Truepokerdealer is a free, instructional, video-based website that teaches how to deal poker from the perspective of casino professionals. We start with the shuffle and cover everything that is taught in a typical poker dealer school.
These videos cost time and money to make. They will all come out eventually, but any donations will greatly speed up that process. Donate or not, thank you to all of our viewers!
Dating back to my college days in late 2002, I started playing poker at Foxwoods and Turning Stone in the Northeast United States. While there, I kept detailed poker playing notes for myself, and I also became very familiar with the rules of poker from a player's viewpoint. That continued through the end of 2006 when my girlfriend and I moved to Washington State.
In Feb 2007, we realized that a small Tribal casino was offering a Blackjack class that covered shoe Blackjack, Double Deck Blackjack, Three Card Poker, Spanish 21, and Ultimate Texas Hold ‘em. The concept was that you pass the class and get a dealing job, so we both opted in.
It was taught by a former Las Vegas dealer with over 25 years experience who was an amazing instructor and literally had a clear answer to every single question we would ask. That didn’t mean it was a cake walk, though. In order to get a job there, students had to first pass a difficult audition in the class, and then later audition on live tables in the casino itself. The casino would wait until Friday nights to run auditions when the tables were full. It was then that I realized that no matter who you are, your first live audition as a dealer is always a blurr. The adrenaline is pretty intense! We both passed, and that was the start of my casino career.
It was a small casino and the supervisors utilized slow times during weekdays to give training on the games that newer dealers weren’t as familiar with. Within a few months, I was learning the other games. First came Pai Gow Poker and then Mini Baccarat. I then talked to the Poker Room Director and explained that I was very familiar with poker and would love to learn to deal it. A week later they ran an internal class for anyone interested, and soon I was dealing poker as well. The poker room there was small, but they still had daily Texas Hold 'em tournaments and cash games as well as a Limit Omaha Hi/Lo game every week. I also learned Roulette and began the journey of learning Craps in the upcoming months. Shortly thereafter, I was promoted to Dual-Rate Supervisor (that means you either supervise or deal, depending on the casinos’ needs on any given day).
I did my best to learn everything I could about dealing and supervising table games and poker, and when I supervised, I passed on what I knew to the new dealers coming in. I learned how to run the poker room, how to open and close it, how a lot of the paperwork gets handled, how to handle large payouts, how to handle floor rulings, and so much more. I loved it. It is such a social job, and the culture there for people learning the industry was fantastic. Some of them had been dealing and supervising for as long as I had been alive, and they were always excited to teach what they knew. Even the most experienced people were down to earth and not afraid to learn new things, no matter who the teacher. I was also lucky enough to learn a lot about Tribal culture from the Tribal members I worked with. The whole experience was really amazing.
While there, I began to notice something that helped shape my professional approach to training casino dealers. I remember thinking early on that it was strange that my workplace had some different dealing methods than what I remembered seeing in the Northeast. I also noticed as I went to explore the other casinos in the area that the same thing was true of every other casino around. Washington State has nearly fifty small casinos and card rooms, largely a result of the many recognized tribes spread all over the state, and no two casinos have identical procedures or dealing expectations. They were all similar, but not quite the same. I also noticed that some of my coworkers had learned to deal from the other casinos, and they brought their own slightly different dealing practices with them without issue. Every dealer that came to my casino learned the specific ways our games were dealt and adjusted their dealing to accommodate that, but if their dealing mechanics were a bit different, they weren’t usually forced to change unless there was a game integrity issue or an issue for surveillance.
The strange thing was that when I brought it up with my coworkers, they talked about the "correct" way to shuffle or the "correct" way to interact with the bank, yet so many dealers were allowed to operate "incorrectly." The casinos were still making money and still maintaining the integrity of their games, and everyone seemed fine with it, even though they would say it was wrong. I also noticed that different casino supervisors had different opinions about what they considered to be "correct" for different types of dealing mechanics, and everyone thought that they were right about it! The same was true as I talked to people at the other casinos, including the casinos I used to play at in the Northeast that I later went to when I visited family back home. The majority of the time, their opinions about what was "correct" went back to what they were taught when they first learned.
This began the development of a fundamental concept that has shaped my professional casino career and general approach to learning and instructing - Contrary to the general view of casino employees and patrons, there is no such thing as a "correct" way to deal, supervise, or run a casino. Instead, there are many proven and practiced techniques and approaches, but the best dealers, supervisors and casino managers are always open minded. They are aware of the changing culture and technology of gaming, aware that there is always room for improvement, aware of how their specific situation is affected by their procedures, and regularly evaluating their procedures in relation to their situation, that culture, and new techniques.
In relation to my videos, I do my best to emphasize that I teach some of the more common and preferred ways to deal, but when it comes down to it, wherever a person gets a dealing job should dictate the correct way for them to deal, and there are major differences from place to place that are all "correct."
