I’m a casino dealer. I’ve made tons of mistakes. I still make mistakes from time to time.
Dealing casino games isn’t as easy as it looks, especially when you have a bunch of strangers staring at you.
Here is a list of 19 mistakes all dealers will make at least once, plus an explanation of what happens for each one.
Keep reading for the whole list, or skip to roulette mistakes or poker mistakes.
Blackjack dealer mistakes
Specifically, when adding up the cards. In blackjack, each picture card (king, queen, or jack) is a 10. Aces are either 1 or 11. And all other cards are worth their face value.
Because all casino games tend to be fast paced, the dealer may make a mistake when adding up the numbers of a hand, either when dealing the cards or when paying out.
What happens? If players (or the dealers themselves) notice the mistake in time, it will be corrected. If not, there will be a camera check, and all winning hands will be paid as normal.
When dealing the cards, blackjack dealers should always make sure there is a big enough gap between the cards, so that numbers and pips are visible.
This facilitates both the camera check process and the game itself.
Skipping a box
Let’s say there’s five players at the blackjack table, and one of them suddenly moves their chips or turns backward to order a drink or for whatever reason.
The dealer may forget to deal the cards on their box (or genuinely assume they were not playing the hand), and that will be a misdeal.
What happens? Usually, the pit boss or inspector will be called over. He or she will simply rearrange the order of the cards, and the hand will carry on as normal.
The dealers themselves are not allowed to rearrange the cards as it can easily lead to confusion or disputes — it is the supervisor’s job.
Assuming a player will stand
Whether a player clearly follows basic strategy, or always plays the same way e.g. always stands on 16 or higher, the dealer must give them the option to take a card.
I’ve seen players take a card on 20 and get dealt an ace (on purpose, they were tracking the aces in the deck apparently), or simply decide to sacrifice one of their hands, and bust, to save the ones on the other boxes.
Whether this is good play or not, I’m not sure, but it does happen, and the dealer should never try to predict the player’s decision.
What happens? Usually, the player will stop the dealer in time. If not, the dealer may carry on dealing and in this case, again, the pit boss will be called over.
Each casino has different procedures but typically the order of the cards will have to remain the same.
Which means that any card exposed prematurely will have to be dealt anyway, either to a player or to complete the dealer’s hand, and this can be an advantage to the players.
Giving a card by mistake
More often than not, this is actually the player’s fault — all players are supposed to communicate their decision clearly.
When they fail to do so, for instance because they are distracted, or they’ve had one too many drinks, they may say something like “yes” or “go on”, and the dealer may interpret that as “hit”.
What happens? A supervisor will determine whether it was the player’s mistake, or the dealer’s mistake, in which case the player will get the option to stand.
As we’ve seen, this may give a big advantage to the players as the card that’s been exposed will have to be dealt regardless.
Picking up the cards in the wrong order
Right after the payout, the dealer scoops up all cards in a specific order, and places them in the discard pile.
This is to make sure all cards remain, indeed, in the same order, in case there is a dispute and the pit boss has to reconstruct the hand.
The dealer may forget to do so, or make a mistake, and the cards will not be in the original order anymore.
What happens? If the hand must be reconstructed, which is quite rare, there will probably be a camera check.
Roulette dealer mistakes
This happens when the dealer tries to spin the ball, but throws the ball outside the wheel, or doesn’t use enough force and the ball drops too quickly. Or, if the ball is spun in the wrong direction.
It may also be a no spin if a chip (or anything else) drops inside the wheel during the spin. Very rare, but I’ve seen it.
What happens? The dealer will announce “no spin” and simply spin the ball again.
Dollying the wrong number
For those of you who don’t know, the dolly is the marker (you can have a look at roulette terminology and lingo here).
You would expect the dealer to get this right every single time because it’s so simple, right? But it does happen, and I’ve done it myself.
What happens? Best case scenario: a player, or a supervisor, or the dealer themselves notice the mistake in time. The dolly is then put on the actual winning number and the game carries on.
Worst case scenario: the dealer clears the layout incorrectly and there is a camera check, which is likely to take a while, especially if there were a lot of chips on the layout.
Not paying outside bets
Such as black, odd numbers, third column, or second dozen. They are called outside bets because they are placed in the outer section of the roulette table.
Occasionally, the dealer will forget to pay them, or one of them. This is one of the most common mistakes roulette dealers make.
What happens? The player will tell the dealer and he or she will pay the winning bet instantly, unless the player is suspected of cheating.
Not paying an inside bet
If there are different color chips on a number, the dealer may forget to pay one of the colors.
For example, there may be yellow, pink, and blue chips on the winning number, and the dealer may forget to pay blue ones.
What happens? Again, the player will tell the dealer and he or she will proceed to pay out the wager as normal.
Clearing inside bets incorrectly
After dollying the number, roulette dealers clear the layout and remove all the losing chips.
While chips placed straight up on the number, or on its splits, are obviously winning chips — bets placed on corners or six-lines aren’t as visible, and the dealer may remove them from the layout by mistake.
What happens? Typically, there will be a camera check to determine whether the bet was actually a winning bet (a customer may say they had a chip on a corner while in reality it was on another number, or something like that).
If a pit boss or inspector was watching the game when the dealer was clearing the layout, hopefully they spot that and there will be no need to check.
