Poker dealers tap the table to let the players know that a betting round is completed. Specifically, poker dealers tap the table before dealing the flop, the turn, and the river.
Not only does this speed up the game (a player who is first to act, but distracted for whatever reason, may not notice that the turn or river has been dealt already) — it also and most importantly prevents mistakes.
Why poker dealers tap the table
There’s a few reasons a dealer may tap the felt.
Some dealers like to tap the table after receiving a tip, in which case it basically means “thank you”.
Then there are dealers who like to knock the table whenever a player wins a big pot, or shows a bluff, or a very high hand e.g. quads.
In this case, it usually means the dealer is surprised or wants to say “nice hand”.
Personally, I would never do this as all dealers are supposed to be impartial (unless we’re talking about a friendly home game, of course).
Still, the main and most important reason all dealers are supposed to tap the table is to let the player know that they’re about to deal a community card.
For example, let’s say a Texas Hold’em dealer deals the first two cards to everyone, and both the button and the small blind call, and the big blind checks.
The dealer will then grab the chips, quickly place them in the middle, tap the table twice, and only then deal the flop.
Why some poker dealers don’t tap the table
As we’ve seen, knocking the table is usually a requirement, especially in poker tournaments.
That being said, if you’re playing a cash game, the dealer may choose not to tap the table and deal the board cards straight away.
This could be out of laziness, but usually it’s to speed up the game.
And yes, I did mention that, if a player is distracted, tapping the table will let them know there’s a new betting round, and that may help them act faster.
But provided all players are focused on the game, and know the rules, then the dealer may decide that such a procedure is not necessary, and therefore a waste of time.
The more hands per hour, the happier the players (and the more profitable for the casino, considering that typically a small percentage of each pot goes to the house).
Tapping the table before each street is dealt takes a second or so, which doesn’t sound like a lot of time, but if you think in terms of hours of play, it could make a difference.
Still, it’s almost always a bad habit.
Let’s have a look at all the mistakes or disputes that may be prevented if the dealer knocks the poker table before each street…
What can happen if the dealer doesn’t knock the table
In short: the flop, turn, or river may be exposed prematurely. Some examples:
- Three players in the hand. Flop is dealt. Player A checks, player B checks. Player C moves a hand forward, and quietly says “all in”. The dealer interprets the gesture as a check and doesn’t hear what player C says, and deals the turn card immediately (I actually did this once).
- Pre-flop. Three players limp and the big blind says “let’s go”, or “okay”. The dealer burns a card and deals the flop instantly. The big blind doesn’t like the flop, and goes: I never said “check”! This would basically be cheating, but chances are the flop would have to be dealt again.
- Four players in the hand. Turn card is dealt. Player A checks, and so do player B and C. Player D wants to bet, and is thinking about the bet size, but the dealer forgets about them and proceeds to deal the river without tapping the table. Again, this would be a prematurely exposed card.
Each time a card, or set of cards, is exposed prematurely, the floor must be called, and the deck may need to be shuffled again.
This takes time, and can be very annoying for the players.
By tapping the table, poker dealers clearly let all players know that they’re about to deal a community card, and this reduces the chances of mistakes or disputes.
In the third example mentioned above, player D could have stopped the dealer, had they knocked the table before dealing the river card.
In the second example (big blind trying to cheat), I’m not sure tapping the table would help, but at least the player would have no real excuses.
Other poker dealer procedures that may look funny
- Spreading the chips of each bet. You may have noticed that some poker dealers will accurately spread each bet even when the players themselves separate the chips. This doesn’t mean the dealer is a perfectionist — the “eye in the sky” needs to see the value of each bet in case there needs to be a camera check. So really, this is one of the dealer’s responsibilities.
- Clearing or clapping their hands. Casino dealers do this all the time, while generally poker dealers need to clear their hand only when they sit at a new table, or right before they leave a table. This shows the dealer is not hiding any chips in their hands — it looks funny, but it’s a strict casino procedure.
- Cutting the deck with one hand. After the deck has been shuffled (either manually or by a shuffling machine), poker dealers need to cut it in half, and do so with one hand only. Why? Because although using both hands would be faster and easier, it would also be easier to cheat — for example, the dealer could simply move the two packets without actually cutting the deck.
- Staring at someone who’s clearly lost. Let’s say there’s two players in the hand. At the showdown, player A shows a pretty good hand; player B is visibly disappointed, and it’s quite obvious that they’ve lost. In this case, the dealer may keep looking at them simply because until their hand is revealed, or mucked, there is no guarantee that they’ve actually lost (e.g. it could be a slow roll, or the player’s mistake).
Can you think of other poker procedures that look strange, or do you have any questions about poker dealers in general? Hit the button and leave a reply! 👇