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.
There are players that arrive every day, play the same limit against the ‘same’ other players that arrive every day, and they all pray for a live one to come in and join the game. Many of these regulars are quiet, orderly, and just come in to grind out a living. They are either neutral about the dealer or friendly, but they never go overboard or cross a line, they simply come in to play.
The downside to a live one is that if they play the game long enough, they usually lose their patience, their bankroll (if they had one to begin with), and most of them go through a phase where they are sure they are being cheated or the dealer is a jinx. In all fairness, some of them elect to get serious and learn how to play poker, those that don’t just end up being mean and hateful because they believe the game is all about luck and losing is always someone else’s fault. Establishing history with a player isn’t always a good thing — if they are live and never learn how to play, each incident just digs the hole a little deeper and even when they win, it's a losing situation...you make them lose but you don't help them win.
Bellagio opened in 1998 and somewhere around 1995-96 is when I had my first experience with George the Greek. It’s possible George played poker before he hit the Mirage but he was definitely the live one and the boys in the high limit games loved him – for a number of years anyway — until he became jaded, superstitious, paranoid, and all those other things that screw with your mind.
I was dealing a $75-$150 7 Card Stud game on Table 2 at the Mirage – swing shift – when George walked up looking for a seat. There was a list and he was on it but he was jonesing to play. Table 1 was right beside my game with David Grey, Howard Lederer, and Doyle Brunson in attendance. Nope, I don’t know what the limit was but it had to be much higher than the one I was dealing. George started watching that game.
The boys at my table were freaking out. “He wants to play.” “One of us should just give up our seat to him.” Gesturing at George and Table 1, “They are going to talk him into taking a seat over there. If he does that, we lose him for this game.” I could almost drown on the stress and tension that was twisting through the players at my table…they were in danger of losing the livest of the live ones and they had played with him the night before. They wanted that little guppy in their game.
Sure enough, if memory serves, Howard invited him into the game. They were playing mixed but they would play whatever George wanted. He took a seat. The boys at my table probably went to the bathroom and puked – not while I was dealing though, they just hemmed and hawed and cursed their bad luck.
So was the beginning of the epic fail of George the Greek at the great game of poker. The boys even created a specific game for George because he didn’t like the fact that you could use all the cards on the board as part of your hand in Hold’em. So we dealt “Greek Hold’em” where both of the hole cards played. That game didn’t happen overnight though, it took a while, and they would do almost anything to keep him at the table.
In those days I didn’t go home and blog after work. But I have a few George stories from the Mirage days that I may set down and pen someday. I do have posts on Table Tango about George, as time passes I will start to dig them out and refresh my memory on some of the lunacy.
One of the other players in the following posts that has a special place (the toilet) in my dealing career is J.C. Pearson, Puggy’s brother. Pearson still frequents Bellagio and one of my friends has to look at that face now and then when she slides into the box. I managed to establish a relationship with Pearson that was perfect, it took a long time to get to that point but it finally did. When I tapped out the dealer, Pearson put his chips in the rack and cashed out. Yeah, BABY! Make like horseshit and hit the road.
I will flesh out that hate relationship as I go through updating The View from the Box…all you have to do is keep checking back to get the true picture of what it’s like to deal to some of these nutballs.
5/13/02: Picture an anthill teeming with activity on a warm summer day and add SOUND. That's Bellagio Poker Room right now. The noise alone overwhelms the senses. There seems to be no happy medium, either it's too quiet or too busy.
The whole room is filled with high limit. It's not all bad but it's a far cry from laughing and singing through a shift. I find it to be mentally exhausting. Of course the $200-$400 Blind Pot Limit Omaha was right at the very end of my night and I made 2 mistakes on calling the pot size. I feel like an idiot and am my own worst enemy when it comes to a mistake...believe me they let me know when I'm wrong so it's not like it goes unnoticed.
George was walking when I entered the game, no chips in his seats, his bag was on the chair and his wife sat nearby. No one, including his wife, was sure if he was going to continue to play or if he was done. He came back and rejoined the game with assurances from a few players that they wouldn't talk, they would just play.
He went all in with A-A-garbage and lost $20,000 in the hand. He carefully arranged his cards like 4 panes in a window and pulled them over to the rail so he could sit and relish the beat, staring at them, before finally giving them up. He was beat on the flop but none of that matters to George. He then spoke Greek to his wife for 5 minutes. I dealt him right in and he lost $10,000 a few moments later and left.
The whole table made comments on his behavior. If you're going to talk, I'm leaving. On my honor, I will never play with you again. They were laughing and gesturing, mimicking his actions and voice. They conceded that he's really losing IT.
I did not laugh with them. I wanted to cry. George is extremely hard to deal to and with and he takes it all personally and wants to include the dealer in all of his beats and bad hands. I've never done hallucinogenic drugs but in dealing a game that he's in, I almost think it might be worth it. The thought that I have to deal to him again and again throughout my career in poker is like a session of despair in the Twilight Zone.
