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The World's First Guide to Vegas
from a Real Vegas Cocktail Waitress








Copyright 2005 Cocktaildoll™ ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.


This is the most important page on my web site!  I've decided to devote an entire page to it because there are so many questions and controversies about this topic.

When you are gambling at the slot machines, blackjack tables, craps, keno, sports book, or poker room the drinks are complimentary.  "Complimentary" means the drinks are free, the service is not.  "Drinks" consist of mixed drinks (commonly called "cocktails"), beers, wines, sodas, juices, water, coffee, hot tea, or hot chocolate.

The following are not rules written in stone but, rather, unwritten real-life rules.  A wise man once told me that TIPS stands for To Insure Proper Service, and that a smart person tips beforehand.  The fact that now people want their proper service first, and the tip has become the reward, has put the power in the customers' hands.  So this page is for people who really want to know, "When I get good service, am I supposed to tip, and how much?"  Of course tipping is optional, always has been, always will be, which is why it's called a tip.  So even though I'm not here to tell you that you have to tip, in the real world, I'm letting you know how it is.

When we give good service and one customer stiffs and another tips, we are naturally going to return to the tipping customer, that's just reality.  Just like you go to work to make money, we go to work to make money too.  And what would be the point of giving a stiff and a tipper equal service?  When you tip, aren't you saying, "Give me priority, give me the service I'm tipping you for."?  We are just trying to give the tippers their money's worth!  Of course it's our job to serve everyone regardless of a tip, but for all the talk about how airheaded waitresses are, we know where our bread is buttered.

If you get bad service, you should still tip for the first drink you order.  Why?  Because your tip just might bring you great service - you have the power!  What's bad service?  To me, the only true bad service is rudeness.  If it's extremely busy and you see the waitress carrying full trays of drinks and it takes a long time for her to come around to take your order and for you to get your drink, that would not qualify as bad service.  If she is impatient, unfriendly, and irritated when you order, that would be bad service.  Now, what if business seems slow and the waitress still doesn't come around often?  I always like to give her the benefit of the doubt (and yes, it's because I'm biased) because she may have a bigger area to cover; just because you don't see her doesn't mean she's sitting on her ass doing nothing.  Of course efficiency and friendliness together are always a winning combination.  So now you tipped the waitress and she's still Attila the Hun?  Well then, my friend, by all means stiff her ass!  You don't want to reward bad behavior.  Better yet, leave and come to my station - but don't stiff me!

By the way, I don't know who wrote those other official-looking so-called "tipping guides" for Las Vegas that say $1.00 for a party of two to four is sufficient, but they are on some serious crack.  Read on for the real scoop.

Common ways people try to weasel out of tipping.

If you must stiff, for whatever reason, just do it.  Don't tell me that you lost all your money, that you don't have change, that your husband has the tip and he'll be right back.  Why?  Because every time I bring a drink I'm hoping to make money, and if you're not going to give me a tip, the last thing I want to do is stand there and waste more time.  If you never intended to tip me, just say thank you.  Give me the courtesy to move on to someone who will tip me.  If you did intend to tip me but awkwardly find yourself without a tip when I bring your drink, just say thank you, then either come find me or wait for me to come around again to give me a tip.  This happens very rarely, but when it does, it's very much appreciated.  (However, don't say something like, "You ran away too fast before I could tip you."  This is a very self-serving comment, intended to blame me in an attempt to save yourself embarrassment.  When you order a drink you should start getting your tip out so you'll be ready when I bring your drink.  It always amazes me when people act so surprised when I bring their knew you ordered a drink, so have your tip ready!)

And we've seen and heard it all, so if you think you're scamming us, you're not.  "I'll catch you next time," is the most common stiff phrase.  And I can always tell when a guy is going to stiff me, because he thinks he's real slick by smiling, being overly friendly, saying something like, "Hey, baby!  How ya doin'?  Wow!  What's your name...Dollie?  You are the most beautiful cocktail waitress I've seen in Vegas.  Man, I thought I knew what I wanted, but now I can't think straight!  Hey, could you bring me a Bud and a shot of Hennessy?  I'll take real good care of you."  Now, I'm not saying you shouldn't be friendly or that I don't have time to engage in a little bit of a conversation.  In fact, it's very nice when people ask if I'm having a good day, or tell me that I'm beautiful.  It's just that having worked with the public for this long, I'm very rarely wrong when it comes to weeding out the riffraff!

