Palms, late this afternoon. Dealer named Charles in the box. I think he might be relatively new there, or perhaps recently changed to a shift where I see him, because he is not as familiar to me as most of the dealers there.
I am in seat 10, on the dealer's right. Seats 1 and 2 are unoccupied. (That will become significant.) I'm under the gun. The first card dealt to seat 9 brushes against my hand as it goes by and turns its face toward me. In my peripheral vision I can see that it flashed my direction, but I was looking up at a television at the moment (there may have been scantily clad cheerleaders doing a halftime show; I ain't sayin') and could see nothing of the card--not a suit or color or pip, not even whether it was a face card or not. If I had seen any piece of it, I would have immediately said so, without waiting to be asked.
The dealer asked if I had seen it. (A few months ago I kvetched about how wrong it is for dealers to take that approach rather than assuming the worst.) I said no. He dealt out a couple more cards, then apparently thought better of it, put down the deck, and started gathering the cards back in, as for a misdeal. The player in seat 9 was puzzled by this and said to the dealer, "I didn't see it--did you?" Charles replied, "No, but I think somebody else might have."
Remember that seats 1 and 2 were empty at the time. Seat 1, if occupied, would have been the only plausible position from which another player might have seen the card; seat 2 would have been quite a stretch, but since both were empty, we need not speculate on whether the dealer was referring to them. I'll even go so far as to point out that my back was to a wall, so that there wasn't even anybody at the next table that could theoretically have seen that flashed card. There is only one person on the planet that the dealer could possibly have had in mind when he said that "somebody" might have seen it. That would be moi.
This was the worst possible way to handle the problem. The best approach would have been the cautious, conservative route of just replacing the card (or declaring a misdeal if the house rules say that an exposed card to one of the blinds is a misdeal, as I think is the case at the Palms). The next-best approach, I suppose, is to say and do nothing, trusting that if I got a peek I'd speak up without prompting. The third-best approach would be to ask me whether I saw it, and believe the answer, whatever it might be.
The absolute worst way to handle it was what he did: ask me, then openly express his disbelief in my answer in front of the entire table. What in the hell is the point of asking me, if he's not going to abide by the response? Does he think that he has a built-in mental lie detector of sufficient accuracy to use it to determine what to do when I give him my answer? If I failed his personal veracity test, on what basis? I'd like to know.
About ten minutes later another situation arises--same dealer still in the box. After the turn, the board is 8-2-8-8. I check. The guy in seat 1 checks. Player in seat 5 bets. I call. Seat 1 looks at his cards again. I see the deuce of hearts in his hand. He folds, and the dealer pushes the cards into the muck irretrievably before I can react and have him expose that deuce to the other player left in the hand.
Well, it's obvious that I have to speak up. A deuce being dead here is clearly highly pertinent and potentially crucial information to my opponent. So before the dealer burns and turns again, I say to the other guy, "I need to let you know that I saw him [pointing to seat 1] fold the deuce of hearts there." Both he and the dealer thank me for volunteering the information. The player in seat 1 is surprised that I had been able to see it, but confirms that he had that card.
I didn't do that to stick it to the dealer; I would have done the same no matter what had happened in previous hands. But I hope that the second incident made him reconsider his first judgment of me, and that he felt at least a twinge of remorse for having doubted me earlier. I understand that he doesn't know me from Adam and can't just assume that I'm trustworthy. But that's why it would have been better to assume the flashed card had been seen, rather than pass me through his honesty filter and try to guess. The outcome would have been the same in terms of the cards, without having insulted me in front of everybody in the process.
I have quoted before the following passage from Barry Greenstein's superb book, Ace on the River (pp. 84-85). I will continue to quote it as often as it is relevant, because it really sunk in the first time I read it, and I have genuinely attempted to live up to his words and example:
I follow a stricter set of ethical guidelines than most of my opponents,
even if it costs me money in the short run. It has given me inner peace, and in
the long run I have actually profited from it.
...I try to be honest even in borderline areas.
Some players believe that they are justified when they disregard the rules
against someone who has cheated. Others believe it is acceptable to disregard
the rules against someone who may cheat them. Still others believe
that they are above the rules and everyone is fair game. If you are
scrupulously honest, no one is likely to cheat you in retaliation or because he
thinks you may cheat him.
Dishonesty gets in the way of a winning player. If losers are in a game with suspicious activity, they will have a reason to stop playing. Conversely, players will like to play with you as long as they know you play honestly. I try to set a standard for obeying the rules against all opponents. If I can gain the respect of the other players, they may follow my lead.
It's strange that just about a month ago I had the opposite problem, when a dealer at the Venetian clearly didn't believe me when I announced that I had seen cards flashed. What's up with dealers thinking I'm lying to them? Do I have a dishonest-looking face or voice or something? I really don't get either their suspicion or their decisions to handle the situations in ways that made perfectly clear than they thought I was lying. It's more than a mite offensive.