Poker Dealing: Training and Early Days

(A warm welcome to guest poster RickyNate – P.)


Before I explain my experiences dealing poker so far or explain the process of becoming a dealer, I’d like to briefly introduce myself and explain why I chose to deal poker in the first place. My name is Nate, and for confidentiality in the Casino I work for, fellow employees, and because of some information I discuss on the process of becoming a poker dealer, I’ll keep it to a first-name basis. Hopefully anonymity can save me from my writing. I’ll make this very quick either way.

I was introduced to the game of poker only three years ago when I was a manager of a large retail store, and had a new manager sent to me for training. In his orientation he discussed his work history, hobbies, etc. and I was introduced to the game of poker. I went home that day and researched the rules as best I could before downloading several poker apps to find the best one. I fell in love with the game pretty quickly.

After very little time, I foolishly decided to try out a 1-3 NL cash game at a local casino. A couple of months and nearly $600.00 later I realized something was wrong, and so I decided to research and look for some help. The good news was I knew my game couldn’t get much worse. I began listening to Ante Up and Red Chip Poker podcasts, reading and taking extensive notes on Poker Math Made Easy by I. H. Richmond, Essential Poker Math by Alton Hardin, Secrets of a Professional Tournament Poker Player by Jonathan Little, Strategies for Beating Small Stakes Tournaments by Jonathan Little, Small Stakes Poker Cash Games by Jonathan Little, Small Stakes No-Limit Hold’em by Ed Miller, and yes, even Poker for Dummies.

While I’m far from gleaning all possible concepts and strategies from these books and significantly improving my game, what I did notice was that I fell even more in love with the game. I began hosting poker tournaments and games (of course, not for real dollars). Eventually I realized I needed to change my job as it was creating too much negative stress with too little payout as well as interfering with my Accounting classes. Again, I researched poker and was disappointed that I was unable to find a career where a wealthy businessman or corporation would sponsor a twenty-three year old Accounting student with minute poker knowledge and even less skill.

After realizing I couldn’t play poker well (yet?), I thought why not deal? I could be like the referees in professional sports who couldn’t make it to their high school varsity team, but get to police those who make a living playing. They always seem so happy. It didn’t take much research to find that poker dealer training could get pricey and would ultimately take more than thirty hours a week. Fortunately, a local casino was offering free (but, of course, unpaid) training. The class was described to be six weeks in length with possibility of early auditioning. The likelihood of employment after completing the six-week course was explained to me more than a week before classes began. I was told that no guarantee could be made of a job offer even with passing the final audition. The course began with twelve students (one of whom quit the first day).

Day one began with the usual new-student introductions. After introductions, each student auditioned individually for evaluation purposes. I knew that at twenty-three years old, and new to poker, I would need any leg-up I could get.

I searched online and found several videos on Youtube that demonstrated basic pitches and pitch situations, proper chip-cutting, proper shuffling (what’s known as Riffle, Riffle, Box, Riffle or Riffle, Riffle, Strip, Riffle), and a brief introduction to minor irregularities within the aforementioned categories. I was certainly right about being the least knowledgeable all-around, while incorrect about having a possible leg-up. A few of my classmates didn’t know a single rule to poker, but had been table games dealers for five years or more, and thus their technique needed no work whether it be chip-cutting, shuffling, or any related mechanics.

It didn’t take long before my hiring manager’s disclaimer that “starting with fifteen students, we’ll unfortunately be unlikely to see more than five pass auditions” began coming true. Without going into much personal and confidential information, the reasons our classmates were dropping off would have been comical if it wasn’t so detrimental to them. Nevertheless, after one quit because of disinterest, another because of a job offer, and another after an arrest, as well as others, we were down to seven students. After a few weeks I realized I could only commit my time to two of the three things I had taken upon myself: Accounting/Finance School, Poker Dealer Training, and a promotion to a corporate office position in the retail company I worked for. I decided the corporate position had to go, and I quit a job for reasons other than relocation for the first time in my life.

I had personal and vacation time built-up, but now I had more pressure than ever to succeed at Dealer Training, as the allocated money would soon run out. I distributed my new-found time to Dealer Training and Accounting School. The training went decently well, but I realized I would need a lot more help if I wanted to do well. I began going to home poker games where I was given the opportunity to deal, sometimes for eight hours straight. I picked up a poker table for a great deal off Craigslist, and spent hours pitching, shuffling, reading Hi-Low hands, calculating pots, and the like.

