Tipping is a necessary part of being a professional player
Tipping in poker, whether it is to the dealers, floormen, cocktail waitresses, food servers etc, is one of the most widely debated topics amongst players that play poker for profit. Obviously if you tip a lot it can drastically effect your bottom line. However, if you tip too little you will be looked at as a scoundrel and may not receive the best rulings or have ease and mobility in table changing.
People often ask me my position on tipping dealers, specifically. They think that there may not be a reason to tip dealers because the dealer has to do the same job no matter what the circumstance and that tipping would not make them perform any better or worse. Even if this assertion is correct dealing is a service industry just like the wait staff at a restaurant. Going in, as the customer, you know that these people make the majority of their money from tips as they are only paid a minimum wage and in some states a “tipping” minimum wage hourly can be a lot less than the regular minimum wage. However, those that play for profit definitely have to pay close attention to their bottom line. In reality you cannot afford to tip $25 or $50 every time you win a large pot like some recreational players. Also when you are playing a game with a flat drop like the games in California even tipping $1 in a very small pot can also considerably affect your winrate.
Recently I recorded a podcast on my training site, CrushLivePoker.com, with regards to my approach to tipping. 90% of the time I am playing in a $5-10, $500-$1500 buy-in game where the drop is $5+$1+$1 on the river. Usually in pots of under $100 I tip one dollar 20-25% of the time. In pots over $100 I always tip at least one dollar. Then as the pot size goes up I may tip two dollars for pots over $500 up to a cap of five dollars for something over $5000. This is the way that I have always approached tipping and although there is not a right or wrong answer, I fully acknowledge that a dealer has not done any less work in the smaller pots or more in the larger ones.
The main point that I made in the podcast, however, is that even if I might tip less than the average player (remember most do not play for profit) I try to make this up through kindness and treating the dealers nicely, never being abusive. One of the dumbest things that I see at the poker table day in and day out are those players that swear, berate, curse and throw things at the dealer because of a bad beat. It really is one of the most illogical things that one can do and you will never ever see me take out my frustration of “unluckiness” on a dealer. In fact, the only times that I ever get irritated with a dealer is when they are not controlling the game properly or they put the onus on a player to call something out that some other player is doing that clearly breaks the rules. That puts the player who may be following the rules in a weird spot because he is made out to be the bad guy. The simplest example of this in the games that I play is winning an all-in pot and the dealer not asking for the losing player to put his $1 chips into the pot (at $5-10, these play in $5 increments). That can make the “pro” out to look very cutthroat and lead to an unwelcoming environment. But past these two instances I very rarely ever get mad at dealers. And I am of the belief that a dealer would rather be tipped slightly less than average but be treated well than occasionally get large tips from players being frequently abusive.