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In the Air

The Cards are in the Air

by Jesse Knight
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In The Air
In the Air - A phrase that is used at the beginning of many tournaments to let players know the cards are being dealt.


In most brick and mortar casinos, the person who is responsible for tournament operations is called the Tournament Director, or the “TD.” The TD oversees the tournament staff and all aspects of tournament operations. They are also responsible for coordinating tournament activities with the other casino managers, like the Dealer Coordinator (DC), Poker Manager (PM), and the Shift Manager (SM). A good tournament director will also be a personality who attracts players to the casino. One of the roles which the TD typically plays is to makes some announcements prior to the start of the tournament. These announcements often cover specifics about the day’s tournament, house rules, and happenings in the casino. After the announcements take place, the Tournament Director traditionally starts the tournament with the phrase “Get the cards in the air,” or some similar lingo. Alternatively, some TD’s prefer the phrase “Shuffle up and deal,” which can be used interchangeably with getting the cards “in the air.”

“Put the cards in the air,” is simply a way to tell the dealers to begin dealing. The cards really do become airborne. When a dealer deals, he “pitches” the cards to the players. This means that he put his thumb on top of the deck and uses a forward moving arm motion to pitch the cards towards each player. When the dealer releases the card, it literally flies through the air, towards the receiving player. This is where the phrase “In the air” came from.

Once the cards are in the air, the tournament has begun, and players are bound by the house rules regarding tournament play. If there is a rule against cell phones, foul language, or receiving a hand when not seated, this is when it begins. Most major casinos use and enforce the Tournament Director’s Association rules, commonly known as the TDA rules. These rules are very specific about allowed behavior, among other things. From time to time, these rules will be updated, adjusted or changed, and it is up to the Tournament Director to keep his staff up to date and to follow the current set of rules. Often, a list of the current TDA rules will be posted in a conspicuous place or will be otherwise made available to the players.

The term “In the air” developed out of the way a poker dealer delivers the cards to the players, called the “pitch.” A dealer’s pitch is an important part of the dealing process and can be an indicator of how well they are able to deal. A new or inexperienced dealer can and should spend hours and hours practicing their pitch. Hand and body positioning are very important and play a vital role in producing an excellent pitch. A good pitch should be fast, accurate, and should not result in any accidental exposure of cards. A dealer who pitches well will be able to deal faster than dealers with an average pitch. He will be able to deal more hands per hour than his counterparts. This will lead to more hands dealt per hour, which translates into more tips for the dealer and greater revenue for the house. Players also tend to prefer a fast dealer with a clean, crisp pitch.

While the term “Put the cards in the air” is traditionally used as the starting gun for a tournament, it can also be used in other situation when it is necessary to instruct a dealer to begin dealing. A floorman may use the terminology to instruct a ring game dealer to start or restart a game. It is also frequently used to restart a tournament after a break or at the beginning of the final table.

If you have ever watched NBC’s “Poker After Dark” television series, they have seen the hostess begin by introducing each of the players, and follows with the statement “Let’s get the cards in the air.” This is the official signal to everyone that the game has begun.

Usage: Get Them In The Air, Cards Are In The Air

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