How to Deal Poker Like a Pro: Step-by-Step Guide

Learning how to deal poker is not an easy task. With the help of our in-depth guide and a little practice, you can quickly become a pro.

Last Updated on February 15, 2024 by Avatar Author Adrian Sterne
Fact checked by Dusan Jovanovic
Dealing In PokerPoker dealers are responsible for distributing cards to players and are in charge of overseeing the action at the poker table. There are numerous characteristics and specific skills that you must develop to become an adept poker dealer.

On this page, we’ll show you how to deal cards in a poker game, as well as how to run the game. If you want to be a competent poker dealer, you need to learn a few things that will provide smooth gameplay. These include:

We covered all the above aspects on this page. But enough with the small talk, let’s get straight to business.

How to Deal Poker Properly

The first lesson every wannabe poker dealer must learn is card shuffling. Once you get the hang of that, you can move on to other poker elements, like card distribution. But to get a better understanding of how card distribution works, you must be familiar with different variations of the game.

These basic skills should always be applied, no matter if you’re hosting a poker night with your pals or you are trying to become a professional dealer. While professional dealers undergo a rigorous training process, home-game dealers don’t necessarily have to strictly abide by the rules.

First and foremost, those who aspire to become poker dealers must learn how to shuffle cards like a pro.

Card Shuffling

The goal of card shuffling is to introduce chance and genuine randomness to the game. If there was no card shuffling, players would be able to predict the cards that will come up later and gain an unfair advantage.

You can shuffle the cards in several ways, but the most commonly used poker shuffle involves two rifles, a box, and a cut. Let’s see how this works in practice:

  • Wash the cards — Washing the deck refers to the process of spreading the cards out and mixing them across the poker table before gathering them. Every card face should touch the felt at least once in a wash (you should wash it for about seven seconds). 
  • Scoop all the cards together — Once you get the cards in close enough, you take one card off the top and put it in the bottom of the deck. Now you can hold all the cards.
  • Turn the cards away from you — The dealer shouldn’t be able to see the cards so that he can’t manipulate them.
  • Drop the cards — You must drop the cards to align them and give yourself a flat edge to work with.
  • Rifle — Grab the top edge of the deck with your middle finger and your ring finger (your thumb should be opposite it), and the other hand should mirror this movement. The pinky finger goes outside of the deck.

Now split the deck, and get the halves of it into position by pushing them together so that they’re touching. Angle the halves a bit so that they’re not paralleled. Slide your thumbs right to the corner (they should be touching at this point). Flatten all your fingers, and leave your fingers underneath. Let the cards fall to riffle and push the cards together.

Repeat the rifle.

  • The box — take the top quarter of the deck and place it on the table, then take the next quarter and place it on the first quarter and continue doing so with all the remaining cards.
  • Riffle again
  • Cut the deck — Place your cut card (the card that cuts the deck) in front of your deck. Take either ⅓ off the top of the deck or leave ⅓ on the bottom (to prevent someone from being able to follow a card through the whole shuffle) and put it on top of the cut card.

Put the remaining part of the deck on top of where you had it and clear your hands.

Here’s a video which to try and impress your friends when dealing poker cards:

The Card Tricks


A hint: After you riffled the cards for the last time and before you cut the cards, you should collect the antes (if it’s a tournament) or do the buy-ins in a cash game. This is an important concept in poker.

Ok, now you’re ready to pitch the cards out.

Card Dealing — Poker Pitch

There are two main methods of distributing the cards in poker — European and American. You can change your style according to the players’ preferences.

  • European style  — involves only touching the top of each card that’s being dealt. The dealer pushes off (slides) the card off the top of the deck to the table surface. They propel the card to the recipient, usually with a spin.
  • American style — In this style, the deck is held with one hand. The dealer uses the thumb (of the deck hand) to slide the top card towards the pitching hand. Then they pinch the top card with the thumb and index finger and distribute the card by flicking the wrist.

Here’s a nice tutorial that shows how to deal poker like a pro:



Burning and Turning

If you’re playing a community card game like Texas Hold’em, you, as a dealer, must burn or discard the top card off the deck. Why do dealers do this? The explanation for burning is that the top card is visible to players during previous betting rounds, so someone might be able to use this to their advantage.

Here’s a nice tutorial that shows you the burn & turn deal:

Jack Carpenter


In flop games, the three community cards are turned up simultaneously, never one by one.

Manage the Pot

It’s up to the dealer to verify how much players are betting and raising, as well as oversee the side pots. If you’re playing a home poker game, you can use online pot calculators to facilitate the process. Distribute the betting chips, and push the pot towards the winner at the end of the round.

Here’s a nice tutorial that shows manage a side pot like a pro:



How to Deal Poker Professionally: Rules

There are numerous poker variations, and each comes with its own set of rules. Poker dealing is a complex topic, and the dealing mechanics will change depending on how many players are at a table, whether you’re playing at home or in a casino, and which version of the game you are playing.

Here are a few rules that apply to the majority, if not all poker variants out there.

Deal to the Left

The first, and probably the easiest rule to learn, is that the dealer deals the first card to the player sitting to their immediate left. Each player is given his cards face down, one at a time. The distribution of the cards is performed in a clockwise direction.

