Friday, January 29, 2010

Problem dealer at Planet Hollywood

In early December, Las Vegas Michael, editor of the wonderful site, posted some notes about the Planet Hollywood poker room, after playing a few sessions there for the first time in a while. Among other things, he wrote:

Many Dealers, though friendly, seem to not be knowledgeable on proper
mechanics. I have too often seen dealers matching stacks on all ins, rolling the
deck, squaring the muck, and significant amounts of extraneous talking and
theatrics. I will grant that the theatrics and talking might be a venue driven
situation, since at PH, the atmosphere is significantly more casual than other
properties, but the procedural issues with stack matching, etc, are
In reply, I posted this quick observation:

Strange--my experience with the PH dealers is almost 100% positive. There
is one that I would deem genuinely incompetent. A couple of weeks ago I was
involved in a big three-way all-in with a side pot, and she attempted to
completely screw it up. Fortunately, I was paying close attention, and THREE
TIMES in the same pot kept her from making what would have been disastrous
errors (first reading the hands wrong, then trying to shove the whole pot to one
player, then counting out an amount for the side pot from the biggest stack, but
LEAVING that with the player and trying to take the other part of the stack).
She just doesn't pay attention to what's going on. But other than her, I think
the PH dealers are a good bunch. I do notice the technical flaws, but they don't
bother me as much as they do LVM. Keeping things (1) moving, (2) enjoyable, and
(3) under control (i.e., in terms of enforcing rules) are generally done quite

I was there playing again last night, and again had problems with this same dealer--enough now that I'm ready to label her as among the worst in the whole city.

The setup

First I need to tell you how we got to the situations that provoked this post.

My first hand at the table (before the dealer in question joined us) was AA, one off the button. This is only the third time that I can recall getting dealt aces in my first hand in a session. It's a bit of a rush, but also somewhat problematic, in that I have no sense for how people are playing and hence how to get maximum value. I put in a raise to $15. Only the small blind called. The flop was K-10-x rainbow. He checked to me. I bet $25. He check-raised to $105. He was the big stack at the table, and I had to wonder whether he was just bullying. Alternatively, he might have thought that I was trying to take control of the table by raising my first hand with any two cards, and had decided to quash that effort. I'm perfectly capable of folding aces when I'm convinced I'm beat, but he wasn't convincing me. I called. The turn was check-check. On an apparently innocuous river, he bet $100. I still wasn't persuaded. I thought a while, then called. He instantly mucked without showing, so apparently my read was correct. I moved from my $300 buy-in to about $520 in one hand.

Just a few hands later I was in the big blind with the horrible 6-10 offsuit. But the pot was unraised and I flopped two pair. I bet it and got called on the flop and turn by two players, taking my stack to about $590.

First offense

At this point, the former big stack two seats to my left went on an extended break (he didn't return until just before I cashed out), and we were joined by a nice young married couple. I was in seat one, she took seat two, and her husband took seat four, so they were effectively the two positions to my immediate left.

As I've reported here many time, I usually don't talk much at the table--or in any other social situations, either. But I was in an unusually good mood, and I do keep reminding myself that being Mr. Nice Guy is something I really need to work on, for reasons of increased profit. I could tell in a heartbeat that these two were novices to casino poker. They were unsure about all the rules and procedures, and each bought in for the minimum of $50. But they were smiling and laughing, clearly there to have a good time. So I decided that this was a fine opportunity to channel Mike Caro and pour on the Mr. Friendly act.

I chatted them up, asked about their trip, made dumb jokes that they laughed at, etc. Almost as soon as they sat down, the husband noted my chips and said, "Looks like you're doing well." I brushed it off: "Just got really lucky in a couple of good spots."

Maybe one orbit into their time at the table, we now have Bad Dealer in the box. I'm in the big blind. Wife limps from under the gun. Husband raises to $6. There's a couple of other callers. I have K-6 offsuit. I call. Flop is J-7-6, giving me bottom pair. I check. Wife checks. Husband bets $6. It's folded around to me. I call. Wife calls. Turn is a king, giving me two pair and the likely winner. I check. Wife checks. Husband bets $12. He's now into the hand for $24, has only about that much left, and there is about $55 in the pot. I assume he'll feel pot-committed, so I check-raise to $50, which, of course, is enough to cover both of them. Wife folds. Husband folds, surprisingly.

