Casino dealer

The casino dealer whose regulars don’t like to gamble

Photo: Dennie Cody and Duangkamon Khatt/Getty Images

Anonymous, 53
casino dealer

I work at an Indian casino in the Midwest. I think there are only four states that don’t have Indian casinos. They are almost everywhere at this point.

I distribute all kinds of games – blackjack, baccarat and all those poker games invented so that people can play against a dealer rather than against each other. So, like, three-card poker and four-card poker, and there’s a variation of Texas Hold’em, and silly stuff like something called Casino War. God knows why you would want to play these things, but you can.

People love these games because in real poker there’s all this psychology of trying to read what other players are doing. You don’t have to do this when playing the casino versus dealer version. You don’t have to guess if someone is bluffing or anything. All you have to do is figure out if you have a good enough hand to bet or not. It is a strictly mathematical decision. Of course, people who play real poker would say that’s silly because in invented games against the dealer, the odds are always against you. Whereas if you play poker against real people and are good at reading them, you can actually win. But still, most people play against the house anyway, knowing the house has the edge, acting on some level like they just don’t believe it.

People are weird. Really weird. I always have players at my table who insist that the casinos cheat, that the shuffling is somehow rigged, that somehow we know how to give the dealer the best hand or somehow hitting you with a card that’s going to bust you when you have 15 in blackjack. Of course, that’s impossible. We don’t mix. The machine shakes. I just distribute the cards and manage the money. But players honestly seem to believe we can cheat – and they come in and play anyway. That’s the thing that amazes me. They think we’re scamming them, and they still come over and sit and play for hours?

I worked here about four and a half years. I live about 15 minutes away. I usually take a ride with one of my colleagues. The casino itself is a very large three-story building. We have a hotel next door that is 20 stories tall. You can see it for miles. We have an employee entrance, and you walk in, you put on your uniform. Everyone who works here who isn’t some kind of manager has some sort of colorful uniform so you can tell exactly what they’re doing. I always say, everyone is color coded for your convenience. Table game dealers, slot machine attendants, cashiers. Waiters and waitresses – and there are different ones for each restaurant. The cleaning ladies, they wear black so as not to get dirty. I guess they are supposed to look invisible.

Once you are changed, you will find out what you are doing for the day. They have a roadmap hanging on the wall. It’s organized by each pit, and you find your name and it tells you where you are and what you’re dealing with. You won’t know until you get there. There is always a little surprise.

Most games you play standing up. They have a few seated blackjack tables because you have people in wheelchairs and such who want to play, and they try to be accommodating. But that’s all. Everything else is standing, which is tiring.

You have to learn to filter a lot of things if you want to focus. Because when you’re dealing, you do everything quickly in this noisy place with flashing lights and the players are always watching you and the supervisors and you’re always on camera. You have to overcome the fact that you are always being watched.

I was scared for a while when I started. I was not used to working in public. I had always worked in offices in a quiet environment where people did mental work in front of a computer. Here, everything is very public. You get all these people standing around. It probably doesn’t bother a lot of people, but it makes me feel a bit claustrophobic. I’m basically an introvert; I don’t like to be surrounded by crowds of people.

Some people are friendly and want to chat, others just want to be left alone with their cards. You must try to read them because some people will complain if the dealer never talks to them. You have to find it out for yourself. Those who want to talk want to talk about fairly mundane things. It’s a bit like being a bartender. I don’t really want players to know me that well. For the most part, I don’t really want to know them. I don’t feel like we have much in common. Some of them are definitely icky. Many of them are.

The other day, I’m giving out roulette. There are a lot of players and the bets are scattered as usual. I turn; 14 strokes. And the important part of the story is that 14 is red and in the second 12.

The first thing you do as a roulette dealer when a number is hit is pick up all the losing outside bets – those that aren’t on a specific number. So I do that, and there are no bets on the second 12. There’s $30 on black, but since he’s a loser, I take it.

I do this, and a player says, “Hey, you picked up my winner!”

I ask him what bet he’s talking about and he says, “The second 12!” I explained to him that there was no bet on the second 12, and the bet I had picked up was on black, which had lost.

And he says, “Yes, you did!”

Alright… alright… If he wants them to review the camera footage, let’s do it. Better to just check the video than to chat with the players. So I pull out my paddle and call the floor manager and tell him what happened.

So now the guy realizes that I’m not just going to pay him, and he changes his story. He says the $30 was about to win, but someone – he points to another player – moved it. It’s not really our responsibility, but the floor manager is going to call surveillance.

We wait a few minutes. The floor manager comes back and says give her $10. It’s a little weird, but okay. I give him $10. The floor manager talks to him. I can’t really hear the conversation because the live band is playing. I just see the guy is all pissed off and says we need more cameras and bullshit he’s not getting paid on his bet. He leaves with a friend who had accompanied him.

When I go on a break, the room manager tells me what really happened: the guy had $10 on the second 12, and his friend (not the person he designated) had moved it to black . She gave him back his $10 as a courtesy just to keep the game going. But it’s a great example of why you never want to believe what players tell you without verifying it.

There are casinos, like if you are in Las Vegas, most players are on vacation. We get a bit of a convention, but we mostly have a local crowd, and I think that makes a difference. People on vacation tend to be much nicer. If you’re on vacation, you’re there to have fun and you probably have a budget set aside for gambling, so you’re a lot less nervous about losing it. We get a lot of regulars and some of them are really here every day. I don’t think most of these guys are having fun anymore. You wonder why someone is going to do something every day or every week when all they’re doing is complaining about not winning. I’m sure there’s an element of addiction because they don’t seem to be having fun, but they don’t stop.

Most of the people who work here are in their twenties. For many people, it’s their first or second job after school. You don’t need a college degree for this. I got into this because I had been out of work for almost two years and knew someone here who was a poker dealer. It’s very difficult to become a poker dealer because they earn a lot more than us. But they still need blackjack dealers so I decided to give it a shot.

They pay as a base salary plus tips. I think all casinos work this way. This works out to around $17-18 per hour. About two-thirds are tips. Many players do not tip. We find that very irritating of course. We always think how great a job it would be if everyone tipped, but not everyone does.

I feel grateful, however, to have this job. Employers in this job market are very difficult to hire people who have exactly the right skills and who have done exactly what they are looking for in the past five years. Casinos don’t really care about that stuff. If you can do the job and you’re reliable, they’ll get you, no matter what you’ve done before.

Hardly anyone goes to school with the intention of being a barista. We have a guy, that’s always what he wanted to do. He grew up in Atlantic City. Now he’s a mine manager, he’s been doing it for 25 years. And he loves it. But most people are like me, it’s something we’ve been through. It’s a second or third career or it’s a temporary job. It’s a really good thing to check out if you’re unemployed or looking to change careers, because they’re not that picky about what people were doing before, and they’ll train you.

However, I have to say: my job doesn’t have much meaning for me. We entertain people and it’s important for people to have everything they think is entertaining in their lives. But do I think I am significantly improving the human condition? The answer is no. I don’t think it would be a great loss to mankind if casinos disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow. I’m sure there are people who come and it doesn’t do them any good. I feel quite neutral about participating in it because people have their free will. We don’t force anyone to come in or stay longer than they should. You are supposed to be an adult and know whether you can afford to gamble or not.

I’m trying to get out of it. I’m getting too old to work ten hour shifts on my feet. It tires me physically. I sometimes feel like I’m just working and sleeping to recover from work. I don’t have the energy to do anything fun. You work in this huge crowd of people and you are alone.