In brick-and-mortar poker, dealers make the majority of their income from tips, also traditionally known as tokes (short for token). New players are often in doubt about how much to tip. Of course these are only guidelines, and you should feel free to tip more for exceptional service. In any event, you won't be considered a cheapskate if you follow these rules.
Rule of thumb in the US is $1 per pot won, with the following exceptions:
- Certain low-limit games such as $2/$4 limit and $1-$5 stud, etc. where custom is to give 50c per pot. Most $2/$4 players observed at Foxwoods give $1, but some people give 50c for small pots.
- Stealing the blinds or antes isn't usually considered worth a toke. Some players extend this to situations where a flop bet goes uncalled.
Interestingly, it seems that worse tippers in absolute terms are found at higher stakes games. Some dealers report that occasional $10/$20 or higher players don't tip at all.
If you want to tip the standard $1 tip for a pot but the game is played with chips of a higher denomination (e.g. $2 chips at a $6/$12 game), you can toss the dealer a chip and ask them to chop it. This means you'd like to tip them $1 of the chip, and the dealer will give you change for the rest.
With the number of new players entering poker as a form of conspicuous consumption, it seems that higher levels of tipping (such as $5 on a $1-2 NLHE pot of $20) has become more common. However, no serious B&M player should feel obligated to join in this inflation.
A standard tip amount is 3-5% of each prize amount. Oftentimes, when a winner is presented with their prize (for smaller tournaments, this is usually just an envelope with cash) by the tournament director, the director will make a point of having an envelope handy nearby for tipping the tournament staff. When you pick up your prize, you simply slip some of the cash from your envelope into the tipping envelope, and the director will thank you on behalf of the dealers.
However, pay attention to the fine print or ask the tournament director if any money has been withheld from the prize pool or entry fee for dealer/floor tips. This is becoming more commonplace in larger tournaments, including the WSOP, the WPT and larger tournaments at larger card rooms (e.g. the Bicycle Club or Commerce Casino in Los Angeles), in order to guarantee that the tournament staff get some reasonable amount of tips.
If a portion of the prize pool or entry fees is being withheld for dealers and staff, it is generally not expected for a winning player to tip anything more, though additional tips for exceptional service are always appreciated, and some players do so (especially the top few prize winners, if their prize is large). The withheld pool of money is essentially the "standard 15% tip"; anything more is in response to excellent service.
As one example, the regular tournaments at the Venetian poker room in Las Vegas withhold 10% of the prize pool for the poker room staff. This is over and above the 20% or so you pay as an entry fee that didn't go into the prize pool. Venetian tournament structure
Standard is 3-5%.