Ignoring me when I bring the drink is another popular tactic.  These people hear quite well when I come around offering drinks, but when I bring it, suddenly they're deaf and blind, can't hear or see me setting the drink down.  I never let people get away with this one.  I always bring their attention to the drink, "Here's your Bloody Mary."  I'll repeat this a couple more times.  If that doesn't work I'll say, "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought you ordered a Bloody Mary," then start to walk away.  This always works, and the customer will suddenly say, "Oh, yes, I ordered a Bloody Mary...I'll catch you next time."  The only time this doesn't work is if I've made a mistake and the person really didn't order the drink.

People always ask me how I remember who ordered what drink.  The truth is, I don't.  Every waitress has a different system, but most write down the slot machine row or table number where the customer is sitting.  (Some make notes like "fat chick in thong" or "bald guy w/beer belly"; this works well when working at the pool!)  Most waitresses have a pattern that they follow when going through their slots or tables, and they break up their station in 2 or 3 sections, and when they're done with the section, they stop taking orders and go back to the bar.  If it's slow they might do the whole section at one time, if it's busy, they'll just stop when they get around 20 drink orders.  So this is why it's so important to stay at the machine where you ordered your drink, because I don't usually remember what you look like, I just remember where you were sitting.  If you do move, keep an eye out for me.  Try to go back to where you were sitting so I remember that you were the one who ordered the drink.  If you walk up to me and say, "That's my Heineken," I may not remember you and not give it to you.  It's nothing personal, it's just that I've been scammed before, where I've given people a drink thinking it was theirs, then when I reach the table where the actual person did order it, I was screwed.  Another reason to stay where you ordered a drink is because if you move even one row over you may now be in another waitress' station.  Of course sometimes I do remember people if they're really nice, or if they stand out in some way.

Another popular tactic is when people pat themselves down, looking for that elusive tip they want to give me but, darn it all - they just can't seem to find!  This one always ends up with, "I had a dollar somewhere...I'll catch you next time."

"All I have is a hundred," is a common one.  The only response to that is, "I take hundreds."  After we all have a good laugh and they start to put their money away I say, "Really, I take hundreds."  Don't be embarrassed to ask for change.  If I don't have it on me, I will take your money to the change booth and get it for you.  I have had people freak out at the thought of handing me a twenty and trusting me to come back with their change.  Are you serious?!  Believe me, your twenty or even a hundred dollar bill is not enough incentive for me to steal and risk losing my job.

So what's a good tip?

Generally speaking, when the drinks are "free," a dollar a drink is a good tip.  Water, coffee, and sodas are considered drinks.  If you want a glass of ice with your white wine, that is considered two drinks, because that extra glass is taking up space for a drink that could be given to another customer.  If the waitress is nice enough to bring you two drinks (such as a shot with a water), tip for two drinks.  The deal here is this: you're tipping for service, not for the drink.  It doesn't matter what she brings you, the point is she brought it to you.  You should never tip less than a dollar a drink.

I love customers who have my tip waiting for me when I bring their drink.  These are very smart people because I can see their dollar in their hand or in the coin tray when I'm walking up, so I'm happy to serve them.  And it also lets the customer keep playing without stopping to dig for money, so they have uninterrupted gambling.  Everyone is happy.

What about "high rollers," should they tip more?

In a word, yes.  High rollers play dollar machines like normal people play nickel pass the time or recharge if they've just lost big bucks.  These people get pretty much whatever they want as far as drinks, shows, deluxe rooms, etc.  So the very minimum they should tip is five dollars per drink.  This applies whether they're winning or losing.  When a high roller loses money, he is given special treatment because the casino hopes he'll keep playing and lose more.  When a high roller wins money, he is given special treatment because the casino hopes he'll keep playing and give it back.  These people are given the best drink service in any circumstance, therefore they should tip more.

