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 in my previous life as a poker dealer (that’s how I feel about it right now…another lifetime ago) I sat in the player’s chair. For the first 15 to 20 years that I dealt poker I believed I would always be there, pitching tickets, taking a seat as a player when I signed the EO (early out list) to escape dealing through the shift, watching the world go by from the best seat in the house, and always finding a way to relate to players…and to dealers. But that all changed.
I reached a point to where I couldn’t relate to many dealers because many of them reach a point in their careers where they think the world owes them something, or they feel that they have the right to interrupt the game with their personal stories, or they simply hate what they are doing and it really shows. I also couldn’t relate to many players because I hate the attitude that if they win, they did it due to their good play but when they lose, it’s the dealer’s fault.
During the first few decades of dealing and playing I learned a lot about people and in doing that, I learned a lot about myself. I saw and heard people do things from the player’s seat that are ridiculous, hateful, mean, cheap, weasely, dishonest, and a variety of other things that sent me on the path of not behaving that way. I also saw people that were honest to a fault, warm, friendly, generous, kind, fair, and with that type of performance at the table – especially when their chips are being pushed to someone else — you know they are great people in their daily lives. I attended class almost every day, as a player or a dealer.
It took some time for me to handle beats well but I learned. I grew into a better person. I like the overall picture of me. I like the structure of me. I believe that many people do not like themselves and it shows, especially in a poker game. I may have memories of total turdbuckets at the poker table, but I also have some great memories of fun people and poker when it was fun.
Even on bad days, it was fun. And that’s where this is going today, to playing and laughing and having fun…with a few wrinkles thrown in…but still fun.
December 28, 2006: Doesn't it almost feel as if there's nothing new to discover? Everything that was out there waiting to be conquered or done has been done? Are we a mindless bunch of lemmings just racing off the edge of life without stopping to suck air and eat a pound of bacon now and then…relishing the salty crunch if it's cooked the way I like it? I'm in bit of a black hole right now. Some of us would refer to it as depression. So be it - I'll go with depression. It just happens every now and then…no reason…no rhyme…just can't figure out a damn thing to laugh about and things feel sort of grouchy all over — for no reason. Not sad, not mad, nothing wrong, there's just no light at the end of the tunnel. *DEPRESSED* Perhaps if there was some new, wonderous adventure going on, or if mankind abolished war and decided to save the Earth, or if parents took care of their families above all else, or if EVERYONE PLAYED POKER…life would be golden. Maybe there isn't an answer…maybe depression is on the menu now and then and I should enjoy it so I know how great it feels when it's not around…maybe…just maybe.
I can't swim around in the dark waters of self any longer so let me jump right into POKER! My last post was about a $4-8H game with straddles and blind betting, imagine my surprise when I found a seat tonight in another $4-8H game with one of those players on my right. Larry! Larry was in the game gone whacko in the last post (keep reading for the last post). He was probably the most sane of everyone in the game and managed to sit snugly through the chip wars and jammer explosion, even making quad fours on one hand and winning a gigantic pot - yes, kids, I paid him off in that hand. I can't even remember what I had at this moment. it was the kind of game that if you had anything, you were forced to call; the blind raiser was capable of showing down 5 high at the end of the hand so one could never leave all of those chips out there in the middle without at least paying off - if one had anything at all.
But to tonight's game. This was the first time I intro'd myself to Larry. He is young, energetic, filled with a great sense of humor and his eyes laugh before the smile reaches them…nice! Larry was putting the straddle on the blind, trying to start some action. I followed suit a few times and straddled also. Tonight I was in the favor of the Card Fairy. OMG! It's so nice to be shielded from the wrath of the Card Fairy, to find playable hands, and to actually make a hand and have it stand up…and SUCK OUT!
I did the gigantic suck out on Larry. We'd been visiting, he was straddling, blind raising, I was hitting some hands, could never make a flush but haven't been able to for weeks so that is not news, but the best part of that is that I flopped a four flush in hearts with K-5 of hearts in the SB. The flop brought a King and two hearts. I didn't make the flush but I won with a pair of kings…lucky me, if I'd made the flush Larry would have stacked the chips, he had an Ace high heart draw. Then we laughed because if he'd known I had a flush draw, he would never have played the hand because I can't make a flush so consequently neither could he. WOO HOO! I found out that Larry set up Junior Golf Tournaments or amateur events - perhaps I was too busy playing poker to really pay attention - and that he had been a lawyer.
