Upon the arrival of my 21st birthday, I had already fallen in love with the game of poker and had become totally consumed by the game. It seemed logical to take a job as a poker dealer, allowing me to constantly challenge myself, keep myself interested in my work, and have fun while earning a living. I always knew that a 9-to-5 desk job environment would not be for me, because if I am not fully engaged and interested in what I am doing, I am completely useless and unproductive. I needed something with some action, something that would vary from day to day, and dealing poker seemed to be the perfect fit, so I figured I would give it a shot.
When I first started, I had zero experience and was often quite nervous at work. The perfectionist in me strived to avoid making any mistakes on the job. Nonetheless, I fumbled about at the tables for a couple of weeks, but quickly caught on, with the help of the players (yelling and screaming) and my co-workers. I found my niche, and within a month, I was flinging the cards around with ease. Once I got comfortable with all the rules and procedures, and got past the jittery phase, dealing became a great teacher, and the tables were where I went to school. At first, I noticed myself paying close attention to a couple of regular players who were consistently winning. I constantly questioned myself while I was dealing to these players. “Why do they win all the time?” I studied them closely. Then, I studied some of the losing players. I wondered, “What are they doing wrong?” Every night when my shift concluded, I took my observations and formed conclusions and concocted theories. Armed with these newly learned lessons, I hit the tables like a diligent student doing his homework.
As a dealer, I was able to watch hand after hand for eight hours a day. I witnessed all kinds of things. I paid close attention to each player in every hand that I dealt, and tried to read the players as if I were playing in the game myself. A continuous loop of questions went through my mind during every single hand that I dealt. “What would I do in this situation? What cards does he hold? Why did he play it that way?” Asking myself these things and analyzing the game and the players became second nature. I soaked up all the information that my brain could handle, and as soon as I punched out, I went straight to the poker room to play.
Many players ask me to recommend a book for them to read about poker, but I really haven’t the slightest idea of what I should tell them. Personally, I have never read a single page of any poker book. I did all of my learning at the tables. First, I concentrated on learning hand values. How often was one pair winning? How likely was it for two pair to win a pot I was dealing? These types of things were very easy for me to pick up on while dealing, because of the sheer number of hands I had the opportunity to observe. Next, I began taking note of patterns. Most of these patterns can take years of experience to recognize, but being a dealer gave me all of those years of experience in a relatively short span of time. The types of situs poker patterns I looked for were vast and varied. For example, some of the easy and more obvious patterns to spot were: raising from under the gun, raising from the button, and check-raising on the flop, to name just a few. I refer to these things as “patterns” because although they can mean a variety of different things depending on the specific circumstances, at the very least, they can provide a player an immediate clue as to what his opponent is holding. In my opinion, poker is composed of these patterns, and success can be determined by a player’s ability to spot the pattern, evaluate it, and utilize it to his advantage. A successful player is constantly asking himself, “Does this pattern hold true when coming from this player in this situation? How likely is it that this player fits this pattern?” Then, he uses the knowledge and experience he has acquired to make an informed decision.
While dealing, I also had ample time to learn all the rules of each and every type of poker game. When I refer to rules, I don’t just mean the basics of how to play the game; I mean all of the obscure and rarely known and applied rules. This is the kind of information that gives a player a slight edge and advantage at some point, somewhere down the road, in a very specific and particular situation. It may never be useful, but there is the chance that it will be the reason for winning a crucial hand. Being extremely familiar with each and every rule is an essential ingredient to being a great player.
There are endless other things that I learned and taught myself during my two-year stint as a dealer. As I think back about those things, many of which seemed insignificant and useless at the time, I realize that they are, in fact, priceless and a huge reason for my success. Having the opportunity to be exposed to so much poker in such a short amount of time gave me the ability to feel completely relaxed when I sit down to play. I’ve seen virtually every situation, every type of player, and every type of hand that I may be confronted with at the table. Contrary to popular belief, poker is quite an easy game through the eyes of a dealer! spades