Are Poker Players superstitious? How about dealers?

Black cat crossing my path in Canal Walk

Black cat crossing my path in Canal Walk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have been dealing No Limit Hold’Em tournament poker at “The Poker Room NH” for five months now and I am starting to realize that some poker players have certain superstitions.

For some, it is playing their favorite cards. I have heard players remark, “I always play 10-5 suited” or “I never lose when I play pocket two’s” or “give me J-10 suited anytime”. I could go on and on about their favorite hands.

Some even have un-favorite hands and will say “I hate pocket aces” or whatever.  As a player in a tournament, I once saw a player that had issues with a particular dealer, to the point where that player would stand up and get away from the table until the dealer was replaced. The replacement might come in ten minutes or in sixty minutes but the player would sit out, knowing that any cards he got would not win until that dealer left the table. I thought at the time that this action was pretty extreme.

Now that I am a dealer, I am finding that some players are either happy to see me, unhappy to see me or just plain indifferent. As I mentioned in a prior post “When a player rolls their eyes”, some players just cringe when they see me coming.  Part of the reason lays with the fact that I am not consistent in my dealing skills and that I make errors in the course of my dealing. I recognize this and I do practice and I have even had some players come up to me and say that they have seen that I have improved greatly since I first started.

It now appears that I am that one that is starting to get superstitious.  The player that I said ranted and criticized me for my bad dealing apparently has me a bit spooked.

Whenever he is at my table, I am starting to say to myself, “just be calm and …. don’t make any errors until I am replaced”.  This did not seem to help.

I was shuffling the cards but apparently I was using too much force and half dozen cards flew into the air, with one even landing on the floor at the next table. This caused me to have to count down the cards to make sure that I still have 52 cards and of course took time away from the players until I finished.

Still concentrated on not making any more mistakes, I missed giving two players their second card, including my new “anti-fan”.   This ended up in my declaring a mixed deal and having me gather all the cards and start over.

Certainly that was not helping me with my vocal detractor, who greets with me by saying something to the effect that I am the worse dealer ever. Somehow I go out of my way to prove him right.

So now it seems that I am developing a player superstition and I know that I have to break myself of this notion before it gets the best of me. After all, you are what you think you are.

My new mantra will be “I am a great poker dealing and I am getting better every day in every way.” After all, superstitions are not real. Are they?

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When a player rolls their eyes …

Rolling eyes

Rolling eyes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since I started dealing poker at The Poker Room NH in Hampton Falls I have met hundreds of poker players. Some of them I have met on my days off when I play poker, and others when I am dealing poker.

Like all people, some days I am better at what I do than others. I think it is not a matter of trying harder but a matter of focus. I can get easily distracted so focus and paying attention to detail helps keep me on track. I regularly deal two days a week, Friday and Saturday, two of the three busiest days at the poker room.

I have yet to develop a style or personality at the tables that would be my signature except for the fact I have a “santa like” beard. Some people call me “Santa” or “Methuselah”. I get comments like “give me a santa flop”, whatever that is.

Now the thing is, as a poker dealer, I do well to make sure that each player gets two cards, at least in Hold’Em. I do not determine what they get. I have heard players at the table say that I continually give them bad cards, hand after hand. After a while, these players become superstitious and when they see me coming, they cringe or roll their eyes.

Even though I am right there in front of them, they talk about me out loud to their fellow players, saying that I am the worst dealer ever, that they never get any good cards when I am dealing. I usually just ignore these comments and go about my business. About the only response I might give is that I can only try to give them two cards. It is best not to say anything because nothing you can say will help or make a difference.

This last Friday I think I finally have tipped one player over the edge. I have seen this individual at both the tournament tables and the Hold’Em cash games tables. Now I don’t remember how he did nor did I know or remember what I dealt him for cards. But at this point in the day, he was steaming a bit. His losses from both the tournament buy-in and the cash game, he said had cost him over $80 dollars so far and if he lost more at the table I was dealing at, he was leaving.

Needless to say, he did not do well at the table I was dealing at and when another seat opened up at another Hold’Em table he elected to move. Just as soon as he sat down at the other table, I was tapped out (another poker dealer was coming in to my table to replace me), and I was being moved to the next table, the same one that the aggravated player had just moved to. He must have heard that I was coming, because by the time I got there, he was gone. He moved to the blackjack tables, which I have not yet learned to deal.

Yes, dealing poker is defintely interesting and challenging. And you have the opportunity to create new friends and non-friends.

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Controlling the action – a poker dealer duty

Stop Signs A well signposted junction near Mou...

