In my recent travels around the United States to review poker rooms, I’ve been reminded of an unfortunate habit that many live poker dealers have: they don’t announce bet sizes until/unless another player asks. For example, we have Player A and Player B in the pot. Player A slides out a stack of chips, there’s a brief pause, and then Player B says, “How much is that?” The dealer leans over, counts the stack down, and announces the bet size.
The history of of the silent bet
I’ve been around poker long enough to remember when not only did most dealers not announce bet sizes, but the ones who did were harshly corrected by the old guys, who would be called “regs” today.
I’ve never seen a formal rationale for that protocol, but I’ve got a pretty good idea…
Back in the Bad Old Days, casino poker was much more predatory than it is now. And that’s being generous – “shady” is more accurate. There wasn’t a lot of money in the ecosystem, and the pros would do pretty much anything to grab as much of it as they could. Many poker room policies and protocols were developed to ensure that the regs had as big an edge as possible – poker people didn’t talk about “ecosystem health” in 1982.
Given that presumption, why would dealers be trained not to announce bet sizes?
Easy – because that sets up a beautiful angle. Johnny or Jack slides out a stack of six black $100 chips, with a dark purple $500 chip at the bottom of the stack. The dealer sits, sphinx-like. Their opponent says, “Call,” thinking they’re calling a $600 or $700 bet. Dealer reaches over – surprise – you just called $1100.
The explanation I got, back in the Bad Old Days, was that, “Being able to evaluate the bet sizes and pot sizes is part of the skill of the game.” Forgive me, but b*llsh*t – it’s a technique to give air cover to an angle, and to further tilt the table toward the experienced players and professionals. Even when I ask these days, I get a tautology: “Because that’s what I do.”
Cleaner, more enjoyable games, and happier converts
Faster games are better for everybody
If you’ve played any meaningful amount of big-bet cash game poker, you’ll recognize this sequence:
- Player A slides out a stack of chips.
- Player B, next to act, pauses, and thinks over their options. 30 seconds pass.
- Player B says, “How much is that?”
- Dealer reaches out, counts down the stack, and says, “$70.”
Now Player B has to redo the entire 30 seconds worth of thinking, but now including the presumably relevant datum of the bet size they’re facing.
The game will go more smoothly and quickly if the dealer will immediately announce all bet and raise sizes. An important note to poker room managers: if you’re charging rake, as a huge majority of games do, a faster game is a more profitable game for you. But making the game faster and smoother for the players is sufficient reason.
Online players expect bet size information immediately
Online poker players get all the relevant information automatically. Stack, bet, and pot sizes are sitting there, staring them in the face, at all times. If an online player dips their toe into live poker, they are suddenly without all that information.
Look, live poker is daunting enough as it is. Acting in turn, inappropriate hand discussion, string bets, betting reopened (or not), misdeal protocols, showdown sequence, hand reading at showdown… the list of details and nuances in live poker is staggering. In contrast, online poker is a model of simplicity and ease – the dealer never makes a mistake, and if you’re not supposed to do it, you can’t do it.
Online poker can be the perfect stepping stone to the (inarguably better) world of live poker, and a source of growth for our game. Anything we can do to ease the transition from online to live poker should be a priority. One easy fix is to tell players how much the bettor slid out.
Announcing bet sizes kills yet another angle
Interestingly, the Poker Tournament Director Association rules recommend (RP-12) that dealers announce bet and raise sizes as they’re put in, except for all-in bets. I estimate cash game dealers split about 50/50. I was shocked that dealers at Gila River Lone Butte in Arizona are still specifically instructed not to announce bet sizes. Guess the Old Days guys are still running the room.
As an aside, I see no reason to distinguish between all-in bets and others. Again, if you’re playing online, and somebody moves all-in, you instantly see how much it’s for. There can be no big denomination chips hiding in the back. No $100 chip dirtily tucked into the middle stack of $5 chips (“Oh, sorry – I didn’t see that I had that”).
But I’m okay with the first step, even if we can’t get the all-in bets announced without a request. This transparency is one more way to level the playing field. It makes the game cleaner and safer for everybody, but particularly the new and infrequent players – the ones who need the most assistance.
I promise, the superior players will continue to win, and the inferior players will continue to lose. No matter what modifications the game has had over the years, that’s been a constant. It will be so, forever. But making poker easier, more enjoyable, and safer for recreational players is a necessity for the health of poker.
Announcing bet sizes is better for everybody
- The game goes faster, everybody has more fun.
- The game goes faster, the house makes more money.
- Online players have one less hurdle to clear in adapting to live play.
- Angle shooters have one less arrow in their quiver.
Yes, you are welcome to show this article to the manager of your hometown poker room. Thank you in advance for doing so.