettor so the correction of a win or loss is not significant to me. I'd prefer not jeopardize the dealer's job.

Nathan W.

This is a delicate question. Personally I just keep my mouth shut. Once in Atlantic City I saw another player correct the dealer for an overpayment and neither the dealer nor pit boss thanked the player for his honesty. If the casino doesn’t seem to care then why should I? I also view making the correct payment as part of a game. Also, no I do not tip. Sometimes crooked dealers will deliberately overpay players hoping to get tipped in return. This is highly illegal and at least in Nevada they treat cheating as a comparable crime to bank robbery. So I wouldn’t want anyone, including the dealer, to think I was colluding on a mistake-for-tip scheme. Another reason to not say anything is that the dealer will have to call the pit boss over and confess his mistake. Anyone can make a mistake once in a while but if the dealer is known to be mistake prone already then, yes, it could put his job in jeopardy.

  • When a mistake is in the favor of the house you definitely should alert the dealer as soon as possible. Don’t make a deal about it, just politely point out the error.
  • It is very embarrassing to challenge the dealer, only for the cards to show the dealer was right. When this happens an apology is sufficient.

  • Note: See my Jan. 9 column for a dealer's answer to this question.

    Thank you for the wonderful site. I check it at least weekly. I also have patronized your sponsors. I am a dealer at an Indiana casino. If I make a mistake in the player’s favor, the last thing I want is a tip because of the mistake. It makes it look like the error was deliberate in an attempt to receive a tip. Advise people that tips should be given for service not for an error that gives them money. Thanks again.

    Hayward D.

    Thanks for the kind words and patronizing the advertisers. I’m happy to post what you said. For the benefit of those new to this column this refers to a question in the December 27, 2004 column.

    What is the probability that a particular dealer will commit an error while dealing casino games? Is there such a standard?


    That is a good question. In general the nicer the casino the lower the probability of dealer errors. Dealer errors are also much more likely in new games as opposed to the old classics. Also, in my opinion dealer errors go in favor of the dealer about ¾ of the time. I have never heard of any standard. To make a rough approximation I would say dealers make an error on average once every 1 to 4 hours.

    If I make a maximum bet, can I still make a bet for the dealer?


    Here in Vegas, yes you can.

    During my last two sessions at my local casino of choice, I’ve been on the positive end of dealer error for two different poker games: 4-card poker and 3-card poker. Both times, I remained silent and in the case of 4-card poker, certainly didn’t want to ruin it for the other players. Not to rationalize, but sometimes I also feel that bringing these mistakes to light can make the dealer look worse than letting it slide -- assuming of course, the eye in the sky doesn’t catch the error -- with a subsequent reprimand behind the scenes. I have a few questions related on this topic. Has there been any study or estimation relating to how dealer error affects the house edge? Certainly all but the most incoherent or novice player will catch errors that help the house, but it’s been my experience that most errors that help the player are not brought to light, by players, anyway. Looking back, dealer error has given back a significant amount of money to me over the past year. Thanks for any insights!

    Tim from Cleveland

    I do not know of any formal study. As you would expect dealer errors tend to decrease as the quality of the casino goes up. I have personally played thousands of hours behind the tables since I turned 21 years old 19 years ago (it seems like just yesterday). Based on all that play I strongly feel that most errors favor the house, probably about 80%. For example many dealers do not know that you still pay the ante bonus in Three Card Poker even if the player lost or the dealer didn’t qualify. (Bluejay got shortchanged this way because he wasn’t sure of the rule himself.) I’ve had a few dealers disagree with me on this rule, who were later correctly overruled by the pit boss. I wonder how many players, who don’t know the rules as well as I do, were shortchanged by these same dealers before I played. Of course the error is more likely to be corrected if the error favors the dealer. I tend to think the cost of errors to the casino is not very high because of the higher percentage in favor of the dealer. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if the casinos actually made money from errors overall. If anyone in casino management has another point of view then I’m all ears to hear it.