A lot of people misunderstand what I mean when I say "high roller."  A high roller plays the high limit slots and high limit tables, usually these areas are separate from other slot machines and have a separate pit area.  They are usually men and they don't like to draw a lot of attention to themselves.  They do expect the best service and to be compensated for who they are, as they should be.  A high roller will occasionally wander into the rest of the casino to play a dollar machine to relax.  Even if they lose a couple thousand dollars on the dollar machines, it's not that big a deal to them, it just gives them a break from playing in the big leagues.

So no, not all dollar machine players are high rollers, most of them are not, so a dollar a drink from dollar machine players is great and will get you good service...and make your waitress happy too!

Are you supposed to tip a waitress if you win a jackpot?

Well, I'm kind of mixed on this one.  Usually, I don't expect it and I don't feel bitter or think badly of someone who doesn't give me something extra.  But here's the thing: If you've stiffed me for a drink, then sometime later you're jumping up and down telling me excitedly that you just won $10,000.00, don't think it's strange if I don't share your enthusiasm.  I find that most people who are good tippers to begin with, that is, tip five dollars or more per drink, will give an extra twenty or hundred when they win a jackpot.  These aren't necessarily high rollers or rich people, just people who follow casino etiquette naturally.

Special Requests

Requesting anything other than a drink is a special request, and should be compensated.  If you want extra olives, extra bottled waters, etc., you are asking the waitress to go out of her way.  Sometimes something as trivial as giving extra cherries is against house policy and even though the waitress will probably not be fired for doing this for you, she could be disciplined for it.  These may seem to be stupid and petty rules, which they are, but if the waitress tells you she can't do it, don't give her a hard time.

Some casinos have cigarette girls, sometimes the cocktail waitress is also the cigarette girl.  The waitress really does have to go out of her way to buy cigarettes for you, and a five dollar tip is the minimum whether you have to pay for the cigarettes or you get them for free.

Coffee, Hot Tea, Hot Chocolate, and Cappuccino/Espresso

These drinks take the most time to make because there are so many different ways people drink them.  Most drinks are made by the bartenders, but these hot drinks are always made by the cocktail waitresses.

Coffee - some casinos have self-making coffee makers, some are made manually and have to be refilled by the waitresses when they are empty.  The different coffee makers also affect the way it tastes, so if it tastes like shit, don't blame me!  Get your coffee from Starbucks.

Hot Tea - this is possibly the most time consuming drink to make because it is always made manually, one teabag at a time.  And the worst is adding honey.  Some places have individual bags, some have refillable bottles, and it's always sticky and messy!

Hot Chocolate - Some come ready-made out of a machine, sometimes you have to add powder.  The powder kind is obviously the more time-consuming because you have to add the hot water, then stir it to make sure it's all melted or people will complain, then add the whipped cream while trying to not get it on other drinks.

Cappuccino/Espresso - if this is even available, most offer these only to pit players or other high rollers.  This is very time-consuming when you have to unwrap each individual packet and place it in the machine, then heat and whip the cream and carefully place it on top.

Now you may think. "Big deal!  What's so hard about making these drinks?!"  Well, it's not hard, it's just time-consuming, and when it's busy and you have ten of these drink orders that all need to be made differently, it seriously slows you down, and inevitably, it's always the people who ordered these that make comments like, "I thought you forgot about me."

Poker Players

Just like certain drinks are a pain in the ass, poker players are a pain in the ass!  These are the most superstitious and eccentric gamblers in any casino.  True poker players aren't big drinkers, but they are very particular about how they want their drinks made.  A typical drink order would be, "Half coffee, half hot water, a teaspoon of Sweet'N Low, one drop of honey, cream on the side."  And they are notorious for not ordering when the waitress is taking orders.  I could be screaming, "I'm taking drink orders!  Please order now before I walk away!" and the dealer usually helps out by saying, "The waitress is here, please order now."  And it never fails, as soon as I walk away, someone will say, "A Miller Lite!"  Even though these players are usually regulars that you get to know, it's very rare to get more than a dollar out of any of them.  Poker players like to have the same cocktail waitress all the time, they like to be able to come into the room and have everyone remember their names, it gives them a sense of family, so sometimes they try to intimidate the new girls or extra board girls.  It takes a very confident waitress to handle these guys.

