Let’s make a deal(er)


My best friend Trey and I frequently used to try and help our people out. Not family members, and not some of our close friends. Just good people, people that we liked. Some worked at the local Amazon warehouse, others worked elsewhere. Usually they were looking for something more, at least money-wise.

So what Trey and I did, we told them they should go to dealer school — to do what I do. We presented it as a sweet deal, because that’s exactly what it was. They didn’t have to go to college or vocational school for three or four years. They didn’t have to invest a bunch of money into a program that would pay dividends down the road. All it took was like three or four months and $1,200. Just like that they would be on their way to a good job.

We really used to tell people all the time, but then we realized no one had taken us up on it, so we didn’t try so hard. I still mention it from time to time to people that I like, and I’m sure he does too. But to us it seems like an idea that should catch like wildfire — because it’s relatively cheap and takes almost no time to go from knowing nothing to becoming a professional — and it turns out we’re wrong. People either aren’t interested, think they can’t do it, or are too comfortable to make a change.

Along this same line, I’ve badgered my older brother about getting into dealing sporadically over the last couple years. I mentioned it just often enough to where he wouldn’t get totally sick with the idea. He is two years my senior and in most ways all the things I am not, which I thought would work to his benefit as a dealer because he would be less inclined to let his ego get in the way in front of players and coworkers. He would be perfect, I thought.

So, finally, about a week after telling him I would pay for him to go to dealer school, as well as whatever bills he needed covered in his time between jobs, my older brother gave his notice at work. He is going to be the one. The one person who will finally take me up on becoming a dealer. And not only him: my younger brother — who is 21 — is going, too.

To me this is probably the best of all immediate outcomes. See, even though I’m not proud to say it, I moved in with my mom and two brothers about six months ago to help with the rent. To make a long story short, my mom got a 10 percent pay cut at her job shortly after divorcing my dad. So when her and my older brother went in on renting a house, they did it under the assumption that her pay was going to stay where it was, which was the highest it had ever been. Without an extra $2,000 a month, they struggled.

I moved in to shore up what was lost, and in the meantime I got to save some money. While it has been a pretty good deal for me — I’m never going to complain about free laundry and warm meals — my heart told me I wouldn’t be able to move out again until they were financially secure. And unless my younger brother (who is unemployed) started working, or my older brother got into something more lucrative, I felt stuck.

So, yes, part of wanting my older brother — or both brothers — to become a dealer is for selfish reasons. Because in some way I am tied to staying so long as they need the money. Right now my older brother works full-time and makes about half the money I do working 3 or 4 days. On average I work less than 30 hours per week over the course of the year, such that the casino I work for won’t have to pay me benefits.

Southern California is unique for dealers at casinos, because it’s the only place in the world where the dealers get to keep their own tips This isn’t true in all cases, since I know of a couple places in Vegas and a casino in Colorado where dealers go for their own. But in the overwhelming majority of cases, dealers pool their tokes.

As such, dealers in Southern California tend to make more money than dealers in Vegas or Atlantic City. Out there you could make $5,000 in a day and you’d have to split it with 100 or 200 other dealers. Out here, you get to keep it. I mean, after the state taxes you up the ass.

That’s why it’s such a smart idea for people my age, or younger, because in a climate without very many good-paying jobs, it gives you something to do while you figure out what you really want to do. I like to compare it to being a high school kid and going to a community college: maybe you don’t know what you want to do, so you go to a C.C. for a couple years before you transfer to something more specific.

It’s why I have tried to recruit so many people. I believe in it. For how much it costs, and for how little time you have to put in, it might be the best investment for a person with no more than a high school education. It’s an industry that’s easy to get in, and easy to get out of.

So I think my brothers are making a brilliant decision here. When I took the plunge a half-decade ago, it seemed like something I would be good at. My math was strong, my communication skills were decent enough, and I loved gambling and the casino atmosphere in general. In retrospect, I don’t think there was a more perfect fit for me at this stage of my life.

My brothers aren’t like I am, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be good at it. Both of my brothers are smart, and they’re both really nice, good people. They are going into it without the biases of having been to the casino a million times, or of knowing how to play any of the games. They are the closest thing you can get to a blank slate. That might be the one real advantage they have on me, at least going into it.

Other reasons it’s a good idea for them:

1) They are, objectively I would say, shy people. Being a dealer almost forces you not to be shy, since 90 percent of the job is customer service.
2) Every day is something different. My older brother has been working at the same place for 13 years, and it’s one of those office jobs where you do the same thing week-in week-out. My younger brother, who has been out of high school for three years and has almost inconceivably been unemployed/not going to school the entire time, will finally have some stories to tell.
3) Really this all comes down to money. My older brother already contributes to the family, but when he becomes a dealer he’ll have a good amount more on the side. My younger brother contributes nothing, so he is just a whopping bonus here. Rather than my older brother, my mom and I, chopping the rent three ways, we’ll have my younger brother pitching in as well. This makes it a better deal for everyone.

In case it’s hard to tell, I’m over the moon about this. I have always sort of known that this was the best idea, that this was the way, even. But I also never realistically thought it was going to happen. My brothers just aren’t wired the same way I am, and in my mind they aren’t inspired or motivated the way I get inspired and motivated. It takes a certain amount of courage to execute this game plan, especially given the circumstances of where they are right now.

It just had to happen, I think. My older brother could only go so long seeing me work so much less, earn so much more, and be understandably happier in the process. My younger brother could only do nothing for so long. I have been unemployed before, and I know it eats at him the same way it ate me.

I couldn’t have known it at the time — because how could I have known? — but the road I took when I was 22 paved the way for both of my brothers. Unlike me, they won’t have to go into it blind. They won’t have to start from scratch the same way I did. Not only will I be able to help them with all the games along the way, but I am also their number one connection into getting hired. I ended my first casino job on good terms — so if worst came to worst they could get in there — and the place I’m at now actually has two separate properties. I deal craps at the harder one to get into, but the other casino isn’t chopped liver. The dealers there do just fine.

So this is it. They are really going to do it. I know it’s not really my place to say it, but I am damn proud of them for taking the risk and accepting the challenge.

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