How to Properly Shuffle a Deck of Cards for Poker

Every game in a casino has its own dealing quirks and tricks – poker is no different. There are things that are done in poker that are exclusive to poker, and some things that are just common. The shuffle is one of the common steps – you can use these steps to shuffle for any single deck game.

The first recommendation I can make is to use 100% plastic cards (such as KEM, Copac, DaVinci, and many others) – don’t get plastic coated, get 100% plastic cards. They will more than pay for themselves over the years of use you’ll get out of them.

Now, for the basic shuffle, there are three basic steps:

  1. The Wash
  2. The Riffle
  3. The Cut

I’ll explain each in detail below.

1. The Wash

Traditionally, a full wash is done after changing decks, after a dealer change, or on occasion after dealing for a while at a non-shuffle machine table. Every card face should touch the felt in a full wash, and it should take about 5 or 6 seconds, maximum. A full wash isn’t necessary between every hand, a mini-wash is sufficient between every hand.

A wash is when you spread the deck face down, and move your hands over them in a circular motion, lightly touching the cards to spread them around. Gather them in, and use either the cut card or the top card(s) to collect the deck, then lift it and face them away from you (unlike house games, where you face the cards towards you). Knock the deck on the table to get some of the deck horizontal, then square it up with your thumbs and place it flat on the table.

2. The Riffle

The standard casino shuffle is a “riffle, riffle, box, riffle” – a riffle means to split the deck in two equal parts, lifting the corners of each with your thumb, and alternatively guide them back together.

RiffleA box is to take the deck into one hand, and grab a portion of the deck from the top, then pull it down to the felt. Repeat the same process, pulling down sections of the deck until you’ve replaced the bottom on the top.

You should but boxing about 3 or 4 times. Five or more is overkill, and once is not enough. Keep all portions of the deck parallel to the table the entire time.

3. The Cut

The last step is to square the deck face down in front of you with your cut card parallel to, and directly in front of, your deck. Take your dominant hand, lift one third of the deck, and place it down on the cut card. Then, using the same hand, take the other two thirds of the deck and place it on top of the first half. (Never use two hands to cut the deck.) Pick up the deck in your non-dominant hand, square it up, and prepare to deal. TRIVIA TIME – The first cut of the deck in step 3 is the technical beginning of a new hand in poker.


“It’s hard to walk away from a winning streak, even harder to leave the table when you’re on a losing one.”

― Cara Bertoia,

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A Raffle with a Twist

Many of us dealt the Jen H. event at Royal Sonesta last month, but how many of you noticed that their raffle was a *little* different? I noticed, because I was dealing Pai Gow Poker, which meant no one wanted to play for the first half of the night. Until one man was brave enough to sit down and learn, and then the table almost filled up. In the meantime, while waiting for my table to sprout players, I watched the raffle. Most raffles happen at the end of the event, after everyone is done playing. But, at this event, they did raffles in waves. They had three waves total, and gave away great prizes throughout. Check out the items they had – and this is just a sample:


So, why did they do this? I think one reason is because they had so many great items that there wasn’t anything that monumentally stood out as a “Finale” for the evening. When your gifts are this impressive, there’s no need to draw extra attention to them – they do that work for you.

But I present it does something slightly better than that – it keeps people interested, and keeps people gambling. When you turn in chips for tickets, and lose during Wave 1, and quickly see another chance to win again around the corner, you gamble more. To try to win again. And when you miss on Wave 2, guess what? You gamble again some more to try to win again in Wave 3. This simple change took people from gambling a little to getting them to gamble a lot. Smart move if you have enough prizes to raffle off. And boy, did they. Check out this video of prizes:


Not too shabby. And the system they used had every gambling until the last minute. Well done, Sunoco, and well done, Kristi Kinkaid!


“Last year people won more than one billion dollars playing poker. And casinos made twenty-seven billion just by being around those people.”

–Samantha Bee

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The IHostPoker Difference

Have you ever heard the phrase “You get what you pay for?” Of course you have – but do you agree with it? Of course you do – it’s true. Things that are cheaper tend to be cheaper for a reason – they’re cheap.

