PCF member dennis63 becomes a real casino dealer

dennis63

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This is the story of my becoming a real table games dealer at an East Coast casino.

In June, 2017, as members of PCF were jetting off to Las Vegas for a week of fun in Sin City, I was heading to my first table games dealer classes. I attended an "open house," in mid-June, and got picked to attend six weeks of free classes on how to deal blackjack and six other table games.

In this post, and others to follow, I will tell the story of my venture into the casino industry.

The selection process:

I'm retired, and was working part-time at a university. With no work in the summer, I checked online job listings and learned about an open house at a big-name casino. The name would be instantly recognized by everyone here, and is one of the oldest and biggest casino entertainment companies in the country. I won't name them here to avoid any issues with management.

I went to the open house, held on the top floor of the casino in a "dealer training academy," essentially an unused open space the size of the entire building where they store all the old tables, roulette wheels, slot machines and equipment. It probably contains about 40,000 Paulson "fun nite" chips at the various tables, and looks like Nirvana for a PCF member. Despite being inside the building, it is surrounded by a high, chain-link fence that's kept locked when the instructor is not present, and the ever-present ball-shaped cameras dot the ceiling.

We were welcomed by a casino official wearing what all casino guys wear -- dark suit, dress shirt with collar, no tie. It's basically from the Soprano's wardrobe department. I began to notice that there was a standard look. You had to be about 6 ' 2" to have the look, and the suit. You had to be genuinely nice, affable, friendly. The overall impression you get from this is simple: Casino guys are really nice, but don't mess with them.

Our casino guy was genuinely friendly and upbeat, and explained the process.

Soon, we were all seated at computer terminals for a basic math test. Sixty math problems in 10 minutes. "Try to get them all done," they said. "And try to get them all right." The problems were not complex -- basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, geared toward adding to 21 or more and calculating and paying bets.

When we finished, they called out some names. Those people went outside with the casino guy. He came back in. They didn't. Math, apparently, was not their strongest subject.

Then we had board interviews -- odd questions designed to test if you could think on your feet and be outgoing and personable. "If you were a superhero, which one would you be, and why?" or "If you could be handcuffed to one person for a day, who would you pick and why?"

Two people froze when asked to answer. They were gently escorted out.

When all was said and done, I got picked to attend the class -- six weeks, four hours per day in the training academy.

The training

We were told that the casino held the open house for several days at different times, and had interviewed over 200 people. Sixty were picked to start training. Thirty began my class on the first day.

Our instructor was a 30-year veteran of the casino industry who began dealing in Atlantic City. He introduced himself and gave his background as we sat around a row of blackjack tables. Then he reached into the rack at the table in front of him and pulled out a white $1 chip.

"This is what it's all about, folks," he said. "This is a dollar. This is money. And it's all about the money."

In the hours and days that followed, the instructor would handle chips and playing cards with the agility of a magician doing close-up magic. He would "cut" chips with lightning speed, breaking 20 into four stacks of five, or five stacks of four, depending on their color. He would say an amount of chips and it would instantly appear next to a bet. The cards seemed to obey his thoughts as he dealt, appearing in exactly the right place almost instantly.

Cheques

You soon learn in the casino industry to stop saying "chip." It's a cheque. For me, it was a tough habit to break.

Cutting cheques:

We would begin the practice of cutting cheques for 20 minutes each day, as soon as we arrived and they opened the cage. Called "drop cutting," it is the art of picking up a a full stack of 20 checks, or something less than 20, putting it down and removing the top of the stack so that you have the exact number you want -- five cheques, four cheques, or the right number to pay the bet.

Stacks of five red cheques. Stacks of four green. Stacks of five black. (Black cheques were easier to cut, as they were used less often and weren't as sticky from handling and the inevitable "casino grunge" that builds up.) We needed to learn to feel the cheques and where to cut and drop them quickly and efficiently.

Drop-cutting cheques was a most important skill. "If you can't cut cheques," they said, "you can't deal."

We learned how to "run down" a stack of chips, showing the camera that we had a full stack of 20 cheques by placing it on the layout and quickly cutting it into equal stacks of five or four.

