At this year's World Series of Poker (WSOP) the management has instituted a system that has, up until now, been unheard of among dealers; they have forced them to pool their tips.
Investigating this matter proved to be difficult as no one on the management staff cared to comment on the situation. The dealers themselves also shied away from my questions, and it wasn't until one dealer took me down a hallway and out to the dealer's smoke-pit behind the Rio Casino that I was able to get some inside information on what may become a serious problem for the WSOP in the future.
The consensus is that the management instituted this new system of pooling tips in response to pressure from the federal government who, as always, wanted a piece of the action. Traditionally dealers have kept the tips that they earn at the tables and used their discretion when it came time to declare it for tax purposes, but those days are over.
Whatever the reasons for this new procedure of pooling tips, the affects are certain, and they're all negative. First of all, if every dealer gets an equal share of the tips, this means that no one is rewarded for working harder or performing better. More accurately, the more experienced dealers who perform better are actually being penalized by receiving the average number of tips while the less qualified, rookie dealers are being rewarded. What this translates to in reality is an overall dealer apathy when it comes to performance.
This issue has hurt the best dealers so much that a lot of the veterans who have been regulars at the WSOP for years have actually quit. Many are just working for the rest of this Series because they need the money and won't be returning next year. This translates into this World Series having the worst dealing staff of any major event in poker, and that opinion came straight from the dealers themselves.
A big reason why this new system has hurt the dealer's income so much is that the players are aware of it. According to the dealers I spoke to, most players who would customarily tip generously have either stopped entirely or at least drastically reduced tipping. This is because they are aware of the fact that the dealer they are handing the money to, the dealer that they know has done an excellent job dealing to them, will get only a microscopic fraction of that tip. Instead, the tip is being split up among many dealers, most of whom are nowhere near as qualified as the dealer who should be getting the tips, not to mention the fact that the total sum is also subject to taxes as part of the dealer's income.
It's too bad that the staff at the World Series of Poker decided to make this change. They must have foreseen the consequences of their actions. The bottom line is that the WSOP now has worse dealers who are unhappy with their jobs. The future looks bleak as well since next year the dealers will be forewarned about the way things are, and many who have made the trip from all over the U.S. to deal here may just stay at home and keep their regular jobs.