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All dealers are not alike. Most are pleasant and quite competent. Most are honest and do not cheat. Some work at speeding up the game to the advantage of the casino and the dealer: The more hands played, the greater the casino’s profit and more tips the dealer enjoys. Realizing this, you might prefer to play at tables at which the dealer is more player-friendly – and gives the players more time to think before acting.

My greatest concern is with dealers who make mistakes that can “rob” you of your chips. Recently, I played a hand where I caught a straight on the turn. It was a big pot. I raised on the river and was called by one opponent. I turned up my hand, showing my straight. He exposed his hand: two-pair.

With a big smile on my face, as I prepared to accept the chips, the dealer started to shove them to the opponent. To say the least, I was awestruck. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Fortunately, I reacted quickly, and spoke up, shouting aloud, “Hey, I have a straight!” At that point, the dealer still had her hands on the chips in the pot, and stopped in her tracks. Then, studying my cards and the board, she slowly changed direction, and pushed the chips to the right, my way.

I was so pleased to win that great pot, I said nothing further to the dealer. (But I didn’t tip her; she didn’t deserve it.)

Sure, dealers are only human, and they can make mistakes – as we all do on occasion. But, some do so more often than others. That may well be a factor in deciding at which casinos to play poker.

This incident reminded me of a hand several years ago. On the turn, I had caught top two-pair, and was about to make my bet. Picking up the chips, just as I was about to place them into the pot, the opponent to my left quickly shouted, “check,” closely followed by the next player, “check.” I raised my voice, shouting aloud to the dealer, “Hey, I was betting!”

The dealer glared at me with a smirk, “too late, there were two checks after you.” Summoning the floorman, he quickly confirmed the dealer’s decision. Can you guess what happened next? On the river one of the two players who had speedily checked before I completed my bet, caught a small set, and beat my two-pair. It had to be obvious that I was about to make my bet. And, I still believe the dealer had a responsibility to hold up the game for a moment until I acted. (I now make it a point in such situations to announce “Bet” or “Time” while I am gathering my chips to bet.)

After that, I made it a point to avoid playing at tables where that particular dealer was in control. A few sessions later, I thought I saw that same dealer steal a chip from the pot. I may have been wrong, but that was the last time I played at that casino – even after that dealer was no longer employed there.

Recently, reading Card Player magazine, there was a column by Gavin Griffin, who described a rather rare game in which he was playing. Apparently, some of the dealers were inexperienced at that game and made mistakes, but readily accepted being corrected by the players.

“My table wasn’t very good,” Griffin commented, but “nobody was losing their patience or getting upset.” Then, another dealer came to the table, who was “struggling from the start.” Moreover, unlike the previous dealers, “he didn’t take correction well. He was afraid to be wrong… He was aggressively bad.”

I wonder how often such things happen at the poker table. Ultimately, it is the casino’s responsibility to be more careful in employing, training, and supervising its dealers. And it is to its advantage to avoid dealers who may be perceived as “bad.”

About the Author

George Epstein

A retired engineer, George Epstein is the author of “The Greatest Book of Poker for Winners!” and “Hold’em or Fold’em? – An Algorithm for Making the Key Decision.” He teaches poker courses and conducts a unique Poker Lab at the Claude Pepper Senior Center under the auspices of the City of Los Angeles Dept. of Recreation and Parks and at West Los Angeles College.

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