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.
Many times over the years I've been completely mesmerized by the way some players approach the game — and wondered more than once how they managed to hold on to any chips, let alone leave the tables with a win. Sure, even the live one has his day, but when you see players hit the tables day after day, year after year, and watch how they handle their game, they must have hideout cash somewhere that keeps them in action. They can't be knocking off the local 7-Eleven to play poker because those stores only keep $100 in the till. Right? How could anyone stay in action on the case $100?
It is true that it's not uncommon to see a person come into the poker room — from who knows where — and start right out playing $30/$60 limit or higher, and even move up in limits as they keep stuffing their pockets with cash won. The other side of the coin is that these players usually can't sustain a winning run and they aren't able to modify their play or adapt when variance strikes and instead of making a change or walking away, they continue to bludgeon their bankroll with raises and higher limits until those players simply disappear.
Then one day, while visiting the local poker rooms around Vegas that spread $4/$8 or $8/$16 limit games, there they are. Of course they don't want to look at you or even act like they know who you are. They're embarrassed to be caught playing in a low stakes room after gracing the high limit section at Bellagio.
While that is not the case with the following post from Table Tango, the post presents the picture of how much gamble is going on at times. I wrote the post Behind the Noise simply to portray the insanity-of-gamble-up and explain what happens in the box as I tried to stay out of harm’s way with a player that’s pushing all the buttons…nothing more.
People are always curious and want to know what happens in Bobby's Room and the high limit games but when I posted about it, a huge majority of the 50-something comments thought it was about my getting stiffed by the players. NOT EVEN! It was about the crazy gambling going on, the reason the tip BS was even in the post was because Sam Farha's sweater brought it up.
Here's one for you, Kiddo, if you think tipping was the issue, I don't know any dealers that want to deal high limit. If it's in your line-up, you deal it, but if you had a choice...
That post instigated another post for those of you that think a dealer expects to be tipped when they deal high limit, and that post instigated a third post on the same topic.
June 8, 2007: "I'm going to have to punch you…or get punched…it could happen that way," by Sam Farha as he's facing a $18,000 raise in PLO from Brian Townsend. It appeared that Sam was going to raise to defend his $3000 live blind - he called instead.
It was just another working dead spread for me. Although this is the first time in a long time that Sam was impatient and barking at me. I usually have a very good experience with him (not $$ wise but just friendly in general) but this time, he was grouching with me.
He had a sweater and he spent most of his time talking to her and not focusing on the game or Brian. Brian was going to dinner at an exact time, it would end the dealing part of my down in Bobby's Room, and Sam was trying to talk him in to playing longer. Sam asked Brian if he wanted to put out $100K and just run the hand out and see who won. They finally concluded that Sam would put up $110K to Brian's $100K. As Sam went back to talking to his friend Brian decided he wanted to do it. Sam said they would do it on the last hand they played.
Brian and Sam talked a little back and forth about who was winner, who won yesterday, etc. I do not know and I do not care, it has nothing to do with me so I don't care to report any of that. Finally they were down to the last hand - the $110K vs. $100K - it was going to be dealt out in Omaha. They set out their bets and I admit to being a bit on edge because I had no idea what I was actually supposed to do. They had been talking about running two flops, let's take a look, etc., etc., etc. I didn't want to make any mistakes and start my night by being yelled at or feeling self-pride misery that I had done something wrong or had affected the outcome of the hand.
Sam sort of barked at me to deal the hand, I asked if he wanted the whole board, his yes was very impatient, like I was a total idiot, then he quickly added, "Don't drop the deck or do anything."
I put up the board. Sam told Brian to go first (Sam had the button) and roll one card, then Sam had to roll a card until he beat Brian's one card (coupled with the board). Brian lost the first hand. They decided to play one more. As their bets were going out, Sam was talking it up, they were talking about when they would come back from dinner, what time would they play — I waited.
Sam got really antsy with me, telling me to deal the cards. I did. I didn't put the flop out in 3 seconds or less and he started with me, "What's wrong with you, LInda? Why are you acting so nervous?"
