How to Deal in Texas Holdem
Though much of this page sounds like a how to play Texas holdem page, it goes beyond this. You're getting ready to learn how to deal a Texas holdem game and how to run the game as well.
If you want to be a competent holdem dealer you need to know how to run a game in addition to how to deal the cards. Most players know how to deal cards, but they often don't understand what it takes to be a competent dealer.
Most poker dealers make a small hourly wage and make most of their income based on tips. Good dealers run a game with little or no mistakes and understand that the more hands they can deal per hour the more they stand to make in tips.
Before Each Deal
Before each hand is dealt you need to prepare for the hand. If you're opening a new table you need to determine which player gets to start on the button. The button is the player who acts in the dealer position, or last on each betting round after the first one.
The dealer or button position is designated by a white disk that says dealer on it. As the actual dealer you need to make sure the dealer button is moved one place to the left after each deal. The two blinds also move to the left one place after each hand and you need to make sure the players place the correct amount out for each of the blinds.
The blind levels are set by the house and the small blind is usually half the big blind. In a limit Texas holdem game the big blind is the same amount as the lower betting limit and the small blind is half the big blind.
To determine which player is awarded the button when opening a new table you shuffle a deck of cards and deal one card face up to each player starting with the player to your immediate left. The player who gets the highest card is awarded the dealer button. If two or more players tie for the highest card the first one to your left who tied is the dealer.
You need to make sure no one has cards remaining from the last hand and you need to either hand shuffle the cards or place the deck in an automatic shuffler and retrieve a freshly shuffled deck from the machine.
Occasionally the player to the immediate left of the big blind places a bet of twice the big blind and announces it as a straddle. This acts as a type of third blind and isn't legal in all card rooms.
Before the deal is the time you can make change for players and welcome new players to the game. Depending on the house rules, a new player is given the choice to wait until their big blind or post an amount equal to the big blind and get dealt into the current hand. A few poker rooms let you start playing immediately without posting a bet.
Once you have all of the housekeeping things taken care of you move to the part of each hand where you deal the cards. It's important to protect the cards in a way where players can't see any of the card values when you shuffle or deal. It's easy to get sloppy and start lofting the cards as you deal them.
You also need to watch flashing the value of the bottom card. Many poker rooms use a cut card to cover the bottom card of the deck.
Before the Flop
Each hand starts with dealing a single card face down to the player in the small blind. If the player supposed to be in the small blind has left you deal the first card to the first active player to the left of the button. You then continue dealing one card face down to each active player to the left. This continues until each player has received two face down cards.
Once all of the cards have been dealt the first player to the left of the big blind is the first to act. You may point to this player if it doesn't look like they're paying attention. You can also say the action is on you as you point.
In the first betting round the players call the big blind, fold, or raise. Betting action continues to the left until everyone has called the last highest bet. In an un-raised pot the action ends with the big blind. As players fold they're supposed to slide their cards face down to you and you put them in a pile called the muck. It's important to protect these cards like the deck you're dealing from so no one can see the value of them.
Once all of the betting action has been completed before the flop you deal the flop. The top card on the deck goes into the muck. The muck is the name used for the discard pile. This is called a burn card.
Then you take the next three cards and place them face up in the center of the table. This is called the flop and they're the first three of five total community cards.
The first remaining player to the left of the button is the first to act on the flop. They can check or bet. Play continues to the left. If there's been a bet the next player can fold, call, or raise. Play continues until all of the remaining players have called the last highest raise. When no one bets, each player may check. If all players check, play continues to the turn.
After the flop you burn another card and turn one card face up beside the flop. This is the fourth of five community cards.
The betting is conducted the same as after the flop except in a limit game the bets on the turn and river are at the higher limit.
After all of the betting has been completed on the turn you move on to the river.
A final card is burnt and the final community card is placed face up beside the other four cards.
The betting round is conducted the same as the turn.
After all of the betting has been completed the remaining players turn over their cards to see who wins the hand. If a bet and call was made, the person who was called is the first to show their hand. Then hands are revealed to the left until everyone has folded or shown their hand.
In most poker rooms a player doesn't have to show her hand if she will lose. Instead of turning over her cards after seeing her opponent's hand she can simply throw her cards in face down, surrendering her hand. The house rules cover this possibility, but this is the normal way to handle it.
Don't ever look at cards thrown in from a player. Simply put them in the muck and continue with the hand. Unless it's covered in the house rules, other players may not see the discards either.
If the river has no betting action the first player to the left of the button remaining in the hand is the first to turn her cards face up. Play continues the left.
