By Mark Clements | LSU Student
Shuffle up and deal.
That's a phrase often easier said than done -- at least correctly.
Anyone can be an adequate card dealer in the confines of their homes surrounded by friends, but turning this leisure pursuit into an art form for strangers considerably more difficult.
"There are certain requirements," said Wayne Jones, president and CEO of Casino Games Consulting, in New Orleans. "There are physical requirements, dexterity requirements and background check requirements – that's the biggie."
Jones trains and educates would-be dealers at his gaming school. He also has been a casino trainer with Harrah's Casino in New Orleans for the past decade.
Having started as a dealer himself, Jones understands the ins, outs and cuts of the industry, and has helped set up paths for students of all skill levels to improve.
"The school has different programs designed for new dealers, or dealers that have been dealing that want to enhance their skills," said Jones, who is certified by the Louisiana Board of Regents.
Jones said new dealers start out learning about the cards, handling the cheques – a casino term for chips – and familiarizing themselves with dealer duties and customer service before actually getting into the game itself.
The school teaches the rules and responsibilities associated with a number of different casino games. Programs can last anywhere from six to 14 weeks, depending on the game. These include the four "major" games which consist of blackjack, craps, roulette and baccarat and a plethora of "minor" games, mostly poker variations.
"Most casinos want you to have two majors and three minors. That would make a new dealer with no experience marketable," said Jones, who spent time as a supervisor, pit boss and floor manager at Harrah's before becoming a teacher. "Each casino has its own requirements … but to a new dealer, the more games you get the more marketable you are."
While experience is a plus when entering the school, Jones actually calls it "an advantage" to start with little or no experience in handling cards and chips.
"It's done differently than just playing at home. There's a certain way, that we call ‘gaming protection' that dealers must riffle the cards to make sure that they're protecting the integrity of the game. A person with no experience should be able to learn how to professionally deal the cards over that six week period."
But Jones said casinos look beyond table skills to find the right person for the job.
"Casinos are looking for people who are approachable, people who are going to deliver excellent customer service and are able to work in a diverse environment.
One of the big things casinos are looking for is … an upbeat and positive person – someone who will deliver good eye contact and set a fun atmosphere at the table."
Aside from the gaming schools, Jones said new casinos often offer free schooling for aspiring dealers in the weeks leading up to their openings.
Gina Shelby, shift manager at Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge, said the casino has its own school to train prospective dealers.
"We have our own dealer school and we teach you the game," Shelby said. "From there, they pass their audition for the game. Then they come on the floor."
The school only operates two to three times per year, based on need.
Regardless of the route one takes to the boat, Jones said the perks to card dealing are nearly incomparable. "I'd put casino dealing against any six-week technical training school that's offered at any college dealers would be up at the top."