The individual responsible for dealing players’ hole cards and community cards during a hand, as well as managing the pot and bets made during the various rounds of betting, is called a poker dealer. Whether this responsibility shifts from player to player at a home game or is given to a stand-alone person (such as those dealers at cardrooms or casinos), the dealer’s job is an important one in order to make gameplay run swiftly and smoothly from one hand to the next.
Let’s take a closer in-depth look at the poker dealer, including topics such as how to become a professional poker dealer, how to deal poker (including how to deal Texas Hold’em), as well as general tips that will enable gameplay to run smoothly (like at automated online poker tables).
How To Deal Poker
While attending “dealer school” will give you all knowledge you need to have for how to deal poker and other table games, let’s go step-by-step over how to deal at poker. With this simple guide, you can immediately start to deal correctly and with confidence at any home game, if you so choose.
While the points that follow will be the same for many other variants of poker, let’s go through how to deal a hand as a Texas Hold’em dealer:
- Shuffle the Cards: It’s extremely important that the cards be shuffled prior to each hand, as this randomises the order and prevents players from knowing where any of the cards are. In casinos, many poker tables alternate decks each hand, with one deck being used in play and the other being put through an automated card shuffler that’s built into the table. Be sure that players can’t see the bottom card when you’re shuffling; otherwise, they’ll be able to track the approximate location of one or multiple cards in the deck. Generally, at least 4 riffle shuffles and a cut must take place before a hand is dealt.
- Deal the Cards: Starting with the player to the left of the dealer button, a Texas Hold’em dealer will then deal 2 hole cards to all of the players at the table. Regarding how to deal poker cards, it’s usually up to you (or to the standard practice of the casino in which you work). An American style of dealing involves pinching the card face-down and flicking it towards a player; a European style of dealing involves sliding the top card onto the table and then pushing it towards a player, often with a spin.
- Managing the Pot: It is the dealer’s responsibility to manage where the action is during the betting rounds, and ensure bets and bet sizes are properly made by all players. (If someone says, “$35,” the dealer must ensure that the player actually bets in $35 in chips and that all subsequent callers match that amount with the correct denomination of chips.) Pre-flop, action starts with the player to the left of the big blind. Post-flop, betting rounds commence with the first player seated to the left of the dealer button who is still in the hand.
- Burn and Turn: After each betting round concludes, dealers must “burn” the top card of the deck (place the top card face-down into the muck pile) before dealing the number of community cards required for the current street or betting round. This action is done so that, in the off-chance that a marked deck is being used, (or if there are imperfections to certain cards of the deck), players cannot identify cards simply by picking up on any markings on the backs of the cards.
- Awarding the Pot: If a showdown is reached, the dealer must determine the highest hand. Once a hand has been won, the dealer must then award the chips to that player accordingly by pushing the pot in their direction. In the event of a tie, a split pot is made, where the pot is divided equally amongst the winners. If there is an odd number of chips in the split pot, the odd chip is awarded to the player closest to the left of the button in Texas Hold’em.
The above 5-point dealing system makes up the basic essentials for dealing a poker hand. While there may be other unique situations that can arise (such as misdeals and player discrepancies), simply surrounding yourself more and more with poker (and often playing or watching the game yourself) will help give you a good understanding of how to deal poker for any situation that you may encounter.
Differences for Heads-Up Play
Heads-up play requires just a few alterations to how betting rounds work in comparison to typical gameplay found at a full-handed table.
- Pre-Flop: In a full-handed game, the small blind is the player to the left of the dealer button. However, in heads-up play, the person who has the button is the small blind, as well, and will subsequently be the first player to act pre-flop after the cards are dealt.
- Post-Flop: The player who is in the big blind (i.e. the player to the left of the dealer button) will be the first player to act on each post-flop betting round; betting does not start from the small blind, as it would at a full-handed table.
Notes for Poker Dealing at Home Games
As there often isn’t a person solely dedicated to being the dealer at home games, players take turns around the table being the dealer and dealing cards during each hand.