I don't want to look like a bully, so I show the two pair. While doing so, I say, "I'm sorry--I just got ridiculously lucky on you. This is a terrible hand. I should have folded before the flop, and I should have folded again on the flop."

I meant it as a phony self-deprecating remark.* I specifically had in mind Caro's suggested script, which I liked and remembered from having posted it here:

You should never deliberately upset opponents.... So, immediately after
you've tricked an opponent and won a pot, utter something friendly that
indicates you were just having fun. I like to say things that suggest I played
the hand badly and simultaneously enhance my loose image, such as, "I was hoping
you'd call, because I've been out of line so many times. You're way ahead of me
overall, but I'm still trying the same stupid tricks." Just giggle and move on.
Your opponent isn't likely to be offended, because you're talking about your bad
plays, not how superior you were with this one.

The husband took it well, smiled, and said, "Oh, nice hand!"

To my shock and chagrin, at this point the dealer injected herself into the conversation. She turned to me and said, "But he didn't raise before the flop." Before I could regain my composure and figure out how to respond, she corrected herself. "No, wait--he did, but it was only a small raise, so it was OK for you to call."

GAAAAAAAAA! Is she really this clueless? Well, yes, apparently she is. First, she has no business commenting on the play of a hand, whether it's in progress or completed, period. Editorializing is not in the job description. It is virtually certain to annoy somebody who was in the hand. Second, she's trying to assuage me, apparently, because I'm saying that I played the hand badly. But the result is that she is implicitly--and darn near explicitly--criticizing the guy that I'm trying to assuage and be friendly with! Her remarks serve to (1) alert him to raise more to prevent the kind of play I made, and (2) make him feel that he misplayed the hand. How can she think this is a good thing to be doing?

Second offense

A short time later I'm on the button with A-10 offsuit. There are a few limpers. Sometimes I'll limp along in this kind of situation, but this time I decided to raise, maybe pick up dead money, maybe narrow the field. I made it $14. An early-position player (let's call him A) called. A middle-position player (let's call him B) looked at his diminished stack and decided to move all in, for a total of $27. I quickly did the math to confirm that I could legally raise. I preferred to isolate and play against just the all-in guy, without having to be faced with more decisions to make with such a mediocre hand. I also didn't think that A would want to keep putting more money in. So I announced a raise: another $30 on top of B's all-in bet.

I put in the amount of the call, but before I could add the extra $30, the dealer stopped me. She said I couldn't raise because my original bet was $14 and the all-in was $27, which wasn't quite double.

I wasn't too surprised by this. It's an easy mistake to make, and the amount was so close that I had had to silently double-check myself before I was certain that a raise was legal. I pointed out that my original raise was $12, and B's reraise was $13 more, so that reopened the action to me.

This kind of situation has happened a few times before, and every previous time that I can recall, the dealers immediately recognize their mistake and we go on. Not this time. She continued to argue with me. She wasn't even a little bit uncertain, as far as I could tell from her words and tone. She was absolutely positive that all that mattered was that my bet was $14, and B's raise was to $27, which wasn't a full raise, so I was not eligible to reraise. I had to go through the whole thing twice more, explaining that my $14 bet was a raise increment of only $12 over the big blind, which was what mattered. She finally caught on and allowed the raise, as I was on the verge of asking her to call the floor over, on the assumption that she was too thick-skulled to ever figure it out.

This seriously annoyed me, her insistence on sticking to an incorrect conclusion even in the face of being told differently by somebody who, if she had a lick of sense, she would realize seemed like he might actually know what he was talking about. I also resented that I basically had to come out of "hiding"; the interaction made it perfectly clear to everybody at the table that I was very experienced and understood the rules of the game better than the dealer did. That is not the image I was shooting for.

I'm pretty forgiving of occasional dealer errors. Nobody's perfect. I don't ask that dealers never make mistakes. I only ask that they respond appropriately after making one: fix it, call the floor if necessary, apologize, and move on. But this particular dealer has now exhausted my tolerance. She doesn't pay attention to the game and she makes critical errors at a much higher frequency than anybody else that works there. Now, on top of that, she goes out of her way to interfere with me trying to make another player feel good about his play, then irritates the bejesus out of me by refusing to acknowledge that she was wrong until I finally had to badger her into recognizing the situation for what it was.