Because of that, I am always very happy to hear it when people occasionally tell me that my teachings are different than what they see in the casinos they work at or play at. I even enjoy it when they learn a procedure a different way and call me wrong. Every time that happens is another opportunity to spread the awareness that there is no "correct" way to deal or teach in casinos.
Another essential insight I gained in Washington was my casino’s unique approach to customer service and general casino-patron interaction. Having been first exposed to very large casinos in the Northeast, I had been trained to think that the casino-patron relationship was relatively impersonal and authoritative and that a casino was always paranoid about people cheating, so they would never make a "benefit of the doubt" ruling in table games. This smaller casino I worked at did not uphold those standards at all. In order to attract regular players, our culture was highly friendly from our supervisors, and our floor rulings had been evaluated to make them more player friendly. The casino forced an understanding on their staff that positive customer interaction from their supervisors was far better than making the guests know who the boss was and that there were plenty of ways to retain authority without upsetting guests. These insights helped me develop a new, modern approach to supervising poker that helped me later down the road.
In the summer of 2009, my girlfriend and I left Washington and moved to South Florida. I got a job as a full time poker supervisor at a brand new poker room and really shifted my casino focus to poker. I was part of the team that created their rules and procedures. Our goal was to bring Las Vegas style poker to Florida, and it was very challenging for enough reasons to write a book about. It has a lot to do with the history of gaming in Florida and Florida’s culture in general.
Fortunately, our team was up to the task. We were highlighted by a forward-thinking poker director who had opened casinos and poker rooms before in multiple states. We also had many other team members who had dealt and supervised in the World Series of Poker, the World Poker Tour and other circuit events, Las Vegas in general, Atlantic City, Arizona, California, Missouri, Louisiana, Connecticut, and just about everywhere else you could think of. It was Florida, after all. Everyone loves moving there!
Staffing the poker room was an early challenge. Only a few years after passing my first dealing audition, I was already teamed up with two other people with the task of hiring enough dealers to fill a large poker room. We ended up hiring about 90 dealers out of the more than 300 people who auditioned, and I sat and watched nearly all of them. Many of our dealers were trained in Florida and they had some very unusual habits or no training at all when it came to some aspects of dealing. Now, imagine mixing those dealers with experienced dealers from around the country. It really forced every one of us to constantly evaluate the reasons behind every aspect of dealing, supervising, and running a poker room to decide what our final procedures would be. After hiring those dealers, we ran two weeks of training to get all of our dealers to understand our preferred dealing practices and expectations.
It went well, and before we knew it, it was time to open. We began to intimately learn the mentalities of Florida poker players, and boy did they ever think differently than what many of us had experienced around the country. Florida’s gaming laws had created a unique poker environment, and the players were very raw and not accustomed to traditional poker rules. We knew though that staying consistent with our rules would train the players to play more traditional poker, and it did work, but we ultimately decided that Florida was unique enough that adopting 100% of a Las Vegas style of gaming was not wise for business. Instead, we went with an approach that wasn’t too far off but still noticeably different. This whole process really solidified what I had experienced in Washington that there is truly no "correct" way to deal and that every casino has unique circumstances that can affect casino procedure and practices.
In late 2010, I was promoted to Poker Room Shift Manager, and I deepened my understanding how poker rooms and casinos operate in general. I refined more of my training techniques and solidified my open-minded approach to training and casinos in general. Our team also began focusing more on customer service than the industry was used to, and we literally got to a point where the people we kicked out were sometimes leaving with smiles on their faces. For instance, if they angrily threw their cards at the dealer, they would sometimes know they deserved it, not take offense, apologize to the dealer, and chat with us in a friendly manner as they left! We developed a mutual understanding through thorough explanation and consistency that they really appreciated. We understood that people sometimes get upset, and so we had no ill will toward them, and they understood that in order to run a business, we couldn’t allow poor behavior in our poker room, so they would have to leave. We also made a huge point of not treating people differently, no matter who they were. It was a great experience.
In late 2011, I began work on Truepokerdealer with the goal of creating a video resource that I feel the industry has craved for years. I wanted the resource to help the industry understand that casinos are run differently in different places. I had already been forced to meticulously evaluate every aspect of dealing mechanics and procedure in Florida, and I used much of that collective thought process that my colleagues and I had developed to create what I consider to be an insightful approach to learning to deal poker.
Then in the beginning of 2012, I left Florida and moved back up north to Massachusetts to raise a family with my wife. I currently plan on staying here and coincidentally, Massachusetts is now in the process of adding casinos. I got here just in time, and I have attended all of the public meetings held by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to this point just because I find it all very interesting.
I am not sure what project I will work on after the completion of the poker dealing videos. I may create videos on supervising poker, dealing and supervising table games, and a list of other possibilities. I also don’t know for sure that I will work in a Massachusetts casino when they open. That’s all for the future to decide. I just know that this whole experience has been incredible. I have made more friends than I can count, and I feel strongly that I have learned enough to make these videos what they need to be for the industry to benefit from them. Wherever this project takes me, as always, I intend to learn as much as I can.