Yogi Berra

When I was 24, I left my job at a casino in Coachella, California for one in Rancho Mirage. A quick Google search would tell you which two casinos those are, but I don’t want to snitch on myself if one of those places ran a search and found any disparaging remarks on this blog. So that’s what it is.

Incredibly I have worked at that same casino — the one in Rancho Mirage — for almost eight years. During that time I have honed my dealing skills and turned into a well above-average, if not solid, or excellent, craps dealer. I’ve made a lot of friends. I’ve been able to make money and save money. For someone like me who checks the “some college” box, it’s truly been a way for me to transcend what is expected of people from the city and area code I am from. For that, I have nothing but love for the place.

I guess the reason I am writing this now is because I can feel my time there coming to an end. Am I going to get fired? No. Am I going to instigate a reason for them to terminate me, or quit altogether? No and no. The reason I used the word “incredibly” to begin the last paragraph was genuine: I know myself well enough to understand that I am not the type of person who is capable of sticking around at the same establishment, with the same people, for long periods of time. I don’t get bored easily, but I do get tired of my surroundings. (See: most friendships and relationships I have ever cared about.)

Ever since I was young I have enjoyed the thrill of putting myself in less than ideal situations and finding a way out of them. This has been the case less so in my adult years — over the last decade and change — but occasionally these moments pop up and I’m forced to use the fastball in my back pocket that I generally keep in reserve. It’s there, going unused until the instance absolutely calls for it.

One of these times occurred the other day when I told a white lie. Last Sunday I was made to start the day on stick (on the craps table), meaning it would be two hours before I got a break. This isn’t a super uncommon thing to take place — someone has to do it — but for some reason I decided that I didn’t really immediately want to go there. So I told my boss I needed to go to the restroom, and instead of doing that I went and got a cup of coffee and smoked a cigarette. The total time that elapsed was about 10 minutes. I was back to the floor, in position to open the game and start on stick, at 12:05 PM.

It didn’t seem like a big deal to me at the time; no one was harmed and I got a mini-break.

The following Wednesday — my Monday — I got called into the office at the start of my shift. There, my big boss went in on me. She started things off by asking me about how craps went on Sunday, to which I had to idea what she was talking about. Then she probed me about “using the restroom” to start the day, which is around the time I decided in my mind that this was no normal conversation about anything specific that happened. She wanted to see if I was going to lie to her face about what I did when I “used the restroom.”

She was clearly taken aback when I told her, straight up, what I actually did. I’m not a good liar, so it’s never been my normal practice. I would much rather be honest and fight the consequences than lie, especially in a scenario like this when she clearly wouldn’t have otherwise had me in the office. So I told her: “First I went to the TDR [Team Dining Room] to get a cup of coffee, then I went out to the patio to smoke a cigarette.” My arms were crossed and my right leg was crossed over my left as I sat in the office.

This is sort of where shit hit the fan, because she accused me of being “blasé” about the situation. It reminded me of when I was a 16 year-old in Mr. Butterfield’s World History class and, when I let a girl who had been out sick copy a couple answers off my paper, he told me to “cool my jets” after giving us both ZERO grades on the assignment. Fuming, I said “Cool my jets?” in a way that sounded much more like “Fuck you.” He kicked me out of the class, then had a heart-to-heart with me in the hallway when I defended myself and said I was just trying to help the girl out.

So I said to my boss, “Blasé? What do you want, for me to bullshit you and lie to your face?”

It wasn’t exactly a screaming match that the two of us had, because the door to the office was wide open and I am usually averse to creating a scene for passersby. My situational awareness probably could have used some help, what with all the cursing the two of us displayed, but in my mind I was on the one hand attempