Confessions of a blackjack dealer

A busy evening was finally winding down. It was 3am, and with only one more hour to go until the end of my shift, my sights were firmly set on the light at the end of the tunnel.

As I moved to the last table I would deal on for the night, I was relieved: it was a $100 minimum bet table. These tables were notorious for being empty for most of the night, and at 3am, they were a ghost town. I could relax. My shift was over.

Out of nowhere, a middle-aged man walked up to my table. Although I had gambled on the table being dead for the rest of the night, it didn’t faze me too much – nobody ever lasts for very long playing $100 a hand, even if they cashed in for $2,000.

Turns out he already had chips. $22,000 worth of chips, in fact. He started playing $1,000 a hand, and he started losing. He had a 20, I would get 21. He had a blackjack, I would get blackjack and we would stand off. He would win one hand and lose two. On and on this went, until 4am struck and it was time to go home.

As I turned to go…

“Good, leave. Fuck off. You made me lose. I don’t want you as a dealer again. You’re unlucky.”

Unlucky, yes. I was extremely unlucky, because when greed and emotion outweighs common logic and common courtesy, human beings become very ugly people. I was unlucky because I needed money – I didn’t have $22,000 on chips to gamble, after all – and this was the only place I could work. I was unlucky because I was the messenger and eventually, I always delivered bad news.

Working at a casino is not a good place to work if you want nurture good self-esteem.

In the casino, you have to develop a thick skin. People come to the casino with a certain amount of belief: belief that they are going to make money; belief that they are going to be the one who wins rather than the one who loses; and belief that although they have lost before, they are due for a win. They believe it is their lucky day, and when you crush this belief, hand by hand, you have to be prepared for the consequences.

The house always wins. Sooner or later, you will lose. It’s built into the game.

What is it about people that makes them always want more? What is it about us humans that makes us so eager to chase for more money, even though we have enough? And once we get the money we were chasing, why do we still constantly need more?

Are we just not strong enough to walk away?

It’s funny, because when I started working at the casino, my mother said that it would be bad – that by seeing other people win big, I would then think that gambling was a great way to win big money.

The exact opposite happened.

I saw person after person losing. I saw people who pulled out more money reluctantly from their wallets – their cab money, food money, or even money they had earmarked for their week’s spending – and I saw people borrow from others on the table, desperate to win back their money and convinced they would get it back. It would only be a matter of time, after all.

I saw people who became progressively upset. I saw people who took their frustrations out on others. I saw people drown their sorrows about their life and relationships. I saw people dealing with insomnia, anger management, fear, and loneliness.

The casino can be a happy place for some, but it is a sad place for others. But what’s more sad is the way that you slowly become desensitized to what you see. The more people that lose their money, the less sympathy you feel. The more money that flashes before your eyes and you handle with your own fingertips, the less that money matters.

I once told a girl not to worry about her bet because it was only $30 a hand, not realizing that losing $30 to her was actually a big deal. I started calling people – and still do, sometimes (although I am not proud of it) – degenerates and lowlives for spending their time there. Their anger and sadness fed the anger and sadness that lived deep within me, and brought it out to the surface.

I said in an earlier post that what we focus on grows. Working at a casino either nurtures the part of you that is angry, sad, and upset, or the part of you that wants to pass judgment on others. Regardless of which it is, spending so much time in a toxic environment poisons your life as well; before you know it, you’ve become a whole other person that you don’t even recognize.

In the beginning, I tried to help people.

I tried to tell them to go home. I tried to tell them that they were fighting a losing battle. I tried to tell them that there were other things they could be doing with their time. I tried to help them. No matter what I tried, however, it was to little or no avail – they kept coming back over, and over, and over again.

In spite of it all, however, I did learn things. I learned that sometimes it’s better to just let people be. I learned that greed and loneliness are powerful feelings and, left unchecked, can take over your entire life. But more than anything, I learned what I don’t want to be. I had worked in a job that physically and emotionally drained me, but I stepped out with a renewed sense of appreciation and desire for everything I had in my life, and everything I was and wanted to be.

Would I go back and do it again?

Despite everything, yes. Yes I would.

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