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Learning How to Deal: The Life of a Casino Worker

By Josh Stone 
Copyright 2006

Have you become tired of the daily grind? Fed up with low wages and dead-end jobs? Are you ready to change your fortunes with a new career amid the lights and glitter? Then working for a traditional casino, Native American casino or one of the online casinos may be just the thing for you!

Imagine yourself as a high stakes casino blackjack or poker dealer, flipping cards to the rich and famous. Or perhaps you prefer to work behind the scenes as a casino pit clerk, cage cashier, slot technician, or casino surveillance officer. Those are only a few of the hundreds of entry-level casino and gaming related jobs available to you. With new casinos opening every year both in the United States and abroad, the opportunities are nearly endless.

Being a Casino game dealer can be fun, challenging, and lucrative. Many dealers find roulette to be one of the more interesting games to deal. Although it is a bit repetitive like blackjack, there are different things roulette dealers do. In blackjack it's constantly dealing and counting the cards, and paying or taking money. In roulette dealers pick up chips, spin the ball, and move chips around on the layout. But the tips are a little bit less at roulette. Bettors tend to wager less money on roulette than on blackjack, and they tend to tip in proportion to what they are playing.

What is the most challenging part about roulette for dealers? Definitely the totaling of bets because there are so many combinations to figure out. Sometimes the math can get a bit hard. But you get used to it after a while. You'll be able to look at the layout and know how much to pay without even thinking about it. And you have to be very diligent about watching the entire roulette table, especially when it becomes crowded. Manual dexterity also comes into play as a roulette dealer. When you are working out of a tray on the blackjack table, you just take the chips out to pay the players or pick up bets. But in roulette you have stacks and stacks of chips to slide across the table to the players. That's why dealers receive a lot of breaks. Not only is there constant repetitive motion in roulette, but it also requires constant mental concentration in order to keep it all together.

After several years of dealing, one can expect to climb their way up the ladder. In a casino, the usual hierarchy goes dealer, floor supervisor, pit administrative boss or supervisor, assistant shift manager, shift manager, and finally, casino manager. As an assistant shift manager, you usually help shift manager with whatever tasks needed that day. On the regular shift manager's days off the assistant operates as the shift manager. As such, they are basically in charge of the entire casino during that particular shift. The gaming industry is definitely a service industry now and their main desire is for people to have fun. They make sure that the customers are having a good time. But their main responsibility is still to watch the money and to ensure that everything is on the up and up.

Management can be a stressful job. Some days you come in and nothing goes wrong. However, there are some days that the phone starts ringing and suddenly there are a million things to do. This person checks in, that person wants more credit, this one has won a lot, and that person is mad because he has lost too much. So anything can come up.

Managers are generally on the casino in order to be visible and make themselves readily available if someone needs them. And it does become bewildering at times to see people blow an enormous amount of money. So you can get jaded after a while. But it's important to remember it's not you who is taking the money, it's the game. You can't take it personally. You learn to realize you have no control. All the odds are built in.

The industry has changed a lot. The dealers did not have a lot of say in the old days. You made good money so you weren't going to talk back. It is more of a guest-service industry now. For the dealer it's no longer, "Hey, you [the customer] want to gamble, I don't have to be nice," and for the player it's no longer, "I have all this money so I can call you [the dealer] whatever I want." The whole industry has become a more pleasant place in which to work. You meet many wonderful people, fellow employees as well as customers. Dealers also enjoy the games, and of course, the money they earn.

More casinos are going corporate whereas they used to be privately owned. Corporations offer better benefits and more vacation time. The industry just keeps growing. Workers also noticed that it didn't used to be hard to move from city to city but now it seems much more difficult after the industry opened up all over the country. Many would probably not be able to go into a Strip casino in Las Vegas and still be an assistant shift supervisor without losing their position. It still is pretty simple moving from property to property within the same area, though.

The most challenging part of the casino experience has to be learning to deal with all the personalities of the other employees. There aren't many women in this field, so workplace dynamics can be difficult for them to fit into. Most of the craps dealers are men, the roulette dealers are women, and blackjack gets a mixture of both. Management is still mostly men, but figures are always changing. Anyone interested in this industry should just go for it. The stress level of working in a casino is there but some days are better than others, as with any job. It's also a great career if you have children or if you are going to school because you can work almost any hours to fit into your schedule.

Many experienced dealers suggest that new dealers start out with blackjack since it is one of the more basic and easier of the games to deal. You can get the fundamentals down with blackjack, then when you move to more complicated games you will already understand security procedures, such as how to make sure no one is cheating the house and how to show your employers that you are not cheating them. You'll be able to focus more on the dealing itself. No dealer is expected to learn all the games, but they are somewhat more valuable when they can.
About the Author
Freelance writer for over eleven years.

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