Poker: Small Blinds
April, 18, 2014
By Andrew Feldman | ESPN.com
Jay Newnum/WJMediaMichael Mizrachi began his journey into poker as a dealer and he's opened up an online school to help others do the same.
Michael Mizrachi has accomplished most of what every professional poker player dreams about. He’s won numerous titles around the world on many major tours, been an online icon, made the final table of the WSOP main event and currently sits as one of only a few players with tournament winnings that exceed $14 million.
Mizrachi has also been one of the most prolific endorsers in the game. He’s been an ambassador for numerous online sites, patched himself up for everything from gold-buying stores to e-cigarettes, and remains one of the biggest representatives for the growing DeepStacks Poker Tour. The Grinder loves poker and these days he’s out on his own, working on a passion project with hopes of improving the poker industry.
The Mizrachi Dealer Academy is both a live and online effort aimed at improving the mechanics and knowledge of dealers all around the world. They offer live training in Florida and two weeks ago, they released an online dealer training course that is certified by the Florida Board of Education.
“Dealing poker can take you anywhere,” Mizrachi said. “As a poker dealer, you're guaranteed to make money. As a poker player, you never know what’s going to happen.”
The dealer academy began as a pet project for Michael, his brother Rob, and Stacy Matuson who, like the Mizrachi brothers, has been on both sides of the felt for more than two decades. While the Academy bears the Mizrachi name, Matuson is constantly looking to boost the curriculum, business and provide a great experience to all involved.
“We want to be part of taking this industry to the next level. We want to help an ailing economy,” Matuson said. “You can't train dealers like the way they did 20 years ago. We're showing our dealers the new games that are coming out and being pioneers.”
The live-based dealer school has an 85 percent placement rate, and the online academy is the first of its kind.
“People from around the world wanted to come to the live school. They wanted to be trained by us but couldn't afford to [pick up and leave],” Matuson said. “Now someone who is working full-time can watch their videos and do their practices on their own, flexible schedule.”
The curriculum includes 22 classes that range from dealing the most standard games to how to handle table security. Instructors are available to discuss any potential questions as they consume the course. Mizrachi estimates a full course can be completed in two to three months. During each step of the way, students must videotape themselves and submit their work for evaluation. If needed, instructors will call or email the students to provide feedback.
One final live Skype audition in front of the instructors will determine the candidate’s suitability for certification. They'll be asked to perform a variety of tasks and if successful, a diploma will be sent to them the following day.
Mizrachi’s connections are another key aspect to the academy’s continual success. Based on relationships he’s formed around the world, poker entities have called and asked for potential dealers to fill available roles. The tuition ranges from $849 (online) to $1,300 (live), but Mizrachi believes that most of their students recoup that investment within the first few weeks of dealing.
There’s also one more major incentive: while you're improving your dealer skills, if the Mizrachis are on hand, they are happy to offer some poker advice.
“We want our students to feel like they're a Mizrachi when they walk in,” Michael said. “They're part of the family. So many of the world’s most successful poker players were dealers first.”
In potentially booming markets, such as states that recently changed their gambling policies (Maryland, New York), dealers are or will be in high demand. Matuson hopes that training on location will be a future growth area for the academy and has already fielded calls from Argentina for a trial of this execution.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling just to get it done,” Mizrachi said. “It took two years to build the online academy, and this will be the school of all schools. When people think of dealer training, we want them to think of us. Want to be the go-to for everything involving poker.”
Training for all casino games is coming soon, but certification has not yet been achieved.
While it may not be the first thought for many of us who follow the game, improving dealer fundamentals is an important place to start for continued growth. Mizrachi understands that as long as the game survives, dealers will be in demand, and he prides himself that knowing each and every graduate of the Academy has the right skill set to succeed in an often-overlooked aspect of the game.
“All you need is a great smile, great mechanics and be able to work well with people,” he said. “You can’t ask for a better job.”
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