Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been

As the last week of my stint as a WSOP dealer comes to a close I am left with many different thoughts and feelings.  For certain, I haven't worked this hard since I was in college!  From the time I started dealing school until now, it has been almost non-stop, especially in the last two weeks.  I am, in a word, completely drained.  Because of this I haven't been able to write much at all in this blog, to which I apologize.  In the next few weeks and months I will post "recaps" and stories of my time dealing.  One of the funny things about my being a dealer at the WSOP is there are maybe half a dozen poker players that I recognize.  I'm sure there are plenty of pros that I've dealt to, but I couldn't tell you who they are.  I just simply don't follow poker closely at all.  I do know that I had the pleasure of dealing to Vanessa Selbst this afternoon on day two of the Main Event.  Very friendly, as poker players go.  Obviously this being an important tournament she wasn't exactly talkative, but as a dealer, neither am I.  Way too busy trying to keep track of the action.

On a professional front, there have been a lot of developments, and they don't have to do with dealing.  In so much as to say, my career as a dealer is likely at an end, though depending on where I end up I might try to hook up with a local casino and deal part time, but that isn't terribly likely.  In the next few days I will wrap up my dealing and head back to Chicago to visit with some family.  I will also endeavor to post some updates here now that I will have some more time on my hands.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Grindstone


I'm startled out of my haze by the announcement and notice the declarer, and 8 other people, staring at me awaiting my answer.  Shit.  It's 4th street.  I've completely lost track of the last two rounds of betting.  All I remember was silently hoping someone won't attempt to make a pot bet.  My mind races to rewind the hand and I quickly count the math, but about a second before I get to the answer the 1 seat (who isn't in the hand), apparently either bored with waiting on me or taking mercy on me, declares the appropriate pot bet.  Normally I'd be bothered with this but it's hour 7 of my day, I've been dealing live all day and I am again in the high limit area.  I've found my way into the mid limit area by this time, but alas, there is no relief to be found here, just table after table of some variation of a game that requires a level of mental acuity I can no longer achieve.

This is how the first 2 weeks of my life at the World Series of Poker pretty much went.  By the end of the second week, 80% of my time spent dealing was spent in live action, and all but one day of that was spend in mid-limits or higher, where the words "no-limit hold 'em" are never uttered.  I had heard about how well financially dealers do dealing this event, but I wasn't seeing it from my position.  Tips in the high and mid limit area were not fantastic.  Meanwhile, my friends who were getting tournament downs were making almost twice what I was bringing in.  On top of this, my lack of sleep was beginning to take its toll and my wife was beginning to work more.  I had to do something, so I asked the boss for a schedule change, which thankfully she was receptive to.  The next weeks schedule came out and saw me doing a combination of late mornings and early afternoons, and my world instantly got much better.  Suddenly I started seeing more tournament downs, I was able to get better sleep.  In short, I started to get a grasp on what I was doing.

So it's now week 4.  I'm feeling much more confident with what I'm doing and I'm starting to actually enjoy myself.  Sure the 6 day work weeks are a grind, and it's still a ton of work, but it's nice to actually be doing what I signed up to be doing.

Of course, there are but 3 weeks left, and I have yet to find a permanent gig.  There are some interesting developments in that regard but I will hold my cards close to my chest for the moment until the picture becomes a bit more clear.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Grind

My first week as a WSOP dealer is in the books.  So, how do I feel?  Well, that runs the gamut.  On the one hand, I am so grateful to be a part of this great event.  This is such a great opportunity to learn and improve, and I have met some truly wonderful dealers who have become mentors, supporters and above all, friends.  If I take nothing else away from this experience, at least I know I have come away with more friends then I came into this with.

