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One Time, Dealer: Dissecting Bad Behavior

by Dealer Chick |  Published: Nov 20, 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,

Do you have any thoughts on how players can most effectively help stand up for themselves or the dealer when there is a rude or abusive player at the table? Sometimes, when players try to handle the problem themselves, it only seems to escalate the situation. Would you recommend that they let the bad actors know that their behavior is unacceptable anyways?

— Signed,

A New Sheriff in Town


Dear Sheriff,

I’ll always encourage players to stand up for themselves, and the dealers, too. But first, some advice.

Ideally, dealers can defend themselves without making it worse, but we all know that one dealer who is as abrasive as some of the worst players, and that other dealer who can barely handle making eye-contact with a player much less speaking up to correct one. Consequently, the table atmosphere descends into a dick-swinging contest or a puddle of tears, neither of which keeps action moving.

If a player is seriously abusing a dealer who isn’t handling it well, I would discreetly approach a floor, explain the situation, and let them come over and hear it with their own ears. Floors are trained to be the bad guy. Most of them have no problem acclimating to the role. They know how to de-escalate a situation, handle a testy player with kid gloves, or give enough tough love necessary to get good results. Ultimately, we want everyone to calm down, play poker and have fun. But if that one guy is determined to make everyone around him miserable, the floors have no problem sending him packing if he crosses the line.

It’s that line that presents the opportunity for you to speak up. Casino staff are thick-skinned by nature. After everything we’ve seen and heard, we sometimes don’t blink at things when we should. It’s all a part of poker to us. We’re desensitized to the rough language, the insults, the throwing of chips, cards or chairs. Watching someone lose their minds when they tilt is more amusing than offensive to a seasoned gaming employee. However, just because some jerk’s behavior hasn’t crossed our line in the sand doesn’t mean that you need to tolerate it while you’re playing.

But before you get your knickers in a twist, I’ll ask you to consider why they’re acting that way. In my experience, bad behavior at the table is usually caused by one of three reasons. First, and easiest to spot, they’re tilting. Bad beats, draws that don’t get there, and over-playing their hands has screwed their plans to win the tournament or book a cash game win. Maybe they’re a solid player who hasn’t mastered the emotional swings in poker or maybe they’re a horrible player who can’t handle the pressure. Either way, they’re giving up any edge they may have had. It’s your lucky day!

When faced with a steaming pile of Tilty McTilterson, you have two choices: get offended (and get tilted) or use it to your advantage. Nothing is better than a guy who’s putting holes in the floor of his own boat. Dive in. If his comments are aimed at you, throw some of his steaming pile back at him. Push his buttons. Drive him off the deep end. Or, if you’re not a fast-thinking, one-liner aficionado, be patient.

Smile inside every time he acts an ass, and wait for your chance to scoop him. The key is, don’t let his behavior push your buttons. Everyone at the table (dealer included) is waiting for someone to take his crabby ass out, but no one will say it. Unless you have the skillset to verbally spar with someone, you shouldn’t either. Sit back, play your game and take his stack. He can rebuy and become another table’s problem.

The second reason someone behaves this way is always shocking. They’re an asshole. Plain and simple. A real douche canoe. They’ve been waking up on the wrong side of the bed since they first fell out of their cradle. It’s always shocking to me when people are rude for seemingly no reason because it’s unexpected. Here is this guy chilling, playing poker and being given a chance to win a few grand and have fun doing it, but it’s not enough. He’s still grumpy as all get out. He’s just that guy. Sadly, nothing you do will change that guy. He’s the mayor of Pricksville. Turn up the volume on your earbuds, and find your spot. The dealer tuned him out long ago, trust me.

The third reason someone acts badly is harder to spot, and even harder to defend against. It’s called table image. The Poker Brat syndrome. There’s nothing wrong with this guy that taking your chips won’t fix. It’s all an act, and he’s betting his stack on the fact that he can get under your skin. If he’s lucky enough to land on a table with a dealer that can’t see through his performance, then it makes his mission all that easier. He’s the guy who says stuff that sits oh-so-close to the line, but never crosses it. He picks, picks, picks. Spews needle after subtle needle until your face is flushed, your brow is perspiring and you’re slamming your chips in the middle. Off the table he’s as nice as they come. What’s your play?

You’ve got choices. With our Phil Hellmuth wannabe, what’s it going to be? Will you choose to get offended? Let him push your buttons until you end up on the rail muttering about how bad behavior should be banned? Will you mirror it back at him?

Or, realizing that you don’t have it in you to be as big of a jerk as he is, you choose another path. You keep your emotions in check long enough to find his weakness. Maybe this guy considers himself such a skilled pro player that bad or uneducated players tilt him. You put on your own act of naïve innocence to get under his skin. However you choose to handle him, know that handle him you must. Because he’s doing his best to handle you.

Poker truth: you can’t trust a damn thing that happens at a poker table. Decide what you’re going to let bother you, what you’re going to ignore, how you’re going to take a stand against someone when it’s necessary and then play your game. It’s all a game. ♠