Dealin' Ain't Easy!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
What do you do in the following situation:
You are dealing a charity poker tournament with a variety of mostly clueless players, a smattering of pros, a professional baseball player, and a celebrity chef. You are told to take over dealing one of the last four tables left. In the 3 seat, former Phillies pitcher Ricky Bottalico is all-in. He has also been drinking. Everyone has. It's been a fun time for the most part. After all, it's for charity.
Mr. Bottalico gets called in two spots, one of which over-pushed and received the over-call. The flop is already out, A55. As the all-ins are announced, someone in the faceless crowd yells, "GET PHIL HELLMUTH! WE HAVE TWO ALL-INS! HOLD THE ACTION!" You comply and wait. One minute, two minutes. Bottalico, rightfully anxious to see the turn and river (not to mention his opponents' cards which have yet to be turned up), looks you right in the eye and barks, "Deal the cards, man!" He is now surly. The crowd around the table is three-people thick. Somewhere around minute three of sitting around holding a deck and doing little else, Mr. Hellmuth walks up to the table. He asks that the players show their cards. He then announces the hands: AJc for the biggest stack in the hand. Q5o for the guy who pushed all-in after Bottalico. J4o for Bottalico. He looks annoyed and disgusted and attempts to muck his hand. Someone pushes his cards back to him. You are asked to deal the cards. And you do...Xc, Xc. Someone announces that the three of a kind wins. Someone else yells that the AJc went runner runner flush. There is a small pop from the audience. Phil Hellmuth looks you in the eyes, standing tall over the table where you are sitting, and says this, gesturing to the cards, in an annoyed voice: "Slow down man. You gotta slow down. If you dealt that slower, the crowd really would've popped for the river card." He looks angry and disgusted on one hand, but on the other hand, Mr. Bottalico was happy to be finally out of his misery and has stopped shooting daggers at you with his eyes. What do you do?
If you are me, you say, "My apologies, Phil," and then you go about your business.
That was one of the highlights of the night. It was the only "stressful" period of dealing I had experienced for the event last night, but it didn't bother me at all. In fact, when I say, "highlight", I mean it. There was something rather enjoyable about getting the ire of Mr. Hellmuth.
That's just one moment from last night's charity event organized (at least in part...I don't know much of the behind the scenes details) by Riggstad, poker blogger, Riverchasers owner, and all-around good guy. When Riggs mentioned that he was running a $5000 buy-in poker tournament for charity in NYC with poker pros to raise money for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, I had one thing to ask of him: "Dude, if there is any way you can get me in the door, that would be awesome. I'd do anything you want. You need dealers?"
And hence, Riggs was kind enough to extend an invitation. I would be operating as a dealer, something I had never done professionally or semi-professionally in any capacity. But dealing is just natural to me. I'm an aggressive, A-personality type guy, and when I'm at a homegame, I'm more than happy to take the deck and deal for the evening.
As the event neared, Riggs and Griff, his buddy who was also helping out, needed more dealers. I had just the guys, Matty Ebs, who used to deal in underground poker rooms, and Robbie Hole, who deals for a party company on weekends. Both guys were happy to deal, mostly for the same reasons I was. This was a rare opportunity to potentially deal to some big name players and otherwise attend an event that none of us could afford. SCORE!
With my crew already at the venue, I strolled in at 6pm, a good hour after everyone was supposed to arrive. In my day job, I'm an attorney, so I had already spent 9 hours working on various different lawsuits. I was mildly tired, mostly because I realized that I had another full work day ahead of me. But when I entered the room, a large open ballroom with a dozen or so poker tables, sushi and other dishes laid out at the sides of the room, a DJ playing tunes, and a couple of bars, I was invigorated.
The beginning of the night was fairly slow. I got dressed in my tuxedo shirt and accoutrements and hung out with the other dealers. I was under the impression that they were mostly from the Borgata, but once I saw some familair faces from the Bash, I learned that there were only two Borg dealers in the bunch. The rest were rank amatuers, like myself.
The poker tables were already set up, 12-13 in total, donated for the event by the Borgata, as was apparent by the Borg logos. Each dealer grabbed a table. I started with the 12th table, since I figured it was in the back and might break first. I was just as interested in the experience as dealing, so if I broke early, I could hang around and just soak up the atmosphere. As I waited, several different organizers began to circulate info on what celebrity players were sitting where. At my table was a Philadelphia Phillies pitcher whose name I don't rightly remember. I'll probably add it later. I didn't know the guy from a hole in the wall, since I don't care much for baseball or Philadelphia, so I offered up my table to the other PA-based dealers. It was taken quickly and I was moved to Table 2, where the celebrity player was originally supposed to be the head of the hospital. Not quite a prime time player, but ultimately, even that didn't work out. I think I was the only table without any celebs sitting, even though I was told several times that Hellmuth would be at my table. I had mixed emotions about that prospect, but I was mostly excited. Alas, it was not meant to be.
