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Anonymous, 53 years old
I work in 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 sell all kinds of games – blackjack, baccarat, and all these invented poker games that they 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 some variation of Texas Hold’em, and stupid things 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 is all this psychology of trying to read what other players are doing. You don’t have to do this when playing the casino version against the dealer. You don’t have to guess if someone is bluffing or anything. All you have to do is determine whether or not you have a good enough hand to bet. It is a strictly mathematical decision. Of course, people who play real poker will say it’s silly because in games invented 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 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 mix is rigged somehow, that somehow we know how to give the best. hand to the dealer or somehow hit you with a card that will break you when you have 15 in blackjack. Of course, this is impossible. We do not mix. The machine moves. I just deal the cards and manage the money. But the players honestly seem to believe we can cheat – and they come in and play anyway. This is what amazes me. They think we’re ripping them off, and they always come and sit and play for hours?
I worked here for about four and a half years. I live about 15 minutes away. I used to take a walk with one of my colleagues. The casino itself is a very large three story building. We have a hotel next to 20 floors. You can see it for miles. We have an entrance for the employees, and you come in, you put on your uniform. Everyone who works here who isn’t some sort 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 merchants, slot machine attendants, cashiers. Waiters and waitresses – and there are different for every restaurant. The cleaning ladies, they wear black so as not to get dirty. I guess they’re supposed to look invisible.
Once changed, you will find out what you are doing for the day. They have a road map on the wall. It’s organized by pit, and you find your name and it tells you where you are and what you’re dealing with. You won’t know it until you get there. There is always a little surprise.
Most of the games you play while standing. They have a few sit-down blackjack tables because you have people in wheelchairs and the like that want to play, and they try to be accommodating. But that’s all. Everything else I do is standing, which is tiring.
You have to learn to filter a lot of things if you want to focus. Because when you are dealing you do everything quickly in that noisy place with flashing lights and the players are always watching you and the supervisors and you are always in front of the 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 have always worked in offices in a quiet environment where people do mental work in front of a computer. Everything here is very public. You get all of these people standing around. It probably doesn’t bother a lot of people, but it makes me a little claustrophobic. I am basically an introvert; I don’t like being surrounded by crowds.
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 speaks to them. You have to find out for yourself. Those who want to talk want to talk about fairly casual things. It’s a bit like being a bartender. I don’t really want the players to get to know me that well. For the most part, I don’t really want to get 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 dealing with roulette. There are a lot of players and the bets are scattered as usual. I turn; 14 shots. 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 falls is to pick up all the losing outside bets – the ones that are not on a specific number. So I do that, and there is no bet on the second 12. There is $ 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 means and he says: “The second 12! I explained to him that there was no bet on the second 12, and the bet I took was on black, which had lost.
And he said, “Yes, you did!”
Alright… fine… If he wants them to review the camera video, let’s do it. Better to just check the video than chat with the players. So I pull my paddle and call the floor manager and explain what happened.
So now the guy realizes that I’m not just going to pay him off, and he changes his story. He says the $ 30 was about to be won, but someone – he points to another player – moved him. It’s not really our responsibility, but the floor manager will call surveillance.
We wait a few minutes. The manager comes back and says to give him $ 10. It’s a little weird, but hey. I give him $ 10. The manager speaks to him. I can’t really hear the conversation because the live band is playing. I just see the guy getting pissed off and saying we need more cameras and it’s bullshit that he doesn’t get paid on his bet. He leaves with a friend who was with him.
When I go on a break, the floor manager tells me what really happened: the guy had $ 10 on the second 12, and his friend (not the person he pointed out) had moved it into black. She gave him back his $ 10 out of courtesy just to get the game going. But that’s a good example of why you never want to believe what players tell you without verifying it.
There are a few casinos, like if you are in Las Vegas, most of the players are on vacation. We get a bit of convention business, but most of the time we get 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 here to have fun and you probably have a budget set aside for the game, so you’re in a lot less rush to lose it. We get a lot of regulars and some of them are really there every day. I think most of these guys aren’t having fun anymore. You wonder why someone is going to do something every day or every week when they are just complaining about not winning. I’m sure there is 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, this is 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 is very difficult to become a poker dealer because they win a lot more than us. But they still need blackjack dealers so I decided to give it a try.
They pay as a base salary plus tips. I think all casinos do it this way. This comes down to about $ 17 to $ 18 an hour. About two-thirds are tips. Many players do not tip. We find that very irritating of course. We still think how great a job it would be if everyone tips, but not everyone does.
I feel grateful, however, to have this job. Employers in this job market are very picky about hiring people with 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 this stuff. If you can do the job and are reliable, they will get you no matter what you’ve done before.
Almost no one goes to school with the intention of becoming a table dealer. We have a guy, that’s always what he wanted to do. He grew up in Atlantic City. Now he’s a pit boss, he’s been doing it for 25 years. And he loves it. But most people are like me, that’s something we’ve been moving towards. It’s a second or third career or it’s a temporary job. This is a really good thing to check out if you don’t have a job or are looking to change careers because they’re not that picky about what people used to do, and they will train you.
Still, I have to say: my job doesn’t mean much to me. We entertain people and it is important that people have everything they think is entertaining in their life. But do I think I am dramatically improving the human condition in some way? The answer is no. I don’t think it would be a great loss to mankind if casinos were to disappear from the face of the earth tomorrow. I’m sure there are people coming and it doesn’t do them any good. I feel pretty neutral about being involved because people have free will. We are not forcing anyone to come in or stay longer than they should. You are supposed to be an adult and know whether or not you can afford to gamble.
I’m trying to get out of it. I’m getting too old to work ten hours a shift standing. It exhausts me physically. Sometimes I feel like all I do is work and then sleep to recover from work. I don’t have the energy to do anything fun. You work in this huge crowd and you are alone.