Once the players show their cards you must look at each hand and determine the winner. Never take a player's word for the strength of their hand. Players make mistakes all of the time and if you try to award the pot to the wrong player it can get ugly quickly.
As you determine the winning hand slide the community cards forward that are used with the winning player's hole cards to form the winning hand so all of the players can clearly see which cards are used to form the hand. You should also announce the winning hand. This gives the other players the chance to ask for an explanation or point out a possible error.
At the End of the Hand
After the showdown at the end of the hand you give the money in the pot to the player who won. At some point in the hand you need to collect the rake from the pot if you're dealing in a room that takes rake.
Most Texas holdem dealers collect the rake as money is being put into the pot, but you may be able to do it toward the end of the hand. Each poker room has their own house rules concerning rake so your method depends somewhat on these rules.
Here's an example:
The poker room where you're dealing has a policy that they rake each hand 10% up to a maximum of $5 and if there's no flop there's no rake collected. To simplify your rake collection in this case you don't worry about it until after the flop. Once you deal the flop and all betting has been completed on the flop make a quick mental calculation and take roughly 10% from the pot and place it beside the rake drop box.
Don't drop the rake in the box yet unless the pot has reached at least $50. If the pot is at least $50 it's simple. Just take $5 and drop it in the rake box and you're finished with the rake for the hand.
If the pot is lower than $50 you have a few dollars in rake. You may need to make change in the pot to be able to do this. If the pot has $20 in it, put five $1 chips in for a $5 chip, then take $2 out for the rake.
When $20 more goes into the pot on the turn take $2 more out and place it with the first $2 you took for the rake. When the pot finally moves past the $50 mark put the $4 you've collected back into the pot and take out a $5 chip and drop it for the rake.
You have to be able to juggle multiple things while dealing Texas holdem without making any mistakes, but with a little practice you can quickly become a pro.
Most players won't surrender their cards until you give them the pot when they win. This is fine, but you have to remember to collect the cards after giving them the pot.
Without players you wouldn't have a job as a dealer. Of course you wouldn't have the constant headaches that players create either, so some days your choice of the two things may be a tossup.
The majority of Texas holdem players are polite and fairly easy to deal with, but a few bad apples can threaten an entire game. You'll find players who're rude, mean, abusive, try to cheat, drunk, and obnoxious.
The sooner you're able to learn how to deal with each type of player the better. And while you're learning how to deal with problem players you have to remember that the majority of your income comes from players giving you money.
This doesn't mean you should go soft on trouble players in hopes they give you tips. Some players will tip you more when you handle other problem players quickly and effectively. Most players want a quiet straightforward game without a bunch of drama.
It's difficult to know exactly how to handle all of the possible situations that arise at the tables because you never know what to expect. But once you start handling things in a professional manner you'll start getting a reputation with players. Do everything you can to make this a good reputation. If the players like you and feel you run a good game you'll earn more in tips.
Some poker players enjoy stirring the pot and try to make other players mad or upset to throw them off their game. Most of the time you need to ignore this and keep the game moving. But sometimes players cross the line. You need to quickly and decisively handle every situation that crosses the line.
Racial slurs and threats are two that demand immediate attention. Give a stern warning based on the policy of the room where you're dealing and if the players refuse to do what they're told get the floor personnel and / or security involved.
You never win when you react to a player abusing you. But when you take it with a smile, most of the time other players will come to your aid as long as you're doing a good job. Even if no other players speak up, many will slip you an extra dollar or two on their next tip.
It can be hard to deal with problem players, but they don't have to make your dealing experience negative unless you let them.
Some players never tip and there's nothing that says they have to. While many dealers take this personally, you have to view these players as the cost of doing business. You need enough players to run a game and even if a couple of the players don't tip they still help you earn from the other players.
Focus on providing the best possible gaming experience for the players at the fastest possible pace without making mistakes and you should be able to earn a decent amount of tips.
If you catch players cheating you need to get the floor involved immediately. But if you only suspect a player or players of cheating you need to keep your mouth shut and keep the game moving. You can let the floor know your suspicions between shifts at the table but don't stop the game unless you have proof or are 100% sure. Most cheats will deny it no matter what so you must be prepared to defend any accusation you make.
Dealing Texas holdem can be a rewarding occupation. The key is being able to juggle the different responsibilities while keeping the game running quickly and smoothly. No one's perfect, but as you gain experience and practice your skills you should be able to build a good reputation with the regular players, which leads to more tips.