    On my recent visit in Vegas I saw two dealers independent from each others (one at The Orleans, one at Circus-Circus) suggest to double on 4-4 vs. 6 instead of split. I was the BJ guy of our group and so my friends started to ask me about that. All I could say was: no, splitting is the right decision. (Of course provided that double after split is allowed.) Can I find out the probabilities of these alternatives or can you tell me? kind regards


    I’ve said this before but as much as I respect dealers as a group they give out a lot of bad advice and misinformation. Splitting fours against a five or six is a frequent play where both players and dealers incorrectly rebuke splitting. Sometimes you hear people say falsely that you should never split "anything that starts with F", in other words fours, fives, and faces. That is true about fives and faces but the player should indeed split fours against a five or six if double after split is allowed. Otherwise the player should hit, except in single deck he should double if allowed. My blackjack appendix 9 shows in a six-deck game where the dealer hits a soft 17 the following expected values of 4,4 against a 6.

    Stand: -0.114085
    Hit: + 0.113365
    Double: + 0.092929
    Split: +0.207228 (double after split allowed)
    Split: + 0.056954 (double after split not allowed)

    I’ve noticed more and more casinos are swapping decks of cards after large payout hands (full house, 4 of a kind). Yesterday one swapped after a straight less than a 1/2 hour after the previous swapping. In Laughlin, they even swapped decks after I hit two 3 of a kinds in a row. Is this typical or are they responding to my betting? The probability theoretically doesn’t change, so are they essentially chasing me away?

    Paul from Kent, Washington

    I can think of three reasons that a supervisor would swap decks after a big win. The first is that the decks were worn and due to be swapped anyway. The second is they are concerned the deck is flawed somehow. The third is they are "sweating the money" and incorrectly think swapping decks will change your luck. I would bet that the third explanation is the most likely.

    As a dealer, I hear a lot of "Fuzzy Math" from players and always come to your site when I have a question about the odds of a game. I only offer advice when asked because in my view, it’s their hard earned money and they can play however they see fit. My question is, when you sit at a table and hear someone say something mathematically incorrect, do you cringe but keep silent, or do you correct them?

    Mike from Vegas

    I cringe and keep silent. It is my policy to not offer unsolicited advice. Why pick an argument? Also, I’m not trying to convert everybody to proper strategy. The casinos need some bad gamblers to subsidize the good ones.

    I work in a casino and have a bet that says a roulette dealer cannot influence the outcome of a roll. There are definitely those who think it can be done. Not to a number of course, but perhaps a section of the wheel. What would you consider a good test to reasonably determine whether a dealer has influenced the results? Assuming the number of trials is reasonable for us to attempt I will gladly share the results.

    Mark S from Sault Ste. Marie

    I’m on your side. If this could be done then dealers could easily conspire with players and share in the profits. Yet I never hear of this happening. A good test would be to get somebody who claims to be able to influence the roll and have him attempt to land it in a particular half of the wheel as many times as possible over 100 spins. The more times he makes it the greater weight his claim will have. The table below shows the probability of 50 to 70 successful spins. For example, the probability of 60 or more successful spins is 2.8444%. Common confidence thresholds in statistics are the 90%, 95%, and 99% levels. To beat a 90% confidence test, in which the probability of failing given random spins is 90%, the number of successful spins would need to be 57 or more. To beat a 95% test the number would need to be 59 or more, and at 99% the number would need to be 63 or more.

    Probability of at Least 50 to 70Successful Roulette Spins

    Wins Probability
    70 0.000039
    69 0.000092
    68 0.000204
    67 0.000437
    66 0.000895
    65 0.001759
    64 0.003319
    63 0.006016
    62 0.010489
    61 0.0176
    60 0.028444
    59 0.044313
    58 0.066605
    57 0.096674
    56 0.135627
    55 0.184101
    54 0.242059
    53 0.30865
    52 0.382177
    51 0.460205
    50 0.539795

