Sunday, October 03, 2010

Dealing and ego don't mix

Today was one of the rare days of perfect, gorgeous weather that we get around here. We're in that very brief interval between when I complain about how hot it is and when I complain about how cold it is. As a result, instead of driving out to Mandalay Bay for NFL Sunday afternoon, I decided to take a stroll downtown.

When I head to Fremont Street to play poker, it's virtually always to Binion's. The only other reasonable choice is the Golden Nugget (El Cortez, Plaza, and Fitzgerald's are not "reasonable" choices), and I like nearly everything about Binion's better: it's more profitable, more comfortable, has better comps, etc. But it's been nearly a year since I played at G.N. and I decided to give it a go.

The real reason I made that choice illustrates how arbitrary my choice of where to play on a given day is, and how little it takes to influence it: G.N. was on a cool episode of "C.S.I" Thursday. In fact, it played the role of two casinos. Its famous shark-tank swimming pool was the scene of an unlikely murder by shark, while its new lobby with the indoor fish tank was used as the fictional rival casino "across the street." I liked seeing the familiar cast (I've been watching since the first season) stroll around the familiar halls. That's why the place was on my mind, and why I made the last-second choice to turn left instead of right after crossing Casino Center Boulevard.

Anyway, things didn't go well at first, and I was down to a stack of something like $120 when the hand in question came up. I was in Seat 3, and Seat 2 and Seat 4 were with me in the hand. I had J-10 and called a bet from Seat 4 on the turn with the board reading Q-A-8-7 for a double-gutter. The river was a 9, giving me the nuts. Seat 2 checked. I checked, fairly confident that the aggressive Seat 4 would bet again.

He did, $20. Seat 2 moved all in for $73. I figured he probably had the same hand I did. I put in my last $81. Seat 4 groaned, but announced a call, without putting out any more chips. He showed 5-6 for the low end of the straight. Seat 2 did indeed have another J-10.

Here's where it got interesting. The dealer pulled Seat 4's $20 into the pot, told Seat 2 and me to take back our last bets, and started chopping the pot. He had heard Seat 4's call, but somehow didn't realize that that meant more chips had to be tendered. A player at the other end of the table and I both simultaneously stopped him and said he wasn't doing it right.

He thought for a second, then seemed to have a light bulb go on. "Oh! Right!" He put the $20 back in front of Seat 4, then took more chips from Seat 4 to match my stack. He then counted down Seat 2's stack, discovering that it was $73. He took the $81 from Seat 4 and said, "So $73 of this goes to him (Seat 2)."

Uh, no.

At this point, it was clear to me that he had no idea how to do this. He was just guessing, making it up as he went along. So I stopped him and asked him to please call the floor and leave all the chips where they were until the floor could sort it out. (I could have told him exactly how to do it, but I hate it when several players are all barking instructions to the dealer in contradictory ways--because there's more than one way to go about it--and making everything even more chaotic.) He obviously didn't want to. He said, "I've got this."

I try to be nice to dealers. I don't gripe about ordinary mistakes. But this was a disaster in the making. We were on the verge of losing track of which chip stacks were which. Furthermore, it was clear that the only reason he didn't want to call the floor over to handle it was because he was too embarrassed to admit that he didn't know what he was doing. Sorry, pal, but that's just not a good enough reason, and I'm not afraid to let you know it. I told him, "No, you haven't got this. You've screwed it up twice already, and I have no confidence that you'll get it right on your third try. Please call the floor over to sort it out."

He still just sat there, obviously fuming, but not doing anything. After a few seconds, another player not involved spoke up: "A player has asked you to call the floor. Would you please do that so we can get this finished and get on to the next hand?" That finally pushed the dealer to relent.

Floor guy came over, the situation was explained, and he rapidly and efficiently determined what needed to happen, moved the chips around expertly, explaining exactly what he was doing at every step. Nicely done, sir, a flawless performance.

When it was all over, I did not tip the dealer, which for me is a rare act of protest at his conduct.

I actually know exactly how the dealer felt in that spot. I went to poker dealer school just before moving to Vegas, thinking I'd get a job in the box. I vividly remember the first time I took the skills test and had to make right a pot with three side pots. I screwed up, and got myself so confused that I could neither finish the way I had started nor retrace my steps and get back to baseline to start over again. I went into deep brainfreeze and had no idea what to do next. I was embarrassed in front of the instructor and my classmates, and mad at myself for bollixing something I knew in theory how to do. But there was nothing to be done at that point except 'fess up: Sorry, I've made a big mess of it and now my mind has locked up to the point that I can't figure it out. I flunked, though I redeemed myself the next day on the retake.

Dealers make mistakes. That usually doesn't bother me. But not being willing to admit that you made a mess that you can't clean up, when it's my money you're about to give away to other people? That bothers me.

Being unable to admit that you're in over your head is as fatal a flaw in poker dealers as it is in poker players.


Anonymous said...

This is so common in most situations in life. Most people have a fear of admitting they don't know and are too sensitive to being perceived less positively.

Good job NOT tipping him here. The only way he MIGHT possibly learn a life lesson.

Mark T said...

Very well handled, IMHO. By you, I mean. And the anonymous player who prodded the dealer into at last calling the floor.

Anonymous said...

Once you requested that the floor person be called the dealer should have stopped what he/she was doing and call for the floor person. Having to make the request twice and then by another player at the table is ridiculous. This dealer would get written up for that without question at the casino that employees me.