My Second Magazine Interview

I received a follow-up email with additional interview questions after this afternoon’s telephone interview. So either this is going to be a longer article than expected OR I didn’t give her a lot of useable material over the phone. I’m afraid my answers to her email weren’t all that exciting. I tried my best. Here goes…

Q: I have heard it said that men are always trying to hide from their wives / girlfriends how much money they have lost – or won! Did this happen often, or never at all?

A: Yes, more than trying to hide a gambling loss from a wife, it is common for men try to hide their girlfriends from their wife. Seriously, though, wins and losses are usually a trip-based experience and I only see a small window of that entire trip, so I can’t be sure about lies. Also, Vegas keeps wives/girlfriends busy with the spa, shopping, and other amenities, so if a guy wanders off from his partner to play a little blackjack, I typically don’t meet her.

Q: How common is it for people to hide their chips? Is this a problem? Did you ever catch someone pocketing their chips?

A: Yes, people sometimes tuck their chips into their pockets, but this isn’t a problem. If a person has chips, then the money is theirs, so they can put it wherever they want. Some people do try to be sneaky about it, but (1) the small chips don’t matter as casinos don’t usually keep track of these and (2) the larger chips ($500 and over) are tracked just to make sure the rack is balanced, so the boss tends to know who walks away with these chips anyway.

Q: You mentioned that you once witnessed a fight on Easter – was there anything about that particular day, or fight, that had to do with Easter, specifically? Any details you can provide with me about the incident would be great!

The fight I saw on Easter had nothing to do with Easter or gambling. I think it had to do with alcohol and bravado. Three guys and a girl walked passed two guys sitting at a table. There were some “what are you looking at?!” comments thrown around. I guess the two groups had interacted earlier in the evening. Guys at the table had said some inappropriate things to the girl, I believe. Then one of the walker-by guys came back, threw a punch, and got his ass kicked. The casino broke up the fight – but it was a bit messy. I was a supervisor in that area and I just had the dealers at the surrounding tables bring their lids up over the chips and I locked them. One guy ended up in the hospital, but 15 minutes later we were back up and running.

Q: Tips are a big part of your income, you said. Was this greatly affected by whether or not a player won or lost? What was the most memorable or funny tip you ever received? Did players ever try to tip you in chips, etc?

A: Yes, people tend to tip when they’re winning. Most players place a bet for the dealer, tipping as they play. In this manner, the player puts his own bet in the betting circle and puts the tip on top of the betting circle. If the hand wins, the dealer pays the bet and the tip, then says “thank you” and takes the tip. If the hand loses, all money goes to the casino. I believe the Vegas average is 1 tip per 21 hands dealt – or maybe it’s 1 per 21 rounds. I don’t recall off the top of my head. But there isn’t a particular tip that stands out during my time as a dealer. They are all appreciated. Sometimes a player apologizes for not tipping in a large denomination, but I am happy with the kindness of the gesture. A larger amount is definitely nicer, but I tried to be appreciative of whatever I received.

Q: How are blackjack players different from poker players, roulette, etc.? Is there a type of person who is drawn to this game, as opposed to others?

A: Yes, Blackjack is the catch-all game. There are typically more BJ tables in a casino than any other game and I would say we have a wider variety of people playing BJ. Craps is a very fast-moving, high risk game. That game tends to draw a large crowd, mostly men, and it’s rather clique-ish. Roulette is more of a girl’s game and isn’t quite as social as the others. In BJ, all players want the dealer to bust, so the table can band together quite a bit. In Craps, they band together to a large degree, as most players bet the Pass Line and want the same numbers to roll. But in Roulette, it’s every man for himself, as people tend to bet very differently. Poker is it’s own machine. I could tell when I had a Poker player wander to my BJ table. At one time Poker was my second job – I kept accurate win/loss records and took the game very seriously, so I say this with love… Poker players as a whole really suck. They tend to complain a lot, give one another unsolicited advice, be poor tippers, request a lot of comps, and generally think they are the smartest person in the room. (Note: this does not generally apply to tourists. People dabbling in Poker tend to be everyday, normal people. It is the Poker players that sit at the table day in and day out that I am referring to – and Poker has quite a few of those.) The game is part luck and part skill. Sometimes decisions that are mathematically incorrect actually work out – so people are rewarded by winning a pot and will congratulate themselves, adding what they think is evidence to their belief that they are the smartest person in the room. But this is a whole other tangent. Basically, yes – different personality types are attracted to different games. Craps = pure adrenaline, very “team” oriented. Blackjack = your #2 “team” game, a bit slower paced, and fairly social. Roulette = every man for himself – not too fast moving, and to me, quite dull. Poker = every man definitely for himself, as a player needs to beat the other players in order to win.

