The job of a poker dealer probably seems like a dream for many recreational poker players who already enjoy the game and may be working in other similar fields.
After all, dealing cards at a poker table seems a lot more fun and a lot easier than waiting tables in a bar or restaurant.
The question is, how does the money you can make as a poker dealer compare to the other professions?
Poker dealers are thrown into the action, often with thousands of dollars flying around the table. In some games, a big pot can even be bigger than an entire average annual salary for the country it is being played in.
While many believe poker dealers to be underpaid, others believe that they make enough money with tips to be very happy with their jobs and should not be complaining.
I set out to find out just how much do poker dealers make and whether it is a profession worth pursuing the long term or just a seasonal job ideal for young people.
I looked up the poker dealer salary in different countries, compared it to the average standard of living, and found out that the poker dealers in most places can live a reasonable lifestyle.
Let’s get into some specifics!
How Much do Poker Dealers Make?
If you ever saw an ad where a casino was looking for poker dealers, you may have noticed that the initial salary mentioned in the ad is quite low.
For example, in many casinos in Las Vegas and the United States in general, poker dealers are paid anywhere between $10 and $20 per hour, which is the entry-level pay you could make at just about any job out there.
What’s even more, it can be difficult to get the 40 hours per week as a poker dealer in many places, which means you would be making even less.
At an average of $15 per hour, even if you were working 40 hour weeks, you would only be making $600 per week or $2,400 per month.
This is under $30,000 per year and not enough to live a reasonable lifestyle almost anywhere in America.
Yet, there is a catch! The numbers advertised by the casinos only represent the poker dealer’s base salary, which does not include any tips.
The average poker dealer salary is usually less than half of what they really make, as a capable dealer can often make a lot more in tips than he can from his salary.
The tips, of course, depend on many different things. For one, the stakes of the games you are dealing in will impact your tips, as higher stakes games typically mean more tips for the dealers.
What’s more, some dealers get more tips than others, and that’s just a fact.
If you are friendly with everyone, do a good job and deal fast, and don’t get into conflicts with people, you will generally get more tips.
On the other hand, some rude and less competent dealers can earn quite a reputation and earn very few tips, as regular players don’t appreciate disrespect or unprofessionalism.
This, of course, is not to say that a poker dealer should take rude behavior from players either, but there is a balance that a good dealer must learn in order to optimize his tips.
Whatever kind of a cash game a dealer is dealing in, he or she will usually make at least $10 per hour. Many high stakes games make it possible to earn as much as $50 per hour in tips.
Casinos like to put their best dealers in their highest stakes games, which means that a skilled dealer will often get more hours with the high-rollers and be able to earn more money.
Even with the minimal $10 per hour in tips, the average poker dealer salary goes to $25 per hour. This comes out to about $4,000 per month and $48,000 per year, which is better but still not quite enough in many places.
Deciding whether to be a poker dealer or not will be all about the casino you are working at and the kind of tips you see on a daily basis.
Working in poker rooms where players are generous, and tips are flying around, which is often the case, can be quite rewarding. On the other hand, working in a casino with stingy patrons will not be worth your time.
Just like waiters and other hospitality workers, you will often be left at the mercy of your patrons for your wages, which can be frustrating some days and rewarding on others.
Overall speaking, working as a poker dealer will not make you a millionaire. However, it may be enough to do as a career, especially if you are a younger person and don’t have any children.
How Much Do Poker Dealers Make in Other Places?
Of course, the US is not the only place in the world where you can work as a poker dealer, even if the vast majority of poker dealer jobs are found there.
The United Kingdom has a solid number of poker rooms as well, and those are always looking for good poker dealers to employ.
Just like in the US, the starting wage is relatively low. The average poker dealer salary in the UK is just under £9.5 per hour, which is a bit more reasonable in the UK than $15 is in the US.
Yet, UK poker dealers must also supplement their salaries with tips, which they can do in the same way as American dealers do, by dealing in the cash games.
Since the starting stakes in most UK casinos are £1/2, many pots in those games will be bigger than £100, making £10 per hour in tips quite feasible.
In fact, making much more than that is possible in higher stakes games, and the UK is not shy of such tables either.