At IHP, you can work in the knowledge that we offer the best equipment for you to work with. Casino quality tables, buttons, cards, and anything else you need to make your table feel like Vegas. Compare below some of the differences:

Brand X Poker Tables vs iHostPoker Poker Table

This IHP table has drink holders & seats 9-10 players comfortably


This table from our competitors is made for eight players, has no place for a dealer, has useless drink holders (too shallow) and just looks and plays awful


Brand X Craps Table vs iHostPoker Craps Table

This competitor’s table looks like it was made overnight by someone who watched Casino for the first time to get an idea of what to build







This IHP table has a drink rail for your cocktails and is built just like a real Vegas craps table


Brand X Roulette Table vs iHostPoker Roulette Table

This IHP roulette table has a 19″ solid wooden wheel, cup holders for your drinks, and a reader board to track the numbers












Come on. Do I even need to point out what a mess this is?













The pictures show what we all know – IHostPoker is the top of the line. You get what you pay for – and what you pay for with us is professional dealers, Vegas style equipment, and a great experience. They can save a few bucks, or we can make their night a real event to look back on.


“The safest way to double your money is to fold it over once and put it in your pocket.”

–Kin Hubbard

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YES Prep 2016 is Over

Hey everybody,

It’s that time of year again, and the action is over and the dust has settled: YES Prep is over for the year. Once again, over $1 million was raised for underprivileged teens to get the best possible educational opportunities money can buy. A very worthy cause, especially when the return is over $1 billion back into Houston’s economy through those have graduated through the program. I learned that by reading the literature on the table – did you?

Every year, I somehow end up with a stinker of a table. Once, instead of donors, I dealt a table of teachers at one of the schools! Obviously they didn’t rebuy. This year was no different. I got a table full of mid-20s guys who were more interested in the open bar than the fundraiser. How did I end up at a table that actually got (unreasonably) cut off by their server? LOL

Anyway, despite my table and their desire for shots at a fundraiser, the main tables more than made up the difference, and the million dollar mark got crossed yet again, sure as the moon affects the tide.

Now, here are some tips for next year, courtesy of Scott Bosley:

  1. It’s OK to now and again break the tournament format and deal a hand or two of something else to get the wallets open – blackjack, high card/low card, Omaha, etc. Remember, this is primarily a fundraiser, not a sanctioned poker tournament.
  2. Encourage rebuys – this is a time when you’re allowed to influence action. Build a rapport with your players before you start dealing, so you can talk to them while they play and try to build pots and all-ins. Encourage players to play “wide open” and have fun. Don’t let them think too hard about the money involved. Use your host for this as well.
  3. Speaking of the host – make sure to use them to help promote rebuys. Have them help you promote the “wide open” style of play that will facilitate more rebuys.
  4. Don’t forget to tell players who bust out about the craps tables.

See you next year at the 2017 YES Prep event!!


“The only sure thing about luck is that it will change.”

–Bret Harte

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How to Deal “Let it Ride”

For those of you who already know this game, consider this a refresher course. But for those who don’t, well, read and learn. Maybe you’ll get to deal this game for IHP one day.

Let it Ride is a simple one deck, poker-based table game that uses standard poker rankings for payouts. The players place three equal antes as you shuffle and cut the deck. Each player is then dealt one card face down, starting to the left and working around the table, and the dealer takes one card face down. This is repeated once more, and then once again minus the dealer’s last card. At the end of the deal, each player should have three cards face down in front of them, while you should have two cards face down in front of you.

The players can then look at their hands (don’t let them look at each other’s cards, unless you’re dealing a casual game), and they make their first decision whether or not to pull their first bet back or “let it ride“. Some casinos will not allow a player to touch their chips, so the dealer will have to push bets back. Most casinos will allow the player to retrieve their bet. Once the players have decided whether or not to pull their bet back, you reveal the card to your right. Players then make their second decision whether or not to pull their second bet back or “let it ride“. After this decision, the player will set his cards face down, locking in the third bet. You then reveal your final hole card, and then begin the payouts. The players make their best five card hand out of their three cards and your two community cards. The player must have at least a pair of Tens to be paid.

Start to the left, and turn that player’s cards over. Either collect the bet(s) or pay off the bet(s) according to the payout chart listed on the table (and below). Keep going around the table until everyone has either been paid or had their souls crushed.

Shuffle up, place your bets, and repeat.


