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.