Stop Signs A well signposted junction near Mountmellick. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Disputedsign (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most important tasks that a poker dealer has is to do, is to control the action at the table.

Right before everyone is dealt cards, I, the dealer, might have to ask for the small and big blinds to be posted as well as for the antes.

After the cards are dealt, I, the dealer, must indicate which poker player has a decision to make and keep the other players from acting out of turn. This is a lot like herding cats, by the way. Once a player folds out of turn, it sometimes creates a cascade of folding players (this is because the wonderful cards I dealt to them are sometimes not playable).

The same is true of betting. I must announce each bet or raise as they occur and hope that the players are also paying attention (it is the player’s responsibility to pay attention but guess who they yell at if they make a mistake and call a raise that they did not hear).

All verbal bets and calls are binding which can lead to some interesting problems created by players who did not pay attention to what was being said. The worst case would be when someone says “all in” and an inattentive player says “call”. Even those that say call to small raises are sometimes surprised that they are calling a raise and not just the big blind they thought they were calling.

My voice is a bit soft and low but the players do need to pay attention to what is going on. It does not help that we have TV’s all along our walls with sports games playing, sometimes distracting the players as well (we should tune “Sponge Bob Square Pants”, but some would watch that as well, I guess).

Controlling the pot is another duty of the poker dealer. I have to make sure that I have collected all of the blinds, bets and antes and that the pot is correct. Some players will call using a larger denomination chip and I need to make sure that they get back change. This is done after all of the players have acted. By the time the action gets to the last player, I must remember that player one needs change. Most of the time I have nine or ten auditors at my table, so I am never allowed to make a mistake on change or the pot.

Side pots are something else. Whenever we have three or more players involved in a hand and two or more players are all in, there is a proper way to account for the pots and there is the player’s way. The dealer must take care to use the proper way, which is slightly more time consuming but creates less problems when the hand is finished.

As an easy example, we have four players, one with 4,000 chips, one with 3,000 in chips, one with 2,000 in chips and one with 1,000 in chips. The big blind is 100 chips. Both the 1,000 chip and the 2,000 chip players go all in and the other two players call.

I first take the 100 chips from each player and move that to the main pot. I then take the smallest chip stack, the 900 chips and take 900 chips from the remaining three players and move that to the main pot.  The main pot is all that the 1,000 chip player can win, for a total pot of 4,000. Next I take the remaining amount of 1,000 chips from the 3,000 and 4,000 chip player, creating a side pot of 3,000 chips that the remaining three players can win. That would leave the 4,000 and 3,000 players with 2,000 and 1,000 respectively that they could bet against each other, creating yet a second side pot.

If I were to wait until after the hand is completed to create main pot and the two side pots or use the quick math that the players might suggest that I use, I might end up with more time being taken after the hand is completed. By creating these pots before the hand is completed,  it makes it easier and more accurate to know which pots might be going to whom.

Who knew that practices and procedures and math would be so highly needed in the game of poker, not to mention diplomacy.

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When free poker is not completely free …

Last Sunday evening, Diane and I do what we always do for an evening of free poker. We drive to Manchester NH to the City Sports Grille located on 216 Maple Street.

We play free bar poker sponsored by City Sports and run by TavernTainmenT. This weekly event draws more than 45+ serious people to play No Limit HoldEm tournaments. There are two sessions, the first starting at 5 pm and the second around 7:30 pm, depending on if the first session has completed.

Player experience runs from total newbies to extremely skilled. Usually someone volunteers to deal at each table. There are usually five and sometimes six tables filled with poker players, young and old, male and female. For the most part, the tables are cordial and fun (at least at my table, where I am dealing; fun people come to my table even though the seating is random).

The only costs that the players have are those for buying drinks, snacks and meals from the City Sports Grille. It is a win win for the bar and for TavernTainmenT.

That being said, the costs at the City Sports Grille are not extremely expensive. Except last Sunday night. For me personally.

I forgot to charge my cell phone and before the evening was out, my phone shut off due to the battery running down. I placed my dead phone in my back pocket and forgot about it. Later, while in the restroom, I some how managed to drop my phone into a body of water (Don’t ask!).

Needless to say, the phone did not survive. Luckily, I had insurance so the total cost to me to replace it, was $90 plus my annual premiums of $96 a year. This is the second time that I used it this year, so I am ahead. If I had to pay for the phone itself, out of pocket would be about $600, so the insurance is a good thing. I now have to be extremely careful as I have used up my entire benefit for the year.

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