As the event started, I took my seat and began teaching some of the early arrivals about poker. At my table, there was probably one guy with a working knowledge of the game and one guy who thought he knew the game. The others had no idea, so the tutorial was highly necessary. It's interesting teaching poker to newbies. There is a lot of thought we put into the game as regular players, so teaching a newbie the game in 10 minutes is sorta a lesson in editing. You can't teach them everything, so I just focused on the basics.
Meanwhile, I kept my eyes moving around the room. By far, one of the coolest things was seeing Phil Ivey up close. He and Annie Duke were two of the three poker celebs on hand, with Hellmuth as the third, taking hosting duties for the tourneys. I know a lot about Ivey from TV, websites, and the like, so just seeing him across the room was a bit exciting. I'm not a star-fucker though, and I was "working" so I made no effort to engage him in conversation. He was there for the guests, not for me.
Beth Shak was also floating around. I had never seen or really heard of Beth Shak before, but let me tell you first hand that she is one fine piece of ass (Mrs. Shak, I mean that in the nicest way possible). I mean, F-iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii-ne. Her picture, right, really does not do her justice. Later, I would get to deal to her husband, Dan Shak, photo below, and if you saw the two of them next to each other, you'd probably guess that he was her accountant, lawyer, or, well, accountant before you'd think they were an item. A man after my own heart. As the Rooster will attest, wifey Kim is WAY out of my league. As opposed to Beth, Dan is a bit more humble looking, but no less friendly. He sat at my table during the tournament for a while and he was friendly the entire time.
Eventually, the announcements began with a thank you speech from a couple of CHOP officials. Then they called up Hellmuth, "Regarded as the best poker player alive." When he took the mic, he walked over to Phil Ivey and asked, "Did you hear that, Phil? I'm the best player alive." Ivey responded: "She must not watch a lot of poker."
My first table was actually a lot of fun, particularly for an inexperienced dealer like myself who sees himself more as a player than a dealer. Most of the time, I was directing the action. The most common play at the table was the min-bet on EVERY STREET, not to mention a lot of calls. Players refused to raise preflop, even with AA and QQ, causing those hands to go down in flames.
I coached my table as much as possible. After all, I actually had real money on this event. Not one to sit on the sidelines, I organized a couple of other dealers into a prop bet. Everyone put $10 into the pot and if one of our starting table players won the event, the dealer from that starting table won the pot. No one won, since we didn't have every dealer in on the bet, so eventually everyone got their money back from the pot. But at least one of my students, who had never played poker before in her life, made it to 5th place out of 110 in the event.
While I was giving my lessons, I saw a few familiar faces in the crowd. Those would be Mary, Derek and Joaquin, who all got into the event without necessarily having to work it. AlCantHang, meanwhile, was manning the BuddyDankRadio live broadcast. Lucky guys, I thought, at first, but when I had my first break, I found myself itching to get back to dealing. I love poker and all that poker around me was too much. I just couldn't sit back and watch. At least when I was dealing, I was actively engaged in the game.
Overall, the players were very friendly. I didn't have any real problems at all, save for one issue involving min-re-raises. One player, a surly gent with grey hair, a sharp looking sports coat, and the speed of a well-seasoned drunk, raised to 3,000 with blinds of 500/1000. He was a transplant from another table, as no one from my table would raise more than the min. A late position player, the only guy from my original table with half a clue, pushed all-in for $7,400. The action got around to one other gent, who raised to $10,000. See the problem? Any raise has to be equal to or greater than the raise before it, so the raise to $7,400 was an addition $4,400. At first, the original bettor protested that the $10k guy couldn't pull back his bet. I explained that I had it under control as I tried to work out the math. Dan Shak chimed in, and started to assist, backing up the first bettor. Finally, though, Shak caught up to what was happening and announced, "Okay, he has to raise to a minimum of $11,800." Of course, I said the same thing about 1 minute before him, but people actually listened to Shak. It was a bit of an annoyance, but it taught me a lesson. Being a dealer can be a real pain in the ass. People (and here, I mean the original bettor) can easily treat dealers like know-nothing servants. It was absurd that this guy thought that the $10k bet was ok, and yet I, the dealer(!), didn't know what I was doing. Once Shak chimed in, though, Shak was right. I wasn't. Shak was. That said, I thanked Shak for stepping in and backing me up, and went back to dealing. And for what it is worth, the original bettor didn't really give me much trouble overall. This one hand just got a bit too confusing for him.