Payout Chart (This will be printed on the table as well)

Pair (10s or better)….even

Two pairs….2 to 1

Three of a kind….3 to 1

Straight….5 to 1

Flush….8 to 1

Full house….11 to 1

Four of a kind….50 to 1

Straight flush….200 to 1

Royal flush….1000 to 1


“The only man who makes money following the races is one who does it with a broom and shovel.”

–Elbert Hubbard

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Why I Love Dealing for IHP

Here’s the scene – it’s an IHP event, in a ritzy neighborhood, and it’s the HOA association having a casino night for a “Meet Your Neighbors” kind of shindig. If you pay attention to the IHP dealer page on Facebook, you saw the pic of the exterior – it was nice.

So, I’m dealing poker, and the first two people that get chips are a couple that I can tell has some experience playing poker, just by watching them. and watching them watch the other players, etc. They keep trying to bring players over, convinced they’re laying the trap.

Cue the old lady (who I will only call The Preying Mantis for the rest of the article) and her husband (who I will call Grumpaluffagus) – they join up, along with some stragglers/chum, and I begin to deal. It’s not two hands in before Grump is chastising every move that The Preying Mantis makes. She isn’t holding her cards right, betting right, acting right, etc., according to him. But, sure as a the sun rises, she outlasts him and he storms off in a huff.

That’s when things got fun.

The Preying Mantis began to mow players down like a man with a flamethrower battling an army of scarecrows. If there were four hearts on the board, she had the Ace of hearts. If the board was a four card straight, she held the fifth card. Almost every time. She accumulated chips like Donald Trump accumulates self tanning lotion.

After it was down to her and the couple of professionals, she started spanking them, too. Grumpaluffagus showed up, and immediately started telling her she was doing something wrong. The entire table turned on him instantly, all at once. It was great. He looked shocked, and I said, “Hey, she’s been doing great without your help! Leave her alone!” That’s when he saw her chips. He smiled and sheepishly walked off, giving her a thumbs up. LOL

The night ended with The Preying Mantis turning her 5000 chips into 80,000. I wish everyone could have seen the smile on her face.

You go get em, ma’am. Get thee to Vegas!!


“It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”

–Oscar Wilde

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Casino Design 101 (Part 2 of 2)

Casino Design 101

The last blog entry talked about basics of casino design and layout. This entry will discuss some specifics of slot and table game layouts.

Slot Machine Layouts

The most critical aspect of any casino layout today is all about slot machines, the bread and butter of the casino industry. In the 1970s, slots earned about 40% of casino gambling revenues, but today it’s up to 71%. In most casinos, slots now outnumber table games by well over 10 to 1.

The millennials now are coming of gambling age, and being gamers raised on smart phone games, they continue the trend of vastly preferring gambling via machine, including video poker and blackjack, over traditional table games. The modern success of slots has been driven by touch screens, which have allowed designers to create a wild array of currently popular themed slot machines. Today’s slot machines are no longer all identical machines, now the consumer can choose from more variety and therefore has more impetus to stick around and play different types of casino games – for example, if “Wheel of Fortune” doesn’t pay off, maybe “Family Feud” will.

Casino designers arrange machines in smaller groups, with a shift away from long rows and towards circles or smaller rows. This design lets players see a wider variety of games from any vantage point, giving them more choices and more gambling options, and making them more social, mimicking table games. Groups of people can all gather around in and play together, making the experience more fun – particularly for younger gamblers out as a group.

Table Game Layouts

Designers are still traditionally placing table games together in the middle of the casino where they can be centrally managed and secured. These games usually aren’t of much interest to casual gamblers, and regular gamblers will gravitate here anyway, so placement isn’t that critical.

Clustering table games in a group does have other advantages, though. Table games such as Blackjack and craps are often rowdy and noisy, which generates energy and creates a “party” environment. Having these games centrally located allows that energy to spread out, drawing in new players.

The next time you walk into a casino, pause for a moment and think about why it was designed the way it was, and notice how it’s been laid out. Are you in a maze or a playground?


“When I was young, people called me a gambler. As the scale of my operations increased I became known as a speculator. Now I am called a banker. But I have been doing the same thing all the time.”

Sir Ernest Cassel (1852-1921; British merchant banker and capitalist)


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Casino Design 101 (Part 1 of 2)

Casino Design 101

Everyone who has been to a casino has experienced the feeling of being lost in a maze of noisy slot machines, pit games, loud and raucous craps players, and cocktail waitresses. This blog will discuss why casinos are built like they are – like confusing labyrinths where your money goes to die.

