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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 pokerdealer.nate@gmail.com 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.

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The OOP Lexicon is a user-developed poker glossary.

Absolute Position
Being last to act (e.g. closest to the button) postflop.

Advancing Leverage
Aggressive actions intended to shift the leverage point closer to the current street.

Analog
A bluff or value hand which is a natural candidate for balancing another hand because of their shared qualities, such as AA and AK; usually helps planning range splitting and line construction.

Auto profit threshold (APT)
A bluff made with positive expectation resulting from the opponent under defending vis-a-vis bet sizing. The inverse of MDF.

Balance
Choosing to support either value bets or bluffs with their converse.

Bet
A bet is a proposition.  It’s the first offer on the pot with regard to the outcome of the game. Each player, in turn, has the opportunity to lay or change the price on the pot to the rest of the players. “The language of poker.” The bet, as opposed to the raise, is most often and most easily allied to the merged pricing construction.

Block
To remove combinations of hands from a range based on cards in your hand or on the board.

Blockers
Cards which influence our combinatorial assumptions. Ex: We face resistance on T76ss while we hold As7d. Both our cards act as blockers. Our ace of spades blocks (limits) a number of flush draws our opponent could hold, while our seven blocks a number of two pair and sets our opponent could hold. *See also Block and Unblock

Blocker Bet
A small bet made by an out-of-position player.

Board Texture
The available community cards and the set of conditions which inform its relationship to a logical range.

Bottom
The worst hands in a betting range.  Depending on context this could be the worst hand in a value bet range or the bluffing section of polarized range.

Bounded
A range descriptor indicating a range shape with a specific high or low boundary.  A range bounded high won't contain some number of the best linear hands ranked from the top down.  This is equivalent to a "capped" range.  A range bounded low won't contain some number of the worst linear hands ranked from the bottom up.  This is often useful to describe a range that doesn't include any air or very weak hands.

Capitalization
A strategic mode in which a player is attempting to deny their opponent(s) equity share of the pot through aggression. Often referred to as “denying equity” or “buying up equity”.

Capped
A range is capped when it represents little to no nutted combinations as confirmed by prior action.

Cbet
A continuation bet. A bet made by the player with initiative as a continuation of their initiative on a prior street.

Clarity
The ability to accurately range an opponent based on all available information at a decision point.  An understanding of your hands exact equity.

Closing Action
Acting last where no subsequent action is possible behind you.  For example calling a UTG raise in the BB or calling in position postflop with no players behind.

Cold Call/Cold Bet
An action is considered “cold” when it comes from a player entering into the pot has not previously put chips voluntarily in the pot. Ex: the UTG opens, the BTN 3bets. If the SB were to call or raise, it would be a cold-call or a cold-4bet.

Combinatorics
The branch of mathematics the deals with finite number sets. Used in poker in determining the amount of combinations of certain hands in a range.

Complete
When a blind that is not the biggest blind calls the amount of the biggest blind. Ex: At $2/$5, action folds around to the SB and the SB completes. Meaning they just call. The BB can complete when there is a straddle.

Condensed
A capped range that contains only middling value hands. A range without the polarized portion.

Construction
Logical advancement of combinations across streets.

Dark Side of the Deck
The large swath of hands, often off-suit, that fall outside of conventional playable recommendations. Counter-equity hands.

Dead Money
Money in the pot that is not being fought for.  A passive player creates dead money when they call a bet preflop and looking to play fit-or-fold postflop. Dead Money is often confused with the money in the pot.

Delayed Cbet
A cbet made on the turn by the preflop raiser when the flop checked through.

Delaying Leverage
Passive actions intended to maintain a likely late street leverage point, or possibly to avoid a leverage point entirely.

Deviation
A strategic break from one’s standard construction as an exploit of a particular player’s profile or construction.

Diminishing Medium Value Category
A Seidman concept in which when one’s middling value hand range is too small and transparent to our opponent and thus either that range should be shifted into the top of a polarized range or the nutted portion should be shifted into the medium value range. Ex: AQo or TT being 3bet preflop.

Downbet
A cbet that is less than the preflop raise. Ex: BTN opens to $25, we 3bet to $90 from the SB, BTN calls. On the flop we cbet $70.

Dry Board
A board texture that yields relatively few logical hands value. Often containing one medium or high card and disconnected low cards. Ex: Q53r, T622r.

Dual Mentalities
A Seidman concept in which when we decide to go postflop with a weak hand against a nutted range, we should either be looking to out flop it or steal the pot away. We base our decision against the player type we are up against and never go post with both mentalities at once.

Dynamic Board
A flop texture in which the runout is very likely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: 954tt, 742r.

Effective Stack
The smallest stack to VPIP in a given hand. Their stack decides the amount of money that can be played for or threatened before an all-in.

Effective nuts
A value hand that can be played for stacks as if it were the actual nuts.  This is a relative hand ranking based on range assumptions and opponent type.

