PokerUpdate.com contributor Robbie Strazynski got a chance to sit down with Antonio the Poker Dealer at the 2016 PokerStars Caribbean Adventure in the Bahamas. Ever wanted to know what a poker dealer does, including what a typical day is like, what makes an event memorable, or even what training is like to become a dealer? Check out our interview below!
And be sure to stick with PokerUpdate here and on Twitter @PokerUpdate to get all the updates at the 2016 PCA!
Hey everybody, Robbie Strazynski here for PokerUpdate.com at the PCA 2016. We’re lowering our voice a little because it’s actually 1:30 in the morning here, right?
This is my buddy, Antonio. He’s a dealer. Show them that dealer badge right there. He’s a dealer here at the PCA, and he agreed to spend a little time with us and I think that’s pretty darn interesting. I think you guys do too. He actually just left the $50k One Day High Roller table, right? People who are worth 7-8 figures, and he’s just chucking cards their way. You get a literal front row seat to the action.
And they rebuy!
$50k is like a year’s salary for most people, maybe even two year’s salary.
Apparently it’s like a 10-minute blind level for them.
Anyhow, thank you so much for spending some time with us. Let’s ask you a couple of questions here.
Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been dealing at the PCA? Have you done any other major events?
I dealt for the WSOP for about 8-9 years. Uhm, not the WSOP. I dealt once for the WSOP, – 9 years ago – never again. I dealt the World Poker Tour (WPT) for about 8-9 years.
Around the whole circuit?
Mostly at the Bellagio, but I did other places in Vegas, and some in Florida.
Is this your first PCA?
Yes, actually, it’s my first time at the PCA.
Oh wow, what’s it like in the Bahamas? Are you getting a little time off in the sun?
Not too much time off, but it’s perfect, it keeps me busy, keeps me out of trouble – a lot out of trouble – and it’s a lot of fun. It’s great, I love Atlantis.
So what’s a typical day for you here at the PCA? When do you wake up?
We usually wake up at around 10-11am.
We get out of here at around 4 in the morning.
Oh, wow! Not as sweet.
So this is like the middle. It’s 1:30am, and it’s the middle of work for you.
Yeah, pretty much.
I get up, go and walk the length of the property to go to the gym, then come back, have some lunch and chill out with some friends and relax.
How’s the gym working? Let’s see those arms. Those are some serious Jason Koon-like biceps right there. Gym’s working for you, man.
There we go.
Do you play poker at all besides dealing?
All the tip money down the drain.
I’m extremely happy that they won’t let us play here while we’re working. They’re saving me so much money.
You also play $100/$200.
Yeah! No, no, I play $2/$5.
$2/$5 Hold’em. I play PLO.
And then I also love playing a bunch of different mixed games.
That’s really cool. Well, you know how to deal them all, obviously, right?
Yeah, exactly. It’s what I’m used to dealing at the Bellagio. So, I also like playing mixed games with my friends. Poker is still fun for me, and because I do it all day, I have to drink and have a good time. So I don’t know about drinking and playing. My roommate, who plays professionally, thinks it’s a bad idea.
It seems to work for you!
No, not so much! He’s probably right, but like I said, they’re saving me hundreds of dollars here.
Okay, so I guess you’ve been here for around a week or so?
I think this is Day 3.
Okay, so what’s been your most memorable moment thus far? Something that gets you like: “Wow! That happened, and I was right there.”
It’s terrible. One of them happened last night. One of the massage girls giving the massages at the table had been leaning into it, and some young guy who was pretty drunk, was walking past her just staring at her ass and then just crashes into the gate in front of him and nearly knocks it over. And then I’m dealing to Todd Brunson and Patrik Antonius.
Sure, at the high stakes table. I saw that.
And then Jason Mercier was here, and this kid Gordo.
Mike Gorodinsky, yeah.
So all four of them notice what happened and they go crazy laughing. The massage girl turns around and sees it, but she doesn’t know that she caused it, until I told her later. So Patrik, Todd, Gordo, and everyone else were laughing and they just looked like they wanted to give the guy a hand. That was awesome.
That’s pretty cool that you can get a massage while dealing.
Oh, it was just on the side.
The only massage I get during the day is when I get pushed by the dealer behind me. Usually if it’s someone I know they’ll give me a shoulder rub.
Oh, okay! You said that you deal at all these different events, you deal at the Bellagio, at the high stakes games, you must have many years under your belt, right?
How long have you been doing this for?
I guess not that long – 11 years.
11 years is a long time!
Not compared to some of these lifers.
I see! How much training do you need to become a dealer in the first place?
Actually, it does take a lot of training. It took 2 months of training.
It’s not as simple as just pushing chips, you’ve got to know all the games, right?
Yeah, and I just don’t know the games. I know procedure, and things like that. It took about 2-5 months to get the mechanics down, and your muscle memory kicks in.
Like when you’re driving a car, or riding a bike and things like that.
Yeah, you just pick up things and you get used to it and just move.
How quickly do you learn a new game? Like when Badugi first became popular, how long did it take you to pick that up?
Not too much. Literally I just tell the guys: “Alright guys, tell me what you want me to do and whatever.” Because in all of these super high limit games they get upset if you do something wrong, because they’re primadonna – they are whiny at poker. So if they have a new game – like they were telling us about some other game here – so I’m like: “Okay guys, what am I doing? How many cards do you want? What do you want me to do?” So they’ll tell me – one or two of them will let me know – and then once they tell me and I repeat it, you just go with it.
Okay, well let’s end off with this interesting question. I’m sure that if you’ve gotten this far in this interview Antonio is clearly an interesting person for you, and I’m sure all the dealers here have some excellent stories. What would be your advice to someone who, let’s say, doesn’t have the skills to become a professional player, doesn’t have the money for it, or whatever it is, but still wants to be close to the action? Someone who says: “I want to go ahead and become a dealer,” – What would you say advise them to do? How do you start along that path?
Check out local rooms, if you’re at a place where they have casinos and local rooms, and see if they’re hiring. You may be able to get in there as chip-runners or something else, before you start dealing, and then get moved up as it goes. Also, if you live in Vegas, there are like 20 different roles you can apply for. Basically, the downtown poker rooms are usually hiring. OR, the WSOP – which is ironic, because it’s the most famous one – because they’ll hire anyone.
That’s a good place to start. Get that on your résumé.
That’s a good place to get in. You’ll hear all the players, during the WSOP, come to the Bellagio because they’ll hire anyone.
Well, you heard it first here from our good friend Antonio. Thank you again for spending the time with us here at PokerUpdate.com. Thanks everybody for tuning in. We’ll come back with some more stories for you, here at the PCA 2016.