The process is repeated until the proper number of cards is dealt to each player. At the end of each hand, players will be dealt two to five cards, depending on the type of poker played.

The Button

In poker, the dealer button is used to denote the player who is currently considered a dealer or, if we’re talking about casino games, the player who acts the last on that deal.

Whenever a hand (round) is completed in poker, the dealer button will move one position to the left. In a home game, this means that an individual must actually dispense the cards.

In a casino environment or at poker websites, the movement of the dealer button is used to indicate which player will play first and which player will act last during the rotation. Those holding the dealer button will always be the last to act during the hand.

Betting Rounds

Most forms of poker include a round of betting before the cards are even dealt. There are two main types of “forced” bets in poker: antes and blinds.

  • Antes — these are mandatory bets that all players must make before the hand is dealt.
  • Blinds — blinds are also forced bets, but only for the two players sitting on the left to the dealer.

The player closest to the dealer is required to make a small blind, while the player sitting on their left is required to make the big blind (double that wager). All other players are required to either match or exceed the big blind in order to continue with that hand.

Keep in mind that not all forms of poker require both antes and blinds, but players are usually required to pay at least one of these bets before each hand. The amount of these bets depends on the type of poker and the card room. In tournaments, it usually increases over time.

Empty Seats

In all poker games, the number of active players at the table will decrease over time. Some players will bust while others may merely get up and leave. The dealer will exclude the players who leave the table from the betting round. However, players who leave the felt without removing their chips will be treated as active.

This means that players who get up to grab a snack, go to the bathroom, or answer the phone will still have cards dealt to their position. However, those cards will be folded if that player doesn’t return in due time.

As active participants, these players will still be subject to any bets (antes, blinds) that they would be otherwise required if they had been at the table the whole time.

Busted players can still occupy a position at the table, and this is known as the dead blind. The dead blind rule is implemented to ensure that no player is required to pay fewer/higher blinds compared to their opponents. If a player is eliminated from the big blind, the next hand will see a dead small — no player has to put this bet in.

How to Become a Pro Dealer

Being a dealer is relatively easy, as far as technical aspects are concerned — it’s more or less just basic math and, after a while, it’s all autopilot for chip handling and for the payouts. However, it may take a while until you get the grip of all the mechanics and rules involved. These following tips may help you handle the dealer’s job more smoothly the next time you host a home poker game.

Practice Is Everything

Shuffling and dealing the cards and overseeing the pot are skills that you gain with practice. You can do it at home with a deck of cards to ensure that you eliminate any mistakes from your deals. If you practice often, you’ll improve your accuracy and sleight of hand.

Act Professionally

Most poker players are looking to have a good time, which means that you, as a dealer, must maintain a positive attitude, answer any players’ questions, show restraint, and keep quiet during the game. Poker dealers must have good communication skills. Interacting with players is part of the job, and good communication skills are the foundation of being a good dealer.

The majority of the players are polite and easy to deal with, but you’ll also find players who are mean, rude, drunk, abusive, and often obnoxious. You must deal cards to each player professionally, and restrain yourself from any conflicts.

If you handle the problem quickly and effectively, you’ll maybe even earn a few extra bucks. Poker players are known to slip tips to dealers that manage the games quietly and professionally.

Learn Different Poker Varieties

There are countless poker varieties out there, so it’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll learn the rules of each game overnight. However, you should at least familiarize yourself with the five or ten most commonly played variations. These include Texas Hold’Em, Five-Card Draw, Seven-Card Studs, and so forth. Read the guides and watch the tutorials to learn how to play them.

Be Attentive All the Time

At some live poker tables, players will try to cheat their way into a win. If you catch players cheating, you should immediately get the floor involved, or ask them to leave the table, if it’s a home game.

However, if you only suspect a player cheating, keep your mouth shut, and let the game move until you’re 100% sure. Most cheaters will deny it no matter what, so you must be prepared to defend your accusations with solid arguments.

Final Thoughts

Being a poker dealer is not an easy task. The key is to manage different responsibilities while keeping the game running smoothly. Don’t expect to become a pro dealer overnight, but as you gain experience and hone your skills, you should be able to teach your pals at poker night a lesson or two.

Should there be any issues that need to be clarified on this topic, please let me know in the comment section below — I’ll be glad to help you out!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can the player on the right of the dealer refuse to cut the deck?

Yes, if a player doesn’t want to cut, they just put their palm down on the deck.

Why are there burned cards in poker?

The burnt cards help prevent cheating because it makes it harder to manipulate the deck.

What is the best protocol for dealing in home poker games?

Deal in a clockwise direction, starting from the player sitting to your immediate left, and always deal yourself last. Shuffle the deck well, for at least 30 seconds.

Who should be a dealer in a home poker game?

In home poker games, players should take turns, with the dealer button indicating whose turn it is to deal.

Can you make a living as a poker dealer?

Of course you can! Poker dealers are well-paid, up to $100,000 a year.

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Hi, I am the Chief Editor of, this site is dedicated to all thing poker. I have been working around the poker industry for the last 15 years, with different brands. The main purpose of this site is to keep you uptodate with the industry and offer you the best deals around.