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Best of Gary Trask

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Top 10 poker dealer pet peeves

1 August 2016

LAS VEGAS -- Dealing poker can be a thankless job. Run a clean and flawless game, and there's a good chance nobody will even notice. Conversely, make one screwup, and the entire table — and likely everyone else in the room — will know about it.

Having said that, there are certain things you can do as a player to make the dealer's life much easier. Some are obvious, others more subtle.

So, take it from the group of World Series of Poker dealers we pulled aside recently in Las Vegas. Keep the items below in mind the next time you sit down in a game or a tournament, and you'll not only make the dealer happy, but the entire table experience will benefit, as well.

(One quick disclaimer: While all the dealers were happy to pour their hearts out and provide the complaints and pet peeves described below, they also made it a point to mention that, for the most part, players are considerate and eager to help once they are alerted of any transgressions.)

Want to make your dealer smile? Take a shower and pay attention.

Want to make your dealer smile? Take a shower and pay attention.

10. Chip-stacking your bets
When you're raising or making a bet, that tidy stack of chips you systematically push toward the middle of the table may look good, but it's very difficult for the dealer to calculate the amount.

"It's much better if you just spread it out," said Brian Kwak, a 31-year-old Korean native now living in San Francisco, who has been dealing for almost two years. "If you put stacks out there, I have to either knock it down myself and count it, or tilt my head and try to count it. Much better if you just spread out the chips. But don't splash them!"

9. Forgetting to ante
A WSOP dealer supervisor with more than a decade of experience in the business, who wished to remain anonymous, said this is something that has always given dealers heartburn.

"For God's sake, it's not that hard," she said passionately. "It's annoying — not just for the dealer, but for everyone at the table — when I have to keep reminding the same player when to ante and how much it is.

"I try to be nice and I try to be funny about it. But if someone forgets a couple times in a row, I'll just scream at the top of my lungs, 'Ante! Ante! Ante!' a few times. Don't want to embarrass anyone, but that usually does the trick, and it makes everyone else laugh."

8. Not protecting your hand
This is especially troubling for players in the No. 1 or 10 seat.

"I understand it's my job to keep every player's hand away from the muck," explained Justin McGee, who dealt his fourth WSOP this summer. "But it really makes it difficult when those end players aren't doing anything to protect their hand. All we ask is that you try to be extra careful."

7. Tanking
"I like to deal a fast game, and I think that's how most players like it, as well," Kwak said. "People who are very deliberate and tank affect the entire table. It becomes contagious. Dealers have to try and control the pace of the game, but all it takes is one 'tanker' and the whole table is impacted."

6. Refusing to make change for other players
We have to admit, this one surprised us. But according to McGee, it happens more than you think.

"It's just common courtesy, but a lot of players don't like to do it, or simply refuse," he said incredulously. "I mean, really, dude? You can't take 30 seconds to count out 10 green chips for the guy next to you? Crazy."

5. Not picking up your trash
"Sometimes when there's a break and everyone gets up from the table, it looks like there was a frat party instead of a poker game going on," McGee said with disgust. "Empty water bottles. Candy wrappers. Pizza boxes. You name it. They'll leave it. It's not the dealer's job to clean up their mess, but it's our table so we have to do it. That can be real frustrating."

Don't make extra work for your dealer and force them reach for your ante or muck cards.

Don't make extra work for your dealer and force them reach for your ante or muck cards.

4. Poor hygiene
Let's stay on the topic of cleanliness. More than a few of the dealers we spoke with mentioned daily hygiene — or the lack thereof — as a problem at the poker table.

"My God, please take a shower and throw on some deodorant if you're going to be sitting in close quarters with fellow human beings for multiple hours," said our dealer supervisor friend.

"Yeah, that's a rough one for the other players more than the dealer, because we're only at a table for 20 or 30 minutes at a time," McGee said. "But you see it all. Bad breath. B.O. Clothes that stink. C'mon, man. Take a shower."

3. Getting in the way
Once again, this is really troublesome if you're seated at the end of the table. If you're leaning over, or you have your hands, iPhone, chip stack or whatever else in the way, it makes it very difficult for the dealer to get the cards to everyone quickly and efficiently.

"I love the guy in the one seat who's got his drink in front of him, a pyramid of chips and he's getting a massage, so he's got almost his entire body leaning on the table with his eyes rolling through the top of his head," said the unnamed dealer supervisor.

"Or the guy who all of a sudden moves his hands in the way of the cards that are being pitched to the player directly to his left," interrupts McGee. "That is absolutely maddening."

2. Leaving chips just out of reach
"It's uncanny that people can place their bets, or their antes, about this far away from my reach, every single time," said a female dealer from Montana with 40 years' experience, who also asked us not to use her name, as she held her thumb and forefinger about two inches apart. "All we ask is that you push it out there so we can easily scoop 'em up. Saves my back if I don't have to extend and reach every position on every hand."

1. Not paying attention
This was, by far, the most common grievance that the dealers we spoke with stressed. In today's world, there are plenty of distractions at the poker table, the biggest culprit being the mobile phone.

"We understand there's a lot of dead time and that you want to check your e-mail or texts, or surf the Internet in between hands," McGee said. "But please, please just pay attention when you're in a hand and it's your turn to act. Lower the volume on your headphones. Put your phone down. Take your eyes off the football game on the TV. Just pay attention. Believe me, it will make for a better game for everyone, especially the dealer."
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT