"Deal"ing with reality

Just a lil slice of life from a casino dealer's perspective.

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Location: Edgerton, Missouri, United States

I grew up in a small town, and live in small town now. Like to think I have more than a small town mind, but I doubt it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I Saw the Sign

After several years in the casino business I have noticed a couple of signs that, maybe, I have been doing this a little too long.

One definite sign is observing the way casino games are shown on TV and in movies. Another sign is the tendency to add number sequences up automatically. I don't know how many times I've looked at my power bill and mentally said "21, dealer wins." It's looking at the phone bill and busting every time that gets annoying.

The biggest sign of extended time spent working under all the regulations casinos have in place is the tendency to clear my hands without thinking about it. Just imagine the looks at the drive-through window when you hand over the money, then clear your hand as you pull it back into the car.

The absolute worst is when I cleared my hand at the most inappropriate time. My wedding. That's right, when I handed the pastor the ring, I cleared my hand afterward. My dad, being a supervisor in a casino, noticed it and started laughing. My mom, being someone who has never worked for a casino, had to ask what was so funny.

My biggest fear is that I will get a job in the executive field some day and periodically shuffle my business cards for no reason.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Brains in a Bottle, part 2

With the repeating role drinking plays in gambling I felt no guilt about using it as a repeating theme for my posts.

Some people think they get better with more alcohol. Others just become a lot less aware of their surroundings. They miss simple signs and (less than) subtle clues that something may not be as it should be.

One such individual was playing blackjack with a few (hundred) under his belt. While his play style was close to what most people might consider normal, his fine motor skills were rather lacking. His chips were piled more than stacked. If it weren't for the straw allowing him to reach down to his drink he probably would have been wearing more than he was drinking.

The major sign of his lack of awareness came when the dealer shuffled her six deck shoe. Mr. Genius decided to play a little roulette. He strolled (staggered) the distance between the blackjack table and the roulette table. The roulette table that was right next to the blackjack table he was currently playing on.

Mr. Genius then placed a $5 chip on Red and patiently for the ball to be spun. He didn't notice a couple things about the table however. Things like cover was on the wheel. The lid was over the chips and had been secured and locked. There was no dealer at the table. There was nobody within five feet of the table but him. The table had been closed for nearly an hour.

Yet there he stood, patiently waiting for something to happen. Until a pit boss took pity on him and stepped over to inform him the table was closed. About then the blackjack dealer finished shuffling her cards so Mr. Genius went (barely) back to his game and continued playing.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Brains in a bottle.

I realize the last couple posts have been a little heavy on the links. New toy, had to play with it a lot. No links this post, I promise.

It seems that smoking, drinking, and gambling go hand in hand in hand. Not that everyone in a casino does all three, but enough people do that one wonders why more doctors don't have express shuttles to their front doors.

It's amazing how many people seem to think alcohol consumption makes them a better person. They like to think that the 6-pack they belted down before heading to the casino imbued them with the power to outsmart even Stephen Hawking.

What surprises me is how surprised they are when they lose. They form a sure fire technique that any fool (except them) can follow. One guy, we'll call Bud, had one such technique that I have never been able to figure out, even when drunk myself.

The first part of Bud's technique was to play on as many tables as possible. He dragged his wife from table to table in an attempt to find one they would lose less on than the others. This included attempting to play blackjack on a poker-style game.

The crux of this particular method of drunken gambling appeared to be making the absolute worst possible decisions.

The happy (very intoxicated) couple walked up to a nearly full table and placed their bets. Bud bet $10. Mrs. Bud bet $45. The dealer turned up a 9. He waved his hand to signal that he wanted to stay on his 14. To the surprise and disappointment of the other players he then instructed his wife to hit her 18. Over and over. She drew a 6 and busted.

The dealer turned up her 19 and paid the smarter (more sober) players before taking Bud's money. The entire time Bud had a stupid grin on his face. As though losing $55 was entirely a part of his plan.

