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One Time, Dealer: The Easiest Game In Town

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.


What is the easiest game to deal? If you were looking for the easiest down ever, what game would you pick?

— Signed, The Big Easy

Dear Mr. Big,

When a brand-new dealer hears the words “Push PLO,” their innards quake, especially, if like me, they are inherently bad at math. Eventually, they learn the tricks; shortcuts like three times the bet plus the trail to calculate a pot, or 3.5 times the big blind as the bring in, and their fears lessen. When the betting action is bet, raise, pot, pot, pot, it can be difficult to keep up even for an experienced dealer, but most of them know that by that point the answer is probably, “you’ll be all in.”

Make a PLO game eight-or-better, and now we’re reading hands for the high and low board, if there is one, and probably quartering the pot. There are tricks to help keep the action moving, like leaving bets in front of heads-up players to save time, but the newbies are too busy trying to remember the pot to think that hard.

Not having to think is why many seasoned dealers will tell you that the easiest game to deal is hold’em. So easy, it’s boring. No thinking required. Once a dealer has become proficient at dealing all the games, it’s more about what they like to deal because now they’re all manageable.

Let me tell you a secret: dealing poker isn’t that difficult.

Dealing poker (of any variety) is a very easy skill to learn, but a difficult one to master. But once the mechanics and the rules are mastered, the dealing itself is a piece of cake. The difficulty we experience comes from coping with the people and the less than ideal circumstances we are required to contend with on any given day.

So, when I’m asked what I would pick as the easiest down ever, my answer has very little to do with the actual game being dealt.

My dream down is one where I am dealing a game I have become very proficient at so that I feel confident. This business is well-known for throwing newbies to the wolves. In my first year of dealing, I was told to sit down at a table and deal H.O.R.S.E. I had no knowledge of what the acronym stood for, never mind how to deal each game represented by each letter.

My supervisor’s response when I told him I had no idea what to do? “The players will help you, no biggie.” I’ve since learned that players in the mixed games are infamous for helping dealers. Sure, many of them will assist you, but not without making you feel like an incompetent ass. Unfortunately, when you’re dealing games you don’t know, you are incompetent and that makes for a real shitty down for everyone.

The next quality I want on my dream down is a table full of players who know what they’re doing. Dealing to the Saturday night table of drunk weekend warriors may be entertaining, but unless you’re smacking the drunk guy who is throwing fistfuls of red birds your way every time he takes a pot down, you’re probably doing more babysitting than anything, and making little money in return.

Give me a table full of grinders who understand what string betting is and why it’s going to slow the game down so they don’t do it. Give me a table full of players who know to make change without being asked. Give me players who know to say, “call” when they put in a 1,000 chip and a 100 chip in to cover a bet of 600. Don’t waste my time making me explain why your attempt at helping me make change means I’m going to hold you to a min-raise, and don’t argue with me when you know I’m right.

Give me players with a sense of humor. Keep your grumpy, slouching, brow-furrowed angry dudes at home. Keep the guys who take the game so seriously that they can’t socialize at home. Keep the guys who are addicted to their phones and laptops at home, too. Give me the players who know where the action is, the ones who know what their options are, and the ones who don’t whine about being card dead. Keep the guys who use losing as an excuse to berate other players or staff. Actually, don’t keep them. Weigh them down with a cement block and throw them over a bridge somewhere because they are bona fide douchebags.

The next requirement for my dream down is good equipment. Can I please have a chair that extends vertically? I’m a short stack, so I can’t reach beyond the middle of the table if the chair is so low that I can touch the ground. So give me a chair that raises, then give me a foot rail to rest my feet on so that my knees don’t swell to the size of small pumpkins because I can’t reach the ground anymore. Give me cards that are easy to pitch. Heavy enough to not flip when I sail them towards the players sitting the farthest from me, and slick enough to slide the rest of the way if my pitch comes up short. Give me felt that has just the right amount of padding underneath it to make it easy to pick up cards and shuffle, and isn’t so worn that it acts like Gorilla Glue. If you’re going to give me a shuffle machine, make sure it works. Otherwise, just let me do it. I’m faster.

And for the love of all things holy and scared, can I please have chips that are not three shades of the same blue? Does it take a degree in obviousness to know that those are hard to read across the table, especially in dim lighting? And lastly, could you please regulate the temperature in the room to a level where I’m not sweating out my weight in perspiration, but nor are my hands frozen blocks of ice that can’t pitch?

Fulfill that simple wish list, and I’ll deal Go Fish if you want. ♠