Paying out with the wrong color
Not much to explain here. When paying a wager with color chips, the dealer may use the wrong color, e.g. pass two stacks of blue chips to someone who’s playing with white ones.
What happens? This is quite an obvious mistake, and chances are both the dealer and the player will notice in time.
The dealer will then replace the chips and the game will carry on as usual.
Complex roulette payouts are difficult to work out, especially when you’re under pressure.
Which is why roulette dealers are trained to memorize, and use, picture bets (chip patterns that make it easier to work out the total amount).
But even with those you’ll have to add up a bunch of numbers and that means that from time to time the dealer will miscount the total amount.
What happens? In most casinos, all complex payouts (or payouts over a certain amount) will be checked by an inspector before the dealer passes the chips to the player.
So if the dealer gets it wrong, the inspector will tell them to count the chips again. Easy as that.
If there is no supervisor watching the game, then occasionally the player may receive the wrong payout. Rare, but it happens, and it works in the player’s favor if the dealer overpaid them.
Poker dealer mistakes
The dealer may expose one or more cards during the deal, or forget to move the button and deal in the wrong order.
They may also skip a player or, conversely, deal the cards to someone who’s not playing anymore, e.g. a player who just got stacked but is still at the table.
What happens? These will almost always be a misdeal, which means the hand will not begin and the dealer will have to shuffle again, and deal again.
Let’s say a player goes all in, and another player asks for the count. The dealer announces “two hundred and thirty”; the actual amount is 330.
This would be a miscount, and if the second player decides to call (not knowing they’ll have to put in another hundred), they may be disappointed.
Had the dealer announced the right amount, the second player may have folded their hand.
What happens? Poker is a game of observation. What the dealer (or opponent) says is irrelevant — in this example, anyone who decides to call the bet (by saying “call”, or throwing a chip in) will have to call the correct amount.
In the World Series of Poker, this rule is called accepted action. It is the player’s responsibility to pay attention and be aware of what’s going on at the table.
Mucking someone’s cards by mistake
The dealer may assume someone has folded their hand, and muck their cards before the player can stop them.
Or, a player may have the winning hand and turn their cards over at the showdown, but the dealer may think their hand loses anyway, and put it in the muck.
This can easily lead to a dispute, and it can be terribly embarrassing for the dealer (I’ve done it myself).
What happens? It depends. At a showdown, a winning hand that has been tabled or exposed (by the dealer, or the players themselves) cannot be killed, even if it touches the muck.
This means that even if the dealer makes a mistake, the pot will be awarded to the right player.
As for mucking someone’s cards during a hand, the general rule is that it is the player’s responsibility to protect their hand, and once their cards are in the muck, their hand is dead.
That being said, the supervisor’s decision is final, and different casinos have different rules. In some rare cases, a player may be allowed to get their cards back, provided it was clearly the dealer’s mistake.
Wrong side pot
From time to time, the dealer may have to create a side pot, or even two side pots.
These are the chips that can be won by the players with the bigger stacks (e.g. player A only has 50 left, and goes all in; player B raises to 150, player C calls; the side pot will be awarded to either B or C).
This can be confusing, and the dealer may get it wrong.
What happens? In this case, it’s usually not too difficult to work out the side pot again.
The main pot will be whatever the player with the shortest stack had, times the number of players in the hand, plus whatever was in the middle before the betting round.
The side pot will be the difference between the shortest stack and the other ones, times the number of players who keep playing.
Poker dealers must keep count of the pot. One of the reasons for this is so they can work out the rake (a small percentage of each pot that goes to the casino).
Occasionally, the dealer may get this wrong and take a bit less or a bit more from the pot.
What happens? Usually, nothing. This is because the difference is almost always too small to be noticed.
The dealer may think there’s 60 in the pot, instead of 40, and take one extra chip by mistake (and vice versa). Unless anyone notices, the game will carry on.
Not giving change
Dealers are supposed to give the correct change to any player who called a bet with a bigger chip.
This happens a lot, especially in poker tournaments, e.g. player A bets 1,200, player B calls by throwing a 5,000 chip.
The dealer may forget to give change, or give an incorrect amount.
What happens? The players will usually notice the mistake, and let the dealer know. Plus, dealers are told to always announce the amount of change given (unless it’s obvious).
Pushing the pot to the wrong player
Finally, poker dealers may push the pot to the wrong player. And yes, I’ve done and seen this too.
What happens? This is too obvious not to be noticed, and the players will tell the dealer immediately.
If the chips get mixed up for whatever reason, and the dealer cannot remember the amount of the pot, there will be a camera check, and the correct amount will be awarded to the winning player.
How often do casino dealers make mistakes?
Mistakes are rare, but if you play regularly, you may see them quite often. Especially if the dealers are inexperienced.
The main difference between trainee and senior dealers is, senior dealers will make mistakes less often, and will know what to do in case they do mess up.
Dealers are human beings, specifically human beings who work nights (or, even worse, shift patterns) and have to handle stressful situations more often than you think.
So yes, mistakes will happen from time to time, and all players are encouraged to let the dealer know if something’s not right as soon as they notice.
What dealer mistakes have you seen personally?
I’m curious — have you seen casino dealer mistakes yourself? If so, what happened?
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