It’s a strange life working in the service industry, one I probably take for granted. Going to public school from kindergarten through high school and working a straight job from when I was 19 to 22 offered me the normalcy that entails. I got to enjoy a regular weekend. I had every holiday off. That’s what life is (supposed to be) like.
Ever since I started working in casinos about eight years ago, at age-23, I haven’t had any of that. I was on-call for the first half of my dealing career, which is less like a typical “on-call” position — where the company, like, “calls” you when they need you — and more just a technical term for being on the clock just enough to be ineligible for full-time benefits. Since casinos are busier on weekends, there’s a good chance that on-call dealers work Friday, Saturday and Sunday, almost exclusively, and perhaps a random day mid-week.
This is the life I chose, but I don’t mind it. It goes without saying that if given the choice I would, of course, love to have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s off. But the truth is, once you work on one of those holidays you sort of realize it’s just another day. It isn’t, but it kind of is. And every subsequent holiday continues the process of desensitization. After seven or eight years I find myself not caring so much for the holidays themselves, but rather appreciating this general time of year.
Anyway, casinos! They are pretty fucking cool. What I don’t understand are all the groups of people who come out to casinos on holidays — specifically my casino, on the tables I’m dealing on — and have a miserable fucking time together. I know you (probably) can’t relate, because if- and when-ever you decide to go to a casino on a holiday you are (probably) there to have a good time. Play some slots? Sure! Go over and play a little blackjack? Why not!
But it’s, like, a thing for families to go there on Thanksgiving and occupy a whole blackjack table. Everyone buys in for $100, or whatever. They bet the table minimum every hand. And they are just… unhappy? I don’t know. A couple weeks ago — on Thanksgiving, obviously — I was dealing on a blackjack table and everyone bet $15 per hand for the duration of my 30 minutes there. They asked for my advice on certain hands, and I gave it to them. And when it was an easy decision — say, a 12 versus the dealer showing a 10 — they would invariably ask for the perfect card (in this case a “9”) to make 21.
Needless to say none of them tipped me, despite my unnecessarily positive attitude and the fact that every time they had a questionable decision I told them exactly what the odds were (i.e. what “the book” would do). It just rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. I thought about them on my drive home from work. And I decided to write a whole fucking blog about it.
Listen, I get it. Not everyone understands the etiquette of gambling. If you don’t know that while you are winning you should tip the dealer, you don’t know. But why, then, on a holiday, of all times, would you subject yourself to going somewhere you have no business being, to put on a sour face and not take care of the people who are trying to show you a good time? That is honestly all I am wondering.
Mostly, I feel like it’s all beneath me. I’m a craps dealer for christ’s sake. When I’m not dealing craps I am in the high limit room. Why do I take it so personally when I am giving my usual, acceptable effort level, that random weekend warriors aren’t reciprocating? It sounds stupid, I know, because it is stupid. I guess I’ve just been doing this for so long that it requires totally obscure situations like these to grind my gears.
I’m not big on all the woo woo that penetrates every aspect of both my social media life and real life. All the bullshit about astrology, or karma, or energy and vibes, or manifesting things into existence; it’s all nonsense to me. Instead I aim all my focus into what I can control (which is admittedly very little). And the one thing I do feel I have power over is how I choose to approach my surroundings.
On holiday weeks, in particular, it’s all about mindset. I don’t get bent out of shape when my hour-long trip to work turns into an hour and a half, because it’s expected. I don’t worry about those tables filled with players who don’t tip, because I understand that some people just don’t know. In the past these specific scenarios have frustrated me. Like, a lot. But now it feels like it’s just part of the game. I love my job, and these are some of the brief and minor throwaway moments I have to put up with on my way to making a hundred thousand dollars a year. It’s fair.
And it’s kind of amazing what you can accomplish when you simply release any expectation. Obviously no amount of money is ever enough when you work a job that relies on tips. You want your efforts to be rewarded, even if your reward is so much more than you feel like you deserve. But when you spend your holidays not with your family but with a bunch of strangers, both coworker and player, it kind of turns into a setting where nothing else matters beyond simply getting through it. As a dealer you look forward to the holidays in the sense that you know it will be busy. You are also of the mind that it will be really, really sweet once you are back to a normal day, in a normal week.
That’s where I’m at now, two weeks removed from the Thanksgiving weekend. It has been markedly slower at the casino, and I can’t deny that I feel great about it. No longer am I struggling to find the positive attitude while dealing to a bunch of stiffs, but rather I can get back to the business of being myself again. Around my coworkers. Around my regular players. It’s a good feeling.
In the end, it’s important to always take care of the labor force. What I am talking about in this blog — beyond my personal, biased feelings — is the social contract we all partake in when we go out and spend money in public. Servers at restaurants are making minimum wage. Cocktail waitresses (or cocktail servers) are making minimum wage. People who work at front desks at hotels make minimum wage (or something close to it). The people who clean up after you, who park your car for you, who carry your luggage for you… they all make minimum wage, too.
Not every business is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year like casinos are. But you get my drift. I don’t gamble nearly as often as I used to; now that I’m single again I rarely go out to eat in public; it’s been a good while since I’ve had an overnight stay at a hotel. When I am not living my unordinary life as a dealer, I enter into the social contract I am speaking of very little.
That’s probably a good thing, at least insofar as my bank account is concerned. Because every time I do gamble, everyone is getting taken care of. When I do go out to eat or get drinks, everyone is getting taken care of. When I stay at a hotel, the valet and front desk and baggage handlers… they are all getting taken care of, too. It’s amazing the service you can get with a simple $20 tip. Heaven and earth are available. If only you know.
I’m not perfect, but goddamn it I’m consistent. Of all the years I’ve been dealing I don’t know why this little family of four was the reason I realized all of this. They could have been anyone, at any time in my life. For all I know they are good people. But they are a collection of the ones who don’t know the way it is, or the way it should be.
Money is a delicate subject for a lot of people and I’m far from the guy who is going to get out of pocket about how you should spend it. I’m just saying there are far worse usages than making the day of someone who often gets overlooked. It doesn’t have to be me, for I can and will do it with or without you. It doesn’t matter. But there are literally millions of individuals out there who work their fucking asses off and don’t get any appreciation for it. It can be amazing and kind of beautiful to see what happens when you offer them a gesture they can tangibly appreciate.