Q: Finally – Did you have any insider-lingo between dealers, security, managers, etc., to communicate when a player was too drunk to play, out of hand, etc? Is there any type of casino-code you can share?

A: Yes, we definitely have a vocabulary all to ourselves in the business. EDR refers to the Employee Dining Room. “Blackout Day” is a day where you get double or triple points for calling in sick. “My Friday” is the fifth day of your work week, and generally isn’t a Friday. We have Georges (big tippers), King Kong Georges (really big tippers), Stiffs (people who don’t tip at all), and Strokers (people who purposefully make a dealer do extra and unnecessary work by betting in strange increments, using several chip colors (a “totem pole”), etc.). However, we don’t really have “code” words. If a person is too drunk and needs to be cut off from playing, that is not the dealer’s decision – it is up to the boss. The dealer and boss may have a conversation about this particular player, but we can talk in hushed voices and that is usually good enough given our loud environment. We generally don’t try to embarrass a player, but the integrity of the game is paramount, so sometimes uncomfortable situations do arise. One time, I had a player at my Blackjack table who obviously peed in his pants. He was a young guy too, maybe in his early 30s. I didn’t want to say: “Hey dude, you pissed yourself, get out of here.” But it’s also a bio-hazard to allow him to play. He only played a hand or two after I noticed his pee-stained pants and I didn’t get my supervisor’s attention until he left. In that instance, the guy was already gone, so my supervisor called the cleaning crew to take the chair away.

Hope this helps. Let me know if you need anything else.

Oh, and another cliche for the list… Just like the “mother-in-law” joke, it is cute the first time you hear it, but it gets old… “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner!” I don’t know where that came from, but it’s so catchy and definitely over-quoted.

Take care,

My Magazine Interview

A reporter at Travel + Leisure Magazine sent me an email from my school’s website, asking to interview a Blackjack dealer for the “Confessions” series. She sent a few links showing other interviews she has done. Basically the “Confessions” series is a collection of short articles showing a behind-the-scenes perspective of different positions in the service industry. There weren’t any names named and there wasn’t a whole lot of meat to the articles. They were catchy little snip-its and I found them entertaining.

I told the reporter that I hadn’t worked in a casino in a few years, but I had at one point been a Blackjack dealer. I could answer what she needed or forward her contact information to someone else currently in the industry. She sent her initial email to me on Christmas Eve and wanted to speak ASAP, so she said I would do just fine and scheduled a time to speak over the phone. She sent me a few questions in advance, which was good, because being so immersed in the casino world, I forget how outsiders view it. More interesting than my answers were the questions she proposed:

  • What type of table did I typically work at?
  • Did I ever have any high profile, celebrity guests at my table? Who, and what was the experience?
  • Did anyone ever hit it big at the table or lose a fortune? What were the funniest or most shocking reactions I ever saw to a big win or big loss?
  • Who are some of the “typical” guests at a high-end Vegas casino hotel? Do I have regulars or identifiable “types?”
  • As a dealer, what were my pet peeves?
  • Did I ever catch someone counting cards? What happens if a player is caught cheating?
  • What are some tips and tricks of the trade? How do I calm a belligerent player or get a player to leave a decent tip even after a loss?
  • When I go out, do I play blackjack?
  • Overall, what was it like to work in an upscale hotel casino, surrounded by cameras and security and no clocks?
  • Can I confirm or dispel some common myths? “Do casinos really pump in oxygen?”

