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Poker News | The View from the Box

The View From the Box – “I can make a call outside the casino…”

The View from the Box
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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.

I just reread the following post and it brought back a flood of memories. When I first Mike Danino, and he found out that one of my boys was a tattoo artist in Las Vegas, he was talking to me about the fact that he wanted a tattoo of his son’s portrait on his arm. That all changed as time went on and I have no idea if he followed through on the tattoo idea. I heard later that he had an infant boy that had passed – no idea on the validity of that.

I found out other things about him over time that never improved the picture. Some of the things you hear about at the poker table are pretty general, you can believe them or you can figure the source and make your own conclusion.

After a period of time, Danino was like others that have rolled in and taken control of a particular limit and started stacking up the cash, and then they simply cannot win. Instead of adjusting their play and learning to take a break or clear their head, they become trapped in their own web of insanity and end up hating just about everything to do with the game of poker – especially dealers that aren’t pushing them pots. I’m not the only dealer that got the hate-treatment but I may be the only dealer that stood up for themselves at the time.

So…as Danino continued beating himself to death with the rocks at the $75-$150 7 Card Stud game at the Mirage, he went busto…or close enough that he was trying to get staked to play.

At the same time, A.J. Meyers was a regular in the $75-$150 Stud Game. I have history with A.J. and will add some of it as I progress through the history of my poker experiences from the box. I knew from dealing that game all the time – and the talk that surfaced – that A.J. was staking Danino. I believe he put him in some $30-$60 and $20-$40 stud games because I don’t remember seeing Danino in the $75 game for a while. Just because I didn’t see him, doesn’t mean he wasn’t playing it, he could have been in on different shifts, etc.

Then he completely disappeared for a while. I overheard conversation that he was killing them in Atlantic City in the stud games there. But then I overheard A.J. in a bit of a rant about the fact that he had staked Danino and when he got to AC and was beating the games, he failed to honor the staking agreement. So…my understanding of it is that if you have a stake agreement, it’s binding until you both agree to stop, no matter where you play. Danino was, in essence, taking the share that should have gone in the staking pool to A.J. and keeping it for himself.

Yah…I’m only writing what I heard.

Danino always sort of rolled in with a furtive look, like he was one step ahead of the law, paranoid, and didn’t trust anyone. I can see why after the way he behaved on matters of courtesy and fairness. I watched him run an Asian dealer at Bellagio through hell one night after the dealer had called for a decision for dealer abuse from Danino. When the dealer got out of the box I happened to be standing by the cashier’s cage when the dealer walked by with Danino hot on his tail, “You wanna be a stool pigeon? You wanna get the players in trouble?”

Oh, please!!! No we don’t want to get the players in trouble, we want to paint a big target on our foreheads and dip the cards in curare just in case you cut us or miss the target and hit us in the eye, DipTard!

My experiences with him just got worse over time. When leaving The Mirage to open Bellagio, he moved over with us, so did A.J. and all the regulars from the high limit stud games. I do not know this for a fact but it felt like A.J. did not talk to Danino for quite some time. Then one day they were talking again but I also had the feeling that it was never the same.

On A.J. – never…never…did he give me a bad time in the dealer’s box. He loved my dealing, even when he never dragged a chip during my down. More on him later though.

December 26, 2001: Sometimes I think there is too much to write about and sometimes there is nothing to write about…this post is lengthy…perhaps it's because I had a great conversation with two people that I respect and admire after we clocked out of work tonight…perhaps it's because I'm having my 3rd glass of wine; whatever the case here it is…

Poker is an intricate tangle of people - bringing us together for countless reasons…out of all of those reasons…there are those of us that work in the industry and really do try to do our jobs with pride and integrity; not because of you, but because we believe in ourselves and strive to excel…we pick up the load when others in our industry fail…we smile when we'd prefer to tell you to go hell…we see you at your worst and best but we still treat you as a person when we come in contact with you…there's no bonus for us, just our own satisfaction that we did the best we could do with what we had to work with. Yes…poker is a customer service job but that doesn't mean the customer is always right. Having said this, I have to move on to something that is bothering a lot of us at Bellagio.

I work swing shift, that's 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Our policy at Bellagio was always the day shift supervisor had Saturday and Sunday off and the swing shift supervisor had Monday and Tuesday off. That left us with a relief supervisor that worked Saturday and Sunday days and Monday and Tuesday swing shift. Bill Cheek was our relief supervisor since opening. Bill has been ill for quite some time and rarely put in an appearance on swing shift or day shift for that matter. For almost two years Pete Popovich has filled in for Bill on swing.

