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Casino school: riffling, games, and lots of math

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Casino school: riffling, games, and lots of math

Rivers Casino – owned by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming – is in the market for hundreds of new dea
Casino school: riffling, games, and lots of math
Black Jack dealer David Vatthanavong giving pointers to Ayla Ferrone at The Rivers Casino held a press preview of Dealer School
Photographer: Marc Schultz

What does it take to be a good casino dealer?

First: know the games. There’s blackjack and poker, of course. But there’s also Let It Ride, three-card poker, Mississippi Stud, roulette and, the tough one, craps.

“It took me a year and a half to be really comfortable running a craps table,” said David Vatthanavong, a table games manager at Rivers Casino and Resort, set to open in Schenectady early next year.

Second: know the math.

At Rivers, chip denominations will range from $1 whites to mustard-colored tokens at the handsome price of $20,000. Blackjack dealers have to quickly add to 21 or bust and multiply chip values, while poker deals have to split pots as much as three or four ways. It’s not calculus, but it’s fast and constant.

Third: know how to riffle. That’s the special kind of shuffle that makes a casino dealer a casino dealer.

And finally: know how to put on a show.

“As a dealer you are on center stage, you are doing a show, you’re an actor, and you are showing the customer a good time,” Vatthanvong said.

The first thing casino managers are looking for in a new dealer is a winning personality and an ability to interact with customers. It’s also how dealers get paid – in tips.

And Rivers Casino – owned by Chicago-based Rush Street Gaming – is in the market for hundreds of new dealers, inviting Capital Region residents interested in getting a foothold in the gaming industry to interview for a spot in its dealer school beginning next month.

“We’ll teach them everything they need to know,” said Rosemarie Cook, vice president of gaming for Rivers Casino, during a media preview of the dealer school. “There’s not any kind of skill set they need other than their personality. We need someone upbeat, happy, fun and not afraid to try new things, not afraid to meet new people.

The casino is looking for 40 poker dealers and 300 table game dealers – that’s blackjack, craps, roulette and other novelty games played on tables. There are also 70 supervisor and 20 management positions to fill before the casino opens for business.

“Our goal is to get people from the community and to get them a new skill set, get them a career with excellent pay and benefits,” Cook said.

Dealers make a small base salary but make the chunk of their money from tips. In an industry where money flows regularly, it is considered common courtesy (and good luck) to tip the dealer. While casino officials said they are still not sure what the pay range in the Schenectady market will be, they said dealers can expect to make between $35,000 and $60,000 a year. In the table games, dealers pool and divide their tips every 24 hours (there are three eight-hour shifts each day); poker dealers take in their own tips.

“The faster you work, the more you make,” said Bruce Dixon, the casino’s poker room manager. And since the house always takes a cut of non-tournament poker hands, the more the casino makes.

The dealer school starts in mid-October and runs for 10 weeks. Classes are 20 students per each instructor – 60 at a time for the table games cohort, 20 at a time in poker. At the end of the program, students finish off the requirements for their gaming certification. The entire process is free to prospective dealers.

Cook said most everyone who gets into dealer school will end up with jobs at the casino – “You are 95 percent of the way there” – and if someone realizes that dealing isn’t for them they will be paired with human resources to see if another part of the operation is a better fit.

Casino officials plan to invite 350 people into dealer school. They have already interviewed 200 people but have not started to offer invitations to the program. Prospective dealers need a high school degree or the equivalent but no gaming experience is necessary.

During the program, prospective dealers learn about how to spot thieves and cheats and the tell-tale signs of compulsive behavior and what to do in those situations. By the end of the training, Cook said, dealers will understand all aspects of the business of a casino floor.

The new casino floor will play host to 67 table games – including around 30 blackjack tables – and a poker room of 15 tables. Every day the casino floor will use over 1,000 decks of cards. Blackjack tables will start out with minimum bets of $5 and range well into the high stakes. The poker room will cater to customer requests, offering Hold ‘Em, 7-Card Stud and Omaha games at both no limit and limit rates – with the no limit minimums in the $1-$2 range. The casino also plans to hold daily poker tournament, where for as low as $50 players can face off at the tables for a shot at prize money.

“The buy-ins will be anything from $60 to the sky’s the limit,” Dixon said.

And the poker or blackjack table is just the starting point. Cook, Dixon and Vatthanavong all started their careers as dealers before moving up the casino career ladder to supervisor and manager positions. The trio comes from SugarHouse casino, a Rush Street Gaming casino in Philadelphia, and they said moves throughout the company are possible as dealers gain experience.

“There isn’t anyone who comes into the table game world without being a dealer,” Cook said.

To apply for an interview visit http://www.riverscasinoandresort.com/careers.

Reach Gazette reporter Zachary Matson at 395-3120, [email protected]t or @zacharydmatson on Twitter.

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