What I learned was that cutting cheques looks easy. It's not.

You feel five cheques and cut, only to find that four are on the table. You feel five and cut, but this time it's six, because one stuck like glue to the others. Even when you grab it and try to pull it off, it sticks, and you end up picking up two or three chips.

And handling thousands of chips (I know, I know, "cheques") at home did not help, because the chips on your home table are about 100 times cleaner, nicer and easier to handle than these.

In the next post....

The weeks go by, the class gets smaller, and auditions approach.(My second installment is in Post # 12, below.)
 
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dennis63

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I'm guessing that referring to "casino grunge" as "hooker juice" is also discouraged?
Indeed. They didn't even say "casino grunge." They would just say "the cheques are sticky."

When the rent money is in the betting circle, the player's hands can get a little sweaty.
 
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Kain8

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As a former casino dealer myself, drop cutting is not easy. Eventually though your fingers will just "know" where five chips are and you can do it with almost machine gun consistency.
 

dennis63

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As a former casino dealer myself, drop cutting is not easy. Eventually though your fingers will just "know" where five chips are and you can do it with almost machine gun consistency.
You are absolutely correct, of course.

That would be my first piece of advice to anyone seriously considering learning to deal at a casino: Learn to cut cheques well first, even before you show up for your first class. (Think at least a couple of months.)

Buy a stack of $1 cheques for $20 at the casino where you hope to deal. (Maybe two stacks.) Cut for 20 or 30 minutes a day, or more if you can.

When you are able to drop cut any number between one and five without looking, and you can run down a stack of four or five and get it right most of the time, you may be ready to go in for the training.

After you get a job, you can cash in the cheques. (You'll probably need to ask someone to cash them for you.)

Or sell them here.
 
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Ronoh

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That would be my first piece of advice to anyone seriously considering learning to deal at a casino: Learn to cut cheques well
I'd go ohhhh so much further and give that advice to anyone who plays poker on any type of a regular basis... particularly if you have a love of chips anyways :D

Good for you in your retirement employment Dennis, dealing can be quite enjoyable. I dealt blackjack, roulette, baccarat, pai gow (poker) and occasionally the random circus games for a number of years.

I am a bit floored when I read about the amount of time they put in to training you guys though... I went to dealer school back in '98, course was blackjack only. If I recall it was supposed to be a three week course at two hours per day, don't remember the number of days each week. At the end of my second day the instructor told me to go audition... next day I had a job on the strip :)

All the other games were learned shadowing another dealer on the job... none of them took more than an hour or two to be comfortable enough to go solo.
 

CraigT78

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Also subscribed. I've always thought dealing would be a fun job as I love to interact with people. Drunks, not so much. Good luck and keep us posted!
 

dennis63

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I'd go ohhhh so much further and give that advice to anyone who plays poker on any type of a regular basis... particularly if you have a love of chips anyways :D

Good for you in your retirement employment Dennis, dealing can be quite enjoyable. I dealt blackjack, roulette, baccarat, pai gow (poker) and occasionally the random circus games for a number of years.

I am a bit floored when I read about the amount of time they put in to training you guys though... I went to dealer school back in '98, course was blackjack only. If I recall it was supposed to be a three week course at two hours per day, don't remember the number of days each week. At the end of my second day the instructor told me to go audition... next day I had a job on the strip :)

All the other games were learned shadowing another dealer on the job... none of them took more than an hour or two to be comfortable enough to go solo.
Ronoh:

You're right here, too. They actually taught us to deal blackjack in less than two days. Most of the time is spent practicing actually dealing to other members of the class while the instructor watches like a floor supervisor and corrects you. About one hour per day was "new stuff" about the business -- the house shuffle, how to count money on the table, opening and closing a table, the cards and dice bag, to the other games. They only spent about an hour on each game -- just an intro, really -- and said we'd shadow a dealer for a couple of hours, then they'd shadow us while we dealt until we were comfortable.

The length of time had more to do with getting the practice in dealing with so many people.
 