Tipping First

Tipping first is smart if you give at least a dollar.  If you give me fifty cents and tell me to hurry back with your Grey Goose and tonic, you may be sorely disappointed at how slowly I hurry back.  I might even forget your drink.  Oops.  If you really want your drink fast, give five bucks and nicely say, "Would you mind getting me a Grey Goose and tonic right away?"  Five bucks isn't mind-shattering, but I will go out of my way for someone who is also polite.

Who are the best tippers?

As a general rule, the best tippers are people who work for tips for a living.  This means that you can never tell who's going to be a "good" tipper.  It can be someone of any race, age, or gender.  But like I said, this is a general rule.  I've had customers tell me, "I'm also a cocktail waitress," then actually stiff me!  If you really are in the tipping business and you intend to stiff, don't embarrass yourself, just keep your mouth shut!

Here's a true story.  At a casino where I used to work, Ben Affleck came in to play.  I had heard of his and Matt Damon's generosity before but dismissed it as some Hollywood urban legend.  This was in his pre-J. Lo days (who I've heard is the exact opposite tip-wise).  Here is a guy worth millions of dollars, a major celebrity, playing big money at the tables, and how did he act?  Did he sit down and immediately demand a cocktail waitress?  No.  He was there to play and when the waitress came around he said, "Hi, how are you?  Can I get a Diet Coke, please?"  Did he ask for a large glass, a special glass, say something like, "Make sure it's diet," or "How long will you take?"  No.  When he got his drink did he say, "I thought you forgot about me," or "You took so long I lost your tip?"  No.  He said, "Thank you," and handed the waitress a hundred dollar bill.  Even though he lost twenty thousand dollars in fifteen minutes, he still tipped the dealer eight thousand dollars.  Did he blame the dealer for his bad luck?  No.  He knew the dealer wanted his autograph but she didn't have a pen or paper on her, so he left the table and came back a few minutes later and handed the dealer his autograph.  I was not the waitress, I was not the dealer, but I was stalking him, so I witnessed this all firsthand.  Ben Affleck is an extreme example of someone who is filthy rich and is still "Benny from the Block."  Yes, he's a multi-millionaire and could afford to tip more, so maybe some of you think, big deal, if I were that rich I'd tip better than that.  My point is, a hundred bucks is a big deal to a waitress, and he knows that, so he could have gotten away with being an asshole, but he chose not to be.  It seems generally true that the nicer people are the better tippers.  It's usually some obnoxious player who wants a drink every five minutes, tries to order two drinks with double shots at a time because I'm such a slacker, and throws me fifty cents and tells me to make sure to come back.

Is it OK to tip with quarters, chips, or tokens from other casinos?

Yes!  Any form of money is acceptable, and anything that can be turned into money, like chips or tokens, is great too.  As long as a chip or token is from a Las Vegas casino, I can trade it in for cash.  A lot of slot machines pay out in tickets instead of coins, and those are good too.

Having said that, please don't dig into your pocket and give me your assortment of quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies, bus tokens, and lint.  Even though these may add up to be more than a dollar, it's low class and frankly, disgusting.

Foreign money is usually not greeted with enthusiasm unless the value is higher than U.S. currency, of course.

I can take a roulette chip as long as it's from my casino.  If it's from another casino, it's worthless to me.  (You really shouldn't have another casino's roulette chip anyway since you're supposed to cash those in before you leave the game.)

On rare occasions, customers give gifts in lieu of a tip.  Usually these are just trinkets like costume jewelry.  This is very sweet, but please remember, this doesn't mean that you are entitled to 8 hours of tip-free drinks!

Do cocktail waitresses split their tips?

No.  The only time I would give another waitress your tip is if:
1. You told me you owed another waitress a tip.  This happens very rarely but if you give me money and tell me the other waitress' name or describe her, I will make sure she gets it.
2. You order and tip me when I'm dropping off a drink to another customer.  If it's shift change or I'm not headed back your way, I'll give your tip to another waitress so she will bring you the drink.

Do cocktail waitresses tip their bartenders?

Yes.  How much?  Well, speaking only for myself, I think it should be 20%.  (Other cocktail waitresses: Please do not e-mail me your reasons why you feel justified in tipping less...we all have bills to pay, we are all here for the same reason...if you hate stiffs and cheap customers, don't be one yourself!)

Do cocktail waitresses pay for the drinks?

