I’ve met a few professional poker players who used to work as dealers and who attribute part of their success to that.
So, is it true that being a poker dealer gives you an advantage when you play? In short…
Poker dealers can be good at poker for many reasons, including their excellent knowledge of the game and ability to concentrate and keep calm under pressure. Being a good poker dealer does not automatically imply you will be good at poker, but it definitely helps.
Keep reading for a brief explanation; if you’d like to share your own thoughts or opinion on this, please leave a comment at the end and let me know what you think.
Why dealing gives you an advantage
1. Concentration skills
It is the dealer’s responsibility to control the table and ensure the game runs smoothly.
When a player bets out of turn, takes too long to act, or does anything they’re not supposed to do, intentionally or by mistake — the dealer must notice it.
This means that as a (good) poker dealer you have to constantly focus on the game.
You need to be able to concentrate for hours, and learn to ignore any potential distractions, whether that’s a chatty player, the sound of the chips, or just your own thoughts.
This is true when dealing casino games in general, but I’ve found that it applies to poker in particular.
An experienced dealer has learnt to constantly pay attention to the game and watch the table like a hawk, and spot every single mistake.
This gives them a tremendous advantage compared to someone who finds it difficult or too mentally draining to concentrate at the table.
Poker is a game of observation, and while the average player is easily distracted, experienced dealers will naturally pay attention to everything (provided they’re playing seriously).
2. Tracking the pot
When I first started dealing poker, this seemed like a nightmare and I was terrible, but quickly got better at it until it became second nature.
As a dealer, you need to keep count of what’s in the pot, so you can work out the rake instantly and be prepared in case a player challenges you or makes a mistake (e.g. a call with one too many chips), or if there’s a dispute.
It can’t be a “rough estimate” — you need to know the exact amount.
And yes, occasionally even the best dealers may forget, although if it does happen they’ll usually be able to calculate the amount again within seconds.
Now, is this the absolute most important skill in poker? Nope.
But it does help, and I’ve seen players, including experienced ones, make bad decisions simply because they got this wrong — many times.
And although players can ask the dealer to spread the pot, they shouldn’t do it at every hand, and it only gives them an estimate (under no circumstances are players allowed to touch/spread the pot themselves).
3. Getting paid to learn
To become a better player, you can read books and watch videos online, but ultimately there is no substitute to being at the table.
So if you do want to get better, but can’t (or don’t want to) invest an awful lot of money and time playing live, then dealing can be an option.
You will gain experience and learn things as a dealer, but some of these things will then help you when you’re playing, too.
The third reason dealers tend to be good players, or at least have the potential to become good players, is that they’ve simply spent more time at the poker table compared to most players.
They have seen the same situations and patterns and good/bad decisions over and over again, and it’s likely that they have learned from that, even if subconsciously.
This without having to invest or risk any money, and without any kind of tilt or frustrations as they are not emotionally involved.
4. Stress tolerance
I enjoy working as a dealer and the same is true for many dealers I’ve spoken to.
But like all jobs, there are pros and cons, and if you think casino dealers are getting paid to have fun and have no responsibilities or stress, think again.
From time to time, poker dealers will have to deal with stressful situations (annoying or drunk players, disputes, knowing they’re being watched all the time, or simply mental exhaustion).
And it’s their job to keep calm and focus on the game, even when under pressure.
This helps them develop patience and discipline which, in turn, can help them become better players as well.
So besides their ability to concentrate for hours and notice everything at the table, poker dealers tend to have more self-control as well as a “thick skin”, and that means they’re less emotionally involved than most players (when dealing and playing).
Why dealers play poker
Some poker dealers end up becoming professional players as they realize playing can be lucrative (almost always more lucrative than dealing if you know what you’re doing).
Other dealers play occasionally, just for fun, for example if they’re on a night out with their friends or colleagues.
Then there’s dealers who play regularly, but not with the purpose of making money, but simply because they love poker and genuinely want to master the game.
Why dealers don’t play poker
And then there’s another category of poker dealers — those who are aware they already spend a significant amount of time in a casino, for their job, and would rather do something different on their days off.
Personally, I belong to this category. I enjoy dealing but can’t be asked to play, although if I’m traveling or visiting a new place, and I have the opportunity to play, I’ll have a go, mostly out of curiosity.
I’ve found that most dealers enjoy dealing and playing (both poker and other casino games such as roulette), while others avoid gambling like the plague. I guess it just comes down to your personality and interests.
Are poker dealers good at poker? Final thoughts
In general, an experienced dealer will have a few more weapons in their poker arsenal compared to the average player.
These could be a better knowledge of the game and game rules, more confidence, or any other skill they’ve learned in order to become a dealer (such as tracking the pot, observing other players, and spotting anything unusual).
That being said, being a dealer gives you only a slight advantage and does not imply you have all the traits and skills of a successful poker player, which are way more (and way more difficult to develop) than the ones I’ve mentioned in this article.
Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or would like to comment, click on the button and leave a reply 👇