For me, the Golden Gate Casino on Fremont and Main Street represents an era gone by. Not so much for the thousands of customers it has served over the years but the thousands of us craps dealers that were privileged to break-in there.
In a time when the large corporate-run resorts rule the Las Vegas valley, I can’t help but reminisce about the good old days when common sense seemed to be the most important "corporate ethic."
Back then a dealer didn’t go to "human resources" (personnel, it was called back then) to fill out an application. If someone wanted to get hired as a dealer they put on their black and whites and went looking for the pit manager. If he liked your attitude and demeanor he sent you to the cage to fill out an application.
You then got an audition to determine your level of skill and grace under fire. After your audition you were either told to keep practicing at home and to come back another day or you were told to take your application to personnel so you could fill out a W-4. If your audition wasn’t that great but you showed promise, you were hired as a "shill," someone to shoot the dice on a dead game and to be allowed to deal on games with a small amount of action.
There were no background checks or psychological profiles done to determine your suitability for employment. The rigors of the job were enough to weed out people that weren’t cut out for the vocation of dealing.
You learned to respect authority and to deal to cabdrivers and other demanding players. You learned to be versatile, since every boxman had his own preference on how the game was to be dealt.
All this education you received plus $18.50 a day in pay and about $12 in tokes. After three months you got a raise to $30.50 a day if you had the guts to ask for it. We were also well fed in the deli and for fifty-cents could get one of their famous shrimp cocktails, that were then made with jumbo shrimp.
My pit manager’s name was Tex Castle. He was definitely one of those "tough but fair" kinds of bosses that you couldn’t help but respect. His assistant was Joe Stevens; he had a heart of gold and was one of the classiest guys I ever had the pleasure to work for.
These men and their subordinates created an environment that brought out the best in us kids. They taught us to follow dealing procedures but still allowed us a certain degree of latitude in finding our own style of dealing.
One night I decided it was time for a better job and went to the Golden Nugget on my 20-minute break, wearing my Golden Gate tie and apron. I filled out the application and told the shift boss I would come back in an hour for my audition. I was hired and gave my 24-hour notice at the Gate the next night.
By not paying their dues in casinos like the Golden Gate some of today’s dealers are doing a disservice to themselves and the gaming industry. It is difficult, if not impossible to learn the mechanics of dealing the game, to control your emotions and diplomatically deal with difficult players and to handle unusual situations, when you haven’t had the benefit of working in one of the break-in houses on Fremont Street.
(Dale S. Yeazel is the author of "Precision Crap Dealing" and "Dealing Mini-Baccarat." They are E-books on CD-Rom available for only $20 each (plus tax) at Gamblers Book Shop and Gamblers General Store in Las Vegas. www.geocities.com/lump450).