I also feel sore, tired, at times frustrated at my lack of experience.  Sitting at a poker table dealing for several hours at a time is grueling.  It might seem from the layperson that I just sit and toss cards at you, but just the act of sitting there, bending, twisting and for me with my lack of experience, intensely focusing on the game is draining.  Couple that with my trying to adjust to life working a job that frequently has me coming home at 3:30 in the morning and having a son that is frequently up at 8 in the morning and by day 3 I was starting to get pretty punchy.  I have a difficult time sleeping already, so when I am woken up at 7:30 or 8 in the morning, it is unlikely I'm going back to sleep so the result is about 3 or 4 hours of sleep at best.  That being said, Melissa's schedule has changed a little bit and I have made a request to my boss to switch to a morning shift because of kid issues.

So anyway, what have I been doing?  Well, day one I pushed into a NLHE event for my first ever down and after 3 hands the floorman came over and broke my table.  So my first ever down of dealing poker was quickly followed by my first ever table break.  This would become a theme.  Next I got moved into a mega-satellite event.  Three tables were set aside for it.  I sat down at the last table, set up everything and.....waited.  And waited...Tables 1 and 2 start playing poker.  I sit.  I'm starting to wonder if I've done something wrong.  Finally I get tapped out and head over to the next table and deal two downs before rolling off the end and into break.  Come back, sit down at my original last table which is now hopping and deal about 15 minutes before floor comes over and breaks my table up.  Back to setting up decks and putting stuff away, and I get shipped to satellites.  I have come to enjoy satellites.  Worked two and scraped a decent toke out of it, then got cut loose.  First day, pretty good.  Spent a lot of time getting to know the break room, but that was a good way to "ease in".

Second day I'm scheduled to show up at 5 instead of 6.  Me and about 30 of my colleagues show up to find out that well, actually the schedule is screwed up and we should have been scheduled for 6.  About a dozen of us get assignments right away and the rest of us chill in the break room until the 6 o'clock meeting.  I choose to go deal satellites and make my way over to that area.... to find a list 14 dealers deep waiting for assignment.  Oh boy.  I mill about for about an hour when the live supervisor rolls in looking for dealers.  She asks for volunteers.  The dozen of us left all sit on our hands and avoid eye contact.  Seeing she's not going to get anyone to volunteer, she points at four of us and off we go to deal live action games...

Now, a little information about live action games.  In live action, there are a few very different things.  First is, I gotta deal with cash.  Paper cash, a dealer bank, rakes.  All of these things are like land mines.  It makes an otherwise easy task of dealing a game more difficult because now you have a dozen things you can screw up, any of which will at best cost you money personally and at worst could cost you your job.  After some gnashing of teeth I push into my first live game, a 1-3 NLHE table.  Phew, at least it's a game I have some experience dealing.  I set about trying to count the well, but I can't make sense out of how the previous dealer set it up, and I've got 10 guys staring at me who want to play poker.  Shit.  Okay, one hundred, four eight, two hundred twenty, wait what are those 5 dollar chips over there... umm, 5, 7... ugh.. Starting over... one hundred, two four si,  screw it.  Shuffle, shuffle, box, shuffle.. Hope my previous dealer didn't just screw me.  Now since I'm so nervous about trying to stay ahead of things that could end my career my mechanics are breaking down.  My pitch sucks, I'm bouncing cards off chips, the button, other players hands.  Jesus, Paul, get a grip!  Oh, rake.. ummm, 4 players in, bets were 5 each, great I gotta make change. Drag a red out, start making change...  Oh, they're ready for the turn card... Tap, burn turn, call the action.  Look down and hey, what's this red chip doing here?  Oh yeah, lets see, I need two bucks, so, oh wait, the flop action!  What's the pot now?  Errr, let me think, there was a bet, a call.....  Damn, river time.  tap burn turn, screw it, red goes to the slide, hope I'm right.

