Bonzo goes to dealer school?

Dear Mark,
You advocate in your column tipping the dealer. I've only been playing blackjack a short time but never realized dealers also merited tips. How customary is this procedure? Joseph P.

If casino owners could finagle it, monkeys would be dealing blackjack. All dealers at one time or another have heard management tell us to "shut up and shuffle. I could get a monkey to do this job." To date, no casino has successfully trained a chimp to replace a dealer. The chimpanzees don't quite have the splitting rules down yet, can only make even money payoffs, plus they tend not to wait for their break to use the bathroom. Since casinos do tacky well, they don't want their gaudy carpets dirty; therefore, a near anthropological equivalent - humans.

Kidding aside, it's simple economics. Being in gaming for over twenty years now, I've yet to meet a dealer who will work for minimum wage. Tipping a dealer is the cost of enjoying a particular service, very similar to tipping a coffeeshop or cocktail waitress. Dealers need those gestures of gratuity to make a decent wage. If the casinos had to pay a true living wage to dealers instead of dealers accepting tips, casinos would have to figure a way of making up for lost revenue. For starters, they would change the rules of the game, increase table minimums, and even alter paybacks, like paying even money on a blackjack; that Bonzo can do. It's either or, Joseph. You can't have both.

I've always considered tipping, whether I was dealer for hire or in casino management, a contribution to the Dame of Fortune, Lady Luck. You should too.

Dear Mark,
In your column, you suggest players setting loss limits and win goals, then sticking to them. Loss limits I believe are great. I use them myself after losing half of my buy in. But win streaks are the exhilarating part of gambling. I do not set win goals but instead stay with the streak till it's over. Am I wrong? Bob S.

Streaks, Bob, are nothing more than hindsight on past performance. No one has 20/20 vision to know when a streak starts, let alone ends. I's be willing to bet dollars to donuts that you're no exception to the rule. Also, I have never advocated leaving on a winning hand, per se. The exceptions would be an earthquake, fire, tornado, or in my case, my name being called to the buffet.

What I do recommend is an illusionary stopgap to fight the devil from within: anything that that triggers a forced retirement from the game - three to five losses in a row, a 10% reduction in your bankroll, something that alerts you the fat lady's singing. I'm simply asking you to have what most players don't possess, the discipline to walk away with some of the casino's loot before the tables turn against you. And, Bob, they always do.

Dear Mark,
Was wondering if you knew the name of the guy who came to Vegas with a couple hundred bucks and kept winning millions. He said, "I'm going to win the casino." Brian F.

Which loser are you talking about? There are hundreds of riches to rags stories that litter Interstate 15 as you're leaving Las Vegas. Sure, a few players arrive in a Gremlin and drive home in a $250,000 vehicle, but it's generally a Greyhound bus. The only way any player can make a small fortune in Las Vegas is to arrive with a large one.

Gambling thought of the week: "Gaming corrupts our disposition and teaches us a habit of hostility against all mankind." - Thomas Jefferson
Accordingly, he kept meticulous records of his backgammon and card winnings.