A neat idea, isn’t it? Swapping the 9-5 for a job where you can pick and choose your hours, work in some undoubtedly glamorous locations and, hopefully, make a stack of cash including those generous tips.
While these may be most people’s pre-conceptions of what being a poker dealer might be like, the reality is a little different. Sure, it can be a great job. But you have to be the right kind of person if you really want to enjoy yourself and be good at what you do. So before getting on to how to become poker a dealer, let’s take a look at the qualities you’re going to need.
It’s obvious really that the first thing you’re going to need to master is memorizing the rules for different kinds of poker from Hold’em to Omaha and 7 Card Stud. Then you’re also going to need to be able to do some pretty fast mental math too. All the time you’ll be under pressure to stay in control of the game so it’s a matter of being able to keep quite a few plates spinning at the same time.
It’s not just your mind that has to be agile, your hands have to be too. Players around the table are going to expect you to be able to shuffle the cards quickly and stylishly and to deal them out in the same way. If you’re not totally on top of this part of the job the risk is that you’ll look less than professional – so players will lose confidence in you and the chances are that the casino owners might well too.
It’s a fact of poker that you’re often going to come up against two types of players. There will be those who might be trying to bend the rules in their favour and others who are sore losers. In both cases it’s going to be up to your skills as a poker dealer to either confront the player who you believe is operating outside the rules or defuse the anger of the losing player. By knowing what to say, and how to say it, you’ll achieve this with ease.
Closely linked to discipline is the need to be an authoritative person at the table. This won’t just help to keep the players playing straight, it will also be important when you’re asked to rule on a particular aspect of the game. You must be 100% confident in your knowledge of the rules and how they need to be applied so players respect you and know that they are in safe and competent hands.
As the dealer you’re essentially in charge of the way that the game is being played so there’s no room for ambiguity in the way that you conduct yourself. You have to look the part in the smart way that you dress and keep focus at all times on the way the game is being played.
It’s a bit of a no-brainer this one but it’s worth underlining all the same. Every casino dealer in the world, whether it’s for poker or another card game like blackjack, has to be scrupulously honest. The players will be watching you and the casino will too. And if you have any incidents of being in trouble with the law in the past it will seriously jeopardize your chances of getting a license to be a dealer at all.
Resilience and stamina
You might think “how hard can it be, sitting down and dealing cards for a living?” The answer is that it’s tougher than it looks. You’ll be in the same place for up to eight hours on a shift doing what amounts to a fairly repetitive job. You’ll also be making constant mental calculations which can be tiring in itself. You’ll need to have some inner reserves of true grit to draw upon.
This article started off by saying that being a poker dealer is a break from the 9 to 5. That’s true in principle, but it also means you could be working shifts from 11pm till 7am or from 5pm till midnight. Great if this fits around your lifestyle but not so great if you need to work fixed hours. You’ll need to be flexible and take whatever shifts you’re given.
So having read this far, if you still think you’ve got what it takes, how do you actually become a poker dealer? The good news is that it’s relatively quick and easy to earn the qualification you need. There are plenty of dealer schools out there and in a matter of weeks you’ll have learnt all that you need to know, all for a few thousand dollars.
Then you’ll have to do an audition at a casino that’s hiring. Here you’ll need to impress both with your dealing skills and your personality as they’ll be looking for their type of dealer.
Once you’re in you’ll find that although the starting pay isn’t great – around $15,000 a year on average, you’ll be making most of your money through tips from winners who want to share their success. In exceptional cases this can boost a salary to up to $100,000 a year but it’s more likely to be in the $50-$60,000 range.
So, if this all sounds good, it’s time to invest in a new suit and get on the road to becoming, arguably, the most important person in any game of poker.