This guide of questions may be quite interesting for a person outside of the industry, but my answers would not be very interesting. I didn’t want to list all of my pet peeves or give a “type” of player, because then I’d just sound whiney and grumpy. Counting cards isn’t the big deal that people think it is. Contrary to Hollywood’s portrayal, counting cards is easy. It doesn’t take a math genius and when we cut two decks off the back it doesn’t really give the player any room anyway. The security cameras are no big deal (Have you seen a surveillance room?) and I always saw a clock in a casino as I wore a wrist watch. Big wins and big losses are completely relative. Winning $5,000 may change someone’s life, but another person may not even blink when winning $500,000. Plus, it’s a table win. I don’t know what they did at the table before they got to me. And then there’s a common question about celebrities. We in Vegas know which celebrities play, who tips well, who is kind, who is an asshole, etc. But this, I feel, is sacred break room gossip. Celebrities are constantly under a microscope, exposed at all times. If they want to catch a flight to Vegas and disappear for a while, I will assist them. I’ll never fess up to a reporter who I saw playing and when.

So, how do I give a great interview? The reporter is calling me in 21 minutes and I’m jotting these things down in this blog post right now in preparation. What can I tell Leisure + Travel Magazine about being a Blackjack dealer that would reflect well on our profession?

I’m not sure what to say yet, but I know that I don’t want to get into talking about tips. I’m constantly asked what the largest tip I ever received was and I have no answer. Was my largest tip from the guy who kept putting me up for a $1,000 bet every 5th hand or so and played for about a half hour? Was my largest tip from someone who just tossed me a few thousand dollars on his way out the door? What about the guy who sat at my table and put me up for $25 on the Pairs Plus of Three Card Poker every single hand for an entire evening? What about the George who gave the Big Bacc dealers so much money that each of us walked with $1,500? George’s tips didn’t get placed in my hand and I never even saw the guy’s face, but that made a difference in my weekly pay and I definitely signed the “thank you” card the next day in the break room.

I don’t think the general public grasps the magnitude of our tips. You know you’re a grumpy, spoiled dealer when you’re a jerk to the guy who is tipping you in purple $500 chips because it took him three hours to put that first bet up. Someone outside of the industry would cringe, and looking back, I cringe. But in that moment, when you’ve been hearing the same jokes all night long and you’re getting stiffed and stiffed and stiffed for hours, you can really lose sight of the big picture. Big picture is that dealers just deal the cards – tips are optional. Tips should all be appreciated. Yes, I cannot let this conversation with the reporter steer to tips, as my perspective is so jaded and flawed.

So, where do I take her? This interview may last 20-30 minutes, but the summary of our conversation when it’s in article form will be about half of a page. What gems can I discuss that reflect well on our industry? What will intrigue people and make them feel warm? What will make the readers of this magazine sit down at a blackjack table and want to tip the dealer? I read a “Confessions” article about a waitress at a high end restaurant. She mentioned being stabbed in the hand with a fork by an impatient customer and ended the article by saying that she has never ever ever even heard of a member of the wait staff spitting in someone’s food. That’s a nice way to wrap up an interview.


Okay, update: I just finished the interview. We were on the phone for 25 minutes and she was quite a good interviewer. She kept the conversation flowing, as if she were truly interested in hearing my stories. Plus, I really liked her, which is truly the mark of a good reporter!

I kept the conversation light, ducking questions about pet peeves, celebrities, player “types,” and anything else that would make me sound like a complainer. I gave her a rundown of counting cards, talked about not taking things personally if a player happened to get upset, and when asked about my “pet peeves” – as the question came up a few times – I just talked about clichés that people tend to run with. She liked: “17 is the mother-in-law hand – you want to hit it but you can’t!” And I agree with her. That one is funny the first time you hear it, but the 80th time isn’t so funny. It’s really not funny when the dealer has a “6” up, as the joke is only good when the dealer has a “10” or an “A” showing. Any other card, and that’s just the player looking for a chance to crack that joke. But that technical description of the dealer’s up-card is way too much for a light and breezy “Confessions” article.

She said this article should be in the March edition and I’ll post the link HERE when it’s out.

How to Ace Your Casino Job Interview

Getting a job as a dealer in a casino is typically a two-part process. There is the audition, where candidates showcase their skills (See Audition Article for more information.), and there is the interview, where candidates showcase their personality.

Some casinos begin with the interview, which is typically conducted in the Human Resources (HR) office and does not involve the casino staff at all. Other casinos send candidates who pass their casino audition to the HR interview as the final round. Whether it comes first or second, the interview seems to be a staple in the casino business nowadays.

Please, please, please dress up for this interview. You will be sitting in front of the HR staff, who dresses up for work every day. If you show up in flip flops and a tee-shirt, you’ve just placed yourself in an uphill battle and it will be tough to convince the interviewer that you take this process seriously. You are better to be overdressed than underdressed.

