Normally we interview a poker room manager for this column but we learned of a dealer with an interesting story and background. My interview is with Patrick Vandenberk, a poker dealer at Santa Fe Station.
GT: Patrick, what’s your background?
PV: “I am 48 years old, and am originally from Europe. I was born in the Netherlands, and when I was 4 years old, my family moved to Germany, where I lived until I was 17. We then moved to Belgium where I went to a French international school for two years. Then when I was 20, we moved back to Germany.”
When/how did you get into dealing poker?
“I got into poker when I was 25. I read an article about the game in the Dutch newspapers. It was about an Austrian company that wanted to expand their business to Holland.”
How were things different dealing in Austria versus the States?
“Dealing in Austria was very different from dealing in the U.S. Here you have the Gaming Control Board that oversees all gaming-related issues. That’s not the case in Europe, or Austria specifically. It’s more ‘everybody for themselves.’ Also in Europe there are more ‘hotheaded’ players. You don’t hear the words ‘good hand’ after a game. As a dealer and a floor person, I had to calm down a lot of situations.
“I remember one time as a floor person, I was standing in between two men who were so mad I thought they were about to tear down the casino, but because they respected me, I was able to calm down the situation and get both of them out of the building without incident. Both came back days later and even apologized to me. That felt good, because I knew it could have ended very bad for me if it had gone the other way.”
You dealt at the WSOP. What was that like?
“I dealt the WSOP in 2008 for the first time. That’s when I came to the U.S., after winning a green card in the lottery. Dealing the WSOP was the first job I had here in Vegas. It was very impressive at first, almost intimidating. After a while I got used to it. I even saw players I dealt to in Austria and the Netherlands. It was a cool experience.”
Ever met or dealt to anyone famous?
“I’ve dealt to many famous people, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, JK Simmons, and famous poker players such as Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Phil Ivey, Doyle Brunson and Vanessa Selbst.”
What do you enjoy about your job at Santa Fe now?
“I started working at the Santa Fe in 2012. Since this is a locals casino, I see the guests on a daily basis. I even see my guests in my local stores. Because we cater to locals, I get to know everyone more intimately than I would in another company. I know almost every aspect of their lives because we talk at the tables all the time, almost every day. I consider 95 percent of them as part of my family, so now I have a big family here in the U.S.”
What’s going on at Santa Fe? What games do players like best?
“Santa Fe Station offers 2-4 and 3-4 limit, which are the most popular games. Players who play 2-4 do so to socialize more than to win money. We also offer 1-2 No Limit and 3-6 Omaha Hi/Lo and daily tournaments.”
What are your interests, hobbies, family life like outside of the poker room?
“My hobbies include playing the guitar, poker and being outside. I am married to the most beautiful girl in the world, and have been for almost three years now. She’s my everything. Together with two dogs, we live one mile away from Santa Fe. When I’m not working I enjoy time with her, playing all kinds of dice and board games. When it’s nice outside we go to Mount Charleston to have lunch or to the Pinball Hall of Fame to play away some quarters.”
Next time you’re up North, stop by and say hi to Patrick and play some poker at the Santa Fe!