Dealing at the World Series of Poker

wsoplogoFor those of us that like to walk into a live card room and play safe and controlled poker, we know that the poker dealer is an essential part of the experience. For live poker players the dealer can be the difference between a great game or a dead table.  One time of year that sees an extreme influx of dealer decision making is the The World Series of Poker (WSOP) in Las Vegas at the Rio’s Amazon Room.

Providing a player pool unmatched by any other tournament or cash game excursion that can be found on pokers extensive global calendar, it is easy to see how dealer logistics and linguistics can become a bit scrambled.

It might even be surprising for some to hear that many of the World Series of Poker dealers are straight out of dealer school and have never dealt and actual live tournament, cash game or satellite poker hand in their life.  With a long list of etiquette considerations and an even longer list of rules it is easy for dealer confusion to set in quickly.  Sorting through all the different antes, game types, rake structures, bet and pot sizes, shuffles, blinds, player personalities, chip exchanges, boards, burn cards and bickering can be overwhelming, even for the most seasoned poker dealer.  In this 2013 World Series of Poker dealers exposé we will look at some of the dealer mistakes and habits poker players hate, a few ways players disrupt the dealing process and engage an actual dealer from the 2013 WSOP in a few interview questions.

If you have played enough live poker then most likely you have witnessed a dealer / player dispute.  For a plethora of reasons players at the poker table can become upset with a dealer and can be quit vocal with their displeasure.  There are some valid and not so valid reasons to become upset with live dealers.  The most important concept to keep in mind is that dealers are human beings.  No matter what the case is they do not deserve to be threatened, abused or treated unfairly and most beefs at the poker table should be taken up with the casino floor staff anyways.  Acknowledging that no dealer is perfect, here are a few of the most common complaints players have about inexperienced or unskilled card pitchers.

Top Dealer Mistakes Card Players Loath and Despise:

-Wasting time sorting and collecting rake.  The rake is usually a straightforward concept and its requirement should not delay the game in any form.

-Slow card shuffles and board deals.  The best dealers realize the players are at the table to see hands.  Live poker is already slow enough.  Dealers that take their time distributing the hands are not crowd favorites to say the least.

– Selling chips out of the dealer rack when cash plays and other players have plenty of chips to sell.  Remember dealers you’re there to deal cards not chips.

-Not looking at the table plaque.  Before the dealer sits down they should know the limit, the game and the other structural characteristics.  Not knowing something as simple as if the game is Hi/Lo or not is unacceptable.

-Mis-counting chips, not counting down all-in stacks, miss-collecting antes, side pot separation mishaps, miss-split pots, miss reading cards, miss-dealing, letting the game get out of control etc.  As mentioned we are all human and mistakes happen but frequent hiccups in a poker game can lead to disaster.

As bad as the dealers can be, sometimes the participants can be even worse.  With large sums of money in jeopardy in an extremely emotional game it is easy to understand how tempers can flair.  In an ego dominated game where testosterone and beer foam run rampant there are more then a few instances where the dealers are actually the ones taking the bad beat and getting the worst of it.

Top Poker Player Traits That Make A Dealers Job Miserable:

-Acting out of turn.  Take your turn in order. It is something we all were taught to do as children.  Do not be “that person” that cuts the poker chain of command.

-Blame the dealer for their cards.  The dealers are not David Blaine, Lance Burton, Chris Angel or David Copperfield.  The cards you are dealt are not the dealers doing.

-Angle shooting.  Knowingly taking underhanded shots at players to make the game more uncomfortable and confusing for the rest of the table.

-Break the obvious rules.  For example swearing at the table, talking about a live hand without cards, string raising, stalling or any other tactic that deteriorates or distracts from the game.

Interview with a WSOP Dealer

wsop dealerNow that we know about what both sides of the poker table participants should and should not be doing let’s take a moment to take a glimpse into the mind of an actual World Series of Poker Dealer.  The subject of this interview is a 3 time WSOP dealer (2006, 2011, 2013), 5 year sportsbook manager, 3 year live cash game pro, longtime Vegas vet and an overall degenerate, dynamite and dynamic individual.  A mere 28, Johnny “Jingles” as we will call him is young, full of life, loves poker and is never hesitant to provide an intelligent and comedic perspective as a World Series of Poker Dealer.

What is the hardest part of being a World Series of Poker dealer?

“Going to work.  Nah just kidding.  As you know I love dealing cards.  The hardest part is probably knowing all of the poker games and formats well and switching through them constantly.  Believe it or not, at an event as large and chaotic as the World Series of Poker this is much harder than you would think.”

What is the most annoying player tendency or action?

“Players that drag big cash pots or scoop big tournaments and don’t tip.  No in all seriousness tipping is a whole other issue and does not really annoy me either way.  What others do with their money is not really my concern and I am a well paid employee.  The thing that annoys me most are really the guys that do not remain observant and respectful of the table.  I hate having to constantly remind the same player to act when the action is on him because he is lost in his hoodie and a world full of electronic music.  Oh also people that think they know everything about poker and dealing.  Those people are pretty dumb as well but I usually just refer their pleasantries to the floor.”

What is the craziest event you have ever witnessed while dealing at The World Series of Poker?

“Not sure about so crazy but this year I saw a dealer just freeze up.  A player started yelling at him during a mid-stakes PLO cash game and he just stopped dealing and stopped talking.  No one really knew what to do and he kind of just broke down and left.  It was pretty crazy.  Also lots of good standard card ripping stories and stuff like that as well.  Oh and really crazy I saw Jamie Gold lose money in the cash games.  True story.”

What do you think about while dealing?

“As weird as this may sound I actually think about dealing a good game.  No I am not thinking about thongs, sports bets or my next Vegas club outing as some may expect.  I really do care about being the best dealer I can be during my downs (dealer term for table shifts).  I want to provide a top tier poker experience which is usually a fine balance between fun and fast.  Besides the better the game I deal, the smoother my day goes and usually my tips increase, so its a win win.”

If you could change anything about dealing at The World Series of Poker what would it be?

“Better chairs.  Man the chairs at the Rio suck and I have to sit in them a long time.  Oh yeah bigger tips and televisions as well.  To be honest the first week or so has not been that bad.  Just like I remember it from 5 years ago.  Ask me at the end and my sentiments will probably have changed.  I am sure I will be ready to get back to grinding the cash tables on the strip as usual.”

Sure being a World Series of Poker dealer is not rocket science but for many of the dealers it is their first time tossing cards in a live setting.  You can practice all you want in school and ace every test but nothing replaces real world experience.

A slow or incredibly green dealer can be very frustrating to the hardened and jaded players.  However we all must keep in mind that we were all beginners at one point in our lives at something.  Dealers breath the same air we do and ironically most are very cool people in real life away from the tables.  Be helpful, knowledgeable and respectful and this should go a long way towards making the dealers more competent and able to service the customers better.  The World Series of Poker dealers are not always going to be the best in the business due to the sheer quantity needed.

This is an almost insurmountable issue that will never change especially in Las Vegas a city that already needs top level dealers elsewhere.  The bottom line is to be kind to your World Series of Poker dealer, be understanding, tip appropriately and watch your time at the Rio’s Amazon Room and at other casinos tables become even more enjoyable.  Working with the dealers and not against them really is your best option.  If you have an issue with a dealer take it up with the floor-man.  Its amazing that some of the happiness derived at the poker table could be that simple.  Shuffle up and deal!