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One Time, Dealer: Keeping The Game Moving

by Dealer Chick |  Published: Oct 10, 2018

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Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a dealer on the circuit grind? Have a question about behavior, etiquette, or anything else related to running a poker game? Do you want to know what dealers really think about while they’re pitching cards? What it takes to become a dealer? How you should treat dealers? Are dealers people, too?

Send your questions for The Dealer Chick (TDC) to editor@cardplayer.com, and read on for more advice, adventures, and real talk about life on the road for a traveling poker dealer.


On Keeping the Game Moving

Dealer Chick,

I was playing a tournament when the dealer got annoyed at me for collecting the antes, but I was just trying to speed up the game. Players are constantly slowing down the action. I want more hands. What can I do to help speed up the game without upsetting the dealer?

- Signed, Trying Hard to be a Good Poker Citizen


Dear Trying Hard,

This question touches on some real pet peeves for dealers. Even the best dealers appreciate an assist every now and then, but there is a distinct difference between a nice player who pushes a bet within reach of a dealer stretching to swipe it into the pot, and the player that views themselves as the table captain. You may feel like you got a dealer with an attitude, but I’d be willing to bet you ran into one that takes pride in their profession.

I recall a time when I pushed into a tournament table. While I was still shuffling, one player tapped the table in front of several other players saying, “Antes, put your antes out.” I thought it was odd, but his tone wasn’t rude. When another player didn’t respond as quickly as desired, he tapped the table again, harder, and repeated his directive. At this point, I said, “Thanks, but I got this.” I hadn’t even pitched a card yet.

Although it’s commendable to want to help, consider the ramifications. I realize that players are sometimes at the mercy of bad dealers who are not good at running their game, making change, or counting stacks. When the table experiences an inept dealer, it’s understandable for a player to help. Dealing poker is an easy skill to learn, but it’s a difficult one to master. Newbies get thrown into the action every day. Sadly, players get the raw end of inexperienced dealers, or worse, dealers who know better, but don’t care.

But most dealers do care. They take pride in their work. They are territorial because they are skilled at running their game. They know they got this. Early in my career, I was told that the best way to put a table at ease when I tap in is to verify and shuffle the deck as efficiently as possible, and then pitch the cards quickly and accurately. How well I can get out that first hand indicates my skill level as a dealer. When I achieve a solid first impression, players are relieved to be granted 30 minutes to focus on playing their game.

So, when I sit down to deal and players immediately start doing my job for me, I wonder if they’re assisting because they think I’m not capable. That’s a disheartening feeling to have when you consider yourself a professional at what you do. Usually, like you, they’re just trying to help. I get that. My response to that is, I don’t mind the help if you can do it faster than me and as accurately, otherwise, you’re messing with my flow and slowing me down. I’d much prefer you let me show you what a smoothly run game looks like.

But alas, it’s not all up to me. Once you’ve learned to let me do my part, now you’ve got to do yours. The first thing you can do to keep the game moving is pay attention. Poker is a social endeavor, true, but the game should not be forsaken for conversation, drinks, flirting with the cocktail waitresses or your candy crush high score. You put your money down, now play. If you like to watch a movie while you play that’s fine, but if you can’t multitask, don’t. Good decision making is a crucial skill in poker, but not every hand requires three minutes of tanking. Fold your junk in early position and let’s move on. Know where the action is, know what the bet is, act in turn and avoid those pesky floor calls that waste time.

And for the love of all things right and true, put your antes in without being asked. I shouldn’t have to repeatedly smack the table to get you focused on the game. If you’re sitting in my one seat finishing up a text while I pitch the cards and I see that your ante isn’t out yet, I don’t mind reaching over and putting it out for you. I’m not a jerk. I’m not going to sit there, staring into space waiting for all players to post their antes because it’s your clock you’re wasting. That’s an ineffectual attitude for a dealer to have, but I can’t play the game for you.

I shouldn’t have to climb out of my seat to reach across the table to retrieve your bet, either. Don’t be the guy in seat three that puts chips out that are barely touching the betting line then sits back, crosses his arms and looks at me like, “What? You can’t reach that?” Players like that get short pitched by dealers who’ve had to stretch their aching backs across the felt one too many times and are already annoyed at asking for antes.

Speaking of bets, please put chips out in a way that is easy to count visually. Don’t call a 2,600 bet in 25 green chips because you don’t like them in your stack. Complaining about having mounds of chips makes you look like a you-know-what. Don’t refuse to be the banker when change is needed and you’re the player with stacks of chips. I was dealing at Hard Rock Tulsa when the players were so focused, everyone pitching in to keep the game moving and allowing me to run the action that a grinder said, “I wish all tables would play like this! This is what poker should be like every time!” He was right.

When I push into a table I try to remember that I don’t know what these players had to deal with before me. I’m going to do my best to make my time there fun and productive and hope they appreciate what I bring to the process. A little empathy goes a long way, on both sides. I’m not suggesting we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya, but if players work with dealers and dealers focus on giving their best, the game moves along at a solid pace allowing everyone to enjoy the experience. ♠