Poker dealers can also find jobs in other places, with Eastern Europe recently being home to many poker rooms and casinos where poker is spread.
According to some reports, a poker dealer in Latvia can make an average of €2,100 per month from salary alone, which is quite a reasonable number for the country’s standard.
Add to this the tips players leave at the tables, and you are probably looking at a very reasonable career option in this Baltic state.
Other places like Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic also offer opportunities for skilled poker dealers, with monthly salaries often in the €1,500 to €2,000 range.
These numbers may seem low to an American or UK reader, but if you compare the living standard of the countries in question, you quickly realize that the salaries there are actually higher in proportion than they are in the US.
Yet, no matter where you live, the poker dealer salary will depend in great part on the tips they can earn from the players, and this is the big thing to keep in mind if considering this career path.
Dealer Tips, Tournaments, and More
I mentioned that tips are a big part of any poker dealer salary, and this is definitely true. However, the way tips are dealt with can depend greatly from one place to another.
In many casinos and card rooms, every dealer is allowed to keep any tips they make. Each dealer’s tips are separated and paid out to them at the end of their shift.
On the other hand, many casinos pool together all tips and share them among many people.
In some cases, this means dealers of different skill levels and dealing at different stakes will have to share their tips, which is good for some but less than ideal for others.
Dealers dealing in the highest-stakes games out can often find themselves in situations where massive tips are being left, which can again lead to issues.
A million-dollar cash game will easily see players throw hundred-dollar chips the dealer’s way when they win an average pot, and potentially even a cool $1,000 when they win a huge one.
This, in turn, leads some casinos to only pay a portion of the tips in such games to the dealers, while they are paid all of their tips in others.
Private home games are often best for the dealers, who get to keep all of their tips in them, as there is no corporate structure in place.
The final decision on where the tips end up is always down to whoever is in charge of running the card room, so make sure you ask questions before you start dealing poker.
Another thing to consider is how dealers are paid when they deal in tournaments. On average, the initial salary will be the same whether you deal in cash games or tournaments, with tips being a big difference.
Players are not able to leave tips during play in tournaments, as tournament chips don’t have any monetary value.
For that reason, it is typical to see the winners leave their tips in the end, but this can be quite tricky. You are counting on a few guys to tip for everyone who played in the tournament, and some players simply aren’t very generous.
To counter this, many casinos implemented an obligatory tip, which is taken out of everyone’s initial buyin fee. This way, tournament dealers get paid what they are worth as well.
Generally speaking, cash game dealers make significantly more money than tournament dealers, as the tips in cash games are almost always more substantial than those you could see from tournament players.
Poker Dealer’s Responsibilities – Are They Paid Enough?
Now that I have talked about the poker dealer salary and you know about what an average dealer can make, the question must be asked of whether dealers are underpaid?
A poker dealer serves as a host of a poker game and is responsible for most of everything that happens at the table.
His responsibilities go far beyond simply giving everyone their cards.
The dealer is responsible for making sure every bet is settled correctly, every pot goes the right way, and that the rake is taken out of the pots correctly.
What’s even more, poker dealers often face problems such as players not knowing the rules of the game correctly or making mistakes where decisions must be made.
While floor personnel can also get involved, a good poker dealer will resolve most situations without having to call the floorman over, ensuring the continuity of the game.
It takes some time to master the skills required to be a good poker dealer and maintain a smooth game that everyone can enjoy.
At the end of the day, dealers often face verbal, and less commonly also physical abuse, which makes it a stressful job on many days.
When all is said and done, dealers are definitely underpaid, to begin with, and it is up to the poker players to make sure they are properly compensated.
Since dealers depend so much on tips, I would highly recommend that every poker player out there tip their dealer reasonably in relation to the game they are playing and the dealer’s skills and level of service.
Polite dealers who go out of their way to help players and make sure that everything runs smoothly should be well rewarded by the players in every game.
On the other hand, players should also make sure that the dealers are doing their job properly and not reward incompetence or lack of care, so bad dealers should not be tipped.
The job of a poker dealer is that of hospitality and customer service, so making sure that everyone gets paid exactly what they deserve is very much an idea poker players should live by!