Conversations with gamblers: the Dealer chapter

411: The poker room of Harvey’s Casino, South Lake Tahoe

Listening to: Some old guy “moo” every time there’s a good hand out on the table

Dealer Gus: Back again, Shabbir?

Me: Yeah you’d think after making so much money last night I’d be happy, but my wife’s an hour late coming in from Sacramento and I’m seriously bored watching the in-room cable and the minute I leave the hotel I know she’ll show up.

Gus: Deal you in?

Me: Sure, if I don’t have to pay for the button. So Gus, tell me something about the guys making a living at this table.

Gus: Oh hell, nobody’s making a living at this table except the casino. The very best guys come in and play for an hour, make $80, and then leave.

Me: Well why wouldn’t they stay if they’re at a table making money?

Gus: It’s the rake. [The “rake” is a small amount of money, usually $1 out of every $10 that the casino takes out of the pot to pay for the dealer, the table, etc] In any hour, we take about $180 total in rake. If you divide that among a 10 person table, that’s $18 per person. The longer you sit there waiting for cards, the more you’re going to end up paying, and over time, you’ll “wait away” your winnings. That’s why after a big win or two, the smart guys will leave.

Me: Hm, unless there were fish there.

Gus: Well they’d have to be really really fishy to make it worth it.

Me: Actually, now that I think of it, the people I know that say they make a living at poker all are running home games with a rake in addition to playing. Now I understand why.

Gus: Yeah, there’s money in tournaments, but the odds are significantly against you making the money, so there’s that.

Me: Now I know what I’ll focus my energy on… Oh hey, there’s my phone, gotta go meet my wife.

Gus: You just sat down, you’re leaving?

Priorities: Priorities man, priorities.

[According to my poker logs, I playing just about 24 hours total while in Tahoe, and came out $24 ahead. This will be a marginally profitable month, but profitable it will be.]