If you love gambling and the rush of adrenaline you get when the cards hit the table, you may think that being a professional blackjack dealer is a pretty sweet gig. Working in the center of all the high-stakes action has some great perks but it’s not all glitz and glamor for those across the table.
When the sun goes down
The sun over Las Vegas is just beginning its downward arc in the sky and for me, that means one thing: work is about to start. As an experienced Vegas blackjack dealer, nights and weekends are my time to shine. Sleeping during the day is my routine and when the sun sets, my job begins.
Nights and weekends
Walking into the casino from a back door, getting checked by security guards, and always carrying a transparent handbag are just necessary parts of the job. In the locker room, I change into my uniform, undergo another security inspection, and then head to a pre-shift meeting with the supervisor on-duty as well as the other dealers who are working this evening.
He fills me in on the tables I’ll run tonight, who’s in charge of giving breaks throughout the night, and any other details I need to know to do my job. Most of it is automatic. I’m a seasoned blackjack dealer after all and with experience comes a level of comfort in any vocation. It wasn’t always this way, however.
The early days
As with most things in life, expertise comes with practice, and blackjack dealing is no exception. There are two ways to get into dealing: either being trained by a casino or going to school. I took the school route, as I knew it would offer more options and higher pay if I was looking to work in the larger casinos in the heart of Vegas.
The training is the easy part. It only took me a few months and a few hundred bucks to get the certification. The hard part is getting good. Occasionally, casinos will contact schools to recruit new dealers. These are never the big-name places, though. Usually, they’re smaller “break-in houses” on the outskirts of Vegas. Because hey, you gotta start somewhere.
In the thick of it
Blackjack is my life. It’s my favorite card game. The challenge, the thrill, and the possibilities keep me coming back, just like my players, every time.
When I get to the casino floor, I walk to my assigned table and tap the current dealer on the shoulder. “Your shift is over,” the tap says, “I’ll take it from here.” We switch out and my work begins. Looking around the table at the gathered players, I take mental notes of what everyone is wearing, their demeanor, and then a quick glance at eyes. You can tell a lot about someone from their eyes.
With a clap of my hands to show there are no hidden cards, I start to deal and the game begins. I deal the cards, keep a straight face, and watch closely for card-counters. Aside from a few short breaks, this is the next 10-12 hours for me, nearly every night.
All about the tips
I hate to break it to you, but the salary isn’t great. Experienced blackjack dealers like me take home around $15,000 a year from the casinos that employ us. So, where’s the jackpot then? Tips, tips, tips.
As a dealer, I’m protecting the house’s money. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not cheering on the players. I actually really want them to win. A player winning big usually means a nice tip for me and a full toke box at the end of the night.
Hours later, when I feel that tap on my shoulder letting me know my shift is over, I breathe a sigh of relief and fatigue. I grab my belongings and leave the pit after another successful night’s work. There’s good money to be made in dealing blackjack and going home with a couple grand is not rare.
There are struggles, to be sure. The hazy, smoke-filled rooms. The low salary, the often-angry guests, and the long hours of standing do a number on my feet. Working under constant surveillance can be a bit daunting while having to be escorted to my car in the early hours of the morning, sometimes puts me on edge.