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One Time, Dealer: Stories From The Felt

by Dealer Chick |  Published: Aug 28, 2019

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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.


Hi Dealer Chick,

Can you tell a story from the felt about a typical day in the life of a dealer?

Signed, Prying Player


Dear Prying,

Enjoy a little bit of non-fiction from the circuit:

Within moments of tapping into the table, I know this down has the potential to be the longest 30 minutes of my life. I pray I don’t get locked in. The dealer I’m tapping out collects the deck, sets it one half on top of the other on the table, clears his hands then pushes his chair backwards. He steps to the right as I slide in behind him from the left. It’s seamless, so much so that players don’t realize he whispered in my ear before departing.

“Seat ten is a total dick.”

I sit, swap the old deck out with the new one and scramble the cards. “Hi, guys, how y’all doing?”

“Fine, how are you?” Seat one replies.

“Lovely.”

Riffle, riffle, box cut, riffle.

“Antes, please.” No one moves. “C’mon, guys, show me some ante love.”

Everyone, except seat ten, throws in two green chips. I tap the table in front of him.

“Sir, I need your ante.”

He ignores me while he plays with his phone.

“Sir, ante please.”

Nothing.

I smack the table in front of him. “Sir, put out your ante.”

Without a word, he tosses two green chips out. I scoop them into the pot, cut the deck and start the pitch.

“Looks like we got a dealer, boys,” seat four exclaims as he watches the cards fly around the table.

“A beautiful one at that,” seat one says as his thigh brushes mine under the table

“I do what I can.” I readjust my legs away from seat one.

“Am I the big blind?” seat five grabs chips to post.

“Nope, you’re under the gun, your action.”

“Oh, okay,” he says. He looks at his cards. “Raise.” He throws in a yellow chip worth a thousand.

“Blinds are three, six. Make it twelve, min.”

“Oh, my bad, sorry.” He throws two hundred into the pot.

“No worries, twelve is the bet.” The action folds around to seat ten. I stare at him.

“Sir, your action.”

“I know, I know,” he says. “What’s the raise?”

“Twelve.”

“But he threw in one chip! That’s a call!”

“He said raise.”

“I didn’t hear him say raise,” he says.

“I said raise! I said raise!”

I smile at seat five. “It’s okay, we know you said raise. Sir, the raise is twelve.”

Seat three rolls his eyes. “Geez, buddy, you wanna slow the game down anymore?”

“I got a right to know what the raise is!”

“Oh, the chips sitting four inches from your friggin’ face ain’t clue enough?” Seat four jumps in on the quarrel.

“I fold,” says seat ten.

“No shit,” seat three mutters under his breath. I collect the mucked cards and indicate the action to seat one.

“What’s the raise?” He laughs at his own joke and throws in his cards. Everyone folds around to the original raiser. I push the small pot his way and move the button.
Riffle, riffle, box cut, riffle.

“Antes, please.”

The players oblige, except seat ten.

“Sir, I need your ante, please.”

Seat eight sighs. “Dude, give her the ante so she can deal.” We share a knowing glance. He rolls his eyes in exasperation like I wish I could. Seat ten tosses out two green chips. I pull them into the pot, cut and pitch the cards. Under the gun throws in eighteen hundred.

“Raise.”

The next three players fold. Seat ten says, “How much is the raise?”

“Seriously, dude!” Seat three throws his hands up in surrender.

“Eighteen,” I say.

“You didn’t announce the raise.”

“I said ‘raise.’”

“You didn’t announce how much.”

“She’s not required to announce how much when the raise is obvious!” Seat four glares at seat ten. “Stop wasting her time and play poker, why don’t you?”

“She’s supposed to announce changes in action,” Seat ten says.

“Sir, I announced raise. This is a visual game. It’s on you to pay attention and follow the action. Now please act on your hand.” Seat ten folds. Seat eight shakes his head. I bite the inside of my cheek. The hand plays out.

Riffle, riffle, box cut, riffle.

Everyone has posted their antes before I could ask, except seat ten.

“Sir, ante, please.”

He ignores me. I reach towards his stack. He blocks me. “Don’t touch my chips.”

“Sir, if you’re not going to put your antes out, I will take them.”

“Don’t. Touch. My. Chips.”

Seat eight says, “Dude, just let her take it. You’re slowing up the game. She’s just doing her job.”

“These are my chips. She’s not allowed to touch them.”

“No, sir, they’re not your chips. The chips belong to the tournament director. They are on loan to you for the duration of your time spent in this tournament. The TD hired me to facilitate this tournament in an expedient manner. You’re hindering my ability to do that. You have two choices: either put the antes out when I ask the first time, or I will get them myself. Your call.”

I lock eyes with seat ten. I’m biting the inside of my cheek to keep from flinching first. He tosses in the chips and goes back to his phone.

Overhead we hear, “Dealers, if you’ve started the riffle, complete that hand and hold up. Players, you’re on a fifteen-minute break.”

We finish the hand. The players disband for break. I set the decks for the next dealer. I put one deck in the box. I make sure all my empty seats have corresponding seat cards to let the floor knows he has seats to fill. I fan the other deck across the table: diamonds, clubs, heart, spades. I have less than ten minutes before the players return. I stand, stretch, and do a quick clean up around the table for trash. The next dealer walks up to tap me out.

“Hey, mama,” she says, smiling.

“Hey,” I say. I grab my cushion off the seat. I sit down at a new table to do it all over again. Across the felt I tell her, “Hey, seat ten is a total dick.” ♠