Ins, outs, ups, downs of being a prop

Prop Tales

The Prop Life, Part 1

By Bill Patty

Nearly nine years ago my friend Randy and I became poker props. We had both been teachers and were looking for something different to do. Playing poker for a living seemed like a dream compared to working in the dysfunctional world that is our current education system.

We both soon realized that making a living as a poker prop also has its ups and downs.

Every casino that utilizes props does it in a different way. Some are simply poker players. Others, like me, are expected to run chips, work the poker board, and explain current promotions to new players.

Much of what a prop does also depends on the other casino staff and the other props. Having good props around you makes your job a lot better. An excellent poker prop like Bee, Say, Sonny, Randy, or Alex can bail you out when you are running bad and share the extra implied job duties. They also understand the highs and lows of propping.

As Randy points out, most people who become props think they are good poker players. We have seen that this is not usually true. Between us, we have probably seen 50 props come and go. Let’s face it, most poker players are not as good as they think they are.

Do you have to be a good poker player to be a successful prop? Many different types of people become props and each of them has a different definition of what makes for a successful prop.

Assuming you have seen the movie Rounders, I would tell you that Randy and I are examples of the Joey Knishes of the poker prop world. We play to pay our bills.

Propping is not glamorous! Anyone who makes their living playing poker knows that success is about handling your emotions. It is about money management. It is about patience and observation. And yes, it is about being a very good poker player!

What does all that look like? It is three-betting a top tier hand in a $4/8 limit game—after not playing a hand for a half hour or more—getting rivered by someone who flopped bottom pair and having the ability to gently toss the hand into the muck, not paying them off on the river because you know you are beat.

It is folding A-10 offsuit the next hand while listening to the person that just rivered you explain to their buddy why they called three bets preflop with J-3 (it’s their favorite hand) to show how they accomplished this magical feat! That, fellow poker players, is my definition of a successful poker player who is a prop.

How about throwing away A-A postflop after reraising to $25 in a $1/3 no-limit game when the flop comes 9-10-J? How about calling a raise in a limit game with K-4 suited because you know you have the raiser dominated?

I chose this. Why? I am not sure. My psychiatrist has not been able to make me understand that yet.

Randy and I have had many conversations about poker and our work environments. He is way cheaper than a psychiatrist! We just try to keep getting better at poker and grinding out a living doing what we love. We understand we are different.

Other props do the job to get out of the house. Some to supplement their retirement income. Others because they have to have a job. Still others prop to delay getting a job that they can actually support themselves with.

There are old props, young props, good-for-the-casino props, a few winning props, some ghost props, and a lot of former props. Applications always accepted.

People and Places

First, I would like to thank my friend Randy for helping me develop this column and for being one of the very few people I know whose poker game I truly respect.

Thank you also to the poker staff of The Orleans Casino and the staff of the World Series of Poker at the Rio for recently providing me with an excellent Vegas poker experience.

Until next time, enjoy your game and call me when I bet the river!