Every couple of years, it seems, I have to publicly let off a little steam by writing a column about things that irritate me. So, I’ll get right to it by telling you about the first thing that bugs me.
It seems that every time I turn on the television and start surfing, I see a poker tournament on some channel. Almost all of us in the poker world would agree that that is a good thing. It is what else that is shown on these telecasts that is really beginning to annoy me. What I am referring to is the part of the telecast where they explain how no-limit hold’em is played. They go through the two cards facedown part, the flop, the turn, and the river. They also explain the blinds and the antes. Now, I know they must do this because so many of the listeners are new to poker and must be educated.
So, knowing that this is a necessary evil, I have tried to be patient during this part of the show. But, truthfully, I remember the early days of when they started televising NFL football, and I don’t remember ever hearing that you have four downs to move the ball 10 yards, and so on. I also never remember anyone explaining that in basketball, you must bounce or dribble the ball with every step you take. And, even though I have never been a hockey fan, I have tried to watch a few games, and never once have I heard anybody tell me what the blue line is for.
I will say that I won’t argue with whatever they have done to get all of the new viewers interested in poker, and maybe my complaint is done mostly tongue-in-cheek. I just hope that someday before I die — say, 10 or 20 years down the road — I will tune in and watch a Bola88 poker tournament being televised without getting the Poker 101 lesson.
Another complaint I have is on a more serious note. The main reason I will go into it is that maybe enough people will agree how annoying it is that tournament directors will make an effort to educate dealers.
It is such a simple thing that many new players and many low-limit players may not even notice it. In fact, part of the problem stems from the tremendous influx of new players into poker. This influx has created a natural demand for more dealers. I am not sure what these new dealers are taught in school, but since they will first be dealing in small-limit games to get experience, you would think the mindset would be geared mostly to teaching them how to deal those small-limit games.
In small-limit games, there are many new and inexperienced players, so part of the dealer’s job is to keep the game going at an satisfactory pace. Obviously, the house and the dealer both do better when more hands can be dealt. Plus, most players like a game that moves along. I have no problem with dealers trying to get as many hands dealt as they can.
My complaint is that these new dealers don’t understand that dealing in higher-limit games and tournaments is a different animal. They invariably fall into that trap of trying to speed up the game. At every tournament I have played in the last couple of years, I have watched many of the dealers deal the cards out, and then once the last card has been dealt, prompt the first player who’s “under the gun” to act. This is done by outstretching their arm and opening their hand, palm up. They are trying to say, “It’s up to you!”
- I can almost deal with that, but it doesn’t stop there. As it becomes each player’s turn, the dealer is there with that outstretched hand, prompting each player. Most of the time, the player hasn’t hesitated two seconds. This is needless prompting, and I usually complain by saying something like, “Please don’t prompt the players unless they slow down the game.”
It gets even worse, though, because so many of the tournaments are now no-limit hold’em. Recently, in a couple of cases, I actually had to leave my seat in complete frustration. Here’s why: We are two-thirds of the way through a no-limit hold’em tournament and the blinds and antes are high. It is a very critical time in the tournament. A player opens the pot for a raise, two or three players pass, and the next player hesitates. Now, to me, as it should be to the dealer, too, it’s obvious that the player is thinking. He’s not looking off into space or eating his hamburger. He is trying to decide what to do. Three or four seconds go by, and out pops the dealer’s arm. The hand opens up, and without saying a word, it feels to me like the dealer is screaming at the player, “It’s up to you!”
Could there be anything more annoying to real poker players? Well, yes, as a matter of fact. It happened in one of the last no-limit hold’em tournaments I played. The dealer had gently been prompting the players during the entire time he was in the box. No one had said anything — mostly because the players had been playing quickly, with no hesitations in their decision-making. Then, a heads-up pot developed. A fairly big bet was made and it was called before the flop. After the flop, the dealer prompted the first player to act. The player checked, and the dealer prompted the last player to act. He checked. After the turn, the same thing happened. The dealer then dealt the river card and prompted the first player. He bet, and the last player hesitated a few seconds. Out came the dealer’s hand with the prompt. Where, I wondered, had this dealer been during the hand? He certainly must not have been paying much attention; otherwise, he would have realized that both players knew what was going on at every point in the hand without one prompt, let alone several.
I couldn’t believe a dealer could be that out of touch with what he was doing.
Before I undertook writing on this subject, I decided to make sure it wasn’t just me, so I asked well-respected Tournament Director Dave Lamb about it. He assured me that good, experienced dealers do very little prompting. He said they pay attention, and only if someone slows the game down or appears not to know that it’s up to him will they prompt a player.
Cheri Dokken, the tournament director at Commerce Casino, told me that she instructs dealers to point or prompt with their eyes. Only if someone slows the game down or falls asleep at the switch should any motion or gesture be given. I think Cheri’s instructions are perfect. I wish all dealers could learn to point with their eyes.
Last but not least, when I asked my favorite tournament director, Roland Waters of the Wildhorse Casino, to look my column over, he agreed with what I had said. He even said he would ask all of his dealers to read my column, in order to prevent unnecessary prompting in the future. (I hope all new dealers take the time to read this column.)