Is a Career as a Poker Dealer Right for You?
Compared to being a player, dealing has one big benefit – you get paid regardless of how the cards fall. There is plenty of demand for experienced dealers around the world. These include regular casinos and card-rooms – as well as the big tournament events like the World Series of Poker. Before you jump in and start dealing, this guide gives you an objective overview of what this involves.
Here are how the various aspects of becoming a poker dealer are broken down below:
It takes a certain type of person to stick out a career as a poker dealer. You’ll need to be sharp enough to keep track of the pots, rules and cards – as well as dealing with the human elements. Here is a quick overview of the pros and cons, which are discussed in more detail in the section below.
Base salaries for poker dealers are low. These range from $15,000 to $20,000 per year – a minimum wage job. Benefits are based on this salary range.
Of course, poker dealers make a lot more than this. A good dealer can earn between $30k and $60k a year. This extra income comes via tips. A very experienced poker dealer can make $100k+. To get to this level, you’ll need to be dealing the biggest games and working at peak times.
Note that in some countries, tipping is not permitted in casinos. This is balanced by higher base salaries for the dealers. Some casinos pool tips and divide these among all staff equally, others allow dealers to keep their own tips.
Tips don’t only depend on the size of the game you are dealing. Your personality plays a role. Players are more likely to tip competent and personable dealers.
The usual route is to attend a training program. This involves a 4 to 8-week course, which will cover the many different aspects of dealing. These courses range from $1000 to $2000.
Many casinos have big enough demand for dealers that they run their own training programs. You will not need to pay for these if you graduate and then deal for that casino.
If you have plenty of experience dealing, though no formal qualification, you can still apply for a job as a poker dealer. This will involve a live audition, with the poker room manager watching you closely. If you impress, you’ll be hired – and possibly offered on the job training for any areas you lack experience with.
You might think dealing poker is all about shuffling cards and pushing pots. There is a lot more to the role than that. Primarily, dealing is a customer service job – keeping control of the game and enforcing the rules need to go alongside making sure the players have a great experience. If they do not, your tips will be small – and the number of games will fall.
So far, I have talked about the practical aspects of dealing cards. This section flips things around, asking whether you have the personal qualities to enjoy this line of work.
A poker dealer needs to enjoy working with people. Despite the many practical skills, this is first and foremost a service job. If you prefer your own company, then this might not be the right job for you. If you like interacting with a diverse range of personalities – and can keep smiling when things get tough – you could be the perfect fit.
You’ll need a thick skin. Bad tempered players are a fact of life for the poker dealing profession. Many of these will make up for their own bad play by taking it out on the dealer. Patience is needed – you won’t be able to answer back (though calling security or the floor is always an option!).
Dealers also need to be good at mental arithmetic. This comes into play with side-pots, pot-limit betting and many other situations. You also need to be fast and accurate at reading boards – pushing the pot to the wrong player is a major mistake.
Personal flexibility is needed, especially at the start of your career. The prime shifts will usually go to the most experienced and reliable dealers. This means you’ll have to take the remaining shifts while you get your foot in the door. Flexibility will win you a lot of credit with the poker room management, and you’ll soon find yourself getting a better pick of shifts.
Poker is not the only game which requires dealers. There is demand for people to deal blackjack, spin roulette wheels and join craps teams. Those games have a house edge, and you’ll be facilitating a welcoming environment for people to enjoy themselves while losing money. The balance is that there is plenty of variety – especially when you consider all the casino ‘carnival games’.
If you enjoy poker and want to learn from experienced players – then dealing those games is the way to go. This can allow you to learn on the job. Things like physical tells, which require years of experience to pick up, can be very obvious to experienced dealers.