Interview: Sabrinia King
Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada
Occupation: Poker Dealer
Sabrinia King grew up in North Carolina. After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Sabrinia moved to Las Vegas where she currently works as a poker dealer at a popular casino on The Strip. She was nice enough to answer some of our questions about the intricacies of work as a poker dealer.
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PokerTips.org: How long have you been dealing and what got you interested in starting?
King: I have been dealing for about three years now. I started in college shortly after I learned how to play poker. I was playing in a poker league and found out about an entertainment company that hosted casino parties. I figured it would be a fun way to pick up some spare cash through college. I became more and more interested in poker and I always enjoyed dealing so I decided to come out to Vegas and do it full time.
PokerTips.org: How many hours do you work in a typical shift?
King: This depends on the time of year and which shift you are working (and what room you work in). During the slow season you may show up for your shift and get sent home. When it's busy you will work a full eight hours. Also, if it's slow you may deal a half hour then go on break for a half hour. So you might be there for eight hours but only actually be dealing for four hours.
PokerTips.org: What is the most you've been tipped on any one hand?
King: I got tipped about $60 one hand when someone got a jackpot payout on a straight flush (I forget how much he won, but it wasn't more than $2,000 including the pot and jackpot). Then again people have tipped me an entire pot. One time there was a guy that was leaving and he didn't feel like cashing out his chips so he left about $40 to me. This does not happen often at all though. Normally it's $1-2 and maybe $5 at a no limit game if the pot is big.
PokerTips.org: What are some benefits you receive that are unique to your job?
King: I wouldn't say anything that is considered an outright benefit like a company car or anything like that. Of course there is a good health care package for full time employees and I believe all employees can participate in a retirement savings package (just like almost any other job). If it's slow and you want to go home you can essentially get free days off. To me the best parts of the job are the people. I am so lucky to work in a younger poker room where most of the dealers are in their 20's. Also, our customers are so nice and fun for the most part and our management is really great (which can make a big difference). And I get to sit at a poker table all day and make money doing it!
PokerTips.org: What are some difficulties and intricacies of your job that you feel most poker players aren't aware of?
King: I guess the biggest thing is maintaining control of the table. It's our job to keep the game moving, make sure everyone is behaving themselves, as well as to do the technical aspects of running the game (taking rake/counting the pot, pitching the cards, following the action to referee). Also, most of us want to keep the game fun. It can be quite a balancing act, especially when you add in copious amounts of free alcohol and money moving all around the table. It can sometimes seem like an insurmountable task.
PokerTips.org: Are players ever rude to you to the point of blaming you for their perceived "bad luck"? If so, how does that make you feel?
King: Most of the players that come to the room I work in are wonderful. They are part of what makes my job so great. That being said, any time you are dealing with large numbers of people, you are going to run into some less than polite individuals. I have only had one person at the table act out based on his perceived "bad luck", but honestly, he was running bad and left shortly after, so it wasn't too bad. The worst is when people are just randomly rude to you. I had a guy tell me my parents must be ashamed of me for being a poker dealer! I mean, I couldn't make this stuff up! The only other rude encounters I have had were with guys who took flirting a bit too far. These things aren't normally a big deal because they happen so infrequently. But it can make you wonder about some people.
PokerTips.org: Most of the poker action at the poker room you deal for is played for relatively small stakes. Do you believe it hurts your overall income not to be dealing high stakes games?
King: Absolutely not! I think it is most likely better for it. From what I have heard from dealers on other properties (that run higher limit games), the money isn't that much better because higher stakes players are more likely to be pros concerned with their bottom line. I deal for tourists who come to Vegas to have a good time. Even the regulars that come in are there because the games are good. It's a fun and friendly atmosphere. We have a great staff that works hard to keep it that way. So basically we all get along and have a good time. Most people tip you a dollar or two each time they win a pot.
PokerTips.org: Do most dealers view their job as a stepping stone to a managerial position within a casino? What are your personal ambitions in regard to your job?
King: I think most dealers are not aspiring to work as upper management in the casino industry. I know a few dealers who are students. There are also dealers who came out to Vegas hoping to play professionally, and couldn't quite make it. Personally, I am in that "finding yourself" part of life. I love what I am doing and would be content if this ended up being my career. I consider myself very lucky to have found a profession that I love as much as dealing. However, I recognize that a lot of people who have been dealing for a long time get bored with it and move on to other things. Right now, I am open to anything in life. I have my degree so I can always go back to do something related to that (most likely something having to do with medicine or research). I am also open to going back to school for an advanced degree. I think for now the plan is to be in Vegas for the next couple of years and figure things out from there.
PokerTips.org: What are some of the funnier incidences that have occurred while you were dealing?
King: Hmm... I have made friends with some of the locals and we always have a good time when I am dealing to them or to my co-workers, but nothing really stands out as something that would be funny to everyone.
I have had a few guys ask me how to get a stripper or a prostitute in Vegas (do they think they teach a seminar on that to dealers or something?).
PokerTips.org: How does a dealer get chosen to deal in a final table of a televised tournament?
King: One of my managers deals on Poker After Dark and another show, so I was able to get an answer to this question. Basically, she said that everyone on the show is family. So she grew up with the producer's daughters or something like that. One of the other dealers was dating someone's daughter and got a spot. However, even though everyone is family, they still have to be a top notch dealer to get the gig. My manager who does the shows is an awesome dealer and has been dealing for over ten years.
PokerTips.org: Do most poker dealers play poker too? Do you play much poker?
King: Most poker dealers play just for fun. I probably play once every couple of weeks. If I were better, I might play more. If a poker dealer sits at your table take a second to watch them before you come to any conclusions. Most dealers I know are one of two extremes: either really good or really bad.
PokerTips.org: Are you ever tempted to laugh when you see a player make a boneheaded play?
King: Not really. I have seen so many bad hands and bone headed plays that it really doesn't surprise me anymore.
PokerTips.org: In general, what do you believe are some things that poker players could do to make the dealers' lives a little easier?
King: The number one thing that would make everyone's lives easier is if everyone paid attention. The second biggest thing I can think of is announce what you are going to do for every action. That way if a mistake is made, the dealer can make it right. We are not mind readers. Sometimes the betting rules are hazy. And the rules are different in each card room. So make sure you understand the betting rules. The last thing I would suggest is to give the dealers a break if it happens to be a particularly difficult table. We are doing our best to keep the game moving as friendly and quickly as possible.