His voice was on edge. I told him I didn't want to make a mistake. He told me there was no way I could make a mistake, to just deal. I swear to God, if I had just dealt, he would have snapped at me, if I didn't, he was going to snap at me. It's a no win.
Brian won this one.
Sam wanted to know if Brian would play one hand of showdown for a half a million as Sam started counting himself down to see how much he had in front of him and Brian declined. There was some poker tangoing conversation going on between them as Sam got ready to leave.
Sam's sweater asked, "Does the winner take care of the dealer?" She was ignored as they talked.
She tried again, "Does the winner of the match take care of the dealer? That's how I understood it worked."
They both ignored her. As she left with Sam she turned to me and said, "I tried."
I laughed and said, "I know. Thanks."
I got pushed.
*edit* To broaden your knowledge of what it's like to deal high limit, please read the next post 'Dodging a Bullet' and once you've read that one, read the next one, ‘Comments and Tipping.’ There's a lot more behind the picture than some of you want to examine or even admit. *end edit*
June 8, 2007: For the first time in close to two weeks, I drew table 17 as my start in the line-up. SWEET! That means I was going to deal mainly $30-60 and lower Limit Hold’em, one $20-40 stud game, $10-20 NLH and lower…the part of the poker playing public that comprises most of the poker world and the most fun people to deal to - with the least ATTITUDE!
I admit to signing the E/O and play list in the hope that somehow, somewhere, I would escape the line-up at any given time. NOT! I was there until graveyard pushed me out at 3 a.m.
Before I started my first down, another dealer approached me, asking me if I'd swap in the line-up when he hit table 1. All we had to swap for was that one down, he would pay me $20 out of his pocket and all of the tips he made during the down he dealt in my line-up. Even though I knew it would be around $40 in my pocket, I grimaced and thought about it for close to a half a minute. The other dealer said he just didn't want to put up with the players. I finally said yes.
So let's fast forward to comments I received on my last post. The comments I received are all about tipping. My post was not about tipping, even though tipping is why I go to work. I write about the whole picture and tipping is part of the picture. And this is not a public forum. This is my blog, if you don't like what you read here, please take your delicate little eyes and go read somewhere else.
No dealer wants to deal through that game or that line-up.
Both Table 10 and Table 1 were running. I glanced in to see Sam Farha, Bobby Baldwin, Brian Townsend, and a few others on table 1. I know Jennifer Harman was playing on table 10 simply because I watched people continuously being herded away from the glass as they stood to stare at the action, and I could see her facing the glass. If I don't have to deal a section of the room, I never look at it or even know what games are being played there unless I'm looking for someone specific that I know is in the room.
Table 1 through 15 can be really brutal when there's a big tournament in town. Almost all of them are black chip games and the only breath of fresh air is on table 8 and 9 where people are laughing and playing either $4-8LH or $2-5NLH. The rest of the games are dealer death by irritated players that know everything, are normally stuck, usually have an ego bigger than GOD, and no - they don't tip. So why in the hell should a dealer be happy to spend the night in that atmosphere?
My first game was $30-60H, easy and smooth. My second game was $30-60 Mixed. Imagine my surprise when the 1s asked me if I was Linda from PokerWorks. His name is Matt. He's very young, from Colorado, and appears to have a very good handle on his game and attitude. He's been a reader here for around two years and when he won a pot, he gave me a nice tip because he likes my approach to life and poker and appreciates Tango. And no, this subject isn't about tipping, it's about meeting Matt, but he was more than kind and obviously didn't have to do anything so I am thanking him publicly for his introduction to me. Thank you so much, Matt.
I went through $2-5NLH, $30-60H, took a break, went to another $2-5NLH game and the dealer that wanted me to switch with him came by. He said he'd decided to deal table 1 and I didn't have to switch and he figured the worst that could happen would be he'd end up with a 3 day suspension. We both laughed.
I was relieved because I wasn't looking forward to it. I didn't just accept the 'switch' to make money, I did it because he had so much stress in his face when he asked me. For all of you hardcore, never been there, have no idea what it's like, I've switched with other dealers for no $$ because I knew they were ready to blow. I won't do it very often, but I will if I think someone really can't handle it. We have one dealer that never has to deal through there. The rest of us feel that it's unfair to us but we can't change it so it is what it is. We have another dealer that always 'trades' off because she can't stand it.
