“In no other business can you take people’s money and not technically give them anything in return — and then have them come back for more.”
Anonymous, Strip casino employee who deals blackjack, craps, roulette and some poker games
Desert Companion: What made you want to become a card dealer?
Dealer: Just money. To me, it was just a job that paid decent money, that paid more than it should. Here I am with a college degree, feeling the degree was a complete waste of time.
DC: Do you enjoy being a card dealer?
D: I do. I do still enjoy it. It’s an easy job. It’s entertaining. It’s fun. But it’s still work. It’s still get up and go and make your living. One thing I discovered upon becoming a dealer is that you are technically in the entertainment business. You are there to provide that service, to entertain people. In no other business can you take people’s money and not technically give them anything in return — and then have them come back for more.
But I didn’t realize how difficult it was to be a dealer in the sense that you’re “on” all the time. It is partly an entertainment job, so to get up and get dressed, go to work every day and then have to be entertaining — it’s exhausting. Because you might not be in that mood, you can try to convince yourself to get in that mood, or psych yourself into the right attitude, but if you’re having a hard day, it might be a little difficult. But it’s so difficult to wake up and go to work and be “on” all the time.
DC: Do you have any pet peeves?
D: One of the pet peeves dealers have is players coming up saying, “Hey, you gonna treat me well today?” Why would I not treat you well? Have you wronged me in some way? I want you to win. Because if you win, I get tipped. But that doesn’t mean I have any power or control over the cards, and yet the expectation is I’m gonna somehow let you win. Nobody else is gonna. Just you, because you’re special.
It creates pressure. That’s just one of those things dealers don’t like. “Hey, you gonna let me win today?” “No, you’re a jackass, get out of here.” That’s what we wanna say. If you really think I have power over that, don’t you think I’d have really rich friends, and then I’d quit?
DC: Does anyone ever go off on you when they lose?
D: Absolutely. Yesterday morning was a prime example. I was dealing roulette. There were two people on the game. One lady — she had a Southern drawl, she was very sweet — she’s playing $20 a spin, nothing eccentric, very common. Then another gentleman who was probably playing $2,000 a spin. And he was just angry at the world, cursing me out, wishing me “merry effing Christmas.” And she’s shocked that he’s even allowed to say these things to me. And there’s this awkward pressure … you don’t want to piss him off, because then you’re gonna get in trouble, but yet you can’t say anything, even though you know he’s so out of line. But the casinos let money get away with whatever they want to get away with. That’s an extreme disappointment. They handcuff you in the sense that you can’t do anything. You can’t do what’s right. You have to shut up and take it.
But it wasn’t a matter of five minutes before I took the rest of his money, which was probably close to $15,000. That was absolutely poetic justice. And I’m someone who doesn’t believe in karma.
DC: What’s your favorite part of the job?
D: The social environment. I enjoy talking to people, and giving them that illusion of a good time. That’s what it feels like. It feels like an illusion. Which is strange to me, because I’ve always thought of myself as introverted. So to try to get people to come to my table and have a good time, there are many days I feel like I’m outside myself. I’m entertaining, so I’m going to put on this mask and try to have a good time. Which, if you asked me what I’d want to be doing, dream-job-wise, it would probably be something in the entertainment industry, like act. It’s just … I feel like I lie every day. And an actor is just a professional liar.
DC: What’s your least favorite thing about the job?
D: Smoking. I don’t smoke. I never have. I’ve never picked it up, and yeah ... I can’t stand the smoke. Second-least favorite thing would be standing for eight hours. That will take a toll. I know a lot of dealers and pit bosses and managers, and everybody’s got back problems, knee problems, elbow problems. I had no clue how heavily medicated the industry was.
It’s a hard job physically, and not just from standing and bending. You’re in a smoky environment. You’re touching chips and money and hands and you have all these germs on you. I’ve never been more sick in my life until I started dealing. Because of everything you touch, because all the money, the transactions and hey, guess what, you have an itch in your eye and all of a sudden you’re rubbing it and three days later you have to call out because you got the flu.
DC: Do you have a favorite game to deal?
D: Roulette, because I can set the tone and pace of the game. I can control how quickly the game moves along, and I like the numbers. If it’s a game where people are betting, five, 10, 15 dollars, it bores me. But if it’s a game where chips are everywhere — just stacked up! — and in the back of the mind you’re thinking, “Oh, don’t hit that big-ass stack!” No. I’m the guy who wants that to hit — just so I can do the math on the payout. It’s now interesting to me. Personally, I view it as a competition. I’m gonna come up with the answer before anybody else — before the boss, before the dealer who might be helping me. That’s my game and I’m gonna own it.
DC: Has being a dealer influenced your view of the world?
D: I don’t believe in karma. Like so many other things in Vegas, it feels like an illusion. It’s something we’ve created to make us feel better about an unfortunate situation. Like having to pay the guy blowing smoke in your face, not tipping the cocktail waitress, being rude to the other patrons — and yet here you’re giving him money, rewarding his negative and shitty behavior. And here’s a nice couple that comes in that’s pleasant. They’re just here for a little vacation. They don’t have a lot of money. They just want to see Vegas and have a good time. These are the people you generally want to entertain. And yet, you’re killing them. And even though they’re losing, they’re still tipping you because they know how difficult it is to earn a dollar. And yet here they are losing. It makes you feel like there’s no such thing as karma.
DC: What about your view of human nature?
D: Unfortunately, yes. It’s not a good view anymore. Human beings are kind of crappy. We’re mean to each other. We’re selfish in so many ways. And not to say we can’t rise to the occasion and help each other in truly desperate times — like in car accidents or natural disasters. I think being a dealer has brought that view to the surface. You see it on a daily basis. We’re selfish, and we want what we want, and we don’t care about the consequences. I realize that view might be tainted because of the environment I live in, that everything is so heightened because of the temptation. That it’s so abundant. “I want to sleep with a prostitute.” You can do that here. You can get everything you want in this city, so it brings up this more carnal human nature. And then you occasionally run into a nice person from some small city and you realize, that’s how things should be. That’s how we should treat each other. But unfortunately, my view has been skewed, probably permanently. But I think my view is correct.