Vegas Tips and Tricks
Whether you are a Vegas Virgin or a Sin City Regular, I think you might see something in this section that will help you out on your next trip. This section will address things such as how to get free drinks, how to get cheaper transportation, how to get room upgrades, appropriate tipping practices, casino comps, and the best ways to get into the hot Vegas nightclubs. So grab yourself a free beverage from Book & Stage, throw a $20 in that Video Poker machine, and let's get down to business.
Tips and Tricks
The “$20 Trick” is the best gamble in town
The $20 Trick has grown in popularity over the last several years as more people find out about its success rate online. That said, this is a technique that is as old as Vegas itself. And it still works. Let’s set it up. You just arrived at your Las Vegas Strip Hotel and you are(…)
Airport Transportation — Why not a limo?
You just got off the plane. You can already hear the sounds of slot machines and the Vegas fever is starting to hit you. And then you go wait for 30 minutes in a cab line. Bummer. Often, the only option available to you is a cab. If you’re traveling alone or with one or(…)
Las Vegas is pretty much the service industry capital of the world. Everybody works in service in one way or another. The sooner you realize that, the sooner you're going to be taken care of in Vegas, even with a modest tipping strategy. Everyone from cabbies to dealers to cocktail waitresses to maids to slot attendants to valets to doormen generally don't make much in the way of "salary." They rely on you. The good news is that most of them have additional perquisites to offer you when you do fork up some gratuity. Plus, it feels good to tip and not be an asshole.
Las Vegas Tipping Guide
10-15% is customary for taxi drivers. If the driver appears to know Las Vegas well, I always tend to strike up a conversation about new things in town and get a local's perspective on restaurants and bars. I will always tip more for good conversationalists and safe drivers. If I feel I'm being long-hauled, I'll call out the driver. If the explanation is less than satisfactory, I won't tip above 10%. Also know that if you're asking the cabbie to take you to a strip club, you should negotiate your rate prior to getting in the car. Cab drivers (and limo drivers, for that matter) receive compensation for dropping off men at strip clubs. If there are no limos available to you at the time, ask a valet to find you a cab that will take you there for free. It will generally work. Then again, if you're at a major hotel or casino, the valet will find you a limo very quickly, and usually for free. Tip the driver $10 for the trip and if the valet arranged the setup, give him a $5-$10 tip as well.
First off, it's good to know the valets. The valets who know what they are doing can make your Vegas stay much more enjoyable. Whether it's hooking you up with a great recommendation for a club, bar, or restaurant, or getting you a great deal on a limousine, it's important to take care of them. If you're in a cab line, and the valet opens your doors and helps with your luggage, give them at least $2-$5, depending on how much they helped. If you have a more strenuous request of the valet, tip him $10-$20. For instance, say you have a group of 6 and want to take a limo from the Mirage to the Golden Nugget. Don't call a limo service. Go down to your valet, hand him a $20 and say that you want a cheap deal on a limo for one quick trip downtown. He'll generally be able to call a buddy (not a service), so the driver can keep the trip off the books. It's also a great deal for the driver. He gets to do a quick trip for a good tip that will not have fees taken out of it from the service (as long as you have cash). Valets can also get you free limo service to any strip club in town (but be sure to tip the driver and the valet). Pro tip: Ask the valet for not only a free trip, but complimentary entry or drink vouchers at a strip club. Most of them know drivers with hookups. And the driver himself can get as much as $20 per person dropped off at a strip club. It's a great deal for him to get you there, too.
Desk Clerks, like Valets, can also be your best friend in Vegas. I wrote about the $20 trick here, so I won't rehash that narrative, but suffice it to say, the $20 "tip" is well worth the try. In other instances, though, tipping a desk clerk is appropriate. For instance, if you go down and ask for a late checkout and the clerk says 11:00 is the best she can do. You can put a $10 bill down and ask for 1:00. It has worked for me before, and worst case scenario they say no and you keep your bill. You should also tip them for any administrative thing you ask for -- e.g., new towels, business office requests, stamps, directions, recommendations, etc. $5 is a very good tip for any such services, especially if they were helpful.