Efficiency
A measure of how well the equity of a hand is deployed. Efficiency can also be used as a measure of what is risked vs what is gained for a given bet size.

Either/Or Philosophy
A Seidman concept in which a particular street can be a very good spot for value, meaning our opponent is never folding, or a very good spot to bluff, meaning our opponent is never calling, but that those spots cannot be concurrent.

Elasticity
Borrowed from economics, a measure of the sensitivity of a range or hand relative to the price offered.  Ranges (or hands) described as elastic will narrow, sometimes quickly, in response to increases in price.  Those described as inelastic will not.

Equity
The percent pot share of a holding or range on any given street if the hand were to go to showdown with no further betting action.

Equity Pusher
A analytic approach to the game in which a player views the correct actions only through the lens of their hands equity vs. their opponent’s range. Often this player type has a lack of understanding of overall strategy and plays their range face up with few bluffs.

Expected Value
The mathematical formula for how much a player’s action is expected to make with their hand vs. their opponent’s range. EV = ($towin * %ofwin) - ($tolose * %ofloss)

Face Up
A player is playing their range “face up” when their actions directly correspond with their desired outcome. Ex: A player bets half-pot three streets with a range that has no bluffs. A player 3bets to 7x with JJ.

False Polarization
Otherwise known as Faux-Po; a polarizing action taken with a merged range.

Felted
The result of losing your entire table stakes. All the way down to the felt.

Float
A call of a cbet with a weak holding with the likely intention of taking the pot away when the opponent shuts down. Often done by an in position preflop caller.

Formation
The convergence of positions, stack depths, and preceding actions at a given decision point.

G-Bucks
A mathematical formula developed by Phil Galfond for calculating the expected value of one’s range construction vs. an opponent’s holding.

GIGO
A computer programming term that means "garbage in, garbage out" which also applies to poker forums when a poster seeks an in-depth conversation about a hand, but fail to provide pertinent information such as stack sizes, bets sizes, table dynamics and player tendencies.

Game Theory
The applied science of combining mathematical models with logic to craft winning poker strategies.

Game Theory Optimal
A set of strategies is GTO if no player can unilaterally deviate and increase his average profit. ~ Will Tipton.  GTO does not mean best possible response, highest EV, or maximally exploitative play.

Implied Odds
Additional value likely to be accrued if you make your hand on a later street.

Initiative
Sometimes referred to as the betting lead, a common situation in which the passive player yields to the aggressive player postflop, or the last aggressor continues betting on subsequent streets.

Isolate
A bet or raise intended to force out the rest of the field in order to play heads up against a weaker opponent who has entered the pot through limping, raising, or posting the blinds.

LAG
Loose aggressive player type. Generally overused and inaccurate.

Lead
A bet made from out of position after a passive action. Often referred to as a donk bet on the flop.

Leveling
He knows that I know that he knows I know.

Leverage
A bet or raise that signals the hand will be played for stacks.  Within reason, it is accomplished by betting with a sizing that will create RSP equal to 1 on the following street.

LFI
Limp First In

Linear
A consecutive range of hands decreasing in strength from top to bottom; generally meaning value hands. Equivalent to "merged."

Lockdown Board
A board on which the nuts have often already been made.  More prevalent in PLO but sometimes useful in no-limit, for example on monotone flops and boards with available common straights e.g. JT9, T98, 987, etc.

Merge
1) A range of hands that includes both strong and medium value; 2) in reference to medium value; 3) the merged construction describes the natural representation of a wide range through a bet.

Mini Stop-N-Go
A Seidman concept, a line taken by a OOP PFR where flop is check/called and turn is lead.

Minimum Defense Frequency (MDF)
The necessary defending (calling/raising) frequency to prevent an opponent from auto-profiting.  The inverse of APT.

Natural Action
A check, bet, or raise which is exactly suited to a player's range and situation (e.g. a pfr's continuation bet on AK2r).

Nit
A player who will not put chips into the pot without a very strong and sometimes only nutted hand.

Nuts
The best possible hand.

Nuts-To-Air Ratio (NAR)
In a polarized betting line, the ratio of value to bluff.  As used by Seidman, not limited to polarization but sometimes used to label general opponent tendency of value to bluff.

OMC
Old Man Coffee. Typically an older, retired player that likes to play bingo with ATC, but will only continue with the nuts.

Open
The first voluntary action. The first action or bet to voluntarily enter the pot.

Overbet
A bet that is more than the size of the pot.

Perceived Range
Refers to the range of hands that your opponent thinks you could have in a certain playing situation. This can be interpreted and thus misinterpreted from your playing style and position at the table.

Polarized
A range consisting of very strong and very weak hands.

Post Oak Bluff
A small bluff on a late street that has little chance of winning the pot.  Generally interpreted as “gutless” in the past but now fulfilling certain functions as betting efficiencies are understood.

Positional Protection
When the strength of a range is perceived to be capped or uncapped based on which position an action is taken from.

Protected
When an action or player is perceived to have strong hands in its range.

