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The Poker Player’s Manifesto: Part IX - Poker Colleagues I

by Bryan Devonshire |  Published: Nov 26, 2014


Bryan DevonshireA few issues ago, we discussed life in the poker community, summed up simply as: keep your word and don’t act like a jerk. What we didn’t discuss much was the working side of the poker community, the people involved in the game via paycheck. This includes everybody that you come in contact with as a poker player, including taxi drivers and valets, chip runners and dealers, and people working for the media. The list is long, and like most personal interactions in life, you need to treat these people with respect and not act like a jerk. Here we will discuss the more poker-specific positions we work with, what they like and don’t like, and some general suggestions for fostering mutually beneficial relationships.

The first person you will interact with is the keeper of the list. This may be somebody working a board, either manually or digitally, with games and waiting queues listed beneath them, or a floorman writing down names on a piece of paper in a smaller setting. Regard this person as Zuul, because you will not get to the poker game without going through the gatekeeper. Treat them with respect and they will do the same. Depending on the room and its policies, you may be given an option to receive a phone call or a text message or a house pager to notify you when your seat is ready. This is a great luxury and something that they go out of their way to do. Abuse it, and it will go away. If they text or page you and you cannot make it to the game, call them and let them know so they can move along with their list. Similarly, if it is a room that requires you to be on the premises to hear your name called, let them know if you leave the building and when you will be back. If you won’t be back, let them know so they can take you off the list and not waste time calling you. Little gestures of courtesy like this do not go unnoticed by employees and are more effective than tips at ensuring proper service.

Once sat, chips become your next quest. Sometimes the person that sat you does this, sometimes it is the dealer, sometimes it’s a chip runner, and sometimes you do it yourself. If you don’t ever want to tip somebody, then get the chips yourself. Otherwise, take care of that person from time to time, especially if it is somewhere that you play often. If you are a guest in my house, then you chill on the couch while I grab you a beer. If you’re at my house once a week, then you had better be rolling in with a case of beer and helping with the dishes from time to time, you know what I mean?

Alright, now it’s time to interact with the dealer. Tragically, the people that we as poker players spend time with the most hate us with a corollary degree of disdain. It breaks my heart the way these people are often treated, and if we as poker players want a place full of quality dealers, then we need to do what we can to stop running off the good ones.

First, like all relationships, it begins with respect. The second you as a player disrespect the dealer, you are doing it wrong. The only two instances in which a player is allowed to be upset with a dealer is when that dealer is technically incapable of dealing the game or when that dealer is acting like a jerk. In the former example, the correct response is not to yell at the dealer, because that will make the problem worse. Out of respect for that human being, give them the benefit of the doubt, and see if the error can be corrected easily. Most dealers, when in a situation they are uncomfortable with, are more than willing to be taught and walked through the process by a cooperative table. Plenty of dealers have come through our high-stakes mixed games, not known how to run a game well or at all, calmly listened to patient instruction from players, and, by the end of their shift, they were comfortable dealing the game and the players were comfortable with them in the box. That situation could have very easily ended in tears, with players yelling at the dealer, the floor, and each other, a very harsh and toxic environment for anybody to be around.

Granted, sometimes the dealer doesn’t know what they’re doing and are unwilling to adapt as well. While this dealer may deserve some tongue lashing for acting like a jerk in this instance, it still is not the player’s place to do so. Anytime you as the player yell at the dealer, you will come off as a jerk regardless of how right you are. Calmly stand up and tell the floorman what is going on if you really want things corrected. If you start yelling at the dealer, then the floorman will perceive you as the problem rather than the dealer and the dealer will not improve.

In the rare instance of a dealer being malicious or plain rude, you can respond with a calm-toned verbal reprimand. Behaving badly at a poker table is simply unacceptable, no matter who you are. The solution is to talk to the floorman away from the table rather than creating conflict at the table, which is always bad for the game.

The most valuable currency you have as a poker player is the way you treat and interact with other people. If you treat everybody with respect, even amidst conflict, then people will like you more. If people like you more, then they will take better care of you, because you have taken better care of them. On and on, it reverberates within the community. Money tips sustain our fellow colleagues. A better relationship with list maintainers, floorpeople, and dealers directly influences your bottom line financially, so tip those who take care of you. If you never tip, then you are the cheap, unappreciative bum that at least is nice to people. If you tip great, but treat people poorly, then they still won’t like you. ♠

Bryan Devonshire has been a professional poker player for nearly a decade and has more than $2 million in tournament earnings. Follow him on Twitter @devopoker.