The Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook
Reviewed by Jason Kirk  

One of the side effects of the boom poker has experienced over the last few years has been the increased demand for poker dealers. With so many tournaments on the schedule these days, not to mention new cardrooms opening up in casinos which until recently would have rather had slot machines filling the space that tables take up, the number of new dealer positions in the industry has jumped relatively quickly. For anyone interested in one of these jobs that are very few texts available which address the duties of the dealer's position. The best book on the subject, The Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook by Dan Paymar, Donna Harris, and Mason Malmuth is a solid resource that can prepare anyone to work as a dealer and help players understand what goes into the job.

The two primary authors of this book are highly qualified to give guidance to dealers. Dan Paymar worked for 5 years as a dealer in Las Vegas before becoming an instructor at Casino Gaming School in Las Vegas. Donna Harris has worked in poker since 1980, when she became a dealer at the Golden Nugget. She dealt for 5 years before becoming a floorperson, and became the manager of the Mirage poker room in 1998. Between the two of them, Paymar and Harris have over 40 years of experience working in poker, adding to the book's credibility.

The Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook is an exhaustive volume, covering a wide range of topics related to dealing. It starts off with a quick look at some basic information about the differences between card rooms in Nevada and other jurisdictions before jumping into a list of 37 rules that separate the game of poker played in a casino from the game played at home. Many of the rules (e.g. no string bets, English only at the table, verbal declarations are binding) will be familiar to readers who have played in casinos before, though some other rules are included which may be unfamiliar to more casual players. After a quick overview of the basics of poker common to all games, the authors move on to the full rules of specific variants of poker.

The single most educational part of the book comes once the initial general information is out of the way. The section titled "Dealer's Information" deals with the widest variety of topics in the entire book. All the mechanical skills needed to deal poker are covered, with special attention given to proper methods of dealing up and down cards and spreading the flop. Also included here are sections on the uses of various buttons; missed blinds; players changing seats or tables; calling the action in Hold'em, Omaha, and Stud; controlling the action; reading hands; miscellaneous procedures; the rake, whether for the house or the jackpot; counting the stub; and tournament dealing. A final section of the book deals with miscellaneous topics such as maintaining game integrity, controlling the game, dealing with bad player etiquette, and finding a dealing job. After a review of all this material, the reader should know just about everything necessary to work as a dealer in a casino cardroom.

There are essentially two audiences that will benefit from reviewing The Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook. The first of these is obviously anyone who is considering, or already holds, a job as a poker dealer. It can give something of a head start to anyone who is planning to enter a dealer's school, leaving them only to gain the experience to match what they now know about the responsibilities of being a dealer. It can also serve as a useful reference for anyone who already deals. Because the book covers such a wide variety of topics over the course of instructing dealers how to perform their job properly, the second audience is that of the player who wants to understand everything going on around them in a poker room. This is especially true of those players new to casino poker, who may at times find the differences in the game overwhelming. Nothing conquers fear the way that knowledge does. Whether you're considering work as a dealer or simply interested in the work that goes into dealing a game of poker, The Professional Poker Dealer's Handbook is worth a look.

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