- Who Is the Dealer: The person with the “button” is typically the dealer of each hand. (This is why the “button” is sometimes called the “dealer button.”) As the button moves to the left after each hand, everyone ultimately has a turn to be the dealer during each orbit.
- Shuffling and Cutting: To prevent cheating, generally multiple players are involved in the dealing process. Typically, the player to the right of the dealer collects together all the cards from the previous hand and squares the deck. Next, the current dealer shuffles the cards at least four times. The deck is then passed to the player seated to their immediate left to cut the deck once. Finally, the deck is returned the dealer, who then proceeds to deal the cards.
- “House Rules”: Just as some gameplay rules differ from one casino to the next, it’s a good idea to establish some general “house rules” prior to the commencement of a home game, in an effort to prevent possible eventual discrepancies. (For example: Are verbal actions binding? Is there a “line” that bets must cross or is “forward motion” being used? If a player turns his hand face-up, is it considered dead?) As there’s no “floor man” (like in a cardroom) who can ultimately clarify the rules and make an executive decision, it’s important to establish at least a few basic policies before playing, in an attempt to promote smooth gameplay without too much conflict.
General Tips for dealing Texas Hold'em
- How to Handle Chips: There are a couple of points to note regarding how to handle chips when performing actions as a dealer.
- If a player puts out a bet without vocalising an amount, and someone asks, “How much?” then it is the dealer’s job to count the chips and appropriately announce the bet that was made.
- It is the dealer’s responsibility to take in all the bets made on the table and gather them into the pot at the end of each betting round.
- If there is a side pot created after another player is all in, it is the dealer’s responsibility to correctly distribute the chips that have been bet into the main pot and the side pot(s).
- If a dealer is asked, “How much is in the pot?” they are not allowed to answer this question. Instead, they are permitted to “spread the pot” to allow all players to see the pile of chips in the pot.
- At the end of a hand, the dealer pushes the chips in the direction of the winner.
- Making Announcements: It is not imperative to announce any folds or calls that take place, but generally the dealer should announce the amount of any bet or raise that is made. The dealer also typically announces how many players are seeing the flop after the pre-flop betting round is complete.
- Control Your table: It is the dealer’s job to keep the players at their table in line and ensure that all the actions being taken are done so in a proper and time-efficient manner.
Some common examples to help illustrate this including the following:
- If someone is behaving inappropriately or not adhering to proper gameplay etiquette (such as splashing the pot repeatedly whenever they bet or raise), the dealer should warn such players and/or call over the floor man to resolve the issue.
- If a player folds out of turn, then the dealer should pipe up quickly to stop gameplay temporarily so that they can ensure that (1) more players behind this player don’t fold out of turn and (2) the action can proceed in a proper manner from one player to the next.
- In the case that a player isn’t paying close attention to the action at the table and it's their turn to act, the dealer should kindly notify them that it’s their turn.
- Stay Professional: Being a poker dealer can be difficult at times, as the players are there for entertainment and to have fun while it’s the dealer's responsibility to keep them in line and remain calm and collected. Therefore, dealers must be quick to learn how to take flack from players who have an arbitrary grudge against them or who blame them for their bad luck. They cannot take any attacks personally; they must remain calm and carry on with their job. If there’s an issue that becomes too prominent, they can discuss it with one of their supervisors either during their current session or afterwards.
- If In Doubt, Call the Floor: If there’s a discrepancy regarding action in a hand, you can always call the floor man over to resolve the issue and get the correct ruling on how play should proceed. For example, if Player 1 announces raise out of turn and then seconds later, Player 2 (whose turn it actually is) raises, then is Player 1 verbally bound to make yet another raise when it's their turn to act? This issue might be a situation for the floor man to weigh-in on and make an executive decision for how play should proceed.
- Practice, Practice, Practice: Just like all things in life, you become better at the things you do repeatedly. Therefore, through practice and repetition, you’ll become faster and more efficient in dealing throughout the course of a hand the more you do it! You’ll also quickly find yourself getting into a “routine” of how to correctly act as a dealer, along with getting a knack for how to deal with any problems that arise.
