Working as a waiter is regularly listed as one of the worst jobs in America. Ditto for other service positions. Low pay, long hours, rude customers, and bumbling management – it all adds up to a crummy work environment. Now imagine you have to do that job in Las Vegas, the always-on, customer service-obsessed home of 24-hour entertainment and comp’d buffet meals.

More than any other American city, Las Vegas runs on a service economy. Most of the people you come into contact with during your next casino trip likely survive on their tips. Your dealer? He makes minimum wage, maybe a buck more if he’s worked in the same place for five years. The same goes for the lady that brings you your cocktails, the guy who drives you to and from the airport, and anyone else who helps you out during your trip to Sin City.

In Vegas, tipping isn’t suggested – it’s mandatory.

You have to tip in Las Vegas. You should factor the cost of tips in to your entertainment budget. Don’t worry – you won’t spend an arm and a leg on gratuities. Tip amounts in Vegas are directly tied to the level and quality of service. It’s a tiny fraction designed to keep the economy moving. Think of it as literally greasing the cogs of the much-larger wheel designed to keep you fed, entertained, and happy.

How to Tip a Cocktail Waitress

It’s true what they say – you get free drinks while you’re gambling. The amount of attention you get from a cocktail waitress depends entirely on how much you’re playing, at what stakes, and (surprise, surprise) how well you tip. The drink is free – the labor to pour and deliver the drink is not.

The standard tip is still $1 per drink. Remember, these hard-working ladies have to tip out around 1/5th of everything they make in tips to the bartender, so if you’re winning, slip her a $5 every now and then. Cash is king, but you can tip chips if you want.

One final etiquette tip for dealing with cocktail waitresses – put your tip on her serving tray.

How to Tip a Dealer

Dealers earn minimum wage. Don’t think that because you’re playing at a somewhat expensive table in a fancy casino your dealer is somehow making more money. Your tips are your dealer’s pay – and that tip income is taxed, as it is for waitresses and most other Vegas employees.

My dad, an old casino gambling fan from way back, taught me to never tip a dealer less than the price of a pack of cigarettes. You can get a pack in Vegas for $5, so I tip my dealers $5 an hour, win or lose. Some people may scoff at my $5-per-hour figure, but if you do the math, you’ll see it makes sense. At a decent table, three, four, or even five players isn’t unheard of. That’s between $15 and $25 per hour. That’s a solid middle-class wage. And of course, if you have a big win, you can tip more.

So how do you do it? The proper method is to tip with chips, never cash. I tip the dealer $5 as soon as I sit down, to get him on my good side. Then I chip in another $5 chip at the top of every hour, or when I get a big win and feel friendly.

These days, it’s common to place a bet for your dealer. If you don’t want to do that, toss a chip his direction when you want to leave a tip. If you want to tip the dealer with a bet, just place his wager along with yours on the next round.

How to Tip at a Vegas Buffet

I eat at buffets more than any other type of restaurant when I’m in Vegas. They’re inexpensive, I can eat exactly what I want, how much I want, and I like the variety of food available. Buffets are to Vegas what taco joints are to Texas, or hot dog stands are to New York City.

But how do you tip servers at a buffet? They clearly don’t do the same caliber of work that a full-fledged waiter does … then again, they provide a valuable service and they don’t get paid much for it, either.

Everyone I know who tips like me gives these types of employees a solid 10% tip – and only in Vegas. If I’m eating at a breakfast buffet on I-10 in the middle of nowhere at a gas station, I’m going to assume that they take care of their own employees. But in Vegas, they need a little something extra to survive.

So here’s what I do – I give servers at buffets either $1 or 10%, whichever is higher. That seems to reward servers who work at fancier buffets, which may be a little unfair. But I think this way is simple and it ensures that the workers earn a living wage.

How to Tip Valets

I’ve long been confused about how much to tip the guys who bring the car around. Often, this service is included in the (not at all inexpensive) cost of my hotel room. Then again, they don’t make any more money than waiters or waitresses, and I imagine their landlords like the rent paid just as frequently as anyone else’s.

I’ve been told that the standard tip is either $1 or $2 every time your car is brought around. I think I’d stick to the $1 tip, just because then I have less cash to carry around. As for how to tip a valet – it’s easy. They expect it. When they hand you the keys, hand them a cash tip palm to palm.

How to Calculate a Standard Tip

Here’s a sneaky way to calculate a standard 20% tip in Vegas – sales tax in the state is 7.75%. That means if you double the tax amount, you’ve got a number representing about 15%. Simply take one-third of that amount, add it again, and you’ve got an approximate 20% tip.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say you and me have a nice steak dinner after a few successful rounds of blackjack. The bill comes back – $193.54, with $15 in tax. You want to know what to tip, so you just double the taxes ($30), then add a third of that amount to itself (1/3 of 30 is 10, so we add $10), and you get the tip amount. In this case, that’s $40. It’s not an exact amount, but it’s close to a 20% tip, and your server will appreciate it.

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