I have always tipped waiters and waitresses as close to exactly 15% as possible, rounded up to the nearest whole bill. There are times when I think the service was quite exceptional, in which case I will tip a bit more. I have never tipped less. If the tip is included in the bill, I will leave extra if, again, the service was quite exceptional. Do I expect the staff to be upset at me for not leaving well above the 15% gratuity? No. Do I expect to get called out by the media the next day for only leaving the required 15%, or for not leaving above and beyond the included 15%? I certainly do not. Maybe I underestimate our society a bit, however, because John Stolzmann is currently dealing with this very issue.
John Stolzmann is a 23-year-old college student at the University of Wisconsin, as well as a semi-professional poker player. He recently won his first big tournament in Tunica, Mississippi at the Jack Binion World Poker Open main event. Mr. Stolzmann proved himself by winning at a final table that included Daniel Negreanu, Scotty Nguyen, and Chau Giang, among others. Mr. Stolzman won $1,491,444, which actually came to about $1,440,444 after an approximate 3% tip to the dealers and staff was automatically subtracted. Congratulations, Mr. Stolzmann!
Mr. Stolzmann is new to the tournament scene. Upon being paid he was told that he may leave an additional tip, and was informed that the 3% had already been subtracted as a tip. He then chose to leave about $500 as an extra tip, which he thought was nice of him.
Unfortunately, the casino and some others ingrained in the poker world did not agree. Chau Giang had left $15,000 in addition to the 3% taken out of his winnings. That looks like quite a difference! Mr. Stolzman left only $500 and Chau left $15,000!? In relevance to their winnings, Mr. Stolzmann actually had left more (his 3% was much larger). Now he is under the gun of the poker media and the casino at Tunica, for leaving what at least one dealer feels is an insulting tip, likening it to leaving a penny as a tip for a waitress. In proportion, that is not really an outlandish analogy. However, the staff had already received their 3% of the winnings in an enormous tournament, plus tips surely left by appreciative non-winners (no one is a loser, right?). Many are also overlooking the idea that tip amounts should probably be left confidential. It can certainly tarnish a young man's reputation before it is built, it seems.
Poker players around the world can learn a valuable lesson from the fireworks from Tunica: Tip a lot or do not tip at all. Had he not tipped, there would have been no added insult, and chances are the staff would have been happy to get 3% of 1.4 million. I hope that as 'us' young folk charge upward in the ranks of the poker world, we are taught the customs and traditions of it quickly, and learn to respect them always, before more are caught unaware.
Congratulations again to Mr. Stolzmann. Hopefully this will blow over and you can get on with playing winning poker and graduating!
Good luck and good odds.