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.
A Montana friend of mine that I met in my first or second poker playing experience became a dealer at the same time I did. Kim Louden, a gorgeously tall Korean that came to the United States after marrying a serviceman, Don Louden. Kim was a huge part of my early dealing and playing days. Perhaps if I had listened to her, I would never have made the trips to Nevada to deal big poker tournaments. And if I hadn’t made those trips, I would never have applied at the Mirage in 1989.
Kim went to Vegas to play poker but for some reason ended up doing a short dealing stint. She was in shock at how stingy the players were and how mean they were. Guess none of that soaked in because I was on my way in 1987 for the last Grand Prix tournament. She expected to be tipped a couple of bucks at least on each hand she dealt…like they did in Montana. Right! Expectation leads to massive disappointment sometimes.
Me? When I hit Vegas to deal, I was just T-E-R-R-I-F-I-E-D. But I got over that. I never got over the fact that some players have to BOSS, they can’t just let you do your job; they have to tell you how to do it while they’re power-pumping their chips into the pot. The first five years or so I dealt in Vegas were not good years for me. I struggled with myself just to go back each day and face some of the crap that rolls up to the tables disguised as a player. When the Mirage opened up we were the only high limit room in town after a few months. Think what you want about high limit, but until you’ve sat there day after day, you can’t begin to grasp how difficult it is to take most of the time.
I just had a Facebook chat with a friend of mine that still deals at Bellagio. I extend my sympathies.
The picture at “The End:” was something I started doing just for the hell of it so it’s included on this page since it was in the original.
April 18th, 2006: There appears to be no way out of Disney Land. The crowds are there, the noise is off the charts, the heat is never ending, the mass of bodies fill every seat and walkway between tables and becomes a human door at all entrances and exits to the room. In other words – this kid is losing it! Have I ever told you how much I hate tournaments?
My first dealing gig in Vegas was the last Grand Prix Tournament that was hosted at The Golden Nugget – that was in December, 1987. It’s truly one of the most horrible dealing experiences I’ve ever had and it went on for three weeks. I worked swing shift. In those days, Edna Dalton was a dealer (she wasn’t married to Doug at the time but was going out with him), and during the tournament, she was a brush in the Tournament Area. Donna Harris was the Graveyard Supervisor (if I’m remembering this correctly) and Doug Dalton was the Swing Shift Supervisor. Jimmy Knight was the Dayshift Supervisor and the one who auditioned me for the job.
The only thing I needed to change was the way I put up the Flop – and I had a job. It took me three to four days of working on the ‘Flop’ (as I dealt the games) to be able to overcome the old ‘Montana Splat and Spread Them’.
The job was three weeks long – no days off – dealing to some of the people that I still deal to today. Some of them are deceased now but the rest of them are still shoving chips across the Green Felt. Those most notable to everyone are: Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Stu Ungar, Sarge, O’Neil Longson, Johnny Chan, Puggy and J.C. Pearson, Richard Dunbar, Mike Sexton, Eric Drache, Johnny Moss, Cheryl (Davis) Bradley, Bob Ciaffone, Seymour Liebowitz, Precious, and many more that escape me right this minute. The trenches…that’s the only way to refer to dealing in those days…keep your head down, shut up, never look at the players, never make a comment, and hope to hell you don’t have your ass too high as you keep your head down – you just might get it shot off.
This whole event was a complete dread for me. I came from Montana, specifically to deal this tournament, where people said hello to you and acknowledged you like you were human – even though you were a dealer. But here? OMG! The social structure changed radically from what I was used to. All that is a story for another time.
Tournaments are never easy, for the card room staff and players. The actual tournament is simple and easy to deal, the structure has been set in thousands of past tournaments and there are so many of them now, that they run like a well-oiled clock. It’s the live action that makes most of us crazy. The lists run forever, frustration is paramount for the players that come with high money expectations and then lose most of their bankroll or all of it and start trying to rebuild, add new dealers to the mix that aren’t familiar with a lot of the house rule, add Linda to the mix that is familiar with all of it and really gets tired of players telling me what to do and how to do and fidgeting with that DAMN BUTTON. Kee-rist!
Can they just quit throwing things?
