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One Time, Dealer: On Player's Frustrations

Traveling Tournament Circuit Dealer Answers Your Questions About The Game

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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 Player’s Frustrations

Sometimes players vent their frustrations on dealers. If somebody is being rude to a dealer at your table, is there anything productive you can do to stand up for the dealer without making things worse?

Signed, Concerned Card Shark


Dear Concerned Card Shark,

There are two answers to your inquiry. Let’s get the short one out of the way first: call the floor.

Done, easy.

And the long answer is: call the floor (and hope for the best?)

Cue the confusion. Yes, saying call the floor twice is redundant, but let’s think about this.

As dealers, we are taught many steadfast rules, and a few flexible follow-your-gut rules, too, but the one rule for dealers that never, ever, ever changes is this: when in doubt, when anything out of the ordinary happens, when a player gets argumentative or downright mouthy, or you’re just not sure if you can deal that new guy in on the button in a tournament, you call the floor.

Make the floor the bad guy. Always. It’s not because the blood stains don’t show up as well on a suit. Dealer black hides all, trust me. It’s not solely because of tips, either, although that is a consideration. The Call the Floor mandate exists because dealers cannot take sides. We are required to be impartial facilitators of the game. The Floors are there to render a decision, regardless of who it upsets.

If the Floor is the bad guy, the impartial dealer might still get tipped. Or, be able to get through the remainder of their 30-minute down without being treated like the bane of that player’s existence. June Cleaver sends the Beaver to Ward knowing what Ward will say, but she isn’t in the role of the disciplinarian. June feeds the Beaver fresh-baked cookies and ruffles his hair. Everyone eventually blames Wally. A good floor will, like Ward, leave tilted Wally feeling heard, even if the decision didn’t go his way. And everyone still loves June.

A good dealer keeps those floor calls to a minimum by running their table well. Your question, Card Shark, is what can another player do to help a dealer that is suffering the wrath of an unhappy guest? Another player should never have to be a line of defense for a dealer. Players are paying for the experience of the game, they are there to win money and have a good time. They should not be expected to run the table, keep other players in line or remind the dealer where the action is during a hand. Good dealers can multi-task. Good dealers make it look easy. Good dealers know that when a player loses a pivotal hand that just put his tournament life at risk, tilting is usually the result. Tilting is not a crime. But what does it mean to tilt?

The word “tilt” gets a bad rap in poker. Tilting is never good, but it’s a far cry from dealer abuse. It’s an emotional reaction, to what was probably a one-outer on the river giving the player that should have folded his deuce seven off to your three-bet preflop the win, that lets your opponent(s) know that your mental state has just taken a turn for the worst and you are ripe for exploitation. Your “A” game has gone out the window.

A good dealer expects tilt. It’s part of the game. We, of the thick-skinned variety, know this. We were taught this fundamental fact in dealer school. To be brutally honest, it often amuses the dickens out of us. Too much? Visit a dealer break room. As newbies, we were enthralled with the amount of money on the tables that we would push to players. But anyone who does this grind on this side of the felt long enough becomes desensitized to the money, and therefore, desensitized to the tilt. We get it, we just no longer care. We let the player steam while we shuffle for the next hand. There is always another hand, and it’s our job to get it out there quickly. There’s no time to empathize with the tilted player.

But tilting after a bad beat, or a perceived bad beat, isn’t the same as being abusive to dealers. I’ve always said that as a dealer, the only thing that puts me on tilt, is rudeness. Straight out of the gate jerk-face. The player that just seems to get his minuscule rocks off on making life hard for the dealer. Thankfully, these brash idiots are few and far between, but they’re out there. And this is where “Call the Floor (and hope for the best?)” comes into play.

The sad truth is this: not all Floors back up their dealers. Not all Floors got their jobs because they’re good at flooring. Not all Floors can handle confrontation. If you’re a dealer who works with those amazing Floors that have your back and respect the level of skill and dedication you bring to your job, be grateful. If you’re a dealer stuck working in a room that caters to the players so much so that dealer abuse runs a muck, and your only line of defense is to put your head down and deal while your skin grows thicker every day, good luck. Know that you are putting up with more than should be required of you.

And if you’re that player, like Concerned Card Shark, that wants to help defend the dealer when it all goes south, call the Floor. If that Floor doesn’t help, call another one. I would urge you to avoid getting in an altercation with Jerk-face, or you might find yourself banned right along with him. De-escalation is always the key. Let the Floors do their jobs, but feel free to discreetly let that dealer know that you appreciate them. Kindness goes a long way in cancelling the sting of rudeness. If all else fails, you can always felt his ass. ♠