I passed the dealer I was going to switch with about two hours later, he was sitting a deadspread, and he said, "I saved $20."
I just shook my head. He followed with, "You know what I mean?"
I said, "Yes."
He said that he'd heard that no dealer in the last eight hours came out of the table with anything in their pocket. That's pretty damn grim. The players always want the best dealers. Obviously no one cares what a dealer wants.
The rest of my night was calm and easy. I was exhausted when I clocked out - the room is 1,000 degrees at least and each down seemed to last for three years. When I passed Bobby's Room at 3 a.m., Table 1 was still swinging with Brian, Sam, Bobby, and more. And I heard it was all NL and PL without a cap. Kee-rist!
June 10, 2007: On comments: Even though I have stressed repeatedly that my posts are not about tipping, that's the general thread in comments received. If Sam's lady sweater hadn't opted to try to remind the two of them to tip, I would have simply left it as, This was a working deadspread for me. If the majority of you don't know what a working deadspread was before that post, you must know it now.
I did NOT write anything mean or negative about either player. I simply stated the interaction with me while I was dealing the game. There was a lot of other conversation, some of it was pretty funny, and after Sam left the room when Aaron Katz came in to talk to Brian - I did not write any of that, and will not, because it didn't pertain to me. That type of thing I do feel is private and should not be aired by me.
Dealing a poker game is not private, playing a poker game is not private. In case most of you hadn't noticed, everyone has a cell phone that takes pictures - and they do - and lots of big games are spread around poker rooms and they are not enclosed in a room like Bobby's Room. And people playing these games have sweaters. There is more information out in the world on the subject of who was playing where and what was said and who lost what then I could ever provide or cover.
I did not imply that either one of them are anything but people playing poker.
I have never talked to a dealer that liked Sam Farha. I do. I find him to be quite entertaining and we get along. The fact that he's a 'poker personality' doesn't disturb me, he's part of what makes the game what it is.
I think Brian's whole exposure to the big limit game is a testament of his playing skill and abilities. My writing here should only bring him more positive feedback and send people to his blog and site.
The post was for me, because I record for my own sake and for the sake of my kids and grandkids so they can look back and share a part of my life. The fact that I record here should make most of you happy. You all want to know what is going on in the poker world and what happens in high limit games, yet you want to jump down my throat when I write and accuse me of being a whiner about tipping and then go so far as to scream that I should be/'will be fired' and that I am being unkind and mean and that I did not do my job properly or I would have gotten tipped. If I'm being mean or unkind, what are you being? I approved all comments except one. Some of them made me laugh at their absurdity and those that posted them should really get out into the world and see what's going on before they start penning.
Stop and think about 'Dodging a Bullet.' Why do you honestly think that dealers don't want to deal high limit? Do you think it's because of tipping? You are completely wrong. It's because of player attitude. It's because of pressure and tension that rolls off of everyone at the table. It's because one or two players always try to put the dealer on their level, which is irritation and frustration, and they snap and bark at the dealer even when the dealer hasn't done anything wrong. And yes, there is no money for the dealer even if they deal the game flawlessly, year after year, to the same people. If the dealer doesn't make any mistakes, the players don't even know they are there - that is the way a game should be ran by the dealer - but unfortunately in high limit it rarely goes that way.
An example would be a post last week where Aaron Katz told me 'good dealer' as I was preparing to take time and get ready to deal the first hand of my down. He had lost the previous hand. He didn't even know the dealer had changed. Another example would be last week when I was dealing $150-300 mixed, the 1 and 2s were walking, the button was in the 7s (eight handed game), the 8s posted the small blind, I had cut the deck and had it in my hand, ready to deal. I picked up two Missed Blind buttons from the rack and turned my body to the left to throw the buttons by the walker's stacks. Instantly I got, "THE DEAL STARTS HERE!"
I looked at the 7s and he was instructing me where the first card was to be dealt. I said, "I know," as I opened my hand to show him two Missed Blind buttons.
