Boxman rebellion?

Sep 30, 2003 1:52 AM

I have had the displeasure of working for upper managers that don’t seem to grasp what should be the first rule of management: If a manager makes a decision that doesn’t benefit at least one of the three groups of concern ”” the company, it’s customers or it’s employees ”” he is not making a hard decision because it is the right decision, he is making it merely because it is a hard decision.

After hearing that many Las Vegas casinos are eliminating the boxman position on the craps table, I have to wonder if those managers are falling victim to their misguided desire to make hard decisions or if they truly don’t understand the ramifications.

A craps crew consists of the stickman, the second base dealer, the third base dealer and a dealer on break. The stickman handles the dice, announces the rolls and books proposition bets.

The base dealers collect the losing bets and pay the winning bets. After protecting the dice, the most important responsibility of the stickman is to monitor the base dealer that is on the end of the table that is opposite of the shooter. The primary function of the boxman is to monitor the base dealer that is working on the shooter’s end of the table.

I have worked with some of the best dealers to have ever put on an apron, and I can assure you that I have caught all of them making mistakes on a daily basis. And yes, they have caught me making mistakes with similar frequency.

Besides the potential financial loss due to mistakes, catching and correcting base dealer mistakes as they happen insures that the players will enjoy a reasonably paced game without the need to confer with surveillance to confirm player’s claims.

While every dealer makes honest mistakes, both in the house’s favor and in the player’s favor, we can be certain that uncaught mistakes cost the house more money than it gains. We can be certain of this because it can be assumed players are far more apt to cry out when the dealer shorts them than when they are overpaid.

Besides dealer mistakes, the boxman exists to insure the game is under constant supervision. The game requires constant supervision to protect it from the crossroader (professional cheater) and the occasional dealer that doesn’t have his employer’s best interests in mind.

Yes, Virginia, crossroaders do exist and like all predators, the look for easy prey. They case the casino looking for games that lack protection so they can exploit it for their own gain. A game with a base dealer more interested in bonding with the players than protecting the game is usually enough to qualify. Add to this a lack of supervision and the crossroader need not look any further.

Besides mistakes there at least three ways a dealer can cost the casino money. First, by engaging in rude or at least unprofessional conversation with a player. Unfortunately some dealers require "adult supervision." And if a drunken player wants to accuse an innocent dealer of being rude, at least there is a boxman there to monitor all conversations between dealer and player.

Speaking of monitoring conversations, the second way a bad seed dealer can cost the casino money is by "hustling" the players for tokes (tips). The casino’s best protection from hustling is the dealer knowing that whatever he says to the player is being heard by the boxman sitting a few inches from him.

The third way the dealer can cost the house money is by stealing. I am certain, based on stories I hear from men that have been in the gaming business far longer than myself, that dealers using "subs" (removable pockets hidden in a dealer’s pants for the purpose of stealing checks) was far more prevalent 50 years ago than it is today. But the practice is hardly extinct; crack cocaine addiction is one of the major reasons dealer theft is making a renaissance.

Of course you may be asking, what about the floorman that is watching the game? Isn’t it his job to protect the game? Of course it is but it is also his job to write comps, prepare fill slips, complete rating slips, retrieve lost dice, answer the phone and answer player’s questions. Any of these tasks or the many others he performs is enough to take his attention off of the game at the worst possible moment.

And what of surveillance, don’t they exist to protect the house from mistakes and theft? I’m not sure of surveillance now, but in the past the casinos were so deathly afraid of collusion between casino personnel and the "eye in the sky" they recruited people that had never dealt any of the games. The only training they might have received is to be sent to dealer’s school.

I remember when I graduated dealing school and I tried to watch experienced dealers dealing they game. There was no way I could catch the dealers making mistakes because in order to do so I would have had to know what they should be doing before they were about to do it. Besides, many bets, especially hop bets, are booked verbally so surveillance has no way to know if the dealer is paying a legitimate call bet or is paying an "anything that hits" bet to his agent.

And in a practical sense, surveillance doesn’t exist to call down every time a dealer makes a mistake. If they did, a crooked dealer would only have to make an intentional mistake in order to know if he was being watched. If no call came, he would know it was safe to make a move. Surveillance exists to catch and record patterns of employee error and dishonesty.

Yes it does cost money to pay boxmen’s salary and benefits, but not having them cost the casino far more money in the long run and does your customers a disservice. Good managers increase the bottom line by increasing revenue more than they do by cutting costs. By eliminating the boxman, companies are demonstrating they do not know the difference between eliminating waste and throwing money out the window.

(Dale S. Yeazel is the author of "Precision Crap Dealing" and "Dealing Mini-Baccarat." Full color E-books on CD-Rom available for only $20 each (plus tax) at Gamblers Book Shop and Gamblers General Store in Las Vegas.