Kain8

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Blackjack, roulette, craps, and poker were all 4 weeks of training, 5 days a week, 8 hours a day for me. Only baccarat and small games (Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud, 3 Card Poker, Red Dog) were only a week of training each. It was nothing but drill, drill, drill, followed by written tests at the end of each week. It was all based on Holland Casino's training, which I have to say, makes you feel ready for any situation the game can throw itself at you. But man it was monotonous!
 

Jeff

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I'd like to deal when I retire. Sounds like a way to keep busy.
 

dennis63

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Part 2: The weeks go by and the class gets smaller

The daily routine:
Our instructor really did manage to finish teaching us how to play and deal blackjack somewhere into the second day. We received a manual from the casino and were told to study it at home, and to cut cheques at home, too.

Soon, we settled into a pattern. Arrive by 10 a.m., cut cheques for 20 minutes, and begin playing blackjack until lunch. After a brief break, we'd get about an hour of "new stuff" about the business, and return to playing blackjack until the end of the day at 2 p.m.

The uniform:
Our casino was owned by an old, traditional Las Vegas casino company -- one of the first on The Strip. In a nod to tradition, all dealer trainees were required to wear a white dress shirt with collar and buttons, black pants and black shoes.

Oddly, many young people had an issue with this. One woman showed up in a tank top, leather pants and high-heeled boots, leaving us to wonder about her former job. People wore white T-shirts, or golf shirts with logos. The instructor didn't care, but the casino bosses did. We were told (repeatedly) about the uniform, and lots of people insisted on ignoring the rule.

Week 2, and "The Test"
We were told at the interviews that we would be taking a drug test some time in our second week. Early in Week 2, officials from the state's Casino Control Commission showed up with forms to fill out for our licenses. We were given a preprinted form with our name, and a list of nearby labs. We had 72 hours to show up at any lab on the list and take the drug test. The casino was very-up front about this, and genuinely did not care what you may have done in the past. "We're interested in who you are today," they said, reassuringly.

When the forms were handed out, there was much agitation in the group. I sat at "First Base" as a player that day, and two women to my left were outraged. "What right does the casino have to tell me I can't smoke weed?" I figured they would not last very long.

After class that day, I drove to the nearest lab, arriving at the same time as three other people from the class. Twenty minutes later, we were done that step in the process.

By the end of the week, about 21 people (from the original 30) were left. Some people managed to delay taking the test, supplying various reasons for their delay, until about week four.

Personalities:
The casino is located in an industrial area, in a city known for its outrageous crime rate. The pool of trainees was quite diverse, and there were many good people. That said, they were young, and the class seemed more like high school (or middle school) than adult job training. Only three or four of us would arrive before the start time. People had to leave early. People took breaks and routinely broke the "no cellphone in the training room" rule. People failed to show for three and four days at a time, but were allowed to remain in class, then balked about having to make up the hours. Some refused, and dropped out.

And there was that "one guy." He sat next to me in the interviews, and said he had gone to dealer training school for three months and paid nearly $3,000 to learn to deal blackjack, roulette and baccarat. He was deeply offended when the casino didn't accept his training, and required that he sit through six weeks of class. His answer to this was to walk around during class, telling everyone they were doing everything wrong. At one point, I was dealing to a table of fellow students, and "That Guy" walked up behind me and said to put the working deck in what was clearly the wrong place.

"No, Dennis," said the instructor. "Don't listen to him."

"Don't worry," I said loudly. "I never listen to him."

But for some reason they allowed this to go on, nearly to the end of training. After a few weeks, he concluded that I was a good and serious dealer, and left me alone. My desire to kill him waned.

And there was a young woman who could never decide how old she was.

You need to be at least 18 years old to deal at the casino, and 21 to gamble, of course. This young lady looked about 16. I heard the instructor ask her at least three times what her "real age" was, and she gave a different answer each time. She was nineteen. She was later eighteen. Once, she actually said, "I have a fake ID that says I'm 21." The instructor would laugh this off and leave it to the state Casino Control Commission to determine her real age.

