Pouring one out

It’s not my style to talk out of class, but one of my good buddies — Ryan — got fired from the casino I work at, and that sucks.

It wasn’t much more than a month ago that I wrote about how much I like my job, how much I like the people I work with, and I specifically called out Ryan for being one of “my” guys. I described him like this:

[He] is in his mid-40’s, and came to the United States from South Korea when he was 13. He has a dry sense of humor (like a craps dealer should) and doesn’t take shit from anybody. He’s tough. Craps is one of those games where, as a dealer, it’s almost a prerequisite to let the players know you are the one that’s in control. When players who know what they are doing smell weakness, they are much more prone to questioning your payouts and taking advantage. Ryan is far from the most technically sound craps dealer, but he offers the type of attitude that exudes strength — and on some days that’s half the battle.

I worked with Ryan for close to seven years. Seven years isn’t that long of a time, but when you’re 31 like I am seven years represents nearly a quarter of your life. I look back on the friends I had in elementary school — which lasted six years — and the friends I had in middle school — which lasted three years — and the friends I had in high school — which lasted four years — and the friends I had in college — which for me lasted one year — and there is really nothing to compare. I have known Ryan for longer than 99% of the people who have come in and out of my life.

I was a 24 year-old when I met Ryan, who was around 40 at the time. He isn’t an easy guy to warm up to, so I can’t pinpoint exactly how or when he and I became “cool” with one another. Like most things, it just happened. One day he saw me for who I was — a young person who thought he knew everything — and the next he accepted me for being “all right.” In our own ways we each understand how to make money from complete strangers, and when you’re a craps dealer and sharing tips that’s kind of the name of the game. We can fight and we can laugh and we can talk shit back and forth so long as at the end of the day we are cashing out an acceptable amount.

I mentioned earlier, in the article I referenced above, that Ryan is a tough guy. That he doesn’t put up with anyone’s shit. There was a time a few years back when he didn’t put up with my shit, and it ended up costing us about six months of even speaking to one another.

You see, there’s this big player who likes to play craps. He doesn’t come in very often, maybe once a year or twice if we’re lucky. But every time he does the craps dealers make a thousand or two thousand or three thousand dollars each. It all depends on how well the big player does.

Well, one day he came in and Ryan and I were both on the craps crew. You don’t need to know the particulars of having a strong craps crew or a weak crew, or a strong box person or a weak box person. The point of the story is that Ryan was not a very good craps dealer at the time, and Judy was the weakest box person in the entire casino. It’s not the preferred recipe for dealing to a guy who is playing somewhere close to $10,000 on any given roll of the dice.

So I took matters into my own hands, and I told the other dealers that when it was Ryan’s turn to deal to the big player, we would just skip him and I would deal. We all pool our tips on craps so it didn’t matter who was dealing; I just wanted it to go smoother, and go quicker, so I decided for everyone that I was going to deal in Ryan’s stead. Because the fact of the matter was that I was the strongest craps dealer on the crew that day and the more rolls we got in, the more money we would make. So I thought it was a win for everyone.

Ryan didn’t appreciate that, since essentially I was making him look bad. By refusing to let Ryan deal to the big player, it on one hand made Ryan look like he couldn’t handle the action, and on the other it was me, another dealer, making an executive decision. I shouldn’t have done it, but in the moment I thought I was making the best choice for everyone.

That led to a holy war between Ryan and I once we clocked out. He cussed me out in the cage when we cashed out our $3,000 apiece, I tried to explain my side of the story, and it resulted in us not speaking to one another. That night when I got home I tried calling and ultimately left a voicemail telling him I shouldn’t have taken matters into my own hands, and that was on me. But Ryan was (and is) a principled dude all the way, and he didn’t care for my slick apologies. I made him look bad, and that was all he cared about.

Eventually the two of us got back to normal. Again I couldn’t tell you when it happened, or how, but that doesn’t really matter anymore. Ryan was a guy that didn’t require me to go out of my way to make amends, or have some major to-do. It was like one day we got out of a cab, and the next we got into another one. He has a way of holding an extreme amount of interpersonal leverage among the people around him, but it’s not like we ever had to “talk about” anything. I respect that about him.

Over the years we have gone out and had beers together, gone and gambled together, and Ryan was a very generous person. When we would go out and get drinks with other coworkers, whether it be a few of us or a group of 10, it was always Ryan and I getting into a pissing contest over who would cover the bill. I generally won, because that’s what I do, but I think there were a couple times when I allowed Ryan to cover it. That says something about his level of competitiveness.

I think that’s what brought the two of us together in the first place, and what will keep us in earshot of one another as time goes on. I am attracted to competitive people, and competitive people are attracted to me. There are occasions when that fire runs too hot and it creates conflict, but when you’ve actually been through it with people you care about it’s that conflict that reminds you that you care. Ryan has always been someone I’ve cared about, because he’s just the type of person who would do anything for you. We had our fights and our battles, but at the end of the day we both knew we were on the same team.

A couple weeks ago Ryan got escorted off of the floor of the casino we work(ed) at, and no one really had a clue what happened. During one of our daily pre-shift meetings, our manager told everyone — around a dozen dealers — not to speculate about dealers who have been taken off the schedule, even though, ironically, the lack of transparency surrounding Ryan’s apparent dismissal leads to nothing other than obvious speculation. Since most if not all of you who are reading this have never worked in a casino before, I shouldn’t have to tell you that rumors and speculation are effectively the currency of any table games department. There are no secrets inside casinos.

So still, no one really knows anything. Some people said he made a $3,000 mistake on a game — which, to be fair, is a fireable offense — others have said it was due to some conflict he had with a floor person, and on and on it goes. I tried calling him the day he left, but I didn’t want to know any details. I just left a voicemail saying I hope he’s doing all right, and I’ll be there if he needs anything.

I’ve not heard back from him, and no one else has, either. For all intents and purposes it’s still a complete mystery. It’s the first time in my experience in a casino that someone has been suspended or fired and it’s been kept a secret. I think that’s a bit strange, but I’m not going to speculate because I would rather hear it from Ryan — whenever that time comes.

In conclusion, the only reason I’m writing any of this is to say I’m going to miss working with my friend. I’ve heard it’s a pretty rare thing for one to like their job, and for one to enjoy the people they work with. All I can say for myself is that Ryan is a good dude and I’ve very much enjoyed and appreciated the time I had working with him. I’m sure a time will come — hopefully soon — where we will get back into getting an occasional beer, and shooting some pool or what not. But for now I’m just going to miss my friend. I’m going to miss the banter on the craps table, the big days we had cashing out together, and the inside jokes it took us the better part of a decade to develop.

It’s also a good time to remind myself that nothing lasts forever, especially in this industry. It’s just so easy to take people for granted, and to take for granted times like these where money is good. But alas, everything is transient. Seven years is a long time, and it’s also nothing. It’s a drop in the bucket. Another name and another face to remember. To look back on and think, ‘you know, that guy was all right.’ Ryan is one of those people.