Channing Venting

Neil Channing vents his spleen on surly dealers and the lack of consistent rulings in UK poker

Before 2004, essentially I was a professional sports gambler who liked to play the odd poker tournament, and maybe a few cash games to spice it up a bit. I didn’t consider myself a poker professional, although I’d usually manage four wins in around 20 tournaments a year. I’d always go to Vegas for the WSOP though and loved the way the events there were run.

When I first became sponsored to play tournaments I had the opportunity to fly to Vegas four or five times a year and in 2005 I spent fifteen weeks living in the Bellagio. Back then I upped the number of tournaments I played to over 60. Tournaments are very addictive and I began to want to play more events on the domestic scene. But in reality I still played most of my poker in Vegas and London.

Why? I was sick of a six-hour train journey to a venue where I had no idea whether there’d be a decent structure, where the dealers weren’t even sure of the rules and where the management often didn’t care. I could fly to Vegas in a few hours more, play six tournaments a day if I chose to, and each one would be run with military precision.

It’s not that hard to make standards and procedures consistent at all venues. In America, it’s very rare that you notice a bad dealer. You never get a situation where a dealer annoys you because they do something ‘their way’. Proper training of staff means that there is just one way – the correct way – and there is no need ever for players to have to teach dealers how to collect the antes, how to drag in the bets and to never stack and count chips unless required.

Players often complain that a certain dealer is unlucky for them and personality clashes can develop. In the US it’s not so common, as after dealing for half an hour each dealer rotates. Excuses for not doing that in the UK are often tied to staff breaks.

It’s a simple change though, and one which would please the players and cost the casinos nothing. There’s nothing worse than being stuck with a slow dealer for two hours only to get a good dealer who stays for fifteen minutes.

The Big Change

The irritation with how tournaments were run in the UK changed for me when Grosvenor invented the GUKPT. It’s year three of the tour and I’ve been everywhere from Torquay to Newcastle and generally had a blast. In most places I’ve seen excellent dealers, who care about standards and work hard. I love the GUKPT; it’s great for the UK poker scene. Now though I’d like to see the tour really step up to the plate. They should be setting a standard of excellence that other tournaments look to emulate.

It still annoys the hell out of me when the tournament director doesn’t know whether the start of the riffle, the cut, the players putting their blinds in or the first card being dealt defines the start of the hand. The organisers are probably sick of listening to me rant about the things that upset me. The best way to stop me would be for them to just do it right. The only alternative I can see is I’ll have to stop playing them.


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