These are a few of my favorite things

By Randall Rapp

People are always making lists of pet peeves. It seems a bit peevish behavior to me and decidedly negative in its approach. Therefore, having not made the usual rounds of Northern California casinos this period, I’d like to share a few of the things I’ve come to prefer as I make my way from casino to cardroom and back again.
A clear place to start

It’s always nice to walk in the door of an establishment you’ve never been to before and be able to tell right away where to go to get in the game you want. Not so much for me personally, I just find it makes for a superior experience coming to a place that knows how to encourage and welcome first timers coming through their doors.
I’ve always been in favor of encouraging rather than discouraging newcomers. They’re the ones that will keep the games going from month to month and year to year.

Friendly staff

Sure it’s a job—which means it’s work—but nothing beats a smile and a friendly word from the floor staff, dealers, service personnel, chip runners, cage attendants, and security. They really are the face of the casino which everyone sees … and who wouldn’t rather see a grin than a grimace?
Helpful dealers

In addition to the smile, it’s especially nice when the dealer keeps the game going smoothly. Whether it’s as simple as pointing out that someone’s turn to act has come around or as complicated as assisting an individual with special needs, a dealer’s gracious attention to these details is always appreciated.

This can be an especially big deal with new players. A lot of the time they are nervous and unsure of what to do when (and maybe how much). When I see a patient dealer making sure they enjoy themselves and feel welcome it always give me a nice warm fuzzy.

Friendly players

Yes, there’s a bit of a theme developing here, but who wouldn’t rather play with individuals who are congenial and pleasant to be around. Mike Caro has often said that he likes to be entertaining at the table to make sure everyone has a great time. That makes it easier for him to part them from their money and have them smile while he’s doing it.
I don’t think everyone should be outgoing and flamboyant … some of us are a bit more reserved than that and too much of a good thing is just that—too much. Let’s all just strive to get along and put the more appealing aspects of our personalities on display.

Elbow room

I think nine is plenty of people to crowd around a poker table (10 if you count the dealer). I understand squeezing to 10 for tournaments but I prefer that it stop there before I get squashed. Now that we’ve established that the dealers are helpful and the players are friendly, I’ll just add that I still don’t want to get all that close to them. Leaving off issues of hygiene, there just aren’t that many people I want so close to my personal space!

I like it when someone rakes a big pot and tips the dealer more than the usual dollar or two. I like it even more when someone rakes a fairly small pot and sends a chip to the dealer anyway. After all, if they’re fulfilling their duties under the “friendly staff” and “helpful dealers” categories above, then they’ve earned it and they’re worth it.

Happy dealers make better dealers, so let’s keep them well fed so we don’t wind up back in the old days when there were no professional dealers and players took turns dealing the cards.
Big jackpots

I know this one’s a no-brainer but who doesn’t love to know they’ve got a shot at a huge jackpot? Personally, I’ve never had a sniff at even a small bad beat jackpot, but it doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it being out there. Maybe it is like the lottery, but who wouldn’t rather buy a ticket to win $100 million instead of a measly $10 million?


You can’t go wrong with a freeroll tournament! Whatever the structure (and usually they are fast and furious) you can take a “go big or go home” approach and either chip up or move on. With no investment on your part, you literally have nothing to lose so you can sit back and enjoy.

Deep structures

If I am investing in a poker tournament though, I like a good, deep structure with lots of levels and a decent amount of chips. I want to feel like I can be selective on what hands I play and how I choose to play them. I want to be able to lay down a big hand when I think I’m behind. Sometimes I may want to think for a minute or so before acting on a tough decision without feeling like I’m stealing precious time from the table.

I certainly understand the concept that most regular tournaments are designed to get done by a certain time for a variety of very good reasons. It’s not that I won’t play in such tournaments or enjoy myself thoroughly when doing so. I’m just saying that I have a personal preference for the one over the other. I like snickerdoodles and chocolate chip cookies both, and won’t likely turn down either one. But I do have a preference!

So these are just a few of my favorite things. I’m sure with time I’ll come up with more and will share them when I do. In the meantime, if your favorite thing ­isn’t listed here and you’d like to share it with us, email me at Remember, we’re looking for the stuff you love, not the stuff you don’t!