    Recently I was at a casino playing blackjack. There were three other players and I was at the far end of the table. Player 1 stood on 18, player 2 stood on 19, player 3 had 15. When the dealer got to player 3 he clearly waved his hand over his cards and said "stand". The dealer proceeded to pull the next card out of the shoe with the intent on giving it to player 3. Myself, Player 2 and Player 3 all immediately spoke up and stopped the dealer from revealing the card. The dealer then burned this card instead of returning it back to the shoe. On my turn I stood on my 19. The dealer revealed 14 then drew the next card which was a 7 for 21 - beating everybody. Needless to say we were all upset at this. I asked to see the burned card and the dealer told me "no". I asked that all cards be left on the table and to get a ruling from the pit boss. The pit boss came over and revealed the burn card as a jack. We explained that had the dealer not made their mistake, they would have gotten a jack for 24 and not the 7 for 21 and all of us would have won. The response we got from the pit boss was "too bad" and they collected all of our bets. Our response was we all left the table. So my question is who would be right in this situation?

    Tim from Madison, WI

    For procedure questions like this I like to turn to Brian S., a casino manager and former regulator. Here is what he said.

    In my estimation, the dealer should have called the supervisor over before burning the card on his own. The dealer shouldn’t make decisions like that. If I was on the floor, I would have asked the player at 3rd base if he wanted the burn card or the next card in the shoe. If he selected the next card, I would not have shown him the burned card. He may still have been upset by the outcome, but I bet he would have stayed at my table.

    In your recent Ask the Wizard column (169) someone asked a question regarding the dealer incorrectly burning a card in a blackjack game. At the casino I work at, when dealing blackjack if a card is incorrectly removed from the shoe and is NOT exposed it is still the next card in play (unless it is dealt to the dealers hand, in which case it is burnt). In Blackjack a card is only burnt a) When starting a new shoe, b) When a card is boxed (facing the wrong way in the shoe), or c) Incorrectly dealt to a dealers hand.

    Jarrod from Sydney

    Thanks for your comments. That sounds more or less like the usual policy in Vegas as well.

    I was recently reading some "dealer stories" on a website and read about some craps dealers that were told "You’ve got to learn blackjack". These stories mentioned things like dealers pretty much learning the games on the tables. One dealer taking over for another who was letting players split anything they wanted, etc. My question relates to the training that casinos in the US offer. At my casino (and most, if not all others in Australia) training is done by the casino, in a training room and you must be at a certain level to be able to deal the game on the floor. You also need a coding from the government before you can deal the game. Major games such as blackjack, baccarat, roulette, craps, poker and pai gow take 1 week of fulltime training (3 weeks if its your first game). Where as games such as Caribbean stud, 3 and 4 card poker etc only take 4-8 hours of training. So how do casinos train in the US? And would situations like i described (splitting odd cards, not following the rules) really happen over there?

    Jarrod from Sydney

    Training is much more informal here. I asked a friend of mine who was a former dealer about this. He said assuming you were already a dealer at a high-end Strip casino, they might have you go to a 2-hour training class in the casino on company time to learn the game. An economy casino might ask you to get the training elsewhere on your own time and dollar.

    I was playing one on one double-deck Black Jack in a casino in Louisiana. I had a large bet that I doubled down on a 4 and 7 against dealer’s 4. I opened my cards and place them infront of my chips and dobled down the bet. Dealer continued and opened his cards, 4 and two, then drew a ten and a three. We then noticed that the dealer had forgotten to deal me my double down card. The floor ruled that I lost the hand since I had eleven against nineteen. I asked the floor to give me the ten and draw a card on 4+2+3. Floor said that the cards cannot be backed up! and the best he can do is to return my bet. The next card in the deck was a ten, which would have been my 21 against dealer’s 19. I have decided to meet the casino manager for table games for compensation. I need advice on how to approach the manager on this matter. Is it common to get compensated for this type of casino errors?

    John from Austin

    Casinos don’t like to back up cards because it may cause some players who won because of the mistake to lose. The general policy is that if there is a mistake more than one card back then the hand is ruled dead. However often casinos will bend the rules a bit to keep the players happy. For example, last month I was playing blackjack at the Venetian by myself, when I doubled down. The dealer never saw me make the double down bet, thinking I stood, turned over his cards, and hit is own hand with a 4. I then brought the mistake to the dealer’s attention. The pit boss gave me the choice of accepting the 4 as my double down card or it could be burned for the next card in the deck. I chose to burn it and the next card was another 4, and I ended up losing. Although I was happy with how it was handled the pit boss told the dealer to push my bet anyway, which I thought was very nice and beyond the call of duty. To get back to the issue, as long as the floor gave you back your full bet then I think that was procedural.