Mr. and Mrs. Bud continued to move from table to table until they had played on (donated to) every game we had. I honestly don't know who's brain was more pickled. His for the obviously poor game strategy. Or her for playing his very flawed method.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Gambling in Hollywood

These days it seems like everyone is getting into the gambling racket. Even Hollywood. Just about every series does a Las Vegas episode. Those that don't pretend to be in Vegas that is.

With more and more casinos sprouting up across the nation more people are learning how tables games are supposed to be operated. It would seem that Hollywood might work harder to be accurate with their gaming related shows and movies. But still many glaringly obvious errors appear.

A clear mistake is the entire premise behind Oceans Eleven. The idea that three casinos would share one vault is ridiculous. Especially three casinos placed so far apart as to make sharing that vault a logistical nightmare. Besides that there is the accounting difficulties of tracking the money and chips used by three major casinos in and out of one place. Three casinos, one vault (with one door?) just doesn't happen.

An episode of Monk on USA featured the over-phobic detective in Vegas to solve a murder. While there he plays a little blackjack. Anyone who has spent more than an hour inside a real casino would spot a few mistakes in how the game is dealt. The cards are delivered backwards and placed so close together that they are unreadable to anyone without their nose on the table itself.

Now I don't expect everyone not trained to deal blackjack to get it 100% correct. The thing that gets me is the point when Monk is winning and the casino owner steps up to the table and decides to change things around. He stops the game in the middle of a multi-deck shoe and adds 2 more decks. I don't know of a casino anywhere that would change the number of decks on a table on the spur of the moment. Much less a casino owner that would be bothered enough by a single player to personally do it.

I do feel the need to give a little credit to the producers of Law & Order: Criminal Intent for a recent episode that featured a card counting team. What little blackjack I saw dealt was fairly accurate.

However, their craps knowledge could use some(lots) of expanding. In the background of one scene is a full sized craps with two people on it. One stickman standing in the boxperson's position and a player shooting from the stickman's position. No actual boxperson, no base dealers to pay the player while the stickperson secures the dice. Just the player and the stickman.

If anyone from Hollywood wants to hire a consultant and start getting some of these things accurate, feel free to drop me a line.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Criminal Intelligence?

A few years ago a book was published called Breaking Vegas that documented the actions of a team of card counters from MIT that took Las Vegas for millions of dollars. Casinos have changed their procedures and awareness of card counters since. Apparently some people have read the book and decided they could do it as well as a group of genius MIT students.

There were a couple of gentlemen that walked into the casino and made themselves at home. One sat down at a table and started playing in a manner to avoid being noticed. The other gentleman started casually strolling around, carefully eyeing each table he passed by. They were doing their best to not be noticed. However, they were as subtle as a ton of bricks. Red Flag #1.

After some time a pit boss noticed what was happening and decided to take a preemptive strike. A security guard stepped up to one of the guys and asked him for his ID. He replied that he had been carded already and shouldn't be required to show it again. Red Flag #2.

Now the pit boss stepped in and informed him that he was being backed off blackjack. He could play any other game he wanted. Craps, roulette, any poker style game was allowed. Just no more blackjack. When the guy asked why, the pit boss replied with the one comment we all itch to use. "Because I can."

While all this is going on gentleman number two has been pulled aside to the security booth and asked a few questions. One was whether or not he knew the guy being talked to at the tables. Obviously he said no. Despite the fact they had walked in together, he said he hadn't seen the other guy before. Red Flag #3 (possibly).

After some more discussion both gentlemen decide to leave. Upon exiting the doors one turns left and one turns right, each heading the opposite direction of the other. Only to meet each other at the same car and drive off. Red Flag #3 (most definitely).

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Shooting oneself in the foot

Some people are too stubborn for their own good. For example look at craps players. For a better example look at craps players that believe in setting the dice before they throw them. For the best example look at players who set the dice and still shoot like... well, like crap.

