Dummy Up And Deal
Inside The Culture Of Casino Dealing
Publication Year: 2002
Published by: University of Nevada Press
Series: Gambling Studies Series
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Foreword: Scuffling in Search of the Real Las Vegas
There’s no shortage of books on Las Vegas these days. If you’re hungry to learn about blackjack’s basic strategy or the penthouse intrigue of Gaming Inc., you’ll have your arms full of suitable selections. At times it seems that every poet, pundit, and college professor is coming out with a take on the city. And who can blame them? Las Vegas is the place Salvador Dali would have invented if he’d had the money, the spot on the map I...
This book is narrative nonfiction. What is contained in these pages does not and cannot fit into the confines of theory, thesis, and proof. I conducted no surveys to confirm a general representation of attitudes. I have no statistics at my disposal to establish or imply that dealers are more or less unhappy or more or less cynical than other workers—or the opposite, for that matter.
Introduction: Beyond Pascal
They are called dealers, which in itself is ironic if we address the several meanings that the word “deal” encompasses. As a verb, “to deal” means “to hand out a portion, to concern one’s self with some matter,” as in “to deal with pain” and, of course, “to distribute cards in a game.” As a noun, “deal” means “treatment received,” as in “a raw or a bad deal,” and also “an...
1. Breaking In
Before they can make the cards perform ballet in the air, before they can spin a roulette ball at speeds approaching the sound barrier, before they can pay twelve bets on a layout faster than a car salesman can calculate his commission, dealers must learn the basics of the craft. They must break in and are therefore called “break-ins.” Although it’s their hope that their careers will lead them someday...
2. Mattress Politics
As in any environment where the sexes mingle, casinos are rife with gender and sexual conflict. Until recently, sexual harassment was commonplace, even expected. It came, as the expression goes, “with the territory.” Men in positions of power supervising women thought nothing of approaching them, whether or not they were married or otherwise involved, about “getting together.”
3. Georges, Stiffs, Freaks
If you were to ask a dealer what kept her dealing, the response most likely would be the Georges. Georges—“G” for “generous”—the big tippers. If you were to ask the same dealer what was the worst part of the job, she’d say the stiffs or describe some aberrant behavior or other demonstrated by a player, especially the high roller, whose worst behavior is notoriously tolerated. From the rich...
4. You're Fired, Have a Nice Day
Dealers, subject to the ever-present threat of a change in management, or whimsical shifts in personnel policies, or the arbitrary values of a given supervisor, work under a particular kind of job security-related stress, which is to say virtually no job security at all. A dealer’s performance or work habits may have nothing to do with whether or not she will have a job at the start of the next shift.
Wherever a commodity can be converted easily into cash, thieves will prosper. Over the years, casinos, with their huge money banks and millions of dollars’ worth of chips, have been havens for all manner of cheats. The skimming scams of the seventies—especially at the Stardust, the Tropicana, and the Dunes—are a part of the Las Vegas Mob history. Millions were “raked off the top”...
Many dealers take pride in their work, in the skills that it takes to keep a game moving along at a strong, steady pace. Years go into honing finger dexterity to the degree that hand and mind coordinate complex moves seemingly without willful effort. Dealers simply assume a kind of mistake-free competence in themselves. It’s the job, and when one does make a mistake, she’s as mystified by it as...
When customers asked me if I gambled, I used to say to them, “What kind of work do you do?” The responses were varied—insurance, car sales, homemaker. I’d respond with something to the effect of: “When you’re not cleaning your own home, do you go next door and clean your neighbor’s?” Or, “When you’re not selling a policy, do you go listen to someone else make a sales pitch?” The last...
8. One Dealer's Story
When I first sat down with this dealer, most of what is in this book was already in place. I was expecting, as I had from the others, an anecdote or a story or two to add to the text. He’d been dealing for approximately fifteen years, more than enough time to accumulate a reserve of stories. I had worked with him a few years earlier and had known him casually. He was known as a nice guy to...
Some Afterthoughts on the Text
Experience itself tends toward disorder, leading us from a point uncertain to another point that was not necessarily predictable. The purpose of a narrative is to give order to the experience and lead the reader to a point that is ironically called the truth of the story. This truth is found in experience reduced or expanded through language to an ultimate effect, from which it can best be deduced...