I suppose the negatives of the training, though they were significant, had little to do with the instructor, who honestly was excellent. Having seven or more people trying to learn from 1800 to 2200, five days a week only allowed for about forty-five minutes of actual dealing each week, maximum. In fact, in the first three downs (thirty minute dealing rotations) of my first shift, I dealt more hands than I had the entire six-week program.

Nevertheless, auditions approached after the six weeks was up. I passed, but with more difficulty than I wanted to.

After orientation, training, and other procedural meetings, I was standing in the poker room, tip box in one hand and a seat cushion in the other (buy a seat cushion, your pants and bum will thank you for sparing them the sweat from the previous dealer’s tush…a gross thought, but reality). I shadowed a dealer for thirty minutes on a tournament table, and thirty minutes on a cash table, and then I was thrown into the big seat. Somehow, I only had two misdeals my first day, but plenty of variances. (Ed.: this seems to refer to cash or chip discrepancies.)

The second day, a few more misdeals, but half the variances. I’m sitting on just over a week in, and I still have plenty of difficulties yet to be resolved. I have a little difficulty with Missed Blinds, for which I’m studying currently. What’s worse, and what new dealers need to expect, is that in the confusion and nervousness of the moment, even the easier tasks such as simply reading a winning hand become difficult. It’s important to not get overwhelmed, lest a snowball effect ensues.

Furthermore, beware of players, but ignore what they throw at you. Each player thinks because he or she has been playing for decades, they could deal far better than you (they’ll even say it to you, trust me). It’s not unusual to have a player curse you out in front of the whole table. Let it roll off your back, and understand that these individuals won’t change their behavior if you deal faster, cut-ships faster, or whatever they are moaning about.

I understand that each individual has different skill sets, strengths, and weaknesses. Therefore, my suggestions and opinions have to be taken as rather broad as they’ve only been drawn from my experiences and the testimonies of other dealers I’ve come across. That being said, if I was to take the class over, I think I would have been working on Pot Calculations from day one. PLO 1,2,5 Hi-Low 8 or Better is difficult enough to understand for a new dealer. Adding pots, repots, re-repots, and on and on can get downright frustrating.

Bottom line, it is it’s imperative to isolate your weaknesses and focus your energy on them. Additionally, expect to be frustrated, incredibly frustrated. When I was in middle school, I was homeschooled by my mother who unfortunately failed miserably in teaching me quick mental mathematics. I am currently on a road to relearning quicker ways to calculate larger numbers so that Pot Calculations are easier and more accurate. There’s one of my many frustrations I’m currently working on mastering. However, I would definitely suggest not allowing players to be a source of frustration. As I’ve said, these individuals can be downright nasty. The goal, as it’s been taught to me by much more accomplished and intelligent individuals, is to be patient and get the job right. Speed will come with time. The players will wait, and your supervisors will have your back in any cases of hostility.

On that note, it’s definitely a plus to have thick skin. Other players will respect you for not getting irate or even reacting. Also, a lot of pity tips come in the first few weeks from players who observe another’s hostility, and that’s what you’re working for: tips. If you’re lucky, base pay at an hourly rate could be $5.00. Perhaps you’ll work tournaments for an additional $6.00 to $8.00 an hour on top of the $5.00 base rate. But without tips, you’re basically working for minimum wage. Tips are why you work tables (and why you’ll learn to love cash games and dislike tournaments). Sure, the more hands you deal, the more tips you’ll receive, statistically speaking. But that speed is only profitable if accurate, and accuracy takes time. It’s better in the beginning to get out fewer hands accurately than many hands inaccurately. Speed will come with time.

I have to be honest here and say that patience is another one of my downfalls. I want to be quick, so I deal quick. Unfortunately my skill isn’t on the same level as my speed, so I’ve ended up with cash variances in my chip rack a few too many times, which is a pretty big deal (take time when making change!).

All in all, nerve-wracking and difficult as it has been, dealing poker has been a rather enjoyable experience. I look the casino manager read I Croupierforward to developing better skill and eventually deal PLO, where the real money is at!

I hope I’ve answered any questions any readers and potential poker dealers have. If not, I can be reached anytime by email at where I will hopefully be able to answer any further questions you may have.

Thank you for taking the time to read, and good luck out there at the tables. If you happen to sit down at a table with me, you’re welcome, in advance.

2 thoughts on “Poker Dealing: Training and Early Days

Leave a Reply