Chip Houseman shows up to work a few minutes early for the start of his 6 pm shift. He arrives in his workout attire – he hasn’t actually come directly from a workout, but he is sweating profusely anyway. The 6-block walk in the scorching Vegas sun was plenty of exercise for the day.
He enters Caesar’s Palace through the employee entrance and makes his way to the restroom to freshen up and change into his casino uniform. By 6 on the dot, he’s out on the floor and ready to get the cards in the air.
Today he is starting out on a Pai Gow table. Chip’s been with Caesar’s for over 15 years now – in that time, he’s become proficient at dealing a number of table and poker games, so he gets to mix things up and deal at a variety of tables. It keeps things interesting and makes his days go by faster. He feels bad for the newbies who are forced to deal blackjack and nothing but for 8 hours a day. He remembers those days, and recalls how much he wanted to bash his head against a wall.
Or against a goat. Whatever.
It’s ten minutes or so before he gets a victim. Er, player. A grossly overweight gentleman (there are a lot of them in Vegas) sidles up to the table and plops down a handful of twenties. Chip takes the stack of bills and counts them out onto the table, laying them out in sets of five.
“Changing three hundred!” he calls to the pit boss.
The pit boss (a fancy term for the floor manager who handles all things dealer related) is busy dealing with a situation at another table, but the cameras can prove that Chip has followed procedure, and that’s really all that matters.
Chip counts out $300 in chips and slides them over to the apparent businessman. The man counts his chips to make sure he isn’t being shorted (you can never be too careful), and then places his first bet of $25.
“How are you doing today?” Chip asks.
“Guess we’re about to find out,” says the surly gentleman.
Okedoke, Chip thinks. Not a talker. Just fine by me. We’ll play in silence for a little bit.
Chip pushes a button on the machine that dispenses the Pai Gow hands, then deals out eight hands, including one to himself. He can tell this guy is here to play and not to chit-chat or dilly-dally, so he knows his tips will likely be dependent on his ability to deal the greatest number of hands in the shortest period of time. He distributes the hands to the player and the half-dozen empty seats as quickly as possible.
The gentleman looks at his cards, grunts discontentedly and sets his hand. Chip spreads out his own hand, shows that his is best, and scoops up the player’s chips. A good start for the casino – not such a good start for this player’s mood.
After about fifteen minutes a few other players arrive – this time a group of girls who appear to be in town on a bachelorette weekend or some similar adventure. They have… ahem… had a few, they are laughing liberally, and seem as if they want nothing more than to sit down for a while and have a good time. Chances are they won’t even realize they’ve lost any money until the next morning. Chip much prefers their attitudes to that of the other player at his table. A couple of them are pretty cute, too.
After dealing Pai Gow for an hour, Chip gets his first 20-minute break of the day. When he returns to the floor, he notes that his schedule has him on blackjack for the next hour.
He sets up shop at his new table, and ushers in a new horde of gamblers eager to try their luck and see if they can beat the odds. Not likely, Chip thinks. Not in the long run, anyway.
After blackjack and another 20-minute break (dealers do get plenty of breaks, but considering how constantly they are in motion and how much time they spend on their feet, the breaks really are needed), Chip’s schedule shows that he is needed in the poker room for the remainder of his shift.
You may not be a stud, but at least you got to deal it.
Chip enjoys dealing poker more than any other game. For one thing, he loves the game himself and plays plenty of it in his spare time. Seeing as many hands as he does, he has developed quite a knack for calculating odds and picking up on players’ behavioral patterns. Second, the players are playing each other rather than the house, so there is slightly less animosity aimed in his direction. There’s still some, like from the players who believe he is somehow responsible for dealing a heart on the river when they desperately wanted a club, but not as much.
For the first two hours in the poker room, Chip deals for a four-table tournament. After the first hour he switches tables to relieve another dealer – by the time two hours is up, the tournament is down to three tables and his services are no longer required.
He takes yet another 20-minute break (at least he gets plenty of time to catch up on all of his “Draw Something” turns while at work), and then returns to the poker room where he spends the rest of his shift dealing at the cash tables. At 2 am – oh yeah, things are still hopping at that time, don’t worry – Chip deals his last hand, and clocks out.
Not a bad day tip-wise… and he also picked up a couple of reliable tells on a few of the players at the tables. Now if only he can run into them again on one of his days off…