Happiness accounting

Lee Jones
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Posted on June 11, 2022 5:08 am EDT

Typically when I chat with my friend (and legendary poker player and author) Tommy Angelo, it’s not about poker. For example:

Me: “I just found out that Jimmy Page played on Joe Cocker’s cover of ‘Little Help From My Friends!’”

Tommy: “Wait, what? I didn’t know that, but now that I’m listening, yes, I hear it…” Followed by an in-depth discussion of Page’s string-bending technique.

Yesterday we did talk about poker because I came to our call with a question. I wanted to ask Tommy about a specific tipping practice, and about accounting for it in my accounting.

We’ve covered this subject both privately and publicly before, but I was fresh off a healthy winning session, and realized I’d tipped away half an hour’s expected earnings to janitors, floorpeople, and wait staff.

I won’t bore you with the details of our conversation (the Jimmy Page discussion was much more interesting), but there was an important takeaway…

Tommy and I long ago realized that, once you reach a point of financial security, by giving away some of your money, you increase global happiness.

That is, let’s say I’ve just won a $1k pot in a $5/10 game. At about that time, a new player sits down. At my regular cardroom, before that player is seated, one of the janitorial staff steps in and wipes down the chair and rail with a sanitizing spray. Here I sit with two racks of $5 chips in front of me in a beautiful messy pile. Let’s suppose I reach over and hand one of those chips to the person cleaning the table. Can you see that it’s missing from the pile? I certainly can’t. Can you see the smile on the cleaner’s face, and hear the, “Thank you so much.”? Yeah, me too.

It’s happiness magic. That’s what it is. The change to my financial comfort, even in the context of my poker session, is indiscernible. But that person, who does a thankless but important job, has their day brightened. Not only because the $5 helps pay their bills, but because they were seen and appreciated. And, as Tommy pointed out, any time we tip more than is necessary not to be a jerk, we’re also doing it for our own happiness. Sharing is good for the soul.

How, then, to record all this extra tipping I do at the club? Should that be subtracted from my win? I’m not in the habit of accounting for dealer tips in my poker results. My poker profit is the amount of chips I cashed out, minus the amount of chips I bought (whether that number be positive or negative). I don’t discriminate between a couple of bucks tossed to the dealer or $100 sent to the #3 seats with a weak top pair call.

But now I’m thinking I should treat those extra tips as part of my “cash out” amount, and here’s why.

Couple of weeks ago, three kids from our neighborhood came by the house. They’re in a fabric and design club at the high school. A nearby church is building “tiny homes” for people in our community who have nowhere to live. The kids’ club decided that they’d find and purchase used furniture, then use their nascent fabric and design skills to refurbish this furniture and help the church furnish the new tiny homes. Would we be interested in contributing to the furniture purchase fund?

I stepped away, discreetly peeled a hundred-dollar bill from my poker bankroll, and came back to the door.

I held out the bill – “Here, add this to your furniture budget.”

That $100 was long ago entered into my poker results tracking app, doing its part to improve my stats. Why not allow those tipped chips to do their part as well, even after they’ve been distributed to deserving employees at my poker room?

I don’t have to keep detailed notes about it – in fact, that would spoil some of the fun. But I’ve now given myself permission to wave my hands and say, “I gave away $25 in random tips today” when I enter my session results. Then I add $25 to the “cash out” amount for that session, and marginally increase my swagger as I review my BB/hour numbers.

Tommy, he’d see that as a win. Because he knows that I can now pass out more tips without affecting my session stats. He’s been preaching for years about how you should have a separate column for “rake + tips” in your accounting ledger. He teaches that this is the only way to obtain accurate data as to how well or poorly you’re doing at the actual pokering, rather than merging the results of your betting decisions with the cost of doing business.

Me, I’m going to leave the dealer tips and the rake baked into my stats. I see those as part of the whole – the business expenses if you will. But I will separate out the global-happiness tips, like the $5 chip I toss to the security guy on my way out the door. That’s a smile for him and a smile for me.