Casino dealer

Maryland’s School of Casino Dealers Offers Real-Life Challenges for Students

Coach Rachel Szukala (left) keeps an eye on student Briena Rippy at the Black Jack table as Rippy learns the intricacies of dealer position. As college students, they take classes with professional dealers in hopes of landing jobs at Maryland Live! Casino. (Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

Nine thousand people applied to the Maryland Live Casino Dealer School. Eight hundred and sixty have been accepted – and dozens have already dropped out.

“We lost maybe 15%,” said Neal Sloane, the casino’s vice president of table games. “That’s what we expected.”

On Tuesday, the Casino School at Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie offered the media a glimpse of how hundreds of budding resellers are trained to launch voter-approved tabletop games. More than 500 students are expected to be hired by Maryland Live to work on the casino’s 122 tables this spring, part of a dramatic statewide casino gaming expansion this year.

The Croupier School – a partnership with Anne Arundel Community College – is housed in two converted retail spaces on the ground floor of the mall, with craps and blackjack tables having replaced the shelves and racks of merchandise.

The courses will last 12 weeks. Tuition fees are free. Commitment is heavy, with each class meeting four hours a day, five days a week.

Silver Spring’s Murphy Payne keeps an eye on the cards as he takes his turn as dealer during a practice session at the Black Jack table. (Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The potential gain: a job paying between $45,000 and $55,000 in salary and tips.

To make the cut, the students strove to master all aspects of the job. They collected fake money from players, split red and green casino chips into piles, dealt fake blackjack hands and staged fake craps games in a cramped and mostly colorless casino classroom.

“That’s how you prepare them for the casino,” said Maryland Live President Rob Norton.

But not everyone was ready for the rigor of the class. One student didn’t want to cut her fingernails (they were too long to support the chips, Sloane said). Others decided they didn’t want to run; there are no chairs around the school’s 27 craps and blackjack tables because the dealers in those games don’t sit down.

“It’s important that we simulate the real world,” Norton said.

For the most part, the training is tough: craps dealers struggle to learn stick calls, and blackjack dealers haven’t yet mastered the side bet. Not everyone is comfortable with fleas yet either. Again, this is only the third week.

“It’s a 12-week class for a reason,” Norton said.

And there are more to come. The casino is working with the community college to schedule more classes this year to put more trained dealers in the pipeline and teach even more games.

The other day, four poker tables were delivered to the dealer school. Places are opening soon.