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Gambling’s Multi-tasking Masters

You step into your local casino. With all the flashing lights, sounds and crowds, there’s a lot going on. You make your way past the slots to a card game in play, the action led by an impeccably-mannered dealer. Like masters of ceremony, these gaming experts present a certain mystique, but what’s it really like to deal cards on a busy casino floor? Well, it’s busy.

From Blackjack to poker,  casino dealers have a million and one things to keep in mind, all while helping guests have a great time. Multitasking isn’t some nice-to-have skill, it’s a way of life. From dealing hundreds of hands per night to adding up wagers on the fly, keeping an eye out for cheaters and signaling to security, dealers are trained to deal with practically anything and everything that goes on at the table.

To help understand the job a bit more, we went straight to the source and asked some dealers what it’s like to work the casino floor. Here’s what we heard:

How many hands an hour does a dealer deal?

The exact number is hard to say. It really depends on what denomination the table is. If it’s a 10-15 dollar table, it’s usually a little more rapid-fire. If it’s a 100 or 500 dollar table, dealers can take their time, have a conversation, shoot the breeze, talk hockey. Take Blackjack for example, at a high-stakes table, the house won’t try to push the speed of play—the timing is driven by the players.

Is it true that dealers and surveillance teams have special ways of communicating?

Definitely true. There are a lot of non-verbal actions dealers use to prove that a game is secure. One is the showing of hands. Every time a dealer touches cash or chips, they’ll open their palms upwards. This shows surveillance that they haven’t slipped or palmed anything.

Another is handling chips. If it’s a short stack, say 5 chips, dealers will hold them on an angle so surveillance can count them. Taller stacks get stacked in a stepped fashion, leaning off the bottom chip so surveillance has an angle to see down the stack.

Why do dealers keep track of who’s winning and losing?

What dealers are actually tracking is if a player is up or down. If they’re down a little bit, a dealer might try to add some levity. If a player is up, there’s some room to build a friendly rapport. This way if they end up losing, the dealer has established a connection and can maybe suggest a coffee break.

What’s the best part of the job?

A lot of dealers will tell you that the best part of the job is the camaraderie around a table when everyone’s having a good time. The social side of things is a huge part of a night out at a casino and the dealer often acts as a master of ceremonies. When people are having fun, so are the dealers.

How do dealers prevent cheating?

If a dealer suspects a player of cheating they won’t typically confront the player directly. They’ll let their supervisor know instead. When it comes to cheating, a dealer’s main job is prevention. This means they’re on the lookout for cards with scuffs, creases or marks that could help a player track which cards are which. If they spot a damaged card, they’ll flag it for replacement.

Make no mistake, the job of a dealer takes skill, patience, nuance, psychology and a knack for multitasking. When everything is going smoothly, it can be a real treat to watch an experienced dealer in action. Next time you’re in a casino try out a new card game to watch and learn!

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