- Know How to Deal Variety of Games: You should try to round out your abilities and learn how to deal a variety of games in a casino, in addition to Texas Hold'em. This doesn’t only include other poker variants, such as Omaha, Stud, and Draw; it also includes games like Blackjack, Baccarat, 4-Card Poker, and more!
- Tipping at the Felts: Tipping is a normal part of cash games in live poker. Frequently, a players’ tips to the dealer can range from anywhere from $1 to $5 per hand, but is normally within the $1 or $2 range. While tips shouldn’t be expected by dealers for every hand, they should be graciously received with a sincere, “Thank you,” and smile each and every time. Depending on the casino or cardroom, some dealers personally keep all of the tips they make at the felts (which can be great incentive for doing a good job dealing throughout each hand). Other times, all the tips are collected ultimately by the casino and then distributed evenly amongst its dealers.
How To Become a Poker Dealer
There’s no certification needed to be a poker dealer at a home game, as usually this responsibility is usually passed around the table from player to player from one hand to the next. However, if you want to work as a poker dealer in a licensed casino or cardroom, then there is a process that you have to follow.
However, first, you might want to ask yourself if becoming a poker dealer is right for you.
Here are some points you may want to consider:
- As they are the face of the company they work for, dealers are going to be required to have good customer service and communication skills while doing their job. They’re also going to have to put up with players who blame them for their bad luck and losses.
- They must also have good conflict resolution skills and know when to “call the floor” over to settle any disputes between players.
- They’re going to want to show some personality, too, in an effort to keep players interested and engaged. (Many players are there indeed, for the entertainment value and to have fun.)
- Having a good foundation of basic maths skills will come in handy for dealers, as they have to frequently control betting rounds and add up pot sizes during hands.
- Being able to shuffle and deal cards extremely fast isn’t a requirement, but an added bonus. Furthermore, this is something you will learn more about during the training stages of becoming a licensed dealer.
- You might also have to learn how to and be able to deal other table games, which may require you to stand for long periods of time.
- Quite obviously, you won’t be able to participate in any hands while dealing. But, if you genuinely enjoy the game, seeing the action from one hand to the next can provide some good entertainment value for you, too, while on the job.
To be frank, not many poker dealers are in it for the money – at least for the base pay, anyway. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average casino dealer makes just a measly $14,700 each year, pulling in a minimum hourly wage with limited possibilities of getting a raise or promoted, even as they gain experience.
However, it’s the players’ tips that will help transform this figure into a liveable income. (Do ensure that players are allowed to tip in your country, as in select locations, tipping is prohibited). In fact, with tips, a dealer’s income can increase to almost double – anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 according to some reports. How much you receive in these tipping bonuses will come down to how efficient and effective you are at dealing, as well as how generous the players are.
So, if you think becoming a poker dealer is a real deal poker career for you, then in most jurisdictions, you must be trained and licensed before you can begin. Often times, it’s a good idea to submit your résumé and/or application to your local cardrooms before going through this process, if you haven’t been a professional dealer before.
Typically, dealers must take part in an inexpensive training course teaching the ins and outs of dealing Texas Hold’em poker and other table games before they can start working. Some casinos even offer in-house training to new employees. Generally, these courses cost about $1,000 (unless sponsored by the casino) and last between 1 to 8 weeks, depending on the course and how many table games participants are learning how to deal.
After completing your training, you have to apply for a dealer’s licence from the gaming commission or casino control board that governs your jurisdiction. This governing body can vary depending on your state and/or country, and how strict it is and difficult it can be to get licensed will vary from place to place, too. You will always have to undergo a background check, though, and sometimes have to do a drug test, as well. Failing either of these two tests could result in you not being able to become a licensed dealer.
Dealing poker hands is a necessary part of the game. Whether you’re taking turns with other players doing it in a home game or doing it professionally at a casino, hopefully, this guide has given you a good, fundamental understanding of the responsibilities required,
Have fun implementing this newfound knowledge at the felts!