Casino Poker for Beginners: Get to Know Poker Room Personnel, Part 2
Ed. note: For those who might have missed it before, we're reprising Robert Woolley's series of articles for poker players who are new to live poker. The series is great for newcomers, and likely useful as well to those with experience playing in casinos and poker rooms.
In my last "Casino Poker for Beginners" article, I started introducing you to the various employees you'll meet in a casino poker room — or, more accurately, the various roles you'll see being performed by the employees, since tasks may be combined in all sorts of ways, depending on the size and staffing of the room.
Roles covered in the previous article included the brush, the cashier, chip runners, cocktail waitresses, the dealers, and the floor.
Let's finish up that list:
This is the person (or people, in bigger rooms) assigned to greet customers, explain what games and stakes are available, manage the waiting list (either manually or electronically), answer the telephone, and so on. As mentioned previously, in small rooms this person often will also serve as cashier.
I ran my first draft of this article past a friend who has worked every job in several poker rooms, to see if I had missed anything. He noted of the front desk position, "They usually have the authority to do one of the most important roles in the poker room: call maintenance to get the temperature adjusted. Players want it warmer, dealers want it colder, and the hostess usually gets to try to balance it all out."
Poker Room Manager
As you would probably guess, this is the person in charge of the whole shebang. This person's job is to try to keep everybody happy — players, dealers, and his own bosses in the casino management structure.
If the poker room is not profitable, or not profitable enough, this is the person who gets called on the carpet about it, and possibly fired. The poker room manager is responsible for scheduling, training, and disciplining employees; security and accounting procedures; keeping the house rule book up-to-date; establishing tournament schedules and structures; promoting the room; responding to player's complaints; and a hundred other things.
The largest poker rooms will have a full-time tournament director who oversees all tournament activities, under the ultimate direction of the room manager. Most rooms, however, will just have a floor person act as the "TD" for a given tournament.
In addition to settling any rules disputes at the table, this person will be in charge of making announcements, combining tables as players bust out, calculating the payouts, paying the winners (in chips, never in cash), facilitating any deals players may want to make, and other duties related to the staging of tournaments.
I saved this one for last because these people are not really poker room personnel — they are a separate department within the casino, who come to the poker room only when needed.
I hope that you'll never see these guys because a poker room employee has decided you have become so unruly as to be potentially a physical threat. If you do find yourself in that unfortunate position, you'll probably be beyond either remembering or heeding my advice, but it would be this: Do what they tell you to do, quickly and politely. No customer ever wins either an argument or a fight with these people. Never. Not ever. Never.
But the most common reason you'll see the people in the black suits or uniforms is when it's time to change out the boxes under the table that collect the house rake and any jackpot/bonus money. This may be done once per shift (i.e., three times a day), or just once a day. Usually the players in the two seats next to the dealer will need to stand up or at least move their chairs out of the way to get this done.
Because this task produces a little break from the monotony of hand after hand of poker, it might be tempting to fill the down time with jokes with the security dudes about snatching the rake box. Today's helpful hint: Remember how often customers win arguments with security? (In case you missed it: Never ever.) That's precisely how often they will be amused by your jokes about stealing the casino's money. It's akin to jokingly telling the TSA agent to watch out for the bomb in your carry-on bag.
Occasionally these guys have to deal with dangerous people who really are trying to steal the casino's money, sometimes with guns. When you think about that fact, you can maybe see why your lame attempts at humor will not go over well. So just refrain, okay?
I think that pretty well covers the casino employees you're likely to encounter in the poker room. It is customary to tip some of them, but I'll cover that in a future article.
Robert Woolley lives in Asheville, NC. He spent several years in Las Vegas and chronicled his life in poker on the "Poker Grump" blog.