Casino design and layout plays a large part in how people gamble, so it has therefore become a topic of significant interest to casino owners and operators. Many of the classic theories about casino designs have recently come under scrutiny, and casino layout theory is evolving – with the goal of encouraging more gambling while ensuring everyone has more fun.

 The Individual Customer Isn’t Average

A casino can’t be designed and built for just one person – it has to serve the needs of thousands of visitors, from confused tourists who’ve never gambled a nickel to whales looking to play high-stakes for hours or days. As such, when imagining a new casino, designers take the approach of segmenting all the possible customers they might attract and trying to create a design that works for all of them so they don’t take their business elsewhere.

All manner of variables are taken into account, including visibility above and around the slot machines, where crowds tend to gather, ambient noise, and even aromas in the casino. Designers map out typical routes different types of customers might take as they move through the floor and they tweak it to create the maximum amount appeal for each customer. The hotel guests may encounter games that showcase what the casino has to offer, while the casual gamer quickly encounters the slots without having to walk far.

The next step of the layout process is about creating a floor that entices customers to keep venturing inward and away from the exits.

From the Maze to the Playground

In the 1990s and early 2000s, casino designers widely adopted a theory known as the maze layout. The idea was to draw a player into the casino, then make it difficult to leave easily. The maze concept was widely adopted and rapidly entered into the mythology of Vegas pop culture. The maze layout used slot machines seemingly randomly arranged in haphazard curving arcs. A player that got lost or turned around would have to spend several minutes winding his way out – and hopefully dropping a few extra bucks into machines along the way. The key ideas are that the exits are practically hidden and that, no matter where a player is standing, he should be surrounded in all directions by a variety of gaming options.

In the last ten years, casino layout theory has changed due to the opening of the Bellagio and the Wynn, among other high end casinos. Low ceilings were opened up to the sky – in the case of Paris, with the sky literally painted on it – and the maze was scrapped in favor of smaller groups of machines with more open space around them. This design featured sculptures, sunlight, and wide paths to the gaming tables, the idea being to turn the casino from a place of confusion into an opulent and exciting resort. This concept has become known as the playground.

The playground design has proven incredibly successful at encouraging players to gamble, and designers have learned that players who are more at ease are happier when they win, and they’re more understanding when they lose – all of which convinces them to bet more.

Next entry will talk about the specifics of Slot Machine and Table Game layouts.


“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”

Thomas Jefferson

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How to Spot Poker Cheats

Everyone knows that poker is a game that people try to cheat – any time money is involved with something, there will always  be less ethical people trying to figure out an easier way to take it from those obeying the rules. Any card game should always be played fairly, so everyone gets the most fun out of it, but we all know that’s not always the reality. Most of IHP‘s events are played for charity or for fun, so it’s less likely – but it never hurts to be aware of the signs. Below I list some of the most common methods for cheating at poker – knowing how to cheat at Poker can be useful to spot cheats at your table. If someone draws your suspicion, you’ll know what signs to look for.

The methods for cheating at Poker fall into two general categories:

  1. Methods that require specific skills and lots of practice
  2. Methods that require brashness more than skill (Most of these are considered angle shooting, which is a controversial subject, as angle shooting techniques are recognized as unethical ways for a player to gain advantage over others without technically breaking the rules of the game.)

This blog will discuss Type 1 methods. These are some of the most common ways of cheating at poker, as well as some tips on how to spot players using these techniques.

Holding Cards

When a cheat is hiding cards in his hand to later switch his hand for. Cheating at poker this way is the most effective with a team and even more so if the cheat conspires with the dealer.

How to Spot

The cheater needs to hide the held cards somewhere, and eventually switch it back into play. Look for an unnatural cupping of the hand followed by some kind of distraction, like reaching down to tie his shoelaces.

Bottom dealing/Base Dealing

This is a highly practiced sleight of hand technique in which the known and previously placed bottom card from a deck of playing cards is dealt instead of the top card. A similar but much more difficult technique is “second dealing” which involves dealing the second card instead of the top one. This is obviously not a concern when we deal, but some of you I’m sure have played or will play in home games where the deal is passed.

How to Spot

The most obvious first sign is the use of the “Mechanic’s Grip”.


Watch out for dealers who master this grip, but don’t be fast to draw conclusions, as the grip is also taught in many professional dealer schools around the world.

