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One Time, Dealer: Poker Rules Sticklers Need To Lighten Up

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.


Hi Dealer Chick,

I hate it when players show their cards to their neighbor or friends at show down, and then muck without showing the rest of the table. Show one, show all is the rule, isn’t it?

— Signed,

Missouri


Dear The Show Me State,

Everybody knows that the rules of poker are designed to protect the integrity of the game. One of the main ways rules do that is by preventing collusion, and the show one, show all rule is a perfect example of a rule designed to meet that goal. But, if you’ve spent any time playing live poker (tournaments are more strict in their enforcement of rules generally speaking), then you know that the show one, show all mandate isn’t strictly enforced very often, if at all, depending on the table. The reason for this brings us to another aspect of poker, the etiquette of the game.

There are several situations in which a player may show cards inappropriately to his neighbor at the table. Cash players enjoy letting players without cards sweat their action. It’s part of the camaraderie of the game to anticipate the river and see if your buddy’s draw gets there.

Often times, players show their hand to say, “See how good these cards were pre?” before tossing them into the muck. Or, maybe they show to say, “Can you believe I missed with all those outs?” In any case, every time a player shows their hand to someone while the hand is still ongoing, it has the potential to influence the action. At the very least, showing your hand gives away pertinent information that wasn’t earned.

Poker is a game designed around deciphering reads and tells in the hopes of gleaning new information to benefit you at a later time. When players give this information away freely, it affects the game. Letting one player know that you didn’t hit your hand can inadvertently give a player who is still in the hand the information he needs to make a hero call or a tight fold. Or, at the very least, give your “buddy” insight into the range of hands you call a big raise with pre, which could be useful when he decides to shove, an advantage the other players who didn’t see your hand aren’t getting. Showing your hand with action pending even to someone not involved in the hand should never be allowed to go undisciplined.

Often players do exactly as you said. In a heads-up situation, Player A will make a bet, Player B will call and Player A will then show his hand to his neighbor before he mucks it. Player B has the right to see those cards because Player A showed them and because he paid for the right when he called. But, more often than not, Player B will be content with pulling in the pot and letting the faux pas go, and the table won’t object. The reason is etiquette.

Most players are content to win, they don’t have to rub salt in the wound by making the other guy show his bluff. No one cares that the loser wishes to commiserate with the guy next to him. Often, if the winner insists that the dealer force the losing player to show his hand (preventing such situations from escalating is why dealers are taught to muck hands quickly), the loser will get upset. The winner of the hand (also known as the player who is right according to the rules), will be viewed as the asshole for being a rules stickler. Wasn’t taking his money enough?

Let’s talk about “Rules Stickler Guy.” RSG is an interesting phenomenon. RSG is the guy who wants to call the floor on every little infraction, he demands immediate correction and punishment, and then pulls the floor aside to berate them for not running their room properly. RSG seems to think that floors have the psychic ability to predict when players are going to break rules before they do so, and they should’ve been better at preventing it. Ironically, other players at the table can attest to the fact that RSG breaks all the rules he cites.

Here’s my advice for RSG: Not all players know all the rules. Dealers can do their best to run their game well to prevent rules violations, and offer corrections when they occur. I can call the floor when necessary. The floor can then issue warnings, ban players and fix the hand as needed in the best interest of the game. But, I can’t make grown adults do the right thing. I can only deal with the aftermath when they don’t. I am not Cher. I can’t turn back time.

Lighten up, RSG. While I realize that cash games are still competitive engagements with a substantial amount of money on the line, this is a game being played in a social environment. The social aspect of poker is what makes it fun, especially for the casual player. While you do have the right to alert the floor when a dealer isn’t controlling their table well, you are not employed by the establishment running the game, therefore, you do not get to decide how situations get handled. If a floor feels a warning is appropriate, that’s their right.

The need for good customer service applies to all players, not just you. The discipline for the infraction does not have to meet with your approval just because you’re the one who called it out. And if you are that extra special breed of rules sticklers that only has an issue when you’re not the one breaking the rules, get over yourself. You’re not special, you’re not entitled.

To be clear, I’m not saying it’s okay to break the rules. The rules are there to protect players from themselves and each other. But more often than not, those who break the rules are not doing it with any malicious intent. They’re playing poker and having fun. With nothing more than a friendly warning, they’ll step back in line. Yes, we need rules, but when your focus on the rules outshines your enjoyment of the game, then maybe it’s time to find a new outlet for your social endeavors. ♠