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How To Be a Nomadic Poker Dealer

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When a Poker Tournament comes to town, they need to hire many dealers and there aren’t enough so many nomads travel across the country working them. At $30-35 an hour it’s a good gig!! You really should consider if it will work for you.

This is a guest post from a friend of mine who makes very good money as a traveling poker dealer. This is a fantastic job opportunity for many of you. In a couple of months you can make enough to travel for the whole year. If you have moral issues with it, remember these are all professionals and not some poor guy who is addicted to gambling.
For the last couple of years I’ve been working as a poker dealer, most recently traveling the country from event to event. I work long hours for between 1 and 7 weeks at a time, then take a week or a month off and slowly make my way to the next stop. I get to pick where and how often I work and get paid $30 per hour to do it! It’s not a difficult job and I’ve made great friends among the dealers and players.
First, some background for those who don’t know much about poker or have not played it in a casino. With the majority of casino games, you are playing a game of chance against the house. The house always has an edge and will always win in the long run. Poker is different. With poker, you are playing a skill-based game against other people. Players who are smarter and more disciplined can win in the long run. Many people play poker for a living and do quite well. It’s also a social outlet for many people. They may be losing players, but it’s within their budget and they get to spend all day in a comfortable chair drinking free drinks and making friends. The house takes a small percentage of each pot to pay for staff and floor space, but does not care how much anyone wins or loses. The poker dealer shuffles, deals cards, directs the action of the game, collects bets over the course of a hand, then sends those chips to the winner(s) and starts the next hand. He or she is there to run the game in an efficient and fair manner.
In addition to the normal games that run in a casino every day, many rooms run a tournament series one or more times a year. They set aside certain dates and hold tournaments with larger than normal buy-ins. These events draw in a mix of local players and others who travel from out of town. A typical series is 10 days long but I’ve worked at events as short as 3 days and as long as 7 weeks.

The World Series of Poker (WSOP) is the Big Kahuna of gambling tournaments and they need so many dealers they offer classes to train you as a dealer.

Staffing is a big problem for these poker rooms. Smaller events may require 30 extra dealers, larger ones 90 dealers, and for the World Series of Poker (WSOP) they need to hire something in the range of 1500 dealers every year. Most cities simply don’t enough qualified dealers who are able to drop everything and work full time for 10 days. This is where traveling dealers come in.
Getting into this line of work was surprisingly easy. I took a 5 week, 25 hour per week class for $200 which gave a basic overview of the procedures and rules for the different games. This particular class is no longer offered and most are not that cheap but they are still quite reasonable. After this I did a quick audition for the WSOP that involved dealing 4 hands, one of each class of game. Most people pass these auditions. I applied for a Nevada gaming license and was hired! I had no relevant experience and a 4 year gap on my resume but they need so many people they are not terribly picky. This got me into the 7 week long WSOP where I made $11k, which came out to $35/hour. This was towards the high end of what a typical dealer makes – I’ve heard numbers ranging from $6k to $14k. You’re often given chances to go home early or take an extra day off and if you do that a lot you will make less but the hourly rate is fairly consistent.

This photo is from a WSOP tournament held in Hammond, Indiana. How many trained and licensed poker dealers do you think are in Hammond? Not nearly enough! So they have to hire traveling poker dealers and pay them well to do it!

After I finished my second WSOP I started applying to other smaller events around the country. Typically, I apply over the internet and make arrangements to come and work via email and the occasional phone call. I’m responsible for my own travel arrangements and lodging. Every casino I’ve worked at has a free or very cheap cafeteria for employees so once I’m at a stop my expenses are minimal. Pay varies but the average is around $30/hour and I’m expected to work around 50 hours per week depending on how many players show up. There is rarely any sort of interview or audition. The fact that I finished previous events on good terms is enough. I do generally need to take a drug test at each new casino and need to apply for a gaming license in each state. Some states are very strict about criminal convictions, even very old and minor ones, others such as Nevada are pretty forgiving.

Poker dealers come in all sizes, shapes and ages. Chances are very good you can do it.