This goes on just like this for the rest of the down.  I am mercifully tapped out on time and jet on to the next table, which is a 1-2 NLHE table.. Phew, no big change there.  This down I'm getting a little better at this and manage to get through the five table, 2 and a half hour push without significant incident.  At the last table there's a reminder to go to table 192 (from table 270, the last table of live action).  I hop up and on my way to the break room I slide by 192 only to discover that its in the high limit area, aka the ubiquitous "snake pit".  I feel like feigning an injury.  Then I realize the table is open face Chinese poker.  Oh, good, I don't have to think.  All I do is pitch cards and collect rake.  Oh, rake?  Time rake.  Crap, what's that?  Checking with a nearby equally not busy dealer I get the skinny on how that works, and head in to the break room for chicken and a pop while I await zero hour, which comes quickly.  I shove into the table, say my greetings and away we go.  Simple.  No problems at all.  Tapout comes a few minutes late and I scoot to the next table.  Same thing, same deal.  Easy.  Only one problem.  One hand of open face Chinese poker can take a little while, so now my tapout is about 10 minutes late, which I really don't care about.  Doesn't bother me.  Move to the next table and sit down and start dealing MORE Chinese poker.  About 5 minutes later the time clerk comes by, eyeballs my table and mentions that time hasn't been taken yet.  Hmmm... That's odd.  Okay, guys.  Time.  the requisite amount of cash shows up and I rack it up.  Clerk comes by and approves it and down it goes into the black hole.  Shuffle shuffle box shuffle, pitch pitch pitch, wait....Do this for about 15 minutes and "DING DING, dealers please collect time".  I am in the middle of a hand, so I don't mention anything.  Time clerk comes by a few minutes later, asks if I've collected time.  Before I get a chance to answer the table goes ape. "No way we're paying time again, we just PAID time, we're not paying it again, go get your supervisor".  Time clerk looks at his notes and states that the last time collected was for the 1am rake, bell just went off for 1:30am, pay up.  They're having none of it.  I meanwhile just KNOW I'm about to get railroaded.  Remarkably, no one is turning their ire to me.  Floor asked if I collected time for 1 am.  "No sir, I wasn't seated here at 1, I got here at 1:10 and learned that time hadn't been collected when the time clerk mentioned it at which time I collected rake".  Back to the players; "you paid your 1am time at 1:20, this is the 1:30 time, please pay time".  Still holding their ground, so floor retreats and orders me to continue dealing, which I happily do.  After a time I get tapped out and find myself pushing into a 7 card stud hi/lo game with a table full of people who look like they've been playing poker longer then I've been alive.  I no sooner start pitching cards to this motley crew when at my previous table arrive the time clerk, two floors and a security person.  I'm half listening but gather then they went back and reviewed the tape.  Indeed, it went down like I said, they missed the 1am rake, which was paid at 1:22, then it was up again at 1:30.  Table responds by everyone leaving.  Meanwhile, I can't seem to get my head around how sloppy these guys are playing stud and mucked someone's up card that was, quite literally, in the middle of the player to his rights discards.  FLOOR!  Oh, the 1 seat was having none of that and made an attempt to dig into the muck cards to retrieve the 4 of diamonds he knew to be the up card (I knew it too, but I wasn't going to tell the table that, or they'd get even more persistent that I just dig into the muck and get the card, a maneuver that would surely see me get yanked for the table and possible my job.  I tell him that under no circumstances am I allowed to go into nor allow anyone to go into the muck.  Now, I'm left handed, so my hand is resting on the muck.  Dude in seat 1 persists, at one point attempting to physically remove my hand from the muck pile and gain access to the cards beneath.  I seriously consider backhanding him for touching me but before I complete my thought the floorman mercifully appears.  I explain what happened, the table agrees the upcard was a 4d, floor person retrieves the card and we play on.  Remarkably, the table became very friendly with me after that.  Guess it's true what the veterans said, if you take command of the table, the table won't try to run you over.  Ran the rest of that without problem, went to a couple more hold'em tables and get tapped out at the break table with instructions to go see my coordinator.  She informs me that I've got a write up about the time thing and go find the floor person.  I go and confer what exactly happened; a conversation that went remarkably easily and the floor was very understanding.  Once the story was straight we both went back to the DC and straightened it out, which still left me with a demerit, but a much less severe one.  C'est le vie.  I survived a full day of dealing live and, apparently, still had a job.  I go home after 9 and a half hours and collapse in a heap for my 4 hours of sleep.

