WSOP DealersWhile I was at the World Series of Poker over the last couple of weeks, I had the pleasure of speaking with a number of dealers. Overall, I found them to be a very friendly and diverse group. There were, of course, things that set each individual dealer apart from the other. For example, some were tall, some were short; some were men, some were women; etc. I’m sure if I were playing poker at tables where they were dealing, I’d notice additional, non-superficial differences. For example, some of them deal quickly while others deal slowly. Some dealers clearly have tons more experience, while others are obvious newbies.

What came to my attention that disturbed me quite greatly, however, is that all WSOP dealers receive exactly the same compensation.

Typically, experience and expertise are things worth paying a premium for. Veteran athletes make more than rookies. The longer you’re with a company, the more your experience and skills are valued – usually you receive increased compensation in the form of raises or bonuses. Even in the freelance writing I do, I feel that the work I produce now, in 2016, is far better than my best efforts a few years back. It makes perfect sense, to me at least, that I should thus be paid more for it.

Unfortunately, the current system via which dealers are hired by the WSOP for the summer series doesn’t take experience and expertise into account, and that’s a crying shame.

I’m not the first to point all these things; the issue of dealer wages has raged for years. Players are certainly aware of it and talk about it, but unfortunately we don’t really do much about it beyond that to actually change facts on the ground.

It’s Time for a Change

There are some who say that poker media doesn’t try hard enough. From past personal experience running this poker blog, I’ve seen how publishing something can eventually lead to changes in policy. It’s with those things in mind that I decided to write this blog post – let’s band together and try to make a difference and change the status quo.

So, I have decided to create a Petition Calling for Merit-Based WSOP Dealer CompensationHere’s the gist of it:

Dealers who excel at their job ought to be compensated better than those less adept at the craft.

The status quo at the WSOP, whereby all dealers are paid the same amount regardless of experience, expertise, ability to deal just a few or multiple types of poker, and overall excellence must end.

This petition calls for the WSOP to reconsider it’s current policy and hiring practices, and to reward dealers based on merit, effective immediately.

While boosting dealers’ confidence would be wonderful, dare I go one step further and advocate that being properly compensated for doing a good job gives someone plenty of motivation to succeed.

While players ought to continue tipping dealers based on their general amicability, it behooves us as a player community to stand up in support of all dealers being contractually rewarded based on their performance.

To that end, we support the development of qualitative and quantitative measures/goals by the WSOP, such that dealer performance can be properly evaluated and incentivized moving forward.

Update, July 6th: Just as an aside, I recommend reading this article from Forbes.com, which extends the idea I’m advocating to ALL jobs.

Make Your Voices Heard

sign the petitionPretend for a minute that you are a poker dealer. Wouldn’t you want an incentive to do a great job? Wouldn’t you appreciate your bosses rewarding you for a job well done? Wouldn’t you be kind of miffed that you had “nothing extra to show” at the bottom line of your salary slip after numerous years of providing excellent service?

There is strength in numbers. Over the last few years, the WSOP has shown, through action, that it listens to the players. The WSOP and all its employees work exceptionally hard to make players happy and give them a great poker experience. So maybe, just maybe, we can make a difference.

All of that said, perhaps hundreds, or even thousands, of player signatures on this petition might not make a difference. Perhaps, even if we are able to collectively get the attention and support of top WSOP officials like Seth Palansky, Jack Effel, Ty Stewart, Nolan Dalla, et al. (whose service to the poker world I value and appreciate tremendously), their bosses – the ones who control the purse strings – might not be receptive.

Even so, at the very least, we need to make our voices heard and show dealers that we appreciate and stand behind them. Signing a petition like this, in this poker writer’s humble opinion, is worth far more than any tip.

SIGN THE PETITION

21 Comments

  1. Robbie,
    Thank you for the article. I disagree with your stance on this subject for merit-based-wsop-dealer-compensation. It’s is the lay of the land here in the us. I have worked for the largest bank in the USA for the past 15 years. If I do 80% of the work or 20% of the work the pay remains the same as if I a, a new hire or have been there for 15 years. The only way out is for dealers to boycott or seek other employment opportunities IMO.

  2. Thanks for reading and for your comment.

    I understand and acknowledge your point of view; that’s certainly a different approach.

    Personally, however, I’ve always been in favor of “positive reinforcement” techniques rather than “negative reinforcement”. I can only speak from personal experience that 1) op-ed pieces I’ve penned before have led to policy changes and 2) positive reinforcement is what motivates and incentivizes me at my full time job. I know that I’ve been quite fortunate throughout my career in that regard.