5/11/02: This night found me dealing everything but a low limit game except at the very end of my shift when I got to relax and laugh through a $1-$5 7 Card Stud game.
My first game was $8-$16 Holdem and it went straight up from there. Waiting on Table 1 was the infamous $200-$400 Blind Pot Limit Omaha game with George in the 8 seat. He was relatively quiet and didn't get involved in any hands when I was there. Yippee! Lots of action and huge pots, with "Pot!" Meaning they're looking at me expecting an answer as to the size of the pot. Thankfully my mental calculator was right on and I got through it without any brain bruises. The biggest pot I pushed was $150,000.
The next game was 1/2 Holdem and Omaha 8 or Better, $300-$600 and then on to $75-$150 Omaha 8 or Better with a 1/4 Kill.
The field was mostly tourist which makes for a good game until J.C. Pearson showed up as a play-over. He won the 1st few hands he played but don't think he's ever happy. The person he was playing over came back and J.C. took his play-over in another position which put him right where he could post in between the button and blind (this is only allowed in high limit, Omaha 8 or Better games) and then he called Carmen to see what he had to do to take a hand. Of course he would never ask me — that would just be too damn easy. Besides, he'd then be giving me credit for being able to think and then his brain would blow up because he'd be faced with the possibility that if I could think, I might be a PERSON.
The best of it was that Carmen looked right at me and asked me what he should do and I told her. She said, "OK." and walked off. Thanks, Carmen.
5/06/02: A little catching up. On the 4th, I managed to deal to the Freak of all Freaks, J.C. Pearson. Truthfully I hope he reads this site someday or someone points it out to him and he takes a reading. He's the subject of other posts here and in previous years. He hates the world, he hates life, he hates himself...Oh yes, I've listened to, "He's just a good old boy away from the table." So are wife beaters and child molesters.
This guy has a serious problem and it really manifests itself at the poker table. He hates dealers. Some of the dealers suck up to him so he tolerates them and even tips them once in awhile but he still sings his favorite song when he loses or wins a hand with me. "Ah'm saving the blues." In player talk, that means he's not going to tip, he's saving his $1 chips.
He posted in a $75-$150 Omaha 8 or Better with a 1/4 kill, the 3rd hand into my down. He was in the 1 seat. He lost the hand. He sang his favorite song. I ignored him and dealt the game which is my usual routine.
He folded every hand until about the 3rd hand before I got pushed. It was 4 way action and 4 raises to go on a Kill. He hogged a pot that had about $2,500 in it. I already had it stacked because a high and low were possible. Just because a freak wins a pot, I never change the way I push the pot or run the game.
I slid the stacks to him and as I did, he started singing again. Without raising my voice, I turned directly to him as I slid the stacks, "Good for you! I think you're really going to need them."
He couldn't do anything else except sit there and steam because he didn't irritate me with his idiocy. I laughed through the rest of my night, each time I thought of my statement to him, and only shared it with one other person...until now.
05/05/02: First game tonight? $200 - $400 Blind, Pot Limit Omaha with none other than you know who...George.
About the 4th hand into my down, the pot was raised with 4 players. Approximately $20,000 in the pot. The Flop - 5 - J - 7. Everyone checked to Freddie D., he bet approximately $18,000 ALL IN. Fold, Fold, George is the only player left and he takes a very long time to do anything...picture him cutting off chips, looking at the flop, stacking up his chips, looking at Freddie, looking at his cards, cutting off chips, repeat the loop and finally he calls.
The board was a rainbow . At the end of the hand, George showed K-K-J-?, his best hand was a pair of Kings. Freddie showed A-A-?-?...he was suited with one of the Aces and the other card.
I mucked George's hand and pushed the pot to Freddie. George jumped up, (from the 2 seat), and picked up each burn card and turned them over...they paired all the low cards on the board but never helped his hand. Why did he do this? He's psychotic, that's why.
He walked around for a moment, I shuffled and dealt the next hand. He folded.
The action was pretty strong...Lyle B. was in the game and he puts some chips into the pot.
George folded most hands after that. He mumbled, "This is unbelievable...as they say in my country, totally unbelievable."
If you play poker long enough, nothing is unbelievable. And why does his country have dibs on that saying?
Almost the end of my down, George jumps up, "I cannot stand it any longer, Madame!"
He shows me two of his hole cards, 6-2 and folds. He puts his hand on my back and pats me a little longer than necessary.
I flipped it off with, "George, I've only been dealing a few minutes."
I've seen him gut his cards with a pen knife, bounce a ball on the table when he wants to check, tell me that I have 'no respect', and state that only in America can we say we're sorry and get away with it'...so what the hell is he expecting here?
I truly wish that if a player put their hands on us, we could just knock them off their chair...no offense guys but this isn't a 'hands on' type of job. It's never a 6'4" Stud that wants to take you out to dinner, it's a LOSER that wants to blame you for dealing the cards right off the top.
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.