Next day I pick tournaments and push into a NLHE event, which after about 3 hands goes on dinner break for an hour and a half, so I get to babysit an empty table.  An hour of that, off to break, back and deal two downs of actual poker.  Push into the third and immediately notice the next table I'd go do is breaking.  Uh oh.  I look at the player who just got moved to my table with 3 racks of chips and wonder how long those are going to stay out of racks.  Answer came less then 5 minutes later when I'm high carding the table break. Rack dude chuckles.  I shrug and apologize.  After setting everything out and returning the equipment I'm shoved to, you guessed it, live action.  Belly up to the bar and immediately get shipped off to a row of tables.  I arrive to find a plaque talking about 5-10 "Big-O".  Ummmm... I've only ever heard of this game.  Found a dealer, "hey, what's the deal with this "Big-O" nonsense?  Pot limit omaha hi/lo with 5 cards.  Great.  Mind you, by this time I'm so tired I can't think straight.  Now I have to deal POT LIMIT, high/low and 5 cards.  Predictably, I think I was able to read maybe 1 hand the whole thing.  Players were way ahead of me and effectively telling me how to split the pot.  All I wanted to do was get in my car and drive off a bridge drive to my nice comfy bed.  I left the room feeling like I didn't know a goddamn thing about how to deal poker.  In retrospect, I was so tired and worn out, I didn't have a chance.  Mercifully, the next day I was off.  After some conferring with some senior experienced dealers I felt a lot better about my performance.

Tuesday was great.  I dealt satellites all evening long.  Only thing that sucked was the last one I dealt took over 3 hours.  down to 3 players and it turned into a laundromat.  Shuffle-shuffle-box-shuffle, deal, raise, fold, fold, drop deck, shove, button, shuffle-shuffle-box-shuffle, rinse, repeat.  After about a half hour of this they finally decided to chop.  I'm silently thanking the Gods as about 15 minutes prior I got a cramp in my hip which was KILLING me.  Clock out, go home, sleep the sleep of the dead....

for 4 hours.

At least today I was off.  Back at it tomorrow.  In talking with the vets, it seems there a lot more work then there was last year, and far as I can tell we're already running into dealer staffing issues, as everyone is already on 6 day work weeks.  I haven't worked this hard since I was working security, running pizzas, going to school and seeing a girl in Aurora all at the same time!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Start Me Up!

Tomorrow is orientation, finally.  The waiting, as Tom Petty would say, is the hardest part.  While I've been waiting for this whole deal to start, I've been trying to keep busy.  Managed to finish blackjack class and moved on to learning craps.  I thought that would be a good idea, but it turns out there's a lot to remember in dealing craps, especially in terms of mathematics and formulas to make life easier for payoffs.  There are a lot of formulas.  A LOT.  After a couple of days of learning the mechanics of dealing craps we moved on to learning these formulas, and I quickly realized that attempting to learn all of that information might compromise my need to concentrate on remembering all the stuff I need to for poker, so I throttled back on that.  At least the waiting is over now.

Time to put the penguin suit on and get to work!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


So after 5 grueling weeks of some of the most intense instruction I've had to go through, I have accomplished that which I set out to do; I am officially a World Series of Poker dealer.

I have to give a big "thank you" to Kim Smith, Jimmy Sims and Kate Owens for their patience and ability to convey so much information to so many in such a short amount of time.  I had underestimated how much there is to know to be a dealer in the WSOP and they were able to give us everything we needed to succeed.

So now I wait until the festivities start!  I'm just anxious to get back to work.  I've been unemployed now for nearly 6 months, and it's driving me insane.

