WHAT TO EXPECT IF YOU WANT TO BECOME A CASINO DEALER
by KC Brooks
I have been addicted to blackjack ever since reading Revere's "Playing Blackjack as a Business" when I was 15. The art of blackjack is a lifetime endeavor. I went through the learning process backwards, learning Revere's Advanced Point Count first. I found out early that the actual count system is only a small piece of the puzzle. Presently, I travel "my" Devils Triangle (Reno, Wendover, Vegas}, playing mainly single- and double-deck games. Hi Lo is my choice of strategies and "Professional Blackjack" by Wong is my bible. I worship a large spread, and have been known to wong everywhere I go. Thank God I haven't had to register as a wonger yet, but I am sure it is not too far off. I also help fellow AP Nick teach card counting at www.Blackjackclassroom.com.
So, you want a job in the casino business. Let me take you on a short ride and give you a glimpse of what it takes to become a dealer.
My first job in the gaming business was with Harrah's in South Lake Tahoe. I worked in the slot department. It was in the late seventies/early eighties. I recollect our salary back then was $32.50 a shift, and we received very little in tips. I actually worked 10-hour shifts back then, and had three days off. Unfortunately, I never got three days off in a row. (This was the reason I decided to work ten-hour days; namely, with the hopes of getting three days off in a row but it never materialized.)
I was a young 21-year old back then, living in South Lake Tahoe and it was a 24-hour blast. If you have never been to Lake Tahoe, put it on your bucket list. It is, in my mind, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I was lucky back then. My grandmother had a cabin on one of the first roads to get plowed after a snow storm (Tahoe Island Drive). The bus stopped right in front of their house and operated twenty four hours a day.
My work day started picking up my change belt at the cashier. You would count out your change in front of the cashier, usually $500, and then head off to your assigned pit. You were not allowed to count your money again until after your shift was complete. You would head back to the cashier, and they would count your money. Hopefully, you had what you started with. If you were off by a nickel plus or minus, you would get written down for whatever the difference. If you were on the money, they considered that a "noser."
The slots back in the late seventies were all reel machines, and I know Harrah's was one of the last casinos to change over to the electronic variety. The denomination of the machines were $1, .50, quarter, dime and nickel.
I worked as a relief slot attendant, and worked mainly the dollar and fifty cent games. I had my own change box on the casino floor; it contained $5000 in change. One day, I was working the dollar section and had this lady come up and asked, "Where are the good machines?" I pointed to one and within two pulls, she hits a jackpot. Again, she asked, and I pointed to another. In very little time, she hits another jackpot. This happened three or four times before I went on break. When I came back from break, my supervisor was very happy because the lady refused to play until I showed her which machines to play.
Tips were pooled and never seemed to change much. We received the tips every two weeks. The toke committee usually made out like bandits.
Another crazy event that happened during my stint in Tahoe was the bombing of Harvey's. In August of 1980, three men planted a bomb containing 1,000 pounds of dynamite. The mastermind behind the three-million dollar extortion attempt was John Birges. He claimed to have lost $750,000 gambling there.
The attempt to disarm the bomb failed, causing the bomb to explode. Nobody was injured, but the blast caused extensive damage to Harvey's and even damaged Harrah's which is connected to Harvey's via a tunnel.
Flash forward to 2012
After a couple of back surgeries in 2009, I decided to move to Vegas and try to get employment in the gaming industry. There are three gaming schools in Las Vegas, and I chose Casino Gaming School on Sahara and Rainbow. I think this is by far the best dealing school in Las Vegas.
I learned how to deal poker, blackjack, pai gow, and craps. I believe the total cost for the four games was around 1200 bucks. The school is open Monday through Friday, and you can go whenever you want. Blackjack and pai gow are very easy games to learn and should take no longer then a few weeks to become proficient. Poker takes a bit longer, and craps can take years to become a good craps dealer.
On the days that I was learning poker, you would basically sit and play whatever games they were working on that week. Every thirty minutes they would change dealers. You could usually get three to four downs in the box depending on how many students were present that day.
After you pass your test for the various games, you can go out in the real world and take an audition. If you are new to the gaming business, your first job will be in a break-in house such as Longhorn, El Cortez, Joker's Wild, Jerry's Nugget to name a few.
My first audition was at Club Fortune. I dealt both pitch and shoe-dealt blackjack, and pai gow. My audition went well, and was told I would get a call in about a week. I waited for a call that never came and went out a few weeks later and auditioned to deal poker.
I made a big mistake by not going and checking out the games that were being played at the house I was going to audition for. At school we raked dollars and I was very good at that. At the job I went to audition, quarters were raked. Not a big difference unless you have not raked quarters. In most houses you take a dollar rake after there are ten bucks in the pot; however, in a quarter house, you take two bits at four dollars in the pot. Needless to say I screwed up taking rake and as I was told at school if you can't take the right rake you won't get hired.
I got up from my audition and the supervisor asked how I thought I did. I told him that I had never raked quarters and I knew that I made some mistakes. He was real nice about the whole thing and praised me for a good pitch and he said that I ran the game well. I was told to work on a few things, get a little more experience, and come back in the future.
A week later, much to my surprise, I was called and offered the job as an extra board poker dealer. I went down to the audition with my roommate. He had experience as a dealer and I thought, and even he thought that he had aced his audition, so when I got the call, I asked the supervisor if I was the one he wanted for the job.
"Obummer Care" has made getting full-time work in the gaming industry almost impossible. Most dealers I know have at least two jobs. After about a year of dealing poker, I started working a couple of days a week in the pit dealing blackjack and pai gow. I was able to go from extra board dealer to part-time dealer. Extra board is less than 20 hours a week, and part time is less than 29 hours a week. Poker dealers keep their own tips while pit dealers share tips; a big difference.
I quit dealing poker and took a full-time position in the pit when a position became available. I receive health insurance, paid time off, and life insurance. I get minimum wage plus tips, and believe me tips are not good. I work in a local's casino, where we are lucky to get $30 a day in tokes.
I have since been promoted to a "duel rate" dealer, which means I am a floor supervisor part of the time and a dealer the rest of the time. As a floor I get around $20 an hour and no tips.
Next month I will pick up where I left off; hopefully, I have shed a little light on what to expect on your search for the perfect gaming job.
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