The Nun at the Table

Doug Baldwin writes about poker, casinos and gambling at his blog, Stone-Cold Nuts


The Nun at the Table

Much of my early education was spent in Catholic schools dodging missiles from nuns. At the slightest provocation these creatures in blue-and-white or black-and-white habits would hurl anything close at hand—chalk, blackboard easers, writing implements—toward the head of any offending student. The offenses were usually venial (as in “venial sin”). Were you dozing, doodling or chatting with your neighbor? Better duck because Sister Mariano Rivera was hurling a fastball in your direction and there was no umpire to toss her out of the game if she nailed you on the noggin.

As a player, and to my Catholic-school-trained psyche, it is apparent that dealers are the nuns of the poker world: sometimes kind, sometime cruel, but always in command. Just as you could instantly spot a nun upon entering a classroom, at my local poker club it’s obvious—not only at the table, but at the bar or in line for the men’s room—who’s the dealer. Why? Because they wear a kind of habit: black-on-black. Add a wimple, and voila! You’ve got yourself a nun.

And at the table, there’s no question who’s in charge. Maybe there’s no Bible per se, but there are those TDA Rules, 62 commandments which thou shalt follow or roast ye in poker hell if the dealer witnesses you run afoul of them.

Fold out of turn? WHACK! You get a slap on your wrist.

Utter a couple of profanities? First there’s a warning, then “FLOOR!” is called and, uh-oh, along comes the principal (the tournament manager) to whack your knuckles.

Care to ruminate aloud about a hand that you’re not involved in? “NO TALKING!” is proclaimed, and you’re cowed into silence. Keep talking about and you get detention: You’re not allowed to play with the other boys for a little while.

There are differences, of course. Gender, for example. Most dealers are men and to the best of my knowledge most have not sworn a vow of celibacy. But if you were to put Lonnie from the Encore Club into a Dominican habit, he could pass for a nun, and a terrifying one at that.

Then there are those tattoos that are so popular at the poker table, among dealers and players both. While I’m guessing that convent rules have loosened up over the years, I don’t think you’ll see Sister Mary Alice sporting a “Boondocks Saints Rule” tattoo on her forearm any time soon.

Yes, it’s easy to get lost in a nostalgic haze over the good old days. But ultimately if I were forced to choose a companion for a post-game drink at the bar, as amusing as it might be to share a quaff with a nun from my school days, any given dealer would be far better company.

Hey, bartender! Order one up for Sister Lonnie. It’s on me.

By Doug Baldwin

Dealers Opinion

Even though most dealers are pretty laid back some have that need to be in control. It’s probably not a power trip but on rare occasions this may be the case. It is more a fact that they feel some rules need to be more closely followed than others. Of course the TDA rules you speak of are in place because players, tournament directors and dealers should have an absolutely well defined structure so that tournaments are run the same everywhere that follows them. It should be this way because of the huge prize pools and so called “local leeway”. Every dealer has their local favorites and in cash games they may get away with quite a bit but in tournaments this shouldn’t be the case, especially with out of town players coming for a fair shake. Letting them play a hand after the first card is dealt and they aren’t at the table, or they put out too many chips on accident and letting it slide as a call. TDA rules are cut and dried and because of this it allows us to fall back on them and not look like the “dick”.

In cash games we live on tips and sometimes letting some things slide let the players feel like we are like friends and not just the dealer. Its a fine line between being a dick and running a fair game. Having some common sense in certain scenarios can make a big difference to the way players perceive our role and our job. I know some dealers that are sticklers all the time and some that may be too lax at times. Either way if any player has any doubt to the ruling I make based on my judgment or interpretation of the rules I will always immediately call a floor to reassure them. As being compared to a nun there are plenty of times I wish I could carry a ruler and bash some knuckles, but alas it will never happen.





Brought to you by Your Poker Dealer

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