The views expressed here are from an ex-poker dealer that could step back into the box at any point in time — or not! Sometimes funny, sometimes cold and cutting, sometimes just tossing out a little bit of wisdom I learned about myself while pitching tickets and playing poker for over 30 years, this is an ongoing walk-through of what it's like to sit in the poker dealer's chair – the box.
The poker world is filled with people from every walk of life which forces a crazy assortment of personalities, knowledge, and bankroll levels to mingle and rub elbows with each other. Where else can you sit down by a prince or a movie star or a dumpster digger or a rocket scientist for a few hours or a day and then get up and walk away without an explanation or a reason for not wishing them goodbye or greeting them when you take a seat?
Poker players will put up with almost anything to keep chips on the table and a player in a seat so the game keeps running – except a dealer disguised as a player in one of the seats 1 through 10. Let me clarify that many players understand poker and never give a dealer a hard time, whether they are in a player’s seat or in The Box – and most players that know how the game is played, like to play with a poker dealer because they play bad…do take my word for it…I can play all games equally BAD!
It’s the few players that have fits about their own inadequacies as a player and failure to understand how the great game of poker was meant to be played that want the dealer to get into an envelope and stay there. That envelope has boundaries. Many players enjoy controlling the dealer by setting those boundaries – no big manila envelopes allowed either!
This little intro is about the art of the ‘check-raise’ and in some houses I’ve worked in, the dealer is restricted to checking down, (when they are playing on the clock), when they are heads-up with a player if the player checks. But the option falls to the player, not the dealer. I dealt Pan and poker at the Plaza in Las Vegas briefly a number of years ago and at the Sahara years later. If I got out of the line-up to play Pan on shift and it was me and one other player, (you have to declare whether you are going to play or not), I had to split ‘tops’ with them. I couldn’t play my hand unless they wanted to play.
If you can’t play with the same rules and tools of the game that everyone else can use, how can you ever get even or winner if you’re stuck? Or take a rush on a run so hard and fast that you can’t even stack your chips because you’re firing up the next hand?
March 10, 2006: There's a little bit of something stuck in my throat. Kee-rist yes I'm trying to wash it down with wine but it just won't go. I'm constantly reminded of the fact that there's a line drawn between dealers and players, even if the dealers are playing dealers. I hate it! Why is there always an ongoing rift in the poker community about what dealers should and shouldn't do when they are playing? There are a lot of non-playing houses in the world. In other words, dealers cannot play in the house they work in. There are also a lot of reasons to allow dealers to play where they work. The number one reason is that they keep games going so the 'tourista' (the guy that came to town to play poker) has a game to sit down in when they enter the room. Dealers also create action - generally speaking - they make people want to get into their games because most of them play like SHIT! Of course there's more to this story. It's a borderline rant.
There are certain tools allowed each and every player in poker - check and raise is one of the most valuable of all. Check and raise slows down speeders, gives the check raiser the knowledge of what they are facing from the original bettor, and also wins the pot when the original bettor was trying to steal. Nuff said there. So why is it that players feel they shouldn't be check raised by a dealer? Puke! Gag! Because the player has rights? That's the only answer I can come up with. The player has a radar detector and the playing dealer isn't supposed to catch them speeding. But the playing dealer isn't allowed the same benefit.
This is the scene: I'm playing in a $4-8 H game. I'm trapped in between a player that is raising every hand, winning all of them, and if he wins one, he's definitely playing the next one…and so the rush goes on and on and on. The player on my left is complaining because the rusher is raising with crap and getting there. I calmly state, "That's the way he plays. I've played with him and dealt to him for years and that's his game. If you don't like the opportunity to win money, you should transfer to another game."
I listen to 'blah, blah, blah…' and why the player on my left hates to 'play with someone like that' for what seems an eternity while I'm looking at 6-4, 7-2, J-3, Q-4…repeat…repeat. What I want to say to the player on my left is 'just go home and watch TV'. That's how I feel about it. If you can't handle the heat, get the hell out of here. Personally, I'd like to take this moment to thank Kurt for always giving all the action the world can handle, no matter what limit he plays. It's not his fault he's trying to give money away and I have a pitchfork while it's raining chips. So I sit…hand after hand…watching the chips rain on the green felt…listening to the guy on my left…but I don't want to go home and watch TV so I'm willing to wait…and be where the action is.
As the tale unfolds, Song arrives. He was in the last post. He takes a seat two players to my left and the first hand I raise, he calls. I bust out laughing. He looks up, absently, from un-racking his chips, spots me, and he too busts out laughing. Deja Vu! I can't even remember the results of the hand. About 15 minutes later, as I'm spacing out the whining on my left from the guy that hates the action, I'm very aware that Song is involved in a pot with the 8s, one of our regular players. The only thing I really noticed up until this point was that both of them held A-6 and ended up splitting the pot when the board came, A-A-?-6-K.
As the dealer chopped up the pot, the 8s said - way too loudly - "You check raised me heads up! Just remember when you're over there," motioning to the dealer's seat, "I won't tip you. I'm not going to cost myself money by tipping you when you check raise me."
WTF???? I stared off across the poker room. I really wanted to puke…literally…right on the table. But instead I pretended that I was living in OZ. Believe me it's much better for me that way because when my mouth goes into overdrive without gearing into my brain first, the world is in fucking trouble. I can be a hateful, horrible creature when I'm championing for the underdog. And I was one of the underdogs in this scene.
The 8s finished with, "And that goes for Linda down there too."
Aghhh-Pht! I continued to stare across the poker room like I wasn't even in the game. I looked at five to six more hands and got up to walk. I visited the poker office. I milled around. I went to the brush and asked for a table change…none in sight. I managed to kill about 15 minutes before moving in the direction of the table again. The 8s met me head on…like a game of chicken and we both had something to prove. Only problem was I wanted to just leave. I didn't need a confrontation to tell me how stupid the idea was that I could be check raised by a player but I wasn't supposed to check raise them.
Pedal to the metal…OK…so be it! The 8s stopped, right in front of me, without taking a breath, the explanation wasn't an explanation. It was a demand. "The reason I said that was because he check raised me heads up."
Me, "I wasn't even watching the hand." *Lie!*
"He check raised me heads-up. I'm not going to cost myself money by tipping a dealer that check raises me."
Me, "Sometimes a check raise is the only way you can win a pot…"
"All you have to do is bet your hand. Don't check raise me…"
I got the message. I replied, "I see what you mean," as I managed to move off and the 8s went back to the game.
I spoke with Song later…his understanding of the English language isn't quite as good as mine…he had no idea what the 8s even meant until I explained it.
Worst of it is that I do see what the 8s meant. In other words, I am to stay in my place. I'm a dealer. I don't have any rights. I have certain rules that I'm supposed to live by but when I step into the territory of the player…I have restrictions - the player doesn't. Get in your place dealer.
The caste system was abolished years ago…or was it?
I am soliciting dealers to join me in this great adventure of writing a history of poker from the dealer’s side of the table. A brief sketch of the details are listed in Table Tango, (my blog) in this post, if you would like to find out more information. I would love to share comments from readers but at this time there is no convenient system installed at PokerWorks to handle this. Send me an email – info(at)pokerworks.com — if you want to be one of the contributors to this section, and in the meantime, I’ll work at finding a way to enable a comment section.