While 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.
— Remko Rinkema (@RemkoMedia) July 5, 2016
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 Compensation. Here’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.
A lot of the dealers @WSOP are 1st timers. Players, I know it’s tough, but please help them a little. They need a little boost of confidence
— Shaun Harris (@ShaunTheDealer) June 11, 2016
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
Pretend 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.