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One Time, Dealer: What To Do About The Abusive, Big-Tipping Fish In Your Poker Game

Traveling Tournament Circuit Dealer Answers Your Questions About The Game


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, and read on for more advice, adventures, and real talk about life on the road for a traveling poker dealer.

Paying To Be Out Of Line

Hey Dealer Chick,

What is the most out-of-line thing to ever happen to you at the table? How do you deal with bad-for-you, yet good-for-the-game jerks?


Give Me the Dirt

Dear Dirt,

Let’s flashback to my first job as a house dealer. I’m on a $5-$5 pot-limit Omaha cash table. The player in seat five is using my time in the box to run his foot (sans shoe) up the inside of my thigh.

I’m new to the industry. Although, I’ve worked in customer service professions (namely restaurants and bars) enough to know that as a female, I will have to put up with a certain amount of flirtation that sometimes borders on harassment. It’s part of the job. I flirt as much as the next person. I’m not offended when men hit on me or tell dirty jokes in my presence. It’s how I make my money.

It does, however, cross a line when a customer decides he has the right to touch me in an intimate way without my permission. And no, I’m not talking about the player that gives you a hug when they haven’t seen you in a few. I know some dealers (and players) that consider any unwanted physical contact highly offensive, but that’s not me. But when I’m wiggling my bottom half back and forth under the table to keep his toe from finding its mark – while above the table I’m trying to focus on the action, keep still and let the game continue – we have a problem. And yes, he was tipping redbirds. Did his good tip afford him the privilege of what he did? No, but I won’t lie and say it didn’t make me more patient with him.

Where do we draw the line? I believe that’s a personal preference based on an individual comfort zone. I’m willing to flirt and have fun, but when I feel degraded, we’re done. When that regular player was inching his way up my thigh, I felt degraded, but I was also very new. I had been taught that nothing interrupts the game.

Once off the table, I found a supervisor and told him what had happened. He laughed and said, “Yeah, that sounds like him. Was he at least tipping you?” I said, “Yes, redbirds.” He said, “Well, that’s good.” I told him I refused to deal to that player anymore. He said he’d talk with him.

A few years later, I ran into that player while working a road gig. I pushed into a tournament table, and immediately recognized him. He was sitting in seat five, again. Before I did anything else, I pointed at him and said, “Look here, buddy! I remember you, and you will NOT run your toes up my thighs this time! I will come over this table and kick your sorry ass!”

He looked at me, confused (as did the other players). “I dealt to you in Columbus. You remember me?” He offered a sheepish smile and said, “Yeah, I do.” He behaved. As I said all of this, my tournament director stood by and listened. When I looked his way, he gave me a thumbs up and said, “You kick his ass and you call me.” This time, my boss had my back. And it felt good.

My supervisor’s reaction during my first altercation with that player was disappointing, but I got the message: he’s tipping so we’re not going to make it a big deal. He was winning money on the table but was known for losing it right back. Now, as a more seasoned dealer, I realize that my getting him kicked out would’ve broke the game.

But not everyone’s line in the sand is drawn in the same place. We had another player who decided he would only throw redbirds to dealers who were willing to bark like a dog to get one. If you pushed him a pot of any size and you barked like a dog, he would throw you a redbird. I remember he would hold it in his hand, wiggling it as he said, “No bark, no treat.”

When my boyfriend at the time (who was also a dealer in that room) came home and told me this, I was dumbfounded. “Please tell me you told him to shove it up his ass!”

My boyfriend, laughing said, “Hell no, I barked and barked. I barked so many times on that down, shoot, I barked when I pushed pots to other players. I easily made a hundred bucks that down!”

I knew I could never do that, but my boyfriend was unfazed. “He’s an idiot. He doesn’t decide my worth. I had fun and I took his money. I’m good with what I did.”

As the days progressed and the buzz about “barking for dollars” made the rounds, reactions differed. Most dealers thought it was ridiculous, but par for the course. Some expressed extreme outrage at the gall of this idiot. Many just shrugged, their ability to blow it off a symptom of the bigger picture: why get upset when no one cares what we think anyways? When it was my turn to bark, I used humor to deflect his attempts to belittle me. Preserving my self-respect cost me four bucks.

I had a dealer tell me one time that while he was dealing a cash game, a player announced, “These dealers are whores. They’ll do anything you want if you throw them a dollar.”

What I want to tell that player is this: your dollar does not buy my dignity. But I work in an industry that views dealers as disposable tools of the trade. Brash behavior and my feelings as a result of such behavior take a backseat to the game. Money reigns. Seasoned dealers don’t whine about the need for a thick skin in this game. But in turn, they also have the skill set to deal with the players who treat the tips they throw as their free pass to be an offensive jerk. Will we say thank you for the dollar and put our head down and deal? Yes, we will. Until the day comes when we don’t.



almost 3 years ago

If a "RedBird" is a $5 chip then sadly, yes, you should feel degraded. The dude was a pig and you accepted his behavior for lousy $5 tips? SMH