I plunked down in a $15-30 H game and said hello to Clea – in the 5s – someone that hadn’t graced Bellagio’s tables in over five years. Harry and Clea had moved back to Washington State to be with their children and were just spending a few days in Vegas. The first hand I dealt, the cards came flying in from the 7, 8, and 9s. One of them slammed right into my knuckle. I was pretty sure it was the 8s but the way they came in, I couldn’t truthfully call him on it. He removed all doubt on the very next hand. I had delivered all the cards and had my right hand back, against my abdomen, when he shot the cards into the rack where they rattled a few times before stopping. With an even voice, looking directly at him, I said, “Just set your cards down here,” as I motioned to an area about 12 inches from the rack, “and I’ll pick them up. They’re coming in too hard.”
Just like all assholes from hell, he set them down an inch from his fingers for the next 15 minutes. At one point, I politely said, “Sir, you can push your cards in a little.” Not to worry, that would mean he was capable of reasoning and thinking. The guy next to him pushed them in several times, without my asking.
I rarely do anything to retaliate but this time I did. He had stacks of chips lined up on his right, with numerous beverages to the right of those stacks. I had been delivering his cards to the left of the stacks, where his hands were – fuck being Mrs. Nice Dealer – I dealt his cards to the right of the beverages, so he had to reach clear over his chips and beverages to retrieve them and look at them. I felt much better after that. He left the table for a mini-break and when he came back, I was dealing the first down card just as he reached the table and stretched out his hand to make sure I dealt him in. I did deal him in…even though I could have skipped right past him because he was about two feet from the table. It would have served him right if I had missed him but I wouldn’t feel better about myself for doing that. I just get sick of people acting like they own the Earth and the rest of us are there to make life work for them.
My next game was $20-40 Omaha 8 or better with a half kill. It’s never a great game to deal. Table 40 – right on the rail by the Sport’s Book and people hang over the edge of the rail, puffing their brains out, spewing smoke into the back of my head. Then the dreaded Casino Alarm goes off. WOOP – WOOP – WOOP, the emergency lights on the wall flash in a staccato rhythm that makes one’s eyes go crazy, and the monotone recording interjects, “…the cause of the alarm is being investigated, blah, blah, blah…” and it repeats for half an hour or longer. It just adds the final touch on the cacophony of elements that comprise a nightmare. Maybe it’s Linda’s Nightmare! Help Mrs. Wizard!
This is perhaps only funny to me…since I watch players, people, humanity from all angles, I am at times almost in awe of how a person can be such a control freak and at such a young age, and really think that nothing exists outside their realm or private reality. I hit Table 23 last week. Table 23 was taken out of the actual numerical line-up and is normally not even in the room (floor space and congestion – so we normally run 39 tables), but at certain peak, busy times, Table 23 resides in Bobby’s Room, making it a three table room instead of a two table room. When I landed in the box, the 2s had lots of chips but there was no one else in the game. I knew they were coming back – the 2s was Aaron Katz and the 4s was Art (the guy that played Sammy Farha and got the Button every time in PLO).
Aaron arrived and started counting out his chips. Art showed a few seconds later and pulled ‘society’ chips out of his pocket as they discussed what they were playing for (something to do with a buy-in of $30,000), and as they settled in, I asked, “Are you ready?”
Welcome to the world of Aaron Katz. “No we are not ready.”
Aaron, “We are not ready to start.”
Aaron, “And until we tell you we are ready, we aren’t ready.”
Me, “Ok, ok, ok, I got it the first time.” It was all I could do to keep from busting out laughing. Do I look like I have a hearing deficiency or comprehension problem?
Approximately a minute and a half went by as Aaron jibed at Art about how much he actually brought with him and what was in his pockets, etc.
Art looked at me and asked, “Are you ready to deal, Linda?”
Art has the greatest, softest eyes, and looks and acts like such a kindly human being, I have a hard time picturing him in this environment.
I replied, “No. I’m not ready to deal. Until Aaron tells me to deal, I am not ready.”
It went over quite well. I was chuckling when I said it but it could have gone over like a lead balloon. Thankfully I escaped the down with no bruises, although they were playing NL Deuce to 7 Triple Draw $50-100 Blind, and the sign read $200-400 Blind. I called Nate to ask him to change it to the correct Blind and Aaron protested because that would mean the buy-in would be lower…umnhhh! Ok. Nate put the correct Blind Plaque on the table but left the other one intact. Oh…and did I forget to mention that when it was Art’s BB, he got six cards? Of course if he discarded three, he only drew two.
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.