Protection Bet
A wager which denies equity to hands which will only give action if they significantly improve; "a value bet which does not want a call."

Raise
The rejection of the offered price and the laying of a new higher price.  Raises represent a more narrow range of hands and trend towards polarization.

Range Advantage
Implementation or study tool that refers to 1) most basically, equity measurement of one range against another; 2) or also including a combination of further factors including availability of nutted hands, the nuances of the runout, and positional protection.

Range Manipulation
Deliberate line work/bet sizing made to narrow a range or keep a range wide.

Range Switch
A deliberate change in range composition made to thwart a player who is reading our range too accurately in any spot.  Reduces transparency, fights assumptions, and wins the leveling war if implemented correctly.

Ratio of Stack To Pot
RSP. The stack to pot ratio at any point in a hand, generally used post-flop as opposed to Stack to Pot Ratio.

Realization
Taking a hand to showdown and realizing its full equity.  Generally used with regard to passive actions.

Reciprocity
The mutual exchange of chips resulting from similar play and ideas.  Reciprocity is a common bi-product of group-think.  A true edge by definition cannot be reciprocal.

Relative Position
A player’s position measured against the aggressor's position.  Generally this is used going to the flop.  For example, if UTG raises and several players call behind, calling in the big blind would give you the best relative position.  You will act after seeing how the field responds to a likely continuation from the preflop aggressor.  In the same scenario calling immediately after the preflop aggressor results in the worst relative position.  You will have to act immediately after a continuation without seeing how the remaining players will respond.  Strong relative position confers an information edge.

Retention
The ability of hand to maintain equity across streets against a betting range or as part of a betting range.

Reverse Implied Odds (RIO)
Hands that often win small pots or lose large pots suffer from reverse implied odds.

Robustness
Popularized by Mathew Janda, a descriptor for how well a hand retains equity over streets of play.  Hands described as robust have equity that does not suffer as an opponent's range becomes stronger.  Often these hands are currently both strong and invulnerable, or have the ability to become very strong by the river, relative to the opponent's range.

Runout
Fourth and Fifth Street cards following a given flop texture.

Scale of Protection
Poker theorem which states that the more protected or strong an opponent's range is, the higher the degree of denial or retention a counter will require.

Sklansky Bucks
Dollars won (or lost) in expected value regardless of actual hand result.

Smurf
Any one of many possible poker archetypes found at low stakes games.

Squeeze
A reraise made after a player has raised and one or more players has called in-between.

Static Board
A flop texture in which the runout is unlikely to change the order of top ranking hands. Ex: AK7r, KK4r.

Stop-N-Go
A passive action followed by an aggressive action, out of position.  For example, a call followed by a lead on the next street.

Streets of Value
A crude shorthand measurement for how much betting a hand can tolerate and still be best at showdown more often than not.

TAG
Tight aggressive opponent type. Generally overused and misapplied.

TAG's Dilemma
The paradox created by having a top-heavy range played so aggressively that it misuses equity vis-à-vis position and holding.

The Great Range Fantasy
The common idea that we know our opponent’s range and frequencies precisely; most commonly seen in post-hoc analysis to justify microedge decisions.

Thin Value
A bet that is only slightly more likely to be called by worse than by better. Associated with the merged pricing construction and bet-fold lines.

Three Fundamentals
The most fundamental variables for decision making: position, stack size, and community cards.

Top
The best hands in a given range.

Two-Way Bet
A bet that expects calls from worse hands and incorrect folds at the same time, a simultaneous value bet and bluff line.

Upstuck
The psychological effect of feeling like you’re losing because your stack size isn’t as large as it once was during a session, even though it’s more than what you’re in the game for.

(e.g. You bought in for $100, ran it up $450, but now only have $175 in front of you.)

Unblock
A hand that has no negative card removal effects on the target range.  Bottom set, for example, unblocks top pair top kicker.

Uncapped
A range that is perceived to contain the nuts in any given line.  Capped ranges may become uncapped during transitions for example from preflop to flop, or flop to turn.

Unicorn
A turned nut straight after raising flop with a gutter.

Value Owning
Making value bets with a hand that has less than 50% equity when called.

Voluntarily Put Money In Pot (VPIP)
The frequency at which a player limps, calls, or raises preflop.

Volatile Board
A flop texture where equities will often shift on the turn and river.  See “dynamic”.

Warmer
An illusory cooler where one player makes a massive mistake equity mistake and loses his stack with a strong but second best hand; also known as a Jam Basket.

Wet Board
A board texture that allows for a lot of logical hands to continue. Often made up of medium rank connected cards. Ex: KT9tt, Tc8c6s-7c-Ac.

WIFSUWO
“Walk In, Fuck Shit Up, Walk Out” a hashtag used by instagram poker players.

Winning Player
A forum poster who offers reciprocal advice under the guise of questionable positive low stakes results. A weak player or fish, in general.

YMC
Young Man Coffee. Is very much an OMC, but younger.  They usually only continue with the nuts, often under the illusion of playing a GTO style.