Blackjack dealers are the heart and soul of casino blackjack. Alternately loved and hated by blackjack players, dealers make the game of blackjack possible. It seems like a great job, getting paid for dealing cards, but what about behind the scenes? We’ve put together a picture of what it is like to be a casino blackjack dealer. Some of what you learn just might surprise you.
THE LIFE OF A BLACKJACK DEALER
What is the daily life of a blackjack dealer like? To answer the question, Counting Edge went right to the source. We found a real blackjack dealer who was willing to share many aspect of her career as a dealer. We can’t use her real name because doing so would violate her agreement with the casino, so we’ll call her Sandra.
Sandra deals blackjack at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana. Situated on the mighty Red River, the Horseshoe is one of the premier casinos in the Southern US. The Shoe, as it is commonly called, only hires the very best dealers and staff. Sandra came to them with a lot of dealer experience under her belt and has been a Horseshoe blackjack dealer for almost twelve years. Because of her experience, Sandra is assigned the busiest shifts. She works nights and weekends in the blackjack pit.
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When she arrives at work Sandra must first proceed to the employee area where her personal belongings are stored in a locker during her shift. The purse she carries to work is made of transparent plastic, allowing everyone to see what is inside. Once she has passed through security and stored her belongings, Sandra dons the uniform she must wear while dealing blackjack. The uniform is mandatory for all blackjack dealers and serves an important purpose. It immediately identifies her as a blackjack dealer to the security personnel who watch the entire casino on closed-circuit monitors. Once she has her uniform on, Sandra joins the other dealers working her shift for a meeting with the shift supervisor.
In this meeting, Sandra and the other blackjack dealers will be informed on any specifics regarding their shift. They will be told which dealer is giving breaks, the table where they will begin their shift, and various other details. Once the meeting is over, Sandra and her co-workers proceed to the blackjack pit and begin their shift.
Sandra finds her blackjack table and walks up behind the dealer who is already there. She taps them on the shoulder to alert them their shift is over and assumes the dealing responsibilities at the table. With a clap of her hands to show that they are empty, Sandra begins to deal the next round of cards. For the next 8-12 hours, Sandra will be dealing hand after hand to an ever-changing group of blackjack players. There will be loud players, quiet players, drunken players, nice players, and irritable players. Throughout it all, Sandra will smile and keep the blackjack game flowing smoothly.
Her feet often hurt from standing in one position for so long. She finds herself on the receiving end of verbal abuse when players lose and glowing praise when they win. Believe it or not, Sandra hopes they win. When players win, they tip the dealer. Tips account for a large amount of Sandra’s salary. Once every hour Sandra is moved to a different blackjack table, and after a few hours in the pit she is given a break. This routine continues until Sandra feels that tap on the shoulder which tells her that the shift is over.
Sandra takes her “toke box”, the locked box containing her tips, and leaves the blackjack pit. Once she has completed her paperwork and everything has been approved by a shift supervisor, Sandra cashes in the chips that players have given her in tips. She changes back into her street clothes and discreetly leaves the casino in the company of a security guard who sees her safely to her parked car. Sandra returns home, tired but happy with the money she has made. Tomorrow everything starts all over again.
With a few exceptions, Sandra’s story represents the life of blackjack dealers everywhere. It is a tiring and often thankless job that dealers do. Most of them do it because they love the work and the money they can make from dealing blackjack.
HOW TO BECOME A BLACKJACK DEALER
Before someone can become a casino blackjack dealer, they must undergo a significant amount of training. During this training they will learn all about the game of blackjack. New dealers will be taught the rules of the game, the authority structure of the blackjack pit, and how to spot card counters.
There are two methods by which someone can be trained as a blackjack dealer. They can either be trained by the casino, or they can attend a Casino Games School. Going to school is a much more expensive option for the person who wants to become a blackjack dealer, but it is a necessary method for those who want to make blackjack dealing a career. Casinos will not hire someone unless they have at some training in at least one game.
At a Casino Games School, prospective dealers are taught blackjack and other games in a classroom environment. The cost to learn each game varies, being about $800 on average. In the long run, it is better for those who want to learn how to deal blackjack to learn other games as well. Casinos are more willing to hire someone who knows a variety of casino games. Here is one example of a school: Learntodeal.com
Once a person has learned how to deal blackjack, the Casino Games School helps to place them in a casino. Unfortunately, the only casinos who contact the schools for new dealers are known as “break-in” houses. These are the small gambling establishments located on the outskirts of Las Vegas and other gaming territories. This is where all blackjack dealers must begin their career, because the big casinos do not hire dealers without experience. Dealing blackjack at a break-in house can be a difficult job. They pay is low and the hours are long. Many dealers quit before they ever land a job at a big casino.
After a person completes school and is hired by a casino, the process of state licensing begins. The prospective dealer must undergo fingerprinting and an extensive background check. If you are thinking about becoming a blackjack dealer and have a felony conviction on your record, forget about it. Try becoming a hairdresser instead! Once a dealer is licensed in the state where they will deal, they must renew this license each year at their own expense in order to keep dealing cards.
HOW BLACKJACK DEALERS GET PAID
Most casinos only pay their blackjack dealers minimum wage plus tips. It is a fact that blackjack dealers make more money from tips than they do from their base salary. Dealer tips in most casinos are often shared among the dealers on a specific shift. In other words, when the shift is over all of the dealers’ tips are combined and then equally divided among all the dealers on that shift.
After a three-month probationary period, dealers are often given benefits by the larger casinos which can include medical insurance and some type of profit-sharing or investment plan. In the long run, an average dealer can make something in the neighborhood of $75,000 per year before taxes. In the larger casinos, a very competent dealer who knows how to deal a variety of games can make more than $100,000 per year.
This may sound like a lot of money, but one must consider the expenses associated with training at a Casino Games School and state licensing (example, for Nevada take a look here http://www.gaming.nv.gov). In addition, the more hours a dealer is willing to work the more money they will make.
THE DOWNSIDE OF BEING A BLACKJACK DEALER
Dealing blackjack seems like a very glamorous job. While it can certainly be fun, there are a few downsides to being a dealer.
Many players smoke while they play, forcing dealers to stand in a haze of cigarette and cigar smoke for hours on end. These players have no respect for those who do not smoke, and insist on blowing smoke into the general area of everyone at the table.
Many blackjack players are downright rude. They blame everything that goes wrong on the blackjack dealer. If they lose, they blame the dealer. If the cocktail waitress forgets to bring them a drink every ten minutes, they blame the dealer. If they don’t know how to play the game properly, they blame the dealer.
Female blackjack dealers are often subjected to sexual advances by players. In some casinos, blackjack dealers are even clad in lingerie. This makes things even worse.
All in all, being a blackjack dealer has its ups and downs. Those who become blackjack dealers and love the profession do very well. A successful dealer is one who loves the game and loves dealing with people. These blackjack dealers have long careers and make a lot of money.
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