Learning the odd blackjack payouts:

At all of the tables in the casino, blackjack pays 3 to 2. You have to memorize lots of amounts. Five dollars is easy enough, and pays $7.50. It gets tougher when people leave their blackjack win in the betting circle and get another blackjack, which can happen.

This casino has no cheque denominations smaller than $1, so you round up in favor of the player. A bet of $7.50 would normally pay $11.25, but without quarters, it goes to $11.50. And you need to stack that payout to show the original $7.50, plus the four $1 chips next to it, for the camera.

I recorded the chart of payout amounts and played it in the car on the commute.

"Seven fifty pays eleven fifty. Fifteen dollars pays twenty-two fifty. Twenty-five dollars pays thirty-seven fifty. Thirty-five dollars pays fifty-two-fifty. Thirty-seven fifty pays fifty-six fifty."

Before long, you really love small stacks of single-color chips in the betting circle, so you can just "size into the bet,' putting a stack next to it and cutting to match the bet. "Barber polls" and gigantic odd bets can make you crazy.

The tour:
In week three, we were treated to tour of the entire casino. It's gigantic, with two and a half acres of gaming space. The gaming floor is very, very nice, and has a number of restaurants and shops along the outer edges. There are two bars on the gaming floor, and a high-limit room where people play blackjack, roulette and baccarat. A hand of blackjack will start at $50. Our instructor said he has dealt in the high-limit room, and I asked, "What is the largest single bet you've seen at your table."

He didn't hesitate. "Thirty-five thousand dollars," he said.

We also toured the "back of house," the hidden maze of hallways, rooms, offices, and areas off limits to the public. The casino employed some 6,000 people in all aspects of the operation, and it showed.

Other games:
In week four, our instructor began teaching us the other games we'd need to know to work on the casino floor.

We would quickly learn Spanish 21, a version of blackjack where the number 10 cards are removed from the deck and the player blackjack always beats a dealer blackjack. After that, there were other games -- Two- and Three-Card Poker, and a version of Texas Hold 'em called "Let it Ride," and the Big Six Wheel. I doubt the quick introduction to these games would be enough for me to even remember how to play them, let alone deal. We were assured that we would shadow a dealer on our first day at any of these tables.

In week four, we also learned that our instructor had taken a job with another casino, and was leaving. He would be replaced by another talented dealer and floor supervisor who was much more "by the book." He demanded that people arrive on time, pay attention and work hard in the class. He had two weeks to get us ready for auditions, and we spent two days practicing blackjack in our final week. Auditions would be on Thursday and Friday of our final week.

The audition:
The instructor set aside the blackjack table with the best layout, and a rack full of the best, cleanest chips. He put new cards into the shoe, and put students at all the other tables, so the casino officials who would conduct the auditions would have little choice but to use that table.

Even after six weeks, I had some doubt about passing, so I volunteered to go as early as possible. I went fourth. The woman who played at the table was a shift supervisor and pit boss, and really knew the game. She put chips in the wrong place, bets in the wrong place, and tips on the insurance line when no cards had been dealt. She tried to play too many spots. She asked about how to play, and about certain rules, as if she were a new player. I politely fixed the problems as if it were no big deal. If she capped or pinched a bet during play, I didn't catch it. She won some hands, lost some hands, split some hands, doubled some hands, and got blackjack once. Overall, as a player, she was very nice, which was helpful.

The audition lasted only about 20 minutes. Afterward, I returned to a table to await the result. Two more people auditioned, and there was a break, and paperwork containing the results made it to the instructor. A few minutes later, he called me over, away from the group. I had passed, he said, congratulating me and shaking my hand. He officially offered me a job as a table games dealer.

In the next post...

A party for the new dealers, and an eventful first day on the casino floor.

(Installment 3 is in Post 35)
 
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SuckoutKing

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You are absolutely correct, of course.

That would be my first piece of advice to anyone seriously considering learning to deal at a casino: Learn to cut cheques well first, even before you show up for your first class. (Think at least a couple of months.)

Buy a stack of $1 cheques for $20 at the casino where you hope to deal. (Maybe two stacks.) Cut for 20 or 30 minutes a day, or more if you can.

