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Top 10 attributes of a successful casino dealer

11 December 2017

Heather Ferris, founder of Vegas-Aces and experienced dealer.

Heather Ferris, founder of Vegas-Aces and experienced dealer.

A dealer is as vital to the entire casino guest experience as the cards they flip or the roulette wheel they spin. Dealers are the face of the casino, and while a talented dealer with the right personality can make a losing night still feel exciting, an uninformed and unfriendly croupier can just as easily take the thrill out of a winning session.

Heather Ferris, founder of Vegas-Aces.com, knows this all too well. A second-generation Las Vegas-born-and-raised resident (her grandmother was a showgirl and her grandfather worked at the old Stardust with Lefty Rosenthal), Ferris has more than five years' experience as a dealer in pretty much every game available at venues such as the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, the Golden Nugget - Las Vegas and the Gold Coast Hotel and Casino.

In 2010, Ferris, who is also an adjunct professor at University of Las Vegas, launched Vegas Aces, which is chock-full of information on how to become a casino dealer. Next year, her first book — with the working title The Ultimate Guide to Being a Casino Dealer — will be published by Huntington Press.

Casino City sat down with Ferris and asked her to share some of the key attributes that are most important to someone if they plan to not only become a successful casino dealer for a living, but develop that profession into a job that's both financially and personally rewarding.

10. Have thick skin
When players lose money, they typically do not want to blame themselves — which means the wrath is usually directed squarely at the dealer.

“Oh, I’ve heard it all,” shrugs Ferris. “They’ll yell and scream at you, tell you you’re stealing from them or they won’t be able to feed their kids, and they’ll do that as they’re pulling another 500 dollars out of their pocket.

“I’ve had ashtrays and cards thrown at me. I've been spit at. I’ve been told I’m cheating. You can’t take it seriously. You have to have a thick skin in this industry and just let that stuff roll off of you and not take it personally."

9. Understand superstitions
Go ahead and call them silly, but many gamblers are superstitious — and whether you believe in them or not, a dealer must recognize and respect them at the table.

"Sometimes you'll be doing your job and then all of sudden a player will freak out for no reason because you paid them with black chips instead of their 'lucky' green chips," Ferris explains. "It may not seem important to you, but they are very important to the player. As a dealer, you can't get upset or be offended. You have to do whatever you can to accommodate them."

8. Learn as many games as possible
Versatility is a great attribute for a dealer and will also lead to a more lucrative career.

"Some people think they can just be a blackjack dealer and that's all I need to know," Ferris says. "But what they don't realize is that the more games they know and can deal, the more valuable they are to the casino. And the more valuable they are to the casino, the better casinos they can get into and the more money they will make."

7. Practice makes perfect
Much like a golf swing or playing an instrument, the act of dealing is a muscle memory exercise. So, the more you practice your craft, the better you get and more natural it becomes.

"For example, when you're dealing craps you need to be able to use both your right and left hand," Ferris says. "I always tell dealers-in-training that they should sit at home and while doing something like watching Neflix they should sit there and practice and practice and keep practicing. You want it to get to the point where you don't really even have to think without your arms and hands doing what needs to be done."

6. Know your game
Dealers get asked for advice quite often, so they should be prepared to answer questions correctly, no matter what game they're dealing.

"You don't want to be dealing blackjack and not know what the book says a player should do in a certain instance if and when you get asked," Ferris says. "You need to know how each game is played, and you need to know it very well. It's crucial to becoming a good dealer."

5. Protect your game
According to Ferris, a dealer's No. 1 job is protecting the integrity of the game they are dealing.

"I know there are a lot of players out there that say all the dealers are cheating and the house is cheating, but that couldn't be further from the truth," she says. "If the dealer isn't protecting the game, they're not going to have a job for very long."

She adds that if you are branded as a "weak" dealer, "strokers" will come looking for you so they can take advantage.

"A weak dealer is someone who doesn't know the game," she continues. "This goes back to knowing your game. If you don't know the rules of the game, the 'strokers,' as we call them, will sit there and tell you about mistakes you are making or try to take advantage in other ways so they can profit from it."

4. Be a showman (or showgirl) and have fun
In many ways, the dealer can control the atmosphere at the table.

If everyone is having fun, everyone benefits, even if the cards or dice aren't falling the right way.

"If the players want you to be silent, then you should be silent, but in most cases, players want to be entertained," Ferris says. "They're there to have a good time. They don't want to think about losing money. They would rather have an enjoyable experience with a dealer talking and laughing and telling stories and not thinking about the 50 dollars they just lost. And if the table is having fun, the casino is going to be happy because the players will stay longer and spend more money."

An engaging and enjoyable table ambiance is also beneficial to the dealer.

"If you're going to be there for eight hours a day, you might as well have some fun with it, she adds. "Dealers should really try to put their personality out there on the table and have fun. It will make your job more enjoyable, it will draw the right people to your table and in the end you'll make more money because you'll get more tips."

3. Be presentable
No sugarcoating this one. The better you look (and smell), the longer players will want to stay at your table.

"If a woman dealer looks amazing or a guy dealer looks hot, they are going to attract more players that want to play longer," Ferris says matter-of-factly. "You want to be clean, do your makeup and hair, and brush your teeth. Simple stuff, but it's important to make your overall appearance as impressive as possible."

2. Don't try to climb the ladder
Ferris says that unlike most industries, a dealer should not worry about or aspire to climb the proverbial ladder and be promoted to floorperson.

"Quality dealers typically make as much, or is some cases, more than the floormen," she says. "I've heard a large amount of management or floormen tell me that they wish they stayed as dealers. A floorman has more responsibilities, more paperwork and more responsibility. If there's a problem at the table, all a dealer has to do is call over the floorperson and then it’s their problem. If you are a good dealer, you're better off to just keep dealing."

1. Know when to quit
To steal a line from Kenny Rogers, when it comes to dealing as a profession, "You've got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away, know when to run."

"There are a lot of dealers out there that just don't have the thick skin or don't have the personality, or don't like doing the math, or they're simply just burnt out, and, in turn, they are completely miserable at their job," Ferris says. "Like any other profession, if you hate your job you're not going to be very good at it, you’re not going to be happy and it's going to show at the table.

"If that's the case, you need to know when it's time to quit and try something else. If you're not happy being a dealer, it's not the job for you. You need to move on."
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Best of Gary Trask
Gary Trask

Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT
Gary Trask
Gary serves as Casino City's managing editor and has more than 20 years experience as a writer and editor.

A member of the inaugural Poker Hall of Fame Media Committee, Gary enjoys playing poker and blackjack, but spends most of his time sitting in the comfy confines of the sportsbook when in Las Vegas.

The Boston native is also a former PR pro in the golf-casino-resort industry and a fanatical golfer, allowing his two favorite hobbies - gambling and golf - to collide quite naturally.

Contact Gary at gary@casinocity.com and follow him on Twitter at @CasinoCityGT.

Gary Trask Websites:

twitter.com/#!/casinocityGT