Also, unless the dealer is particularly skilled, the technique produces a slightly different sound from standard dealing, and the second-to-bottom card may be pulled slightly out of place.



This is also a highly practiced skill that probably won’t be a concern at an IHP event. It involves placing certain cards in a position favorable to himself or his partner. Stacking happens during the shuffling of cards and it’s definitely an effective way of cheating.

How to spot

Cards can be stacked during the riffle shuffling, however this is the hardest to master. When using the Overhand Stacking technique, the dealer tracks certain cards through the overhand shuffling. It is unfortunately almost impossible to catch if the cheater is practiced enough. Look for a pattern of cards repeatedly coming back into play in consecutive hands.


This is when a group of two or more players secretly form a team and play in a manner to benefit the teams as a whole and giving them advantage over other players. This can involve communicating folded cards, cards coming on the flop, turn, or river, or whatever pertinent information the team needs.

How to Spot

You can spot the conspirators by the signals they use to communicate with each other:  a cough, a scratch, chip placement, card placement, etc. The better the cheats are, the subtler the signs. Also, when players are colluding secretly, they tend to avoid playing pots against each other.

Marked cards

The cheat marks some cards, so he can determine what kind of hand his opponent has by looking at the back of the cards. Cheating at Poker this way is effective, but requires the previous modification of the deck.

How to spot

Watch for a player staring at the cards a disproportionate amount of the time. Players tend to look at chips, or each other, or around the room, more than at the actual cards, while a hand is in play. If you notice a player who is consistently staring at your pocket cards as they sit on the table, be wary.  Look for any idiosyncrasies of certain individual cards to the smallest detail if you’re suspicious. Try taking two cards and placing them face down, and manually riffle them back and forth. Any differences in the backs should be obvious at that point.


I hope that this blog was helpful, and not just a refresher course.   🙂
If you spot something at a game that you are in, and it makes you uncomfortable, you have every right to leave. But, before you do – alert the person in charge. It’s not your problem to stop, but it is your duty to inform.


“You don’t gamble to win. You gamble so you can gamble the next day.”

–Bert Ambrose

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The Bad Beat Post

Hello all –

I wrote on the IHP FaceBook wall that I wanted some stories from everyone about things they saw over the Christmas month, from things seen at parties to employees who stood out, to clients who were awesome to the impressive setups and the *less* impressive set ups. And I got nothing. No one sent me anything. So, as your punishment, you get this blog: The Bad Beat Post. Read the three following stories, if you dare, about the three worst beats in poker that I’ve ever heard of – two that I witnessed myself.

Hand One

This hand occurred at a local underground card room. I was playing Hold Em, and five of us took a flop to a small raise. I had 89 on the button, and the flop come a beautiful 567 rainbow. Long story short, two of us end up all in, and he has pocket Aces. We run it twice, and the top comes running 7s, and the bottom come A6, for him to go from no outs to scooping the pot. OK, that’s bad – but that’s just the warmup.

Hand Two

This hand I didn’t witness myself, but I’ve heard from enough reliable sources to know that it DID occur. Again, this happened in an underground card room here in Houston. Two players in a big PLO game get it all in with two flushes apiece for an $8000 pot. On the turn, when they got it all-in, one player had the Ace high flush, the other had the 9 high flush, with a flopped open-ended straight flush draw. They agree to run it twice, and – YUP, you guessed it – the straight flush came both times. Brutal.

Hand Three

This hand is not actually a poker hand. This is, believe it or not, a Roulette bad beat story. Hear me out.

I was in Las Vegas with friends, on an impromptu vacation, meaning I had limited funds. A bad beat I won’t even talk about led me to only having enough money for food and essentials on the last day. While watching a friend play blackjack, he determined I was a cooler (rightly so), so he gave me $200 in green chips to bet his number on the roulette table. I do so, and my cooler streak ended when his number hit on the third spin. When I took him his winnings, I said, “I should take this black chip and put it on 12.” (Twelve being my number.) He encouraged me to do so, but I decided to save it for a tournament. Of course, 12 immediately hit. As my friend laughed, 12 hit a second time. As we all know, it’s standard to “let it ride” when you hit your number – which I would’ve done.

Who needs $7000 and change??

“Eat your betting money but don’t bet your eating money.”

–Horseracing Proverb

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