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The Real Poop

Imagine a job where people ask you to "hit them" all day long, and you can't get arrested for granting their request.

Welcome to Las Vegas. Land of big dreams and empty pockets. Here is where people come to have some good, clean (or not so clean) adult fun. That is, if you can lose several hundred—or thousand—dollars and still consider it fun.

Many people don't travel to Vegas to gamble, but most do. It's such a large part of the mystique of the placeit would be like going to France and not trying any of the food, or journeying to Canada and not getting frostbite. To a majority of visitors, plopping down at least a few bucks at the tables is an almost necessary ingredient of the complete Vegas experience.

If you hit on 20, we're taking away your player's card.

Behind those tables are the dealers (or, for roulette, the croupiers). It is their job to make sure that each game goes smoothly and quickly, and that each of their "customers" has a good time. Which can sometimes be difficult to do when one of them is down half their annual salary. But they do what they can.

While being a dealer in a casino sounds pretty…bottom of the barrel, and not exactly what your parents had planned for you, it isn't one of those total throwaway jobs like waiting tables in a diner or collecting change in a toll booth. Dealing isn't the easiest thing in the world. You have to be pretty stellar with your math skills. You won’t need to draw on a calculus background, but you need to be able to add up a series of numbers very quickly (God forbid you take more than 1-½ seconds to determine whether a player's hand beats the house), make correct change in multi-player situations that can be rather confusing, and recognize patterns in a hurry. And while some dealers are real duds, it helps if you are personable and can make the gamblers at your table feel at ease. The more at ease they feel, the longer they stay put, and the more coinage they drop into the casino's collection bucket.

As a dealer, you are providing a service, but you are also an entertainer. No funny voices or magic tricks are necessary—in fact, it's the cards themselves that provide most of the entertainment, but these people are not at the office. They want to win, but if they're losing, they want to have as much fun as possible doing it. If that means cracking jokes (as long as they're not terrifyingly awful), telling stories, or just smiling and laughing along with everyone else, you do what has to be done so that those at your table have an absolute blast.

At the same time, they are there to gamble. Which means you have to be speedy and efficient. No setting the cards down momentarily so you can demonstrate your shadow puppetry skills. It will not be well-received. You have to snatch those cards out of the machine or blackjack shoe like you're late for an important dinner. You have to get those hands dealt like they’re hot to the touch. You can’t accidentally flip up or expose a card, you can’t miscount a player's payout or overlook that one of them has a winning hand. The men and women at your table have a lot of money at stake, and they therefore have eagle eyes that will pick up on every single mistake you make. If you make more than just one or two minor ones, it will cease to matter how funny your jokes are or how fascinating your stories. You're going to start seeing people pick up their chips and make a beeline for the next table. The one thing Vegas does not lack is a wealth of alternative gambling options. It's not likely a gambler is going to feel too much loyalty to you once you've accidentally shorted them on their change for the fifth time.

The environment in a casino can be exciting to the occasional visitor, but don't expect to love it if you work there. Have you considered that you’re going to have to listen to those obnoxious slot machine noises all day, every day? They will still be ringing in your ears long after you've clocked out for the evening (or morning, depending on your shift). You are also going to have to deal with more than your fair share of drunken idiots, many of whom can be abusive, and will angrily blame you for the fact that they keep going bust when they hit on 19. And because you are surrounded by people who are making large donations to the Charitable Casino Fund, there is going to be a general sense of depression and desperation pervading the apparent atmosphere of fun and joviality. The place can drag you down pretty quickly if you don't have a good head on your shoulders, and can deal with the violent mood swings of total strangers on a regular basis.

Of course, you can be a dealer anywhere you can find a casino—it doesn't have to be in Vegas. But everyone knows that's where the real money is. You’ll get paid more money by your employer, and you'll make better tips. So if you're seriously considering dealing as a career path, be prepared to make the move to Lost Wages, Nevada. They'll leave a neon light on for you.

It might be time for a new prescription.

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