I didn't realize how much misinformation there is out there regarding this topic until I started reading some forums, and I've had an overwhelming amount of e-mails asking me what the truth is.  So here it is.

Each casino and the IRS have an agreement as to how much to allocate each cocktail waitress, and whether to allocate her by the hour or per drink.  The agreement is different with every casino, and within each casino, the allocation amount is different for each cocktail waitress depending on her shift and station.  I will use the following as an example, and please keep in mind...this is just an example, a hypothetical, a not-for-real made-up FYI.

Let's say I am allocated 25 per drink.  If I bring out a hundred drinks that day, the IRS assumes I made $25.00, and that amount is added on to my paycheck as income.  Whatever income bracket I fall into at the end of the year determines how much in taxes I will have to pay, or have paid.  How does the IRS know how many drinks I take out?  Because each time I get an order from the bartender, he swipes my ID badge, or enters my employee number, and he records whatever drinks I take out on the computer.  By the way, whether it's a bottled water or a Long Island or a glass of champagne, they are each counted as one drink.

If I am allocated by the hour, it works the same way, except now it doesn't matter if I take out one drink or a hundred in that hour, I will be allocated the same amount.  (The bartender still records my drinks for the casino's records.)  Obviously it would be to my advantage financially to take out more drinks.  Let's say I get allocated $10.00 an hour and it's really slow, or I'm a lazy-ass and just stand around; if I serve just one drink that hour and I get stiffed, I'm still going to be taxed on $10.00 even though I haven't made it.

Did I mention that the above is just an example, to be used for reference only?  Please do not quote a quarter a drink or $10.00 an hour as fact or an absolute for all cocktail waitresses!  I do not know how much each cocktail waitress is allocated, and it is also not my own personal allocation.  It is just a clarification.

Another thing: the IRS agreement is already in place with each casino, but each girl has the option of signing it or not.  This is a very private matter, so while I don't know for a fact, I'm going to say that 99% of all cocktail waitresses do sign it.  If a waitress does not sign the agreement, she is required to report her own tips.

So technically, yes, if you stiff a waitress she has to "pay" to serve you.  But no, she doesn't actually hand over money to the bartender for your drink.  If a cocktail waitress tells you otherwise, she is either lying, doesn't know what she's talking about, or you've misunderstood her.

However, if you're in a lounge or at the pool, or somewhere else where you have to pay for a drink, then yes, the cocktail waitress does have to pay cash for your drink first, unless you are paying by credit card or room charge.  In that case, if you leave before she comes back with your drink, then she will either have to bring it back to the bar and get a manager to void that receipt so she can get her money back, or hope that someone else orders the same thing and she can "sell" it to that person.  She also has a tip allocation agreement, so in the same way as complimentary drinks, if you stiff her after paying for your drink, she's technically paid the IRS for the pleasure of serving you.

Those of you stiffs out there might be saying at this point, "Well then, what's the big deal?  Now that I know she doesn't pay for the drinks, I'm sure she'll make more than what she's allocated with other customers, so why should I tip her?"  First of all, you don't know that.  Second of all, why don't you just worry about your own behavior and not depend on the goodwill of others to make up for your freeloading?

Speaking of making up for freeloaders, this is a good time to extend a very appreciative Thank you! to the Good Samaritans out there who have done just that.  It happens very rarely, but sometimes when a customer sees that I've been stiffed by someone, he or she will approach me and give me a tip.  This is completely unnecessary, and I'm not telling people to do this, but I'm saying that it is very, very nice.  I always try to give the money back when this happens, but people who do this never take it back, and they also never want me to bring them a drink "on me" to show my appreciation.

Another way that waitresses "pay" for drinks is by tipping the bartender.  I always tip my bartender 20% of my tips, and those who work with me know that this is true.  This is good news for my customers, because by being a good tipper myself, I am guaranteed the best service and products from my bartenders, which are passed on to you.  When I order a beer, it will always be cold; if I want something that the bar is out of, he will send his barback to get it from another bar right away.  Of course this doesn't mean that I can get you Cristal if you're playing nickel slots, but whatever is available to you will be the best quality.  So even though you don't know if your waitress is a good tipper herself, just know that part of what you tip her gets passed on.

There you have it!