I know dealers make mistakes. I make them. I also know players make mistakes, not just in their play, but in how they approach their table image and their interaction with other people. I don't snap and bark at them unless they are completely out of line. It should even out somewhere.
And again, the post was not about tipping, but for those of you that will always read everything I write in that vein, I won't try to sway you any further, believe what you want.
Since everyone wants to get into tipping, let's do that. Dealers do have a certain toke expectation for each shift, not just poker dealers but pit dealers as well. The only reason to work a dealer job is because of tokes. If we relied on our hourly wage, we might as well go to Walmart and get a job. To say that a dealer expects any one person to tip would not be correct. There are a few people that I deal to that I know will never tip me. I'm OK with that.
To think that high limit players shouldn't have to tip or shouldn't be aware it's part of the industry is completely bogus. Yet the higher up the ladder a player goes, the less they tip. There is something wrong with that picture, whether any of you admit it or not, there's something wrong with the whole picture.
I don't believe any dealer ever thinks or feels they should get a $500 toke, or a $100 toke, or even a $25 toke when they push a pot of $200K or so. We quit believing in the Toke Fairy years ago. It's a very negative feeling to come out a high limit game - after dealing it again and again and again over the years - and never leave with anything in your pocket. Here's where some of you can jump on the band wagon and scream that the dealer must not be doing their job and must be making a lot of mistakes - you are completely wrong of course, but go for it.
At one point some years ago, when Time was taken from a pot, the winning player of that Time Pot gave the incoming dealer a $25 toke for the down. Everyone in the game agreed to it and I believe most of the dealers were quite happy with that. It didn't last very long. Some of the players that won the pot had a fit and didn't want to pay the dealer toke - yet it should all even out over time. Since toking is a personal option, it fell by the wayside.
So…let's go to a night of high limit. During tournament time in most poker rooms (not just in Vegas), high limit action goes crazy. Everyone that is a pro or regular grinder always plays higher because the action is extreme. Most rooms fill up with high limit games and they are given priority over smaller limit games. If a dealer draws in a line-up that is high limit, vs. dealing mixed limits and lower limit games, the dealer can expect to make about 2/3 of their normal toke income and put up with more noise and stress from players. So why would we want to be there? There is no honor award at the end of the year for making less money and dealing the same hours with more noise and stress.
In most cases, a $20 tip is huge to a dealer. In extremely high limit, I don't believe a dealer even begins to think they should receive a toke on each hand they deal…if you find a dealer that believes that, please find out what kind of drugs they are on because I definitely want some. There are a few times the dealer might make $500 or even more out of a down in very high limit, it has never happened to me and since I've been dealing a lot of years and know most of the dealing crew, it's happened to very few of us. It would be nice, when leaving the down, if two or three players threw the dealer a $5 toke even…that's more than is made most of the time.
I don't believe my attitude ever changes when I'm dealing, depending on whether or not I am toked. Believe me, I've been stiffed by experts. But I've seen a lot of dealers (when I'm in the player's seat) that get huffy and irritated if they aren't being tipped. I think that's just fuel for the players that like to make the dealer miserable, where they might tip another dealer, they won't tip this one because they think it's funny to watch the dealer flip out.
I've dealt to people that I've done nothing to, just dealt the game, and they are having fits and threatening me with 'never tipping you.' The first time they say it, I always reply, "Do what you think is best." I've had other players make it a point to tip me when the threatening player wins a pot - and even point out, "Here, that's from ??" It makes the threatening player go ballistic which is mainly why the tipping player does it…STEAM baby. And the tipping player does it because they have sympathy for the dealer in the box.
I've had players tip when I left the game, and I never pushed them a pot, just because they liked the way I ran the game.
Wrapping up: I could write a book on people behavior just from sitting on both sides of the green felt…and I think I have an incredible understanding of the layers of personalities and the 'whys' and 'why nots' after being in the box all these years. So…if you think my posts are about tipping, and about being mean, and about making players look bad (keep in mind that I don't have to do that, they do it themselves), and you want to ship me a comment, all I have to say about that is, "Do what you think is best."
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.