Pete is an unusual man. He's quiet, easy to get along with, thoughtful, does his job very well and originally held the position of the High Limit Brush Relief on Monday and Tuesday and worked the 7 Card Stud section on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Pete worked so many shifts for Bill that most of us never expected to see Bill, we expected to see Pete. This put Pete in charge of the Dealer line up at shift changes, overall decision making and in charge of the Bellagio Poker Room.

Recently Bill Cheek resigned due to medical reasons. To our shock and dismay, Pete has been displaced/replaced by Debbie C. - dayshift high limit brush and Bill's relief on Saturday and Sunday. The shock and dismay is not because we dislike Debbie or feel she can't handle the job…the shock is because Pete did/does a great job and it's not necessary to replace him with anyone…in other words, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

All of us on swing shift are questioning this decision; as a player in our room, perhaps you should be questioning it also.

The next thought that crosses my wine drenched brain…the subject of Mike Danino AKA Israeli Mike. I have a history with Mike, it's not pretty - although when I first me him he treated me as if I were human - it goes back to the Mirage days. One incident that started the downslide in our relationship happened at the Mirage. I dealt an eight handed $75-$150 stud game; Jack Graflund was in the 1 seat, Mike Danino was in the 5 seat, stranger in the 8 seat. The 8 seat was high on sixth street and checked, Jack checked, Mike raised his arms - as if 'what am I to do?' - I tapped the table and burned and turned off the river. Mike went a little bonkers with me and said he hadn't checked. Everyone interpreted his motion as a check except him. For weeks after that he walked around me saying "tip suspension," when he saw me…I countered by raising my arms and saying, "Check."

After Bellagio opened, his attitude became more negative and hostile. One day he threw his cards into my side from the 7 seat when he lost a hand. I said, "Set them down."

He started in with me, "Oh you want to be a smart ass, huh? You want to make something of it?"

I called for a decision. Carmen came to the table; I told her the circumstances and she told him to just do as I asked. After she walked off, he started in again, "You want to make a big deal of it? You want to tell on the players?"

I yelled for a decision again and when she returned, I told her that I just wanted to deal without the interference from the 7 seat. I opened my hand towards him as I spoke. She told him to drop it.

Since I do not hold grudges or resentment towards players, the next day when I came in to work, Mike was talking to Carmen. I walked up to speak to her and passing Mike, I said, "Hi Mike."

He started in…"For what you did to me, I would not take from my own mother. (He opened his hand towards me in the same manner I had opened mine to him in the game the night before). I can make a call out of the casino and have you taken care of. For what you did to me, you can get Fucked!"

Very calmly, I said, "No Mike, you can get Fucked!" and walked off.

He just threatened to have me killed, told me to have unilateral sex with myself…simply because I deal poker and don't want to put up with his bad behavior and antics…did I forget to mention here somewhere that he's Israeli and that since I'm a woman, I'm less than a 2nd class citizen?

One time he threw the 'no pot splitting' sign on the table as I was dealing a game he was playing in. The other side of the sign reads 'pot splitting permitted'. I asked, "Which side?"

He didn't answer…another player asked him why he didn't answer me, Mike stated, "She hates me and I hate her. We do not talk to each other."

This is ludicrous…I would never give up enough energy to anyone to hate them.

Well the long and the short of it is that I've called for a decision more than once because of his behavior since then. I've written incidence reports on his behavior and turned them in to my supervisor. I'm far from being the only dealer that's had a problem with him in the last five years and now we come to the crux of it all…on the 21st of December, he had Pete Popovich give all of the dealers on swing shift a note that read 'Merry Christmas. Have a drink on me' with a $10 bill enclosed in it.

Is there some spark of humanity here? He's borderline for being 86'd out of the card room and has been 86'd before for a 24 hour period…once because he threw cards and hit another player.

After all of his bad behavior and sick attitude, should we now think he's magnanimous and wonderful because he gave us a $10 bill for a drink? Hardly! I accepted the anonymous note and the $10 bill before I knew where it came from…that was my Friday. I came back to work on Monday night and passed him in the casino. I looked directly at him and said, "Thanks Mike!"

He looked at me as if I was from Mars and went on by.

One of our dealers just wrote an incident report on him tonight…so how much has he changed??? Go figure.

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) — 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.

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