Dealer button & playing
, the buck
is a marker used to indicate the
player who is dealing or, in casino games with a house dealer, the
player who acts last on that deal (who would be the dealer in a
home game). The term button
is also used for a
variety of plastic discs, or lammers, used by casinos to mark the
status of players.
became a popular saloon game in the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century, the
integrity of the players was unreliable and the honor codes that
had regulated gambling for centuries became inadequate.
Because the dealer has the greatest opportunity to cheat
(by manipulating the specific cards
that players receive, or by inspecting the dealt cards), the
players would take turns in this role. To avoid arguments about
whose turn it was to deal, the person who was next due to deal
would be given a marker. A knife
was a common
object used as such a marker, and the marker became generally known
as a buck as an abbreviated reference to the buck
's horn that formed the handle of many knives at
When the dealer had finished dealing the cards he "passed the
buck". According to Martin, the earliest use of the phrase in print
is in the July 1865 edition of Weekly New Mexican
: "They draw at
the commissary, and at poker after they have passed the buck." The
phrase then appears frequently in many sources so it probably
originated at about this time. However, Mark Twain
cited it as common slang in Virginia City when he was a reporter there in 1862.
"Passing the buck" soon became a metaphor
for dodging responsibility. U.S. President Harry S. Truman
was noted for a sign in his office
reading "The buck stops here." It was a gift from his
crony, Fred Canfil, who found a similar sign in the warden's office
at the Federal Reformatory at El Reno, Oklahoma.
The use of other small disks as such markers led to the alternative
term "button". Silver dollars
were later used
as markers and it has been suggested that this is the origin of
"buck" as a slang
term for "dollar," though by
no means is there universal agreement on this subject. The marker
is also referred to as "the hat". The origin of this term is
believed to stem from the wearing of a hat having been used to
Today, a dealer button is typically a white plastic disc with the
word "Dealer" on each side.
The dealer button is sometimes modified to indicate a secondary
detail about the hand being played—for example, a kill game
may use a button with
the word "Kill" on one side to show that the current hand is a kill
pot, and turn the "Dealer" side up to show that the kill is off, or
a dealer's choice
game might replace
the dealer button with a placard indicating the chosen game.
At the World Series of Poker
in 2005 Harrah's
utilized space on the button for advertising by
featuring the logo for Degree
In casino and card room cash games, the dealer's well may contain
an assortment of laminated discs that the dealer may place in front
of a player's seat under certain conditions. Properly called
lammers (rhymes with 'spammers'), but also referred to as buttons,
they are separate from and used differently than a Dealer Button
The following table lists the most common lammers and their
||Put in front of a player who has wagered all their chips.
Small Blind with
|Put in front of the players to show they owe the indicated
amounts. The blind button is used in single blind games, while the
big & small blind are used together in double blind games.
Missed Big Blind,
Missed Small Blind
|Used to mark the position of a player who has missed their turn
to pay a blind. When the player returns, the missed blind(s) may be
paid immediately, or the player may keep the lammer and wait to
play until the unpaid blind comes in turn. Which indicative lammer
is used depends on the game being played and/or which blinds are
|Placed on the table at the position of a player that has been
away for an extended period. According to World Series of Poker Live Action Rules, after the seat has missed
the blind(s), each new dealer places an additional lammer in front
of the missing player's empty seat. On receiving a third lammer,
the absent players chips' could be picked up by the house in order
to seat a player waiting to get in the game.
||Put in front of an empty seat to hold it for a player that is
||A player can request one of these lammers from the dealer and
reserve first choice to change seats when a player at the table
leaves the game.
|Third Man Walking
||Marks the position of a player who leaves the table when two
players are already away. According to World Series of Poker Live Action Rules, the third player's chips' could be
picked up by the house to seat a new player if the third player has
not returned when the blind comes to their position.
|Used exclusively in kill
games, these lammers are unique since they read differently on
each side to indicate the kill status of the pot, similar to the
"On/Off" point marker in Craps. If the kill is
active, it is placed "Kill" side up in front of the player who has
triggered it to show that player is required to "kill the pot" by posting
an increased additional blind for the subsequent hand; Unless the
player is also in a regular blind position, which would require
only the increased value "kill" blind.
If it is not a kill pot, the "No Kill" side is kept up by the
The lammer may also read "Kill" and "Leg Up" on each side to show
who has triggered the first half of a requirement to kill the pot
("Leg Up"), or if the pot has been killed.
Which of the two differently marked lammers is used depends upon
the requirement to trigger
the kill pot for that game.
- Twain, Mark. Roughing It (1872)