Larry was still jamming and throwing chips at the pot, he was on the button, I was in the SB. He raised, I looked down to 2-3 of Clubs. I raised. We had four or five way action and I got the last raise in because I just refused to call - it was $20 to go preflop. I thought Larry had blind raised because he'd been doing that since I sat down. Not that I would have thrown my hand away at that point - I wasn't going anywhere. The flop came A-5-8. I checked, it was checked to Larry, he bet, I called, and so did one hitchhiker. The turn was a 7. I checked and so did the hitchhiker, Larry bet…seriously…I almost threw my hand away and then my brain went WTF???? you put $20 in preflop with this hand. I called, so did the hitchiker. A four peeled off on the river. I checked, so did the hitchhiker, Larry bet, I called, so did the hitchhiker. Larry had flopped a set of Aces. No good, Larry. Send it to the 2-3 of Clubs. Kee-rist! Hello Card Fairy in triplicate!
Larry is on the right, Mike is on the left…this is when Larry still liked me - before the 2-3 of Clubs.
I told Larry I used to be a legal secretary in N. Idaho. He didn't say anything. A minute later he said he didn't know what he should say to that. I told him that I knew he wanted to choke the shit out of me for beating his set of aces and he could care less if I was a legal secretary or not. *Laughter*
So the game went, I still put in some straddles, and got really lucky once when I picked up Q-Q; I flopped a set and filled on the river and got paid off. Hey, I'm not used to this. I'm used to having sets busted into teensy scrap piles and whisked away with the pot as it goes somewhere else. I called a raise from the 1s with 4-4 and flopped a set, filled up on the turn, and got paid off…whew! This game felt really good for a change.
One of the funniest people exchanges in this game was the woman in the 8s. She played almost every hand, especially if Larry raised or bet, and if he beat her in the hand, even if he out flopped her, she threw her cards and acted like someone stuck a knife in her chest. It's pretty amazing to watch, he's giving action, she's playing like shit and acting like someone bad beat her when she's calling with an over card hoping to hit a pair. Oh the pain! But that's why I love poker - it may have all been done before but the tapestry changes and we get to start over. I played for a few hours, picked up a shit load of chips, and said goodnight to everyone.
December 30, 2006: As good luck would have it, I had the pleasure of jumping into a game with Larry again. He's just a ton of fun to play with. It's possible that if he faded the green felt every day, day in and day out for a few years, he might not be as much fun but at this point, all of my experiences with him at the table have been better than enjoyable. I sat down in the 6s, looked at two hands, the 3s opened and I moved. I like the end seats because I have a better view of the table and sometimes a little more stretch room because I can turn my chair to one side and stretch my legs out for a moment…there's never enough room at the tables anyway.
Larry was in the 8s and I asked for the 9s if it opened. The game was moderately/intermittently good. Larry put a Straddle on the BB and so did I, but of course we were the only ones doing it. And later as I sat beside him, we both laughed over the fact that no one ever raised our straddles. It's hard to believe that six people will just auto call $8…DOH! That aside, people came and went, the play went on, and eventually the 10s opened, the 9s moved to the 10, I moved to the 9, the 1s took the seat I left, and the game started to jump.
The 3s, an Asian woman, went on an incredible tear. I laughed over the fact that I left the seat too soon…no…I don't believe in 'seats'. I do believe in 'hot asses'. Years ago in Montana, they told me it wasn't the chair but the ass in the seat, that's exactly how I feel about it. She played some pretty bizzaro hands, not that I wouldn't have played them if I'd been on a rush, no one plays a rush better than me. It's just that I haven't found a true rush in so long that I might be a little rusty at raising every pot preflop and on every street because I know I'm going to win the pot.
The room was a little insaniac bunch of screaming poker players. The noise level was brutal, bodies were everywhere, the standby line to "O" (right outside the rail from our table) was 15 miles long, as was the buffet line just a 100 yards down. In general the entire casino was like an ant farm, yet Table 22 was like an island in the eye of a hurricane.
One of Bellagio's tournament dealers (don't know his name) was in the 1s for a bit, moved to the 7s so he could watch a game on the overhead TV, then took the 10s, then moved back to the 7s, and was in a war with the 3s. He mumbled about her, she stacked his chips and looked at him as he mumbled. He was convinced that she was giving him dirty looks. I personally felt she was looking at him like he was the smorgasbord of fish delicacies on a planet that had no water.
A new player landed in the 5s. He wasn't new to me and I'd rather not see him in any game I'm playing in. He's seasoned, used to play at The Mirage, very seldom every hits Bellagio on my shift, and he's like a shark circling the waters looking for floating seals…and he's got attitude.
As the Law of Diminishing Returns went into effect, our Asian beauty in the 3s gradually bled off her chips. At one point she had almost $500 in front of her from a $100 buy-in. When she left she took about $140 with her…unless she was ratholing and I don't believe that was the case.
Michelle took the Asian beauty's seat when it opened.