There are a number of sources that say a craps player should set the dice. One such player has even discussed with me the (severe lack of) advantages to setting the dice as he carefully set the dice, aimed, and threw another losing 7.

This player, we'll call Alex, is a regular sight at the craps table. Usually pulling out more money to give to the casino. There are times (very rarely) when Alex does win. If someone else is shooting the dice.

When Alex shoots the dice he takes much care (and more time) to set the dice in a precise manner. He turns them. He turns them over. He grasps them carefully and tosses them at a precise point down the table. The dice tumble a little bit. They stop with a 5 and a 2 on top. The dealers start picking up all the bets.

Alex's wife is one of the better shooters I've seen. She doesn't set the dice as he does. One would think he would read the writing on the wall and try a different shooting technique. Maybe he's waiting for the movie.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Blind Man's Bluff

There are many table games that don't require a lot of thought. For the most part these games can be played blind, without a player ever looking at their cards. Blackjack, however, is not one of those games.

One afternoon I was dealing a double-deck blackjack game. The cards were pitched to the players face down, requiring a player to pick their cards up look at them. I watched the players as they played hand after hand. After a little bit I noticed one player was not asking for hits at all and staying on some pretty unusual hands, including a 6. Not an Ace-5 that could be played as 16, but a 4-2. A 6, a whole 6, and nothing but a 6.

Keeping a slightly close eye on Mr 6 for the next few hands I noticed he wasn't bothering to look at his cards at all. He wasn't asking for hits because he had no clue what his hand was until I turned it over to compare with my own.

Honestly, I'd expect someone behaving like this to be reeking of the alcohol streaming out of their pores. Mr 6 though was drinking only water. Served in plastic bottles by the waitress so it couldn't be confused with one of the many clear, strong, hard liquors.

To my dying day I don't think I will understand why he played with that particular technique. Or how he managed to win doing it for that matter.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


There are many sources for a lack of intelligence. One of the worst is just plain arrogance. Arrogance that one knows it all and doesn't need to listen to anyone else. Arrogance that you won't make a mistake, and if you do it's really a mistake someone else made.

That kind of arrogance is acceptable (barely tolerable) from one person. However when that arrogance breeds and spreads to an entire family it becomes something that no jury would convict a person for removing from the gene pool.

For this post I will call the family I refer to the Royal Family. So named because they are a royal pain. In the back, in the neck, in the....Wherever else you get royal pains.

The Royal Family has a tendency to strut into the casino at the worst of times. They enter shortly before closing time (yes, some casinos do close) and want to play a game that has already been shut down. Even when they decide to lower themselves to actually playing an open game, they want the rules altered to their advantage.

It's really bad when Mama Royal is playing a game while Daddy Royal stands behind her telling her what to do and BigSis and MiddleSis Royal chatter away like a couple swarms of cicadas buzzing on a warm spring afternoon.

It gets worse when a bet hits that wasn't there in the first place. Then the entire clan flocks in to start henpecking the poor dealer to pay Mama Royal for a bet she had either never placed or had lost earlier and didn't deign to replace.

The absolute worst was one night I was dealing to Mama Royal and all three Sisters on a blackjack-style game. As part of the casino's nightly closing (and again, yes, some casinos do close) procedures an announcement is broadcast over the PA system that it is time for the last 3 hands of blackjack to be dealt.

Upon hearing the announcement I informed the entire table that there were 3 hands left in the night. After a (surprisingly) quiet 3 hands I told the entire table (the Royals being the only ones there) that the game was over for the night.

"Can't you deal just one more hand?"
"Just one more hand, you have plenty of cards left."
"There's lots of time left till closing, you can deal one more hand."

Apparently they didn't think a lowly dealer citing state gaming regulations had enough clout to stop them from gambling. They started calling my floor supervisor over and nagging him to make me deal one more hand.

The lady Royals spent so much time sending their daggerish voices flying at my supervisor and me that they didn't have time to cash in their chips before the casino closed and had to come back the next day to get their money. Adding the cost of fuel to the meager losses they had already endured.