In order to be a good dealer you need reasonably good manual dexterity and the ability to sit upright for extended periods with lots of twisting and reaching. You also have to be able to stay focused and track lots of little details in your head and remain calm with the occasional difficult customer. Truly abusive players are very rare and not tolerated by the casino, but there will be lots of mildly annoying people. You don’t need to be great at math or in great shape. I’m certainly not fit and I know dealers in their 70’s and 80’s who are doing just fine. The math is all very simple and just takes practice.
If you are not ready to commit to taking a class there is an even easier way to get started! The WSOP also needs a lot of cashiers and chip runners. This job does not require a class. You just have to be able to pass an audition which I’m told involves accurately counting chips. There are youtube videos that teach you the proper way to stack and count chips. You can buy chips at any poker room to practice with then return them later for a full refund. Pay is less than it is for dealers but’s still quite good. While you’re there you can talk to people and figure out if you want to move into dealing, just work as a cashier once a year, or that the environment simply isn’t for you.
The WSOP runs every year in Las Vegas from the end of May through the middle of July. Applications are put up around February and if you need to audition you are given a choice of dates to be there in person. Go here for more info:

For a list of tournaments around the country and world, go here:  This is a screenshot I took from that website and you can see how many series their are during the winter months. I circled the number per month in red and highlighted the state they occur in. You can see many are in California, Nevada and Florida. That means you can be a snowbird and winter in a great location and still make $30-$35 an hour, 50 hours a week, get a free or low-cost meal and then take your summers off! That’s a great job


  1. Karen

    Hi Reducto! Even though I’m not planning on making a career as a dealer I really enjoyed your seminar at the RTR. It was a little glimpse into a world that I know nothing about and it looks like a perfect job for all of us who live on the road. Thanks!

    • Reducto

      Thanks! You could probably tell I’m not very comfortable speaking in front of crowds but this opportunity seemed worth sharing. Even within the poker community not many people know this job exists.

  2. CAE

    Keep these coming. Thanks. I fits our world perfectly.

    • Bob

      CAE, glad to help!

  3. white trash

    Not to be funny, but I am deathly allergic to cigarette smoke + tobacco…
    Do the players smoke while playing poker?
    Thanks in advance.

    • Bob

      white trash, I have no idea but my guess is it’s illegal in most states but you would have to do the research to know for sure.

    • Reducto

      No, almost no poker rooms in the US allow smoking. A few allow e-cigs, and most allow smoking in other parts of the casino. You will pass by smoke as you walk through the property but it won’t be in your face while you’re dealing.

  4. tommy helms

    I had no idea this opportunity even existed.

    • Bob

      Tommy, I din’t either which is why I’m so glad my friend was willing to rite this article It’s intriguing!

  5. Douglas

    I didn’t know this existed, but never thought about it. Would be cool, but I’m not that great with annoying customers. Sometimes it’s all I can do to bite my tongue with people in general.

    • Bob

      Dougas, I think basic people-skills are pretty important in this job. I don’t think it would be for the thin-skinned.

  6. Ripley

    The vast majority of poker rooms have gone smoke-free. You would have to run the gauntlet from the front door to the poker room.

    • Bob

      Thanks Ripley.

  7. Sherry in MT

    Very interesting and who knew there was such a thing. I’m just always amazed at the variety of work opportunities out there for nomads!

    • Bob

      True that Sherry!

  8. Naomi

    Excellent! If the events are non smoking, this would be perfect. I’m definitely going to look into this.
    Thank you both!

    • Bob

      Naomi, did you see that Reducto answered and said that nearly universally they are no-smoking.

  9. Joy

    Wow..this was great to learn about! Perfect for those on the road! Never know…maybe my time will come again.

    • Bob

      Joy for $35 an hour I would be looking into it!

  10. curiousalexa

    That is SO cool! If I didn’t already have a job I really like (driving semi) I would be seriously looking at doing this! Probably cashier for slightly less pay/people contact though. Mentally filed for future reference – thanks for the info!!

    • Bob

      The thanks goes to Redudcto for sharing at the RTR and writing the great post.

  11. Opa

    Very interesting migrant work!

    • Bob

      I agree Opa!

  12. alfred

    Fantastic post, Bob!
    I have seen lots of money-making ideas, yet this is the first time I’ve heard about dealing poker.
    But if you stop and think for a moment, you realize there may be dozens of other unexpected ways to make money for those with a nomadic lifestyle.
    If not poker, how about….
    There are all sorts of possibilities for those who look.
    Great post!

    • Bob

      Thanks Alfred! Creativity is the key!

  13. Man On Run

    I would never have thought of this one. But I have been wondering if there is a national chain that would need some type of roving employee, such as a vandweller, that could be on the payroll and work for a defined period of time in any number of their stores while crisscrossing the country. The only thing that vaguely seems to fit that description is OTR trucking.

  14. JIms

    Thanks again for a great post, Bob. A couple questions:
    I know dealers make tips during regular casino play (black jack, etc). Do dealers commonly get tips during these tournaments? If so, are they included in the income you mentioned?
    Also, how easily can a newly trained dealer get work without experience?
    Thanks to the guest poster for sharing.