Cocktail waitresses don't make much in the way of salary, but they do make a pretty good living in the bigger casinos. Assuming you are partaking in complimentary drinks, a $1 tip per drink is pretty customary. Pro Tip: If you want to drink and keep drinking, give her a $10 or $20 bill up front and ask her to just bring you whatever drink you're having every time she goes to the bar. She'll remember you with a large upfront tip. This is also a good tip for those people that don't like to be distracted while gambling (fairly common at the Craps or Baccarat tables). Don't be the guy that doesn't tip the waitress. It's a free drink for crying out loud.
This is a hard one to judge, but no matter whether I'm winning or losing, I try to tip out at least $5 per hour. If I'm winning a modest amount, that number will rise. If I'm winning big, that number will rise even more. I generally do a good mix of putting down a "bet for the crew" and just throwing the dealer a toke without a bet. That way I know they're taking some home. Bets for the crew are always encouraged by the crew because one bet for the crew usually ends up with multiple bets for the crew from other players. Examples include putting a side bet down next to your bet in blackjack for one hand, or putting a small wager next to your main wager on the pass line in craps. Hardway bets in craps are also very common. When throwing in a bet for the dealer, just announce "____ bet for the crew" and they'll place it. If you want to bet one for you and one for the crew, in craps it's called a "two-way" bet (e.g., two-way hard six would be a bet for you and the crew). Most casinos pool tips in some fashion. One exception is in the poker room, where most poker dealers keep their own tokes (though this varies as well). I always tip at least a $1 per winning hand in poker, and for big pots, this number will rise up to $5. Just remember to take care of the dealers and they'll take care of you. Plus, karma.
I mean "doormen" in the context of a club or show. These are the guys in a show that will seat you at your table or seats. Tipping them $10-$20 will ensure that you get better seats closer to the action. If you're at a ticketed show with assigned seats, it's not worth the tip unless you ask for an opportunity to be upgraded. If the show is not sold out, sometimes you can get great seat upgrades for the cost of a tip. In the club, it is vitally important to take care of the doorman because he could be the difference between you and your crew sitting in the back where nobody can see you or in the front next to the dance floor. If you're in a group of 5, give the guy a $50 and he'll take care of you. $10 per person in a club that's going to require each of you to spend $300-$500 on bottle service is worth the extra expense. The doormen in a strip club can be a little more hazy. If you're going to the VIP section, you might be "required" to tip the doorman. It's not worth arguing over it. The key, though, is to avoid being swindled into tipping several doormen. They may just start coming out of the woodwork with each room you enter.
It is pretty customary to tip out $1-2 per bag. If they bring it to the room, I'll give them $5-$10 total, depending on how much work was involved.
I generally leave $3-$5 per day on the pillow or nightstand. Make it very obvious that you are leaving the tip for the maid (can even leave a note). Otherwise, she may just think the money is laying out on your desk from the night before. They will generally error on the side of not taking money they aren't sure is gratuity, so make it obvious. Plus, they have to clean up after your Vegas night. They deserve a little tip.
Slot attendants should be tipped on hand payouts. I'm not a big slots player, but I'm told that 1/2% to 1% of total payout is fairly standard. If you win $1000, tipping $10 feels about right. Getting a hand payout is a pain in the ass, but it's still a service, so take care of the slot attendant, even though in my experience, most of them seem angry at the world.
Tipping at buffets is tricky. You hear 10-15%, but I don't understand that at all. I'm all for tipping, but at the buffet, I won't tip more than $2 per person at the table. If the waitress did very little, I may even do $1 per person at the table. In my experience, I think this is actually more standard than 15%.
The general rule is pretty simple in Vegas. Whether it is a great street entertainer, a bartender, a tour guide, a waitress, the maître d', or sommelier, take care of them and they will take care of you. The town operates on the green dollar, and most everybody knows a little bit about the service industry. Many people in Vegas have a lot to offer you that will make your stay much more enjoyable. All it takes is a little tip.