When you are able to drop cut any number between one and five without looking, and you can run down a stack of four or five and get it right most of the time, you may be ready to go in for the training.

After you get a job, you can cash in the cheques. (You'll probably need to ask someone to cash them for you.)

Or sell them here.
Hey Dennis. Cool thread. I dealt at MGM Detroit from 1999-2004. My main game was Craps, followed by roulette and lastly bj. If you ever get the chance deal craps. Best and most respected game by far. You'll hear all kinds of horror stories. But just take it if ever offered. About 12 weeks training, 1-2 years to perfect. But best dealing experience you can get. Have fun and smile a lot!
 

dennis63

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Hey Dennis. Cool thread. I dealt at MGM Detroit from 1999-2004. My main game was Craps, followed by roulette and lastly bj. If you ever get the chance deal craps. Best and most respected game by far. You'll hear all kinds of horror stories. But just take it if ever offered. About 12 weeks training, 1-2 years to perfect. But best dealing experience you can get. Have fun and smile a lot!
Our first instructor loved craps, and said precisely this. He urged us, "The next game you learn should be craps if you really want to have fun on the casino floor."

From speaking with Tommy, I know there are several casino dealers here on PCF. They have much more experience than I do, so I'm just telling the story of being a new guy at this.
 

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Hey Dennis. Cool thread. I dealt at MGM Detroit from 1999-2004. My main game was Craps, followed by roulette and lastly bj. If you ever get the chance deal craps. Best and most respected game by far. You'll hear all kinds of horror stories. But just take it if ever offered. About 12 weeks training, 1-2 years to perfect. But best dealing experience you can get. Have fun and smile a lot!
I wholeheartedly agree, Craps is by far the most fun you can have as a dealer. It can be quite demanding at a full table, but when the bets are going, the dice are flying, and people are winning left and right, it has no equal. And there's always short sticking, right @SuckoutKing ? :)
 

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I wholeheartedly agree, Craps is by far the most fun you can have as a dealer. It can be quite demanding at a full table, but when the bets are going, the dice are flying, and people are winning left and right, it has no equal. And there's always short sticking, right @SuckoutKing ? :)
Ahhh yes. I love a good short stick! And craps games everywhere!

Kain where you dealing or did deal?
 

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Our first instructor loved craps, and said precisely this. He urged us, "The next game you learn should be craps if you really want to have fun on the casino floor."

From speaking with Tommy, I know there are several casino dealers here on PCF. They have much more experience than I do, so I'm just telling the story of being a new guy at this.
Sounds like a good instructor. Work on cutting cheques whenever possible. Drop cutting is essential for craps not so much for bj. Just a lot of sizing into various sized stacks. Good luck and keep us posted. Miss the early days. Had a ton of fun! You will to, enjoy.
 

FDLmold

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Eighter from Decatur! Yo eleven! Center field nine! If I was in a casino, put me at a craps table all day long. If not, give me a no brainer game to deal like baccarat or three card poker. Truth be told, if I was in the market for a casino job, I'd take any of them, even valet, though I would have to brush up on my manual shifting.
 

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Ahhh yes. I love a good short stick! And craps games everywhere!

Kain where you dealing or did deal?
I dealt at the only casino in our town, population of 200,000, from Sept 2006 to January 2010. I dealt every game in the building, was a table games supervisor and boxman for Craps. But it all came tumbling down when I was looked over for a promotion. There were scummy politics when you tried to climb out of the primordial ooze of just being a dealer and wanted to ascend the ladder as it were. Coupled that with my relationship with my then girlfriend (now wife!) who I only got to see for two evenings out of the week, she had a regular 9-5, and I worked 7 p.m. to 4 a.m., I drew my line in the sand. I told them that they either give me the promotion or I'll resign right now. Management didn't think I'd pull the trigger and told me that they couldn't give me the position because it was already decided.

So I went and cleaned out my locker, handed in my gaming badge, went to a 1/2 table and proceeded to crush for almost a grand that night.
 

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Love hearing about your adventures, and looking forward to the next installments. It's good to hear you're enjoying your retirement!
 
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