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Saturday, 27 August 2016
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Shut Up and Deal! – Dave Tarbet

One of the most important and often overlooked factors in a game of poker is the dealer. A good dealer not only distributes the cards, but controls the game, lets players know when it is their turn to act, knows how much the pot is when necessary and generally keeps the game moving in a friendly, yet professional manner.

A bad dealer can leave you tearing your hair out at their unprofessionalism instead of concentrating on your own game. So what makes a good dealer?  Before looking at the skills and attributes necessary to make a good live dealer we’ll first look at a dealer in an internet card room.

Although you often can’t see a dealer as the cards come out of thin air at most sites the internet dealer is a model that should be followed by their real life counterparts:

  • The cards are dealt quickly and without error, often reaching speeds of over 100 hands per hour.
  • Players are prompted to act when it is their turn and are given a reminder if they are taking too long.
  • Players actions and community cards are announced clearly.
  • The dealer always knows how much is in the pot.
  • Hands are declared at showdown and the pot awarded to the best hand.
  • The dealer does not indulge in needless chat with the players.

Although I was talking about an internet game, all the points above should be adhered to by a real dealer in a live game as well. However, it is not possible for a real dealer to attain 100 hands per hour. More realistic goals would be 30-40 hands per hour for Hold’em and 25-30 hands per hour for Omaha and Stud games.

Let us look at the above points in more detail as to how they translate to a live game:

The quicker the game and the more hands dealt, the better it is for both the players and the house. However, this should no be at the cost of mistakes or misdeals. The dealer should only go as fast at he/she is comfortable with.

It is the dealers job to keep the game flowing and to prompt players when it is their turn to act. Often players might be talking to someone or watching sports on the TV screens in the card room. A simple “the action’s on you sir” will suffice.

Announce players’ actions. For example “raise to $400” or “all-in for $2,000”. Community cards should also be announced.

The dealer should always know how much is in the pot. For limit or no limit games this is not too important, but for pot limit games it is critical. Also, the dealer should not have to stack and count down the pot to do this as it slows the game down. The skilled dealer will keep count in their head as to how much the pot is. For example, a dealers though process might be “4 players called $50 pre flop creating a $200 pot, 1 player bet the pot on the flop and got 1 caller therefore there is $600 in the pot.”

The dealer must read all hands placed face up at showdown and award the pot to the winner. Do not take the players word for what the hands are but read the hands yourself. The losing hands should then be mucked by the dealer and the winning hand left face up until the pot is pushed to the winner. And it goes without saying that all cards of the winning hand must be shown and not just 1 in hold’em or 2 in Omaha.

And lastly, I am a firm believer in the dealer not speaking (excluding what must be said to run the game) unless spoken to. If a player asks a dealer a question, then by all means answer, but quickly. There will always be players losing in the game and they don’t want to hear what the dealer did on Friday night or who he bet on Sunday. It also slows the game down and distracts the dealer from the job in hand.

Furthermore a dealer should never comment as to what a player might be holding or what the community might mean. For example if there are 4 spades on the board in hold’em the dealer should never says something like “who’s got the flush then”. Also if there is a dispute on the table that cannot be easily resolved the dealer should not enter into discussion about it, but call the floorman over to make a ruling.

Until next time, dealer’s be professional and take pride in your job and player’s be nice to the dealers and remember to tip the good ones!

Shut up and Deal is also the title of an excellent poker novel by Jesse May which I highly recommend you read. This article is dedicated to the dealers of the Concord Card Casino in Vienna Austria. In my opinion the finest dealers in the world.

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