Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dealers annoy me

Two stories from my Caesars Palace session today. I was not in either hand.


The final board was 10-10-8-8-10. There was no betting between the two players involved on the turn or river. First player shows 3-3 in the hole. He's playing the board, and it seems pretty obvious that the other guy will be, too, based on the lack of interest in betting. But the second guy is staring at the first guy's cards and the board. Most likely, he's temporarily confused by the three-pair thing, which always throws people off. The dealer is impatient, and signals for him to show his cards so he can (presumably) divide the pot and move on. The second guy is still holding back, looking dazed. The dealer's motions, then words, get increasingly insistent: "Turn over your cards!" The guy finally does. He has something like 6-7. Split pot, as predicted.

This dealer was in the wrong. As I have said here so many times that I feel like a broken record (and, by the way, how's that for a turn of phrase that is quickly losing any point of experiential reference among younger generations?), the decision at the end of a hand whether to table one's card or muck them unseen is a strategic one, just as much as betting/checking/raising are. The dealer is not allowed to influence this decision, any more than he is allowed to influence the betting. He can tell the player what his options are--show or muck--but he must not pressure the player to choose one over the other.

In this situation, the second player might have decided (wrongly) that his opponent's hand was better, mucked, and thus relinquished his claim to half the pot. He should be allowed to do so freely. If a player wishes to forfeit the winning hand or half of the pot on the basis of misreading his own hand, an opponent's hand, and/or the board, he is free to do so. Nobody is allowed to prevent him from making this kind of mistake any more than they would be allowed to coach him in whether to fold, call, or raise a bet.

This principle also applies, incidentally, when there has been a bet and call on the river. Often when the bettor is reluctant to show, the dealer will tell him that he has to show first. This is wrong. Again, the dealer should be neutral about which choice the player makes. His only encouragement should be something like, "Sir, it's on you to either show your cards or muck them." Remind him what his options are, and that the obligation is his to pick one of them, but don't force him one way or the other. Imagine how obviously wrong it would be for the dealer to tell the bettor in that scenario to muck his cards without showing them. It is equally wrong for him to tell the player to show them.


A few hours later we had another situation in which there was a full house on the board: 9-J-J-9-J. Three players checked it down on the turn and river. At the end, two of them turned their hole cards face up; both were playing the five cards on the board. The third guy said something like, "I'm playing the board just like everyone else," and returned his cards to the dealer face down, and the dealer duly mixed them into the muck.

The dealer then chopped the pot up three ways. I asked him, how could the player with a dead hand get part of the pot. The dealer said that he took the guy's statement about playing the board as an indication that he was claiming his share of the pot. I told him that the rule in every casino I know of is that one has to show one's cards to get part of the pot, even when playing the board. The dealer acknowledged that "technically" that was the rule at Caesars, too. (I emphasized that I didn't care how this pot was divided, since I wasn't in it, but I wanted to know the house rule for future reference.) I guess the dealer didn't feel much compulsion to follow the rule, even when he knew what it was.

So there's the strange dichotomy I saw today: One dealer going further than he should in pushing a player to expose his hole cards, followed a few hours later by another dealer not caring that a player didn't show them when the rules required that he do so in order to claim part of the pot.

See what messes and inconsistencies and contradictions get into the air when dealers are lax about the rules?


Keiser said...

And this is why I'm glad I read your blog. I can't imagine doing either of those 2 things incorrectly as a dealer with my training so fresh, but by reading your stories of how bad dealers can be it just reinforces the rules in my mind.

So thanks!

Is the average dealer pretty good about things like this and are these two clowns just exceptions?

bastinptc said...

An aside for an aside: I went to dinner party a little while back. There were young children in attendance as guests. The hosts had albums. One youngster pulled Jefferson Airplane's "Blows against the Empire" from the rack and asked what it was he was holding. Not the title, for he knew how to read. It was a key realization for me.

The Poker Meister said...


The problem is economic incentives. The dealer faces a dilemma nearly every time he deals the cards. His primary earnings are based on tips, and if any player feels slighted by the dealer, his tips potentially diminish. Therefore, the dealer feels, wrong or right, that he is there to help the players into making the proper decision. (I understand the counter-point to this wherein the player that made the proper decision [without help] loses out on a whole share of the pot instead of a split, but I think by-and-large, most players are not swift enough to realize the problem and likely appreciate the dealer assistance.) No excuse for the second example, though. *EVERY* game I've ever played in - home games or casino - dictate a player trying to claim a pot or portion thereof *MUST* show *BOTH* hole cards.

-Poker Meister

Anonymous said...

Great blog. For whatever it's worth, in the situation where there is a full house on the board, where I play (Commerce Casino) the rule book states that a player does not have to show his hand. He can simply state that he plays the board.

I didn't believe it myself until a guy I was playing with explained the rule to me. I thought it sounded completely insane and took a 100-to-1 bet against him. (Needless to say, he got the rule book, showed me the ruling, and won a dollar from me)

Anonymous said...

I understand that you think the hand needs to be tabled, but at the Bellagio, at least in the $10-$20 No limit and up, a declaration of "I play the board" is all thats needed to claim your share. Your cards do not need to be tabled. I didnt believe this the first time I saw it, thinking as you do, but I have seen ti countless times since, normally when 2 players play the board and neither turns their hand over after the river.

JD Schellnutt said...

What is the rule if it is down to heads up and river goes check check...then 1st player mucks and second player mucks also? Since you have to show to win pot, does the pot stay in the middle and next hand is dealt with said pot already in with the blinds? Sorry for the live game ignorance...just wondering how that is handled since a hand must be shown to get any part of the pot and in above example, all hands are dead.

Rakewell said...

In that case the pot would go to the second player, because he was the last one to still have had a live hand.