    Regardless, just because something may be the “lay of the land” doesn’t mean it’s doomed to stay that way forever 🙂

  3. It actually would be really simple to do. Each tournament has a share taken out for the staff. Those shares are divided up based upon the number of tables each dealer deals called a down rate. Currently the tournaments are grouped together by week. For example if the 50k players championship is the same week as a 1500 PLO those tournament staff shares are added together along with all the deep stacks and mega satellites and other events that occur during that week. Then a down rate is created for that week and the shares are payed out accordingly. The simple way to correct dealer pay would be to keep the tournaments divided up individually. The staff portion of the 50k players championship is significantly more than a deep stack. This would create a higher per down rate for an event that requires more experienced and accomplished dealers. You could base your dealer selection on experience and performance reviews from prior years and encourage dealers to perform better and remain loyal to the tournament if they desired the additional income. Of course this would require more work and effort from the upper management of the WSOP and convincing them to make this change might be harder than getting a bill through congress.

  4. Wholeheartedly agree coming from a player with recent WSOP dealing exp. I would still be a dealer today if only they rewarded and/or cared about the experienced dealers who provide a great service to the players. It’s demotivating to see these dealers who can barely able to read and write in English, who stay silent at a table, who constantly make mistakes, who can only deal no limit holdem, and they are getting paid the same.
    To “T” above, your comment has to be one of the most illogical posts I’ve ever read. Literally no part of it is true, accurate, or making good points.
    Let’s pay people who slack and do 20% of the work the same as the ones who work their hardest every day! Awesome!

  5. Working for a big bank has nothing to do with dealing poker…? Boycotting is going on now and was not effective. The only way is seeking employment elsewhere currently, sure. But if we want the WSOP to be the best in the world then why not improve the service provided from the most basic position? Incentivizing the good ones will create competition and create better dealers.

  6. Wow! That sounds like a pretty awesome idea!

    Thanks for elaborating like you did. You never know who might see a comment like that and take it to heart 😃

  7. Thanks for the support. Please share to spread the word, and if you feel comfortable doing so, sign the petition.

  8. Dan Carlson

    the system is rigged, we made $60 to $80 in the past now they make it that all dealers only make $15 to $20 per hour

  9. Kirk Atamian

    How would you determined good dealers from others before the WSOP season start.

  10. I have been saying this for years. A little known fact is that about 300 dealers including many who were final table dealers and high buy in mixed games boycotted the series this year due to this fact. We were going to get some notice that they started with only 823 dealers on orientation, but opening it up to all caesar’s employees and allowing them to make their own schedule helped bring some back in. The series doesn’t care about their staff and funnels money upwards which is why they can’t keep the great dealers around that long.

  11. Sadfrog

    Im a Wsop boycotter and I think it’s a great idea!
    Check out ACEISLOW.COM, a forum for dealers by dealers, and help spread the word on how corrupt the poker industry is.

  12. Good question and I don’t have the perfect answer to this… but just as the WSOP “brain trust” sits each year to try and make improvements, this could be an issue they’d try and tackle together.

    I’d be more than happy to take part in the discussion if allowed.

  13. Ha! I had no idea! Thank you for sharing that information, Shelly…. that’s very eye-opening and pretty horrible to learn.

    Well, let’s certainly hope something changes in the future. The players and the dealers deserve only the best.

  14. Dang! That’s nuts…. well, I wouldn’t call the organization corrupt, but again, I’m just an observer. I’d like to believe – perhaps naively – that they at least have the best interests of patrons/players in mind. Hopefully if the players stand up for the dealers in support, the WSOP officials can enact some change moving forward.

    Thanks for your comment, and for reading.

  15. Troy Timeon

    I dealt there for a number of years, and still visit and say hello to dealers and floors that I have established great relationships with. I suggested back in 2011 that dealers hand picked to deal more difficult as well as more important tournaments get paid more per “down” than the daily NL tournament dealer that does not want to improve and deal all forms of poker. It would be relatively simple, dealers would be classified as a standard or specialized dealer. Those specialized dealers are the ones that get picked out for the harder events (they pretty much are now anyway)..but those dealers get 1.3 or 1.4 “downs” per down they deal in those events. The money is still divided up from the total pool, but those that dealt the specialized events would receive better pay. The pay rate of 1.3 or 1.4 is strictly an example, maybe it needs to be more…maybe it’ll be a wake up call to dealers that call themselves “professional poker dealers” yet can’t deal a hand of stud or PLO.

  16. We wouldn’t want to run individual tournament down rates, because believe it or not it would actually lower all around overall down rates. I’ve worked for a casino that does this and some of their down rates were as low as $5. I’m more in favor of paying a more experienced dealer a higher hourly wage.

  17. To each their own. Just going off of my personal everyday experience for the past 15 years I respect your viewpoint.

    What wage would be a “fair” wage for dealers at the wsop per down?
    I think $11/down would be a generous amount.

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