And please, please, please do not show up for this interview wearing headphones, listening to your music. If you’re in a group interview with multiple participants, do not tune them out with your headphones. Do not whip out your cell phone and start texting. Do not stare at your watch, as if signaling to all who are there that you have somewhere better to be.

And one more please, please, please… Please do not gamble at your job interview. It is not okay to finish with HR and then walk to the door, tossing a couple bucks into a slot machine on your way out. And for that matter, if you’re waiting in line to audition on a Craps game, it is not okay to pull $20 out of your wallet and try to buy in on that game.

Do these pieces of advice sound ridiculous? They should! However, I want to be clear about what not to do because I know people who have showed up to an interview wearing flip flops and a tee-shirt. I know a guy who listened to his headphones at a group interviewer. In fact, I know someone who has committed every interview mistake listed above, including someone who tried to buy-in on a Craps table while waiting in line to be auditioned on that very Craps table. If you’re going through the interview process as a joke, then feel free to do any of the above. However, if you’re serious about being employed, all behavior noted above is completely unacceptable.

So, what should you expect at an HR interview? You should expect questions that get you to open up so that the interviewer can attempt to know you as a person, not as a one-dimensional employee. You will likely be asked about your passions and your hobbies. There’s not typically a right answer, but there are good answers and bad answers.

Below are a list of typical questions and some advice for answering them. Again, there’s not a right answer. Your answers will be personal. Review the questions below and think of some possible ways to answer these questions. Good luck!

Common Interview Questions

Why do you want to work here?
You should have a reason for wanting the job – say something positive about the company. Do they have a restaurant or a show that you love? Do they run promotions that you like? Is the staff very friendly? Research the company. (Not a good idea to answer that you want the job because you need money or because you need the job. This is implied by your applying and is not polite to point it out.)

Why are you the right person for the job?
This is the time for self-confidence. Tell the interviewer your strengths. An example of a good answer is: I’m the right person for the job because I love this job. I love dealing cards. I love customers. I will give you my best. (Do not say, “I don’t know.” Why would the company hire you if you don’t have a reason for them to hire you?)

Tell us about a time you provided excellent customer service
“Customer Service” has become a buzz word and this question is deigned to make sure that you understand what it means. Go into details about the components of providing good service. Be specific with your answers. Think of one time that you went above and beyond – and make sure it’s a good story!

Is it ever okay to break the rules? OR Is the customer always right?
Remember that the customer is not right if he decides he wants to reach into the rack and take out some cheques. That rule was meant to never be compromised. However, the rule that says you’re supposed to be tapped out for a break after an hour can be broken. If a player requests that you deal one more hand, it is a good opportunity to “break” the rules.

Do you prefer to work alone or in a group?
Companies tend to like to hire people who work well in a team. As a dealer you will have to work alone and as a team – that job satisfies both desires.

Is the glass half empty or half full? OR Are thing getting better or worse?
Optimism is generally a desirable quality.

Have you ever not gotten along with a co-worker? What did you do?
Be careful with this and other negative questions. You do not want to elaborate about why someone bothered you. Put a positive spin on any situation. Remember, people will disagree on a variety of things – it’s how they deal with the adversity that is important.

What would you do if you did not have the proper tools to do your job?
It would not be possible to deal without a table or gaming cheques. But in that case, you can direct a player to a dealer who has the proper equipment. If for instance, you run out of a certain cheque denomination, you may get creative and convert. If the shuffle machine breaks, you can shuffle.

What is your long term goal? OR What is your passion?
This question is designed to learn more about you outside of work. Be excited when you speak about goals/passions. Perhaps you’re a big rock climber or you love to watch movies. Whatever answer you give, make sure your enthusiasm is palpable.

What makes a good dealer?
If you know what makes a good dealer, then you’ll know how to be a good dealer. Dealers must be technically proficient and provide superior customer service. Elaborate on these two points.

What do you do if a player is trying to cheat?
Cheating is a crime. If a dealer is 100% certain a crime occurred, it is appropriate to stop the game and alert the supervisor. If a dealer is only 99% certain of cheating, the dealer should proceed with vigilance to be 100% certain. And if the dealer’s break comes before that 100%, discretely notify the supervisor of your suspicions.