    I had a situation playing blackjack last weekend, where the dealer had a 6 on top but when he was tucking in the down card he accidentally showed that he had a 3 in the hole. The player on my right had a 15, I had an 11, and the player on my left had a 12. Knowing that the dealer had a total hand of 9, the player on my right hit his hand and busted with a 10. I wound up doubling down and got a 2. The player on the left hit his hand getting a 5, for a total of 17. The dealer opened his hand of 9 and hit a ten for a total of 19. The dealer told us even though you saw the 3 under that you should play your hand as if you did not know the down card. I wanted to ask you what you would have done in the situation for all three players. This is the first time that has ever happened since I have been playing blackjack. Please advise. Thanks!

    Larry C. from Daly City

    My flashing blackjack dealer strategy shows what to do in any situation where the dealer accidentally exposes his hole card. However, most players don’t have that memorized, incluing me. In cases like this where the dealer’s two cards total nine or less you may use basic strategy, assuming the dealer’s up card is the sum of his two cards. Using that rule of thumb, all three players played correctly. Contrary to what the dealer said, the player has every right to use any information gleaned from dealer errors like this. Not only would I have ignored the dealer’s comment, I would have kept playing, hoping he would do it again.

    Hello, for obvious reasons I would appreciate if you not share my name with anyone. At the casino where I work, there is virtual unanimity amongst the roulette dealers that they can "control the spin" and hit sections of the wheel with ease or miss other sections on purpose. Given all the factors in the spin of a ball in roulette, including the canoes (bumps) on the side, direction of ball and speed of wheel, etc. -- do you think there is anything to this? Would it be enough that a crooked dealer could help a player overcome the huge house advantage?


    This is far from the first time I have heard this claim, and I am very skeptical of it. Most dealers also believe myths like a bad third-baseman will cause the other players to lose in blackjack, so as a group they are not the most skeptical bunch. What I think is happening is they remember the times they were successful at attempting to control the spin, and conveniently forget the times they were not. Much like they remember the times the third-baseman took the dealer’s bust card, but forget the times he saved the table.

    If dealers really could do this, it would be easy to have a confederate play, causing him to win, and causing other players to lose, to make up for it. As long as they were following proper procedures for the spin, and didn’t appear with the confederate in public, it would all look completely legitimate. Yet, you never hear about this happening. I suppose the believers could say that those doing it are just keeping a low profile, but that is what believers in worthless betting systems say too. If this were as easy as the roulette dealers where you work claim, the cheating problem as a result would be rampant.

    While playing blackjack at a locals casino in Las Vegas, a dealer from another locals casino sat at my table. While making small talk, she told me that she could wipe out any player using what she called the "house shuffle." The lady dealing to us, who claimed to have been a dealer for 25 years agreed with her telling me that it’s "all about the shuffle." They were both referring to games dealt by hand as opposed to from a shoe. Is there a way to shuffle that lowers the players chances of winning, and if so wouldn’t this be a form of cheating? Have you ever heard of anything called the house shuffle?

    Jim Y. from Downey, CA

    I don’t believe it. Dealers are not the most skeptical group, often believing all the usual gambling myths. Usually the term "house shuffle" refers to the way the dealers are supposed to shuffle. For example, shuffle twice, riffle, and shuffle again. In this context, she seems to be saying she could alter the shuffle to the player’s disadvantage, which I doubt.

    How much do you tip if you win in a live casino poker tournament? I have been tipping 10% for wins under $3,000. Am I over tipping? How much do the big winners in the WSOP tip?

    David from New York City

    I think you’re over-tipping. I think a good range is 2% to 5%, the greater the win, the lower the percentage.