    • Reducto

      Tournament tips are shared among all of the dealers and are included in the figure. If you deal a cash game you are tipped at the end of each hand and you keep that money but as a traveling dealer you will mostly be dealing tournaments.
      The WSOP hires a lot of new dealers because they need so many people. Most other dealing jobs are very tough to get without some experience or connections.

  15. McBe

    I was also wondering where the traveling dealers generally stay. With van dwelling I assume it’s in the casino lot, or nearby park, or on the street. Any additional info on experiences with that would be interesting. Thanks for the post.

  16. Reducto

    I generally rent a cheap room somewhere while I’m working but if you have a way to shower (very important since you’re sitting shoulder to shoulder with customers) and the climate is agreeable then you should be able to vandwell at or near the casino. Many casinos also have RV parks where you could get full hookups and a bathroom to use.

    • Bob

      Thanks Reducto!

  17. Naomi

    Yes, I did see Reducto’s comment about most events being non smoking. Thank you both!
    I’m seriously liking this idea – even though I’m not a nomad. I don’t want a permanent job. I get bored and I despise the office politics.
    Reducto, could you recommend any of the schools that are found on the Internet and/or suggest criteria for choosing one?
    I hope it’s not too late to post on this subject. Bob, I’m nothing if not tenacious. If I don’t see a response in a few days, I’ll assume no one saw this and send you an email. 🙂
    Thanks in advance!

    • Reducto

      The school I went to was directly through the WSOP and is no longer offered. I would recommend going to a poker room in your area during a weekday when the manager is most likely to be there and asking them what school they recommend. I would make sure it is at least 100 hours, covers a variety of games (flop, stud, and draw) and ideally there would be a place set aside for you to be able to practice after class with other students. I post on the forum occasionally, feel free to send me messages there.

    • Bob

      No problem Naomi! You’re welcome to comment on a post at any time. I see that Reducto already answered.

      • Naomi

        Thanks, y’all!

        • Bob

          You’re welcome Naomi!

  18. Gail

    What great info!!

    • Bob

      Thanks Gail. I’m so sorry that this took so long to get posted. I found it in my spam folder and I have no idea why. I you will forgive me!

  19. Karen

    What kinds of breaks do you get for food, bathroom, just stretching?

    • Bob

      Karen, I’m not sure he will answer, I don’t know the details, but I believe it is all they need. They need the dealers so they treat them well.

    • Reducto

      Typically we get a 20-25 minute break every 2-3 hours. It varies quite a bit, though – if it’s slow it might be 30 minutes on, 30 off. On two occasions I have had to do 7 hours straight and I’ve heard stories of 16 hour stretches. You do have opportunities to quickly run to the bathroom or get some water if needed.
      You get paid based off the number of tables you deal so most of the time you don’t want too many breaks.
      You can get up and stretch when you move to the next table which happens (usually) every half hour. If you’re dealing a tournament the players go on break every 2 hours so you get 15 minutes to sit or stand and relax while you watch the table.

  20. Jesse Jones

    Hi Bob,
    I just seen your video and now I’m so intrigued on pursuing this. But the only predicament is I’m British living in Europe. I’d love to get more info on there being any possibility of being a snowbird and getting a work permit to work the winter. Would there be anyone I could contact to see if tournaments would be willing to sponsor me or put me through a poker school program? It may be a long shot but definitely something I’d love to go for. Many thanks, Jesse.

  21. Linda Ohotto

    hi Reducto a question about your comments…would they have plenty of dealers ..if they dont have a teaching program..? i really enjoyed your comments…wondering if any new people in your business would know of a school that is reasonable .. I live in Oregon if that is helpful at all if your interested..I would appreciate it..thank you Reducto
    Sincerely Linda

  22. Ryan

    Wow, I found your story to be very interesting! This is great for those are are constantly on the road, thanks for sharing!

  23. Ollie

    Wow. I love poker and I’d love to be part of big tournaments. I’m not that rich though, so this sounds great to me. If I can get this job being from Sweden that is. And if I can convince my girlfriend it’s something i “need” to do 🙂

  24. TwoGallants

    Big thanks to Bob and Reducto for this site and superb article. As others have said, I never saw this as a real opportunity until watching Bob’s video series on jobs for nomads.
    I watched the WSOP Dealer’s Diaries video linked in this write-up. The dealers were showing some skills and speed manipulating/moving the cards around. Was this more for the camera or is this typical dealer style? How long does it take to do this sort of thing and look good at doing it?

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