Going to take care of some logistics early next week and then just watching the days go by until I can get to it!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

My Brain On Pot (Limit)

So I'm closing in on the finish line.  The last three weeks has been a whirlwind for me.  So much information to process, so many things to learn.  I don't remember dispatch school being this challenging!  One of the things that really had me concerned was learning how to deal a pot limit game.  For those that don't know, pot limit means that a player can bet a maximum of what is already in the pot.  This sounds relatively easy on the surface, but consider that while I'm trying to calculate what a pot bet would be, I have to remember what was already in the pot, action before it, and oh yeah, I still have to actually be a dealer!  When the time finally came, I found that I was better at it then I thought I would be.  Even more surprising, everyone seemed to be having issues, including the instructors.  It's not easy!  :)

Next week will be auditions.  I'm nervous, but I feel pretty confident, and I suppose that's the most important thing.  Everyone will make mistakes, it's how you handle recovering from them that separates you from others.

As I've been going on with the poker, I have also been learning to deal blackjack.  Progress with that has been slower as my priority has been learning poker, but that is also coming close to audition time.  Once I'm done with that, I'll move on to learning craps, which I'm sure is going to take more time.  Progress with that might slow dramatically once the World Series starts depending on how many hours I get working there, but it is important that I get that finished and polished by the time I'm looking for a job, as I already have what amounts to an invitation to audition when I'm done with my commitment to the WSOP.

More to come soon!  Sorry this one was a little scattershot.  Lots of things distracting me around here, so I have to keep starting and stopping!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Shuffle Up and Learn To Deal

So tomorrow evening I start the WSOP dealers school.  I am a little nervous, but I think my week of blackjack instruction has made me much more comfortable handling cards and chips.  Unfortunately, I have to now switch gears in my head and start thinking poker and not blackjack!  I'll get it sorted soon enough, though.  I have no real idea how many dealers are actually going to be dealing the WSOP.  In 2009 they actually had a shortage of dealers for a portion of the events, so hopefully this translates into more work for me.

Going to be interesting trying to balance two schools at once, especially once Melissa starts working, but at least the blackjack/craps school is ultra-flexible about what days I come in.  It's basically a "show up when you want" sort of deal.  The place was a zoo for most of the week last week.  It appears a bunch of casinos have gone on a hiring spree for "party pit" girls.  Party Pit girls are basically model level ladies who get stationed in high traffic areas with the idea to attract horny dudes (or ladies, if that's their tilt) over to play their blackjack tables that pay 1 to 1 on blackjacks, making it an astonishingly BAD deal for the players.  Ostensibly the concept is that the player won't care cuz there's boobs in his face.  For this, the ladies apparently make quite the coin.  I heard something on the order of $350 a day guaranteed minimum.  Anyway, the school is crawling with these ladies, all taking a cram course in blackjack dealing.  That, along with the craps teaching (which is loud) and the poker instruction (which is also loud and sometimes abrasive... the instructor is kind of a Sergeant), and you've got yourself a pretty authentic off strip casino experience, minus the blue haze.  The only irritating thing is fighting to get a chance to deal some.  Friday was a welcome relief.  The blackjack instructor there on Thursdays and Fridays is right up my ally and I've learned a ton from him.  He was there on Friday and the room was MUCH less crowded on account of no craps or poker classes and half at least of the party pit girls taking the day off.

Tomorrow I'll go in in the morning for some more blackjack goodness, then I FINALLY get to see my son.  It'll be good to get the family back together.  Now all that remains is to get my stuff!

When we contracted PODS to store and ship our stuff, part of the conversation was how long it was going to take to deliver all of our stuff to Las Vegas.  Somehow we got the quote of "two or three days".  Yeah, not so much.  Two or three days is what it would take to get the stuff from the Las Vegas storage facility to our front door.  What they neglected to mention was the 7 days it would take to truck the stuff from Illinois to Nevada, so instead of 2 or 3 days, it's gonna be 10 days.  Our stuff arrives on the 12th.  Weee.  So we've been on cheap-ass air mattresses for the last few days.  My neck is killing me from the equally cheap-ass pillows we bought.  Just gotta get through this next week.

I did manage to climb my first rock though!  I'm going to have a lot of fun exploring this new land!