    I have a friend who was part of a casino staff who watched over roulette tables, and he told me that when people start to win the casino changes the croupier. I have also seen a member of the staff ask a croupier to spin the roulette wheel at a different speed. Doesn’t this mean that the casinos are certain that the croupier can cause a non random series of numbers to appear? Doesn’t this mean that a gambler can look for a "lucky" table where the croupier doing regular spins gives them a better chance of winning?

    Al from Melbourne, Australia

    Sadly, ignorance can go pretty high up the ladder. I don’t dispute that an expert can clock the wheel on a very slow spin. However, that issue aside, changing dealers does not change the odds. There is no such thing as a lucky or an unlucky dealer. Superstition is a difficult thing to let go of. As I have said many times, the more ridiculous a belief is, the more tenaciously it tends to be held.

    Why is it that dealers at craps tables are very reluctant to color up your chip stack, unless you are leaving the table? Although I’ve never had a dealer outright refuse to do so, they often begrudgingly comply with a wise or snide comment, as though I were asking too much of them.

    Ron from State College

    This is true of all table games, not just craps. The policy against coloring up, except when leaving, comes down from management, so don’t blame the dealers. A good dealer is supposed to keep the player well armed with chips at the level he is betting. Coloring up goes against this purpose. It will lead to chip shortages, causing the player to ask to break down the big chips, which wastes time. There may also be an unstated purpose that the player will be unlikely to bet the big chip.

    Do you believe players who win something in a live poker tournament should give an additional tip if they bought a "dealer’s add-on" at the beginning of the tournament? I play in a lot of small buy-in tournaments that use these add-ons, and the winners are always reminded that "tips are greatly appreciated." It seems to me that I have already tipped, even in the tournaments I don’t cash, and additional tipping just reduces whatever small edge I may have in a form of gambling that is already hard to beat (due to "vig," formats that diminish importance of skill, etc.) On the other hand, I don’t want to seem stingy. What do you suggest?

    John G from Reno, NV

    I don’t play much poker, so had to ask David Matthews what a "dealer’s add-on" is. Here is what he said.

    The dealer’s add on is an additional and optional fee you’re given when you register. The add-on money is given to the dealers only as a way of compensating them for their time dealing the tourney. Normally you get an additional number of starting chips, 2500 instead of 2000, for example.

    Tipping whether you buy the add-on or not should always be optional. If I had bought the add-on I would be less inclined to tip. By the way, I always buy the add-on. I am not sure if it’s mathematically correct from an EV standpoint but it just seems like the thing to do if I’m going to play the tourney in the first place.

    I agree with Dave. Let me take that further by saying I also oppose shaking down players in tournaments with optional fees like re-buys and wild card purchases, unless those fees are somehow returned to the players, which is not the case usually. If the tournament would otherwise not be profitable for the casino, please just drop the pretenses and make the players pay more up front to enter.

    If there were no dealer add-on, I do think it is appropriate for the winners to tip the dealers. If forced to say, I would suggest 1% to 2% of the win, and the less the win, the greater the percentage. In the situation in question, I would reduce the tip by the product of the total dealer add-on money and the ratio of my win to the total win. If that makes the tip zero or negative, then you do have a dilemma. I would probably do as I do when restaurants put on a mandatory 18%-20% tip, just put down a token small amount for appearances’ sake.

    How much do casino dealers make?

    Larry from Las Vegas

    The wages are pretty low, not much more than the minimum wage. The minimum wage in Nevada, as of this writing, it is $5.85/hour if health insurance is provided and $6.85 otherwise. However, tips can add to that significantly. At most casinos in Vegas, the dealers pool tips. The only exceptions I have heard of, where dealers keep their own tips, are Caesars Palace and Hooters. Following is a chart of average tips over an 8-hour shift for one week in November, 2008. These figures are quoted, with permission, from The Dealer's News. My thanks to Ron Saccavino.

    Average Tips — November 2008

    Property Avg. Tips
    Wynn $263
    Hard Rock $203
    MGM $158
    Green Valley Ranch $156
    Harrah's $129
    Sunset Station $125
    Bill's $123
    Planet Hollywood $118
    South Point $113
    Monte Carlo $111
    Sahara $66
    Stratosphere $65

    Update: The Dealer's News appears to have been discontinued since this question was published.