As the night wore on, I got a chance to sub for my buddy Robbie Hole. He had been dealing at Bobby Flay's table all night. Flay looked really sullen to me. He was staring away from the table a decent amount. I think he was trying to actually win the damn event, moreso than most, and had a good grasp on the game. He was cordial at the table, although in my short stint, he didn't play a single hand. Eventually, I saw Rob coming back from his break and I called him over. The table LOVED him, and seemed disappointed that he left. Aside from Flay, the table was uproariously drunk and rowdy. Whereas I had the table of earnest know-nothing players who were learning the game, he had the table of partying know-nothing players, enjoying a few cocktails. One chick even pinched my ass before I turned around. She was mortified, thinking I was Rob. That Rob is one smoove operator. (Side note: The same chick was eventually found literally passed out on the floor behind one of the buffet tables.)
After Rob took over, I returned to my original table until it broke. I then had some time to just relax. I had covertly been drinking some rum and coke (the official mixed drink of High on Poker) since it could pass for soda to the guests. I wasn't getting drunk, as I wanted to be respectful and responsible, but a few stiff cocktails were nice. That's another thing I learned about being in the service industry for a night; the bar tenders were more than willing to hook us up with strong drinks in a sense of "We are the only non-rich people in the room" comraderie.
This was when I was tapped into the Bottaglia table and had the hand that openned up this post. After that hand, we went on immediate break, during which time, I called over another dealer to take over. I was on a bit of dealer tilt and had my fill for the night. As the clock ticked on, players were getting increasingly irritable. It may've been booze or it may've been the escalating pressure of tournament poker. Whatever it was, my turn as a poker dealer was officially over, as far as I was concerned.
The rest of the night was unexciting. The tournament lasted until after 12:30 am. Riggs was nice enough to let me and my buds cut out at 12:30, though. Much appreciated. Overall, it was a great experience. I got to see some poker pros up close and experience something I normally would not, a high-buy-in charity event complete with celebrity players. Matty Ebs even scored two of the items from the silent auction, a tad ironic since there were only about 7 items and one of the working dealers won two. Robbie Hole, meanwhile, got a sweet Ace of Spades signed by Mr. Hellmuth himself.
A big thanks to Riggs for letting me and my friends deal. From my vantage, it was a great event. I'll also give props to the dealers, generally. The PA crew are a bunch of easy-to-get-along-with guys, so it was a good group to work with.
After the event, Hole and I returned to my apartment, where he planned to crash for the night. Before hitting the sack, though, we sat up and talked for a good 30 minutes about the event. We were like two overexcited school girls after an NKOTB concert. The whole experience was just so surreal. It's right up there with the time I got drunk on wine with Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor while in an Irish castle at 10pm in bright daylight. But that's a whole other story.
Until next time, make mine poker!
posted by Jordan @ 9:20 AM,
- At 6:03 PM, Champ said...
Sweet! nice trip report, really enjoyed the read.
- At 9:17 PM, Katitude said...
Thanks for letting me live vicariously - that sounds so HAWESOME.
So fucking jealous *grin
- At 3:13 AM, BWoP said...
OMG NKOTB was my very first concert. Sounds like an awesome night :-)
- At 4:56 AM, $mokkee said...
i always thought Dan was Beth's dad. wudda lucky fuck
btw-shoulda asked Hellmuth how it felt to have his record broken this week. haha fuck that guy
- At 8:32 AM, Mary said...
On the blog Al was updating for the tourney there's an interview with Hellmuth in which his broken record was discussed:
- At 12:25 PM, NewinNov said...
Is that a picture of you? Funny, somehow I expected you looked different. You do have the bored look of a regular dealer. You look like you've been dealing for the past 12 years.
- At 1:25 PM, Instant Tragedy said...
And you can tell your kids "and I told Hellmuth to shove it". :-)
Hoping you are doing great.
- At 6:02 AM, KenP said...
The straw poll concludes that we'd have preferred a picture of Wifey Kim. One of those with a staple through the navel. But, we'll have to make do.
- At 12:07 AM, Dr. Pauly said...
Nice work. Dig the tux.
- At 2:38 PM, MattyEbs said...
Never heard anything about those auction items...perhaps I did not win
good times thanks for letting me be a part of it