Let’s make a dealer!

Mar 9, 2004 1:22 AM

Every so often a player will say to me, "I don’t know how you guys keep up with all these bets!" I usually smile and think, "You don’t know the half of it."

Even among veteran players, most people don’t appreciate the skills involved in becoming a crap dealer, the time and work it takes to acquire those skills and the thought processes and concentration that goes on while someone is dealing.

Dealers must have good hands and it takes proper instruction and a lot of practice in order to acquire them. A dealer needs to have the ability to "pick" one through five checks from the top of a stack of checks without the need to confirm it by looking at the amount. He also needs to be able to "cut" one through five checks from the bottom of a stack. While good dealers make this look easy, you only have to watch a mediocre dealer struggle with checks to see how much it can hold up a game when a dealer doesn’t handle checks well.

There are no calculators, abacuses or even pencil and paper on a crap game. Dealers must be able to mentally compute the payoffs for any bet that a player makes. Of course even the best dealer will make an occasional mistake but overall he must have the discipline to mentally break complicated bets into two or more simple bets, then add those answers together in order to compute payoffs for more complicated bets.

An experienced dealer has finely honed communication skills, which enables him to relay information with a minimum amount of words. Miscommunication is costly to the house and aggravating to the players. The difference between, for example, the words "working" or "off" can mean the difference of thousands of dollars. The ability of listening and expressing oneself is one of the primary skills that determine a dealer’s ability to work as a team with his crew and with his supervisors.

Few occupations require a more highly developed degree of common sense than that of a crap dealer. I believe that breaking-in in a casino on Fremont Street for supervisors that are very demanding and dealing to players that are equally demanding develops discipline and that this discipline is the source that common sense eventually emerges. One way a dealer demonstrates his common sense is his willingness and ability to anticipate the betting patterns of his players. There is no rule saying he must do so, in fact "betting the player’s money for him" is one of the things he was taught not to do.

However, life experience has taught him that it is better to suggest what he knows a player wants rather than say nothing and listen to the player beef when the bet he forgot to make, wins. Another classic example of common sense in action is the decision making process involved in deciding whether to pay a winning bet "color for color" or with larger denomination checks. If taken to either extreme, there are undesired consequences. Always paying bets in the same color strings out the player and depletes the table’s bankroll. Unnecessary totaling makes a dealer’s payoff difficult to monitor and can cause the player to run out of the color he needs to make his bets.

The final quality of a dealer is the ability to earn tokes (tips). A dealer that merely shows up to work and functions as though he were assembling cars on production line is known as a "lump" by his fellow dealers. Dealers are competitive and critical by nature and have little tolerance for someone who is unable or unwilling to do his job.

Dealers who just "go through the motions" can expect to earn little more than the minimum wage the casino pays them. It takes patience, friendliness and the willingness to teach people to play the game in order to compel players to want to show their appreciation. In the past casinos wanted dealers to merely "dummy up and deal" however the current trend is to hire dealers that pay less attention to dealing skills and more attention to being an entertainer. Obviously, a wise dealer seeks to find some kind a middle ground.

The key dynamic that determines how aggressively a dealer will pursue a toke is how many ways the tokes earned by that crew is spilt. In years past, crap dealers went "table for table" so whatever money was earned by a dealer, is only split up between four dealers. Few table for table jobs exist now days, the more common practice is for the dealers to split their tokes between all dealers on a given shift or all dealers working that day. In the days of table for table splits, dealers expected themselves and their crewmates to be willing to "hustle" in order to make what they considered to be a fair living. A crew might spend much of a shift on a dead game or when there was a game, the dice might be cold and offer little chance for earning tokes. So when the dice did get hot, a dealer did not want to be a victim to a player not knowing how or forgetting to tip. In this instance he might very well do what he knew would get him fired if he was overheard by a suit or if the player complained: ask the player to make a bet for the dealers.

If you are playing in one of the posh resorts on the strip the dealer dealing to you has traveled a long road to get to where he is. He has spent months or even years working in the trying conditions of a break-in house for little money. He has endured dirty and abusive players and bosses that sweated the money. He may very well still be subjected to an unpredictable schedule and forced to work overtime on a nightly basis. I hope this article shed some light on what it is like to be a dealer.

(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. www.geocities.com/lump450).