    I have been in the casino business for 27 years and have worked positions from dealer to casino manager. I am dealing now, and there is a player that comes in our casino and plays blackjack who has won $5,000 or more, for at least 30 consecutive trips. Having been a manager, I know that even the best card counter does not win every time. I believe it is not possible to win that many trips in a row and not be cheating somehow. I have only dealt to him personally one time, and I was unable to detect anything out of the ordinary. He has a $35,000 credit line and sometimes starts off losing, but he always winds up winning in the end. He bets anywhere from $200 to $5,000 and doesn’t appear to be counting cards. Do you think it is possible to win so many times in a row without cheating?

    Daniel from Philadelphia

    Let's ignore the house edge for the sake of simplicity. If the player’s two stopping markers are a win of $5,000 or a loss of $35,000, then the probability of reaching the winning marker is 7/8. The probability of doing that during 30 consecutive trips is (7/8)30 = 1.82%. So, this could easily be just good luck. I’d let him play until you determine why and how he is beating you.

    This brings to mind a very good book I just read, Casino-ology, by Bill Zender. The main thrust of the book is that casino management is much too paranoid about advantage play. The overreaction to it is slowing down play and annoying legitimate customers, the cost of which is much more than what is saved by catching a few extra advantage players.

    I was playing "live" poker for the first time recently, not a tournament. Myself and everyone was tipping for a win. Before putting the tip into the toke box, the dealer would loudly "tap" the toke on top of the metal box, making a loud noise. After I thought about it, I remember blackjack dealers doing this as well. Is this some kind of procedure? The only reasons I can think of to do this is to alert the pit boss/floor manager that a toke is going into the box. I can’t see how it would make a difference to the eye.

    Shawn D. from Pittsburgh, PA

    I asked the Bone Man of about this one. He said there are two reasons for the tap. The first is a way of thanking the player for the tip. A good dealer will verbally thank the player making the tip while making the tap. The second is a measure to keep the dealers honest. It has happened many times where dealers pocketed tips in casinos where tips are supposed to be put in a pool. Game security is not my strong point, but procedures like this are put there to make it harder to cheat, and easier to get caught if you do.

    Do you believe players who cash in a live poker tournament should give an additional tip if they bought a "dealer’s" add-on at the beginning of the tournament? I play in a lot of small buy-in tournaments that use these add-ons, and the winners are always reminded that "tips are greatly appreciated." It seems to me that I have already tipped, even in the tournaments I don’t cash, and additional tipping just reduces whatever small edge I may have in a form of gambling that is already hard to beat (due to "vig," formats that diminish importance of skill, etc.) On the other hand, I don’t want to seem stingy. What do you suggest?

    John G. from Reno

    For the benefit of other readers, a "dealer’s add on" is an optional purchase of additional chips in a poker tournament. Usually the cost per chip is less for the dealer’s add on than the original entry fee, in which case buying it is a good value. To answer your question, I think you are perfectly justified in reducing the tip if you come in the money, whether or not you purchased the dealer’s add on. I would liken it to tipping at a restaurant if they already added an 18% service fee. An appropriate winner’s tip, in my opinion, is whatever the dealers would have been tipped had they been dealing cash games over the duration of the tournament, less whatever they took in from the dealer’s add on.

    Let me use this opportunity to state that I oppose all additional tournament costs, unless the extra money paid goes into the prize pool, which is usually not the case. Tournaments are usually structured in a way that paying the additional fees are a good value, so most players invoke the right, including me. Your odds of winning are significantly reduced if you don’t. However, if every player pays the additional fees, then they should drop the pretenses and just charge more for the tournament in the first place.

    You mentioned on your Wizard of Vegas site that dealers often incorrectly don’t pay the Ante bonus in Three Card Poker when the dealer beats the player. What do you think this error costs Nevada players on an annual basis?


    Indeed, in my experience dealers never pay the Ante bonus, as they are supposed to, when the dealer wins. I’ve seen this happen several times, and every time I had to summon the floor supervisor to get paid. To answer your question, the 2009 Gaming Revenue Report says that Nevada casinos earned $134,181,000 from Thee Card Poker in 2009. The house edge in Three Card Poker is 3.37% on the Ante and 7.28% on the Pairplus.