What was your worst job and why?
Take care not to come across as negative. If you do have a worst job horror story, find positive things to say about the experience. Did it help you grow as a person? Did it teach you a life lesson?

Advice for Casino Job Auditions

Casino dealers searching for a job embark on a somewhat rigorous audition and interview process that is unlike most industries in the United States. Yes, an actor auditioning for a role in a movie has to act out a scene or two, showcasing his talents, but the actor is the exception. When applying for the majority of jobs, there is no practical application of job skills/duties. A bank teller, for example, doesn’t have to step up to the window and perform a few transactions for the hiring manager.

When applying for a job, casino dealers have to be skilled in two areas. There is the audition, focusing on skill and ability. And there is the interview, shining light on personality. In this article, I’ll give some pointers for acing your audition.

The audition is the practical examination. Dealers dress in black and whites (black pants, black polished shoes, and a crisp long-sleeve white button down shirt), step up to a game, and deal. The dealer should be able to swiftly calculate payouts and abide by proper procedure, preferably while carrying on a conversation with customers. This is either a you-know-it-or-you-don’t situation. You can brush up before an audition, but it’s really not possible to crash study and learn everything you need to learn a day before your “performance.” Casinos that require dealers to be experienced will be able to make an instant assessment as soon as the auditioning dealer makes a payout or pulls a card from the shoe.

My best advice for a casino audition is to know your stuff! If you have never dealt Baccarat before, don’t list it on your application as a game that you know. If it’s been a while since you’ve dealt, grab a shoe and an ironing board and brush up on your skills. In the audition, it’s not about perfection. The bosses will give you some leeway, understanding that you’re nervous. If you drop a card, it is important that you don’t freak out and blow the whole round. Just pick it up and keep going.

Confidence goes a long way. Casino bosses want to hire dealers who are confident, not dealers who are shaky and will have to be carefully monitored to prevent mistakes. Sweeping a roulette layout with speed and grace and paying the “pass line” on the craps table quickly and efficiently are simple activities that will evoke that feeling of confidence. Your confidence will make the boss confident about hiring you.

So, other than being good at what you do and being confident – two things that you may not necessarily be able to control – what advice do I generally give to those going on an audition?

Well, first piece of advice is to look good. Iron your shirt and polish your shoes. Look as if you care whether or not you are hired. You don’t have to be a supermodel, but look as if you take pride in your appearance. At the Rio there is a mirror right by the casino floor that says: “Would you hire you?”

I’m surprised by some of the shirts that people wear to an audition. If you don’t have a long-sleeve white button down shirt, then go to the store and buy one. Do not sort through your closet trying to find something that is “good enough” because “good enough” is not good enough. I had one student at my school who refused to purchase even a $7 shirt. He tried to make do with a short-sleeved white shirt that did not have a collar. Needless to say, that after being brushed off by a couple casino bosses, he broke down and purchased a $7 shirt. Skill was not an issue for this dealer and after he looked the part, he was hired.

My final advice is to prepare by visiting the casino where you are going to be auditioning. You should watch or play a few rounds to see what the casino expects. When you tap into a game for an audition, it is usually a live game. You can’t say: “Oh, wait, I don’t know that particular side bet.” Yes, it’s not fair that you can be tested on something that you’re not “required” to know, but think about it this way… If you’re the hiring manager and two candidates audition – one who doesn’t understand the side bet and one who pays it swiftly – who would you hire? Who seems better suited for the job?

With a dry run, you’ll get rid of some of your nerves. You will be able to picture the casino in your mind and will be less nervous when it comes time for you to deal. Also, you may get the chance to answer one of the common questions dealers are asked. “Where is the nearest bathroom?” And “Where is the nearest ATM?” Again, a candidate who knows the answers to these questions will be impressive to the hiring manager.

You may also find something quirky at the casino and have time to adjust to it. Something that threw me off personally was the $25 cheque at the Hard Rock. Every casino I’ve ever entered had green $25 cheques and purple $500 cheques. The Hard Rock, however, does not. Their $25 cheques are purple. This seemingly insignificant detail can derail your nerves at a job audition. Best to be completely prepared by walking through the casino prior to your audition.

So, when you go for a job audition, be sure that you know your stuff, are confident, look good, and prepare with a walk through. Good luck! Hope you get the job!