Casino Deeeealer

So yesterday, I became a totally official casino dealer. I even have an ID badge with my picture on it.

I did a 10-hour shift, which was a LOT. Here in Washington, casinos can be open for 20 hours a day, so most of them have two 10-hour shifts, and full-timers work 4 days a week. But I won’t necessarily be working 10s in the future — a lot of times, people want to leave early, or split a shift in half, so I should get plenty of much easier 5-hour shifts too.

But the 10 hours were really broken up — due to the combination of standing up and concentration, the breaks are frequent and plentiful — mainly an hour working, then a 20-minute break. It’s usually eight dealers with six tables open, so two people are on break at any given time. Then you come back and tap someone else out, and deal a different game. I ended up dealing a little bit of 3-Card Poker, a wee bit of 4-Card Poker, and lots of Fortune Pai Gow, Double Action Blackjack and Spanish 21.

At the beginning, it was (to paraphrase Scott) vast swaths of boredom punctuated with moments of pure terror. A couple of times I spent a full hour at a dead table, never dealing a single hand because some games just aren’t as popular. Fortunately, there are TVs all over the casino, so you can watch out of the corner of your eye. Then I’d have five people at a table at once, and I’d be constantly expecting to screw up in some major way. Though I didn’t.

I got some tips, despite feeling gawky and awkward and clumsy — probably $60 or $70 over that 10 hours. I didn’t get much from either Double Action Blackjack or Spanish 21, because I cleaned up on both of those games — I took a LOT of money from a LOT of people. But the tips are pooled at this particular casino, so if all dealers made, say, $2000 in tips for the day, and there were 200 dealer hours worked, everyone gets an extra $10/hour that day (in addition to the base minimum wage).

So all in all, it went pretty well. One of the floor managers told me afterward that I did “pretty damn good” for my first day, so that was nice to hear. I felt a TON more comfortable by the end of the day than I did at the beginning, and that comfort level will only grow over time. Everyone was very nice and answered all of my dumb questions, and most of the players were really nice too. I got two different players who told me about long-dead pets they’d had named Missy (I get that all the time), one guy LOVED my hair (but couldn’t touch it to find out how crunchy it was, since they’re not allowed to touch us) and one guy told me, “If I weren’t gay, I’d marry you!” after a good streak of cards. It’s really a fascinating combination of managing a game while casually shooting the breeze with people.

Oh, and the timeclock is hella cool — it’s some kind of biometric hand scanner. Futuristic!