    Let's assume the player bets both equally, for an average house edge of 5.325%. Dividing the profit by the house edge gives us the handle (total amount bet) of $2,519,830,986. Again, let's assume half of that, or $1,259,915,493, was bet on the Ante.

    I roughly estimate the Ante bonus error costs the player 0.00072 of his Ante bet, on average, assuming the dealer always makes that error. So, over $1.259 billion bet, the cost of that error would be about $909,000 per year. However, to be fair, I'll say 25% of time the dealer won’t make that mistake, lowering that figure to about $682,000 per year. While that is a small fraction of the total amount bet in Three Card Poker, it is still not an insignificant amount of money. Hopefully this will educate players about this frequent error. Don't be afraid to throw the challenge flag if it happens to you or another player.

    This question was raised and discussed in the forum of my companion site Wizard of Vegas.

    I’d be interested in your thoughts about a poker dispute I observed at the Wynn. Here is the executive summary. One player called "all in" and pushed his stack of chips towards the pot. Another player called, and lost. The dealer started to count the chips, which included two $100 black chips hidden amongst a lot of $1 blue chips and $5 red chips. It turns out the first player had them at the bottom of his blue and red stacks. The second player argued he wouldn’t have called if he had known about the black chips. The Wynn ruled in favor of the first player, but the first player was furious about it. Did the Wynn make the right ruling?


    I’m not an expert on the fine points of poker rules, so I turned to David Matthews on this one. Here is what he says:

    I play a lot of poker, mostly 2-5 NL and 5-10 NL. The rule is that oversized chips should be visible in front or on top, and if the dealer had known there were black chips, then the dealer should have requested that they be displayed. There is the conundrum of if the chips are hidden, how is the dealer going to see it? Stacks are also supposed to be one denomination. A stack of red ($5) chips on top of a $1 chip is considered a dirty stack because if someone were to eyeball the stack, they would likely guess the wrong number for the value. In this case, it would only be a $4 difference, but that’s the way it is. Interestingly, a stack of red chips with a $1 chip on top is not a dirty stack. I really think the dirty stack rules are a bit too much hassle.

    Whether the chips were visible or not is a real problem in no-limit hold ’em, because as is demonstrated in this situation, there can be confusion. Unfortunately, the ruling by the Wynn poker staff was the correct one, but it really was unfortunate for the person with the losing hand.

    I have had a similar situation cost me $600. I went all in on a bluff against a guy, and he had a bunch of chips on top of some bills. $100 bills play in most places in town. I said to him, "What do you have? 2 Bills?" He just nodded and didn’t say anything. I went all in. He called instantly with 3 kings. He actually had 8 bills, and the house made me pay it. I would not have tried the bluff for an "All in" had I known how much money he had. That was expensive.

    That’s why I ALWAYS ask on all ins. Even if a guy has 5 red chips ($25) and he throws it in, I ask the dealer how much it is. Dealers get irritated sometimes and look at me like, "It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it?" Also, players give me a hard time, too, sometimes. They tell me it’s obviously $100 or whatever it looks like. Doesn’t matter. I ask, "How much is it?" over and over again.

    Another thing is I will usually bet a number rather than say "all in." If I had made a bet of $500 against the guy with the 3 kings, then it wouldn’t have mattered how many bills or what kinds of chips he had. I would have been on the hook for the $500 only.

    I’m personally against having bills play on the table, because I constantly have to ask people how many bills. People get offended when you ask them over and over again, especially when they have less money on the table than other players, because they’re embarrassed to say, "2 bills." And then every hand I’m in with them I ask again, because you never know if maybe they added some bills to their stack in between hands. Or maybe they won a hand you didn’t see. In addition, just the fact that you ask someone how much they have might give away information about your hand.

    I think paper should not play, and on 2-5 games and lower, the largest chips allowed in play should be $100 chips. My opinion isn’t a popular one, though.

    This question was raised and discussed in the forum of my companion site Wizard of Vegas.