|Is the dealer supposed to run the game, or should he just "deliver the mail" and let the game run itself? More specifically, should the dealer intervene when a rule is broken, or sometimes leave it up to the players to request his intervention? I have written a number of columns criticizing dealers who get too active when they are dealing to experienced players. A veteran does not need to be informed that the player to the the left of the button acts first, that his lone opponent has checked and thus the action is now on him, and so on. I can see how someone might get the idea from some of my columns that I believe that all the dealer is supposed to do is deal the cards, but this would be incorrect.|
I believe that part of the dealer's job is to ensure that the players follow the rules. Let me give you an example of what I mean.
Suppose that a player makes an obvious string-raise, putting
in the amount of the call, and then without saying anything,
reaching back into his stack to make a raise. Should the
dealer call attention to the infraction or leave it up to
the opponent to enforce the law? I think the dealer has a
responsibility to call attention to the string-raise rather
than leave it up to the opponent to request that the raise
be taken back.
The main reason that some cardrooms instruct the dealer to leave it up to the opponent is that he might be welcoming the raise, and be unhappy that the dealer said anything. Even if the cardroom does not have a set policy on this matter, a lot of dealers prefer not to speak up unless requested. The motivation for the dealer to be silent is simply not to offend anyone. The player who string-bet will not be upset if the dealer is silent, nor, perhaps, will the opponent (who now has an option), so why chance antagonizing anyone?
To see why I think the dealer should speak up right away, we should look at the purpose of the string-raise rule and see why it is broken. The purpose of the rule is to prevent a player from making a call, seeing his opponent's reaction, and then changing the call to a raise. But if you look at why a string-raise actually occurs, it nearly every time is because a rookie player is unfamiliar with the rules of raising. I start with the view that such players are to be nurtured and protected. No, you should not let them break the rules, but neither should you give an opponent of such a player the choice of whether or not to accept the rule violation. This choice for the opponent is clearly detrimental to the new player. Furthermore, we want the new player to be aware of the rules as soon as possible, and to abide by them. So, I believe the dealer should correct a string-raise without waiting to see if the violator has run into a big hand that will be delighted to be raised.
Here is a letter that I recently received concerning pot-limit poker dealing procedure (the letter has been slightly edited and condensed). Should the dealer call attention to an overbet of the pot size or wait for a player to speak up?
"There has been a rule change in the local cardroom where I play, and I would like your opinion on it. The room has spread pot-limit poker for more than a year at blinds of $1-$2, $2-$5, $5-$10, and sometimes higher. We have always 'rounded up,' so that the pot size is easier to keep track of. Previously, the dealers would not allow players to overbet the pot. For example, if there was $225 in the pot and a player acted by saying 'bet' and pushed out an amount more than the pot, the dealer would act by either stating that there was only $225 in the pot, and this was only a pot bet, or physically removing the 'excess' chips from the player's bet and pushing them back to him. In other words, the dealers were very active in controlling the size of the bets. (However, the dealers would not announce the size of the pot unless asked.)
"The new rule is that dealers are not to speak up or act when there is an overbet unless a player who is active in the hand (still has cards) asks that the overbet be corrected to a pot-sized bet. If there is an overbet and a player acts behind the first bettor by calling or raising, the size of the overbet is the action, and will not be reduced to pot-sized action.
"One or more of the players in the big games ($5-$10 and higher) asked for and received this change. Most of the players have asked cardroom management to go back to the old system, but management stands firm with this change. The explanation that we have received is, 'This is the industry standard; that's the way the big games in America are played.'
"I do not like this, and am concerned that it could result in new players in the $1-$2 and $2-$5 games having a bad experience. For example, there is $125 in the pot, and we have a flop. The first player has $650 in chips and announces 'all in' without actually pushing his chips out. An inexperienced player who's not familiar with this rule could think the first player had less than a pot-sized bet or that it was only a pot-sized bet (after all, it is pot-limit) and call, not realizing that he was calling $650 instead of a max of $125.
"One idea that has been proposed is to leave the new rule in effect for $5-$10 and higher games, but go back to the old rule for the $1-$2 and $2-$5 games. What do you think?"
The first thing I did in answering this well-written e-mail was to give a thumbs down to using one rule in the smaller games and another in the larger games. This makes it harder on the dealers, and also harder on players who sometimes play for small stakes and other times play in the bigger games.
The second thing I did was point out that the rules used in the big pot-limit game with Doyle Brunson, Chip Reese, Lyle Berman, and others, in which the dealers are instructed to keep quiet, should not be considered a model for regular cardroom pot-limit games. Letting the players run their game seems reasonable when the best players in the world get together on the equivalent of another planet to duel. Here on earth, we need rules for earthlings.
I endorse cardrooms instructing their dealers to call down overbets of the pot size in both heads-up and multihanded pots. If a limit hold'em dealer sees a bet of $40 on the flop in a $20-$40 game, he immediately calls it down to $20. I think the same principle holds true in pot-limit. The rules of pot-limit state that you cannot bet more than the amount in the pot. The dealer is supposed to enforce that rule without waiting to see whether the opponent is happy or unhappy with the overbet.
Here is a personal reason why I like to see the dealer enforcing the rules. Everyone who plays pot-limit Omaha with me knows that I am aware of the amount of money in the pot. (The same holds true of most other professional pot-limit players.) If I face an overbet of the pot size and the dealer does not do his job, I have two alternatives. I can let the bet stand, giving away information about the strength of my hand, or I can call the bet down, giving away information about the strength of my hand. Why should I be forced to give out information about my hand that my opponent is not entitled to get, just because the dealer has abdicated his responsibility of enforcing the rules? That dealer is not doing me any favor by leaving me the job of calling down an overbet.
Cardrooms, I suggest that you instruct your dealers that part of their job is making sure the game of poker is played according to the rules.