(Incidentally, here's how the hand played out: Player A surprised me by moving all-in. It was only $11 more than my $30 reraise, so of course I called. I showed my cards, as did my opponents. I was up against K-Q and K-J. It hardly mattered, though. The flop came an incredible A-10-10, giving me a full house, and leaving both opponents drawing almost dead. This not only won me a nice little pot, but gave me a chance to make further jokes with my target couple about how skilled I was to be able to flop full houses when I needed to.)

In general, I think that the team of dealers Planet Hollywood has on staff is one of its strongest assets. But this one dealer is a black mark on a room that I otherwise like quite a bit. I don't like the thought of anybody losing his or her job, but she just isn't up to the task, and there are scads and scads of unemployed dealers who would handle the responsibility far more professionally than she does. I hope she is replaced by one of them.

*In retrospect, however, what I said was probably true. In light of the low implied odds being offered by the short stacks this couple had, I really should have folded that crap.

Addendum, April 14, 2010

In retrospect, I should not have check-raised the tourist couple. Another of Caro's frequent teachings is that check-raising carries a high risk of destroying the light spirit of a friendly game. It's too war-like and aggressive. It might maximize profit for that one hand, but it will tend to make the opponents much more wary of you thereafter, thus reducing profits for the whole session. He suggests betting out or check-calling instead. That rings true with me, and if I had it to do over again, I would just bet out on the turn, after having made two pair.


evan said...

What's the reason not to square the muck or deck? (I'm assuming this is after the river is put out.)

Pete said...

In fairness to this dealer . . . until the management change the rule at Planet Hollywood was nonstandard. The rule was that the minimum raise was to double the total previous bet. That is to say under the old management the minimum raise would have been 14 more to $28 and not 12 more to $26. I am not sure if that rule has been changed by the new management.

Rakewell said...

Good point, Pete. In fact, I did a post about this unique rule the first time I learned about it: But then I forgot all about it. It comes up pretty rarely, and since none of the other places I play uses it, it just slipped my mind. So now I don't know if the house rule has changed to the standard one (and the dealer didn't know or remember that, or doesn't understand the standard rule), or if they're still using the odd rule, and for some reason the dealer capitulated to my arguments in spite of it. Strangely, though, it doesn't really matter which explanation fits; either way, she didn't do her job well.

Anonymous said...

Evan-this is pure speculation, but it seems to me that squaring the muck would make it too easy to distinguish newly folded hands, opening the door to a player trying to grab their cards after folding and other improper procedures.

Pete said...

I don't know if its the same dealer, but there is a female dealer there who I think is the worst in town. I get up when she deals because I can't stand to watch it.

Glenn said...

FWIW My understanding is that the new management has changed to the standard rule that a min re-raise matches the size of the raise not the size of the original bet.

Strange - I have an idea of who this could be too.

kg_bettor said...

I was in town in early Dec. and played a couple sessions at PH, and I know exactly which dealer the Grump is calling out. During my first session, this dealer was off shift and sat in at my table and played quite bad, donating a good $200 to the table over the course of the evening. Happy to have her at my table that night! The next time I played there, I had the misfortune of having her as the dealer - and she was horrible at that too. I corrected her several times, she was slow and made many errors. She was so bad I made a point of leaving the table to complaining to the floorman about her - and he said they've had many complaints about her. Oh? Then why is she still dealing?!?!?

evan said...

anything to keep a fish happy...even giving them a job...

Chuck said...

I guess there's a reason why you are the Grump.

1 - you try to put on a "me so lucky" show for your fish and the dealer simply points out that you don't suck. You should play it up. Ask the dealer for more advice! :) I don't see how that bothers the husband one bit. You still look like you got lucky.

2 - you either correct the dealer and reveal some knowledge or you take the hit and and gain some (anti) cred. "Oops, my bad. Don't really know what I'm doing."

Michael said...

"I assume he'll feel pot-committed, so I check-raise to $50, which, of course, is enough to cover both of them. Wife folds. Husband folds, surprisingly."

You know as well as your readers that this type of player doesn't know what being pot committed is. Heck, he's pot comitted more or less as soon as he makes any kind of bet or call when he buys in for only $50.

You bet enough to put him all in and he was getting the correct price to call. his head he knew he needed to call 24 and he started with 50 so he only saw that calling and losing would bust him and 24 was still half of his buy in. He folded to the dollar amount of your bet, not even considering math.

we see all the time how somebody can fold to a 50 bet on the turn when the pot has 250 in it already. they aren't thinking about 6:1 odds, they're thinking about another 50 bucks!