Michelle is a study of complete dysfunctional insanities all blended together by a bartender that wanted to punish society. Israeli and temperamentally angry most of the time, I've posted about him before and called the floor on him more than once over the years when I've been dealing a game and he is completely out of line…he's out of line most of the time but sometimes he's COMPLETELY out of line. This game was no exception. He sat right down to K-K; I had straddled Larry's BB. I got the last raise in with 4-5 off. Ok…so I'm a sick bitch what do you want? There were seven players taking the Flop and as I put the last raise in, I said, "Let's make sure the pot is so big I can't throw my hand away on the flop."
Larry and I were both laughing, exchanging words like, "yeah…nobody's figured that out yet." "yeah…make the pot and then make your hand…" Maybe you would have to have been there but if you don't understand that everyone's taking a shot at a flop and some of the players hold high cards, and once you get pot bound…
James was dealing. I've had my moments with James. The game slows down to crawl, he has to count the rack at least nine times and while he's counting, no one knows it's up to them or the game just runs without James knowing he's supposed to do something…umnhhh! James was busy stacking all of our blue chips into $20 stacks in the middle of the table. *waiting for a flop* Lots of time to visit with Larry.
The Flop was A-K-Q. For the first time in my history of playing cards, I just threw my hand away. I never do this…I always check and force someone to act and wait for the action to come back to me before folding…not this time. I committed the Worst Move in Poker.
Jarrett was in the 6s by now, he'd started in the 10s next to me. Let me introduce Jarrett, a great looking guy that's about the same age as my boys, we've sat in a few other games and chatted it up as we tried to beat each other's brains out across the green felt. Jarrett is a VIP host at Palms Playboy Club. Jarrett is always working, even when he's relaxing in a game of poker, he sends and receives more text messages than anyone I know other than my youngest son, Darian. I figure they will both be having wrist/hand/finger related problems later in life just from sending text messages. Hey, at 1-2K messages a month, it could create serious physical impairment. *laughing*
But in the meantime, back to the action, an all holy hell chip raising flash flood broke out. Michelle was right in the middle of it, glaring demonically at the dealer as raise after raise after raise went in between him, the 5s, Jarrett, and I believe the 2s was involved as a hitchhiker until the last card hit. James just kept stacking up the chips, like it was incredibly important that they all be neatly stacked - IN A $4-8H GAME…WTF? Four bets went in on the river between Michelle, the 4s, and Jarrett. Michelle showed pocket Kings for Kings full of Aces, the 5s showed A-Q for Aces full of Queens, and Jarrett showed A-J for trip Aces.
Michelle was doing the grumble/glare/swear mode at the dealer. I knew Michelle was going to go all-in on the next hand, no matter what he held. I looked down to A-8H in the BB and I knew I was going to help him. Michelle raised, several callers, I raised, the 2s called, Michelle raised, several callers, I raised, the 2s called, I raised, and so it went. Michelle was all-in before the flop. The flop brought A-9-9 all black. I bet, the 2s called, the 4s raised, I raised. The 2s folded and I led the bet on each street with the 4s calling. I didn't win. The 4s showed A-Q, grumbling every time he called like I was trying to pull one of his teeth with a pair of pliers.
Michelle jumped up with a snarl, telling the dealer to lock the seat up for him, and left in search of ???
The 2s leaned out, clearing the obstruction of the dealer, glared and me, and growled, "NICE RAISE A-8 OF HEARTS! NICE RAISE!"
Steam it up baby. I stared right at him and yelled back (it was noisy in there), "If you don't like my raises, there's a transfer list over there, GET ON IT!" WTF! He was mumbling too. Great game.
The 5s now had more stacks of blue chips in front of him than the Cashier's Cage had in it, but he was his usual charming, ATTITUDE self a few hands later. Larry had straddled, the 5s raised, somewhere in there, as the hand went down, Larry had flopped an open ended straight draw and made the straight on the turn and got paid off on every street by ATTITUDE. ATTITUDE snarled, "Your hand was no good on the flop!" No shit?
About 10 minutes later, I knew Larry had a big hand, just the way the betting went preflop, flop, turn, and on the river? ATTITUDE won the pot. Larry was his usual smiling self as his conversation to me went something like, "Do you think I should have told him his hand was no good on the flop?" *gales of laughter*
I was having a great time even though I hadn't won a pot in about three weeks. But as all great times must come to an end, I was about ready to hit the door. Larry had been going to leave for an hour, he picked up some racks and was preparing to start loading his chips up when Jarrett said, "Let's play until midnight, that's went I'm leaving."
Larry agreed. Two hands later my blind was due, I racked up. Jarrett and Larry both argued with me, "…stay until midnight…we made a deal."
I was laughing out loud as I picked up my chips, "You guys made the deal. I didn't."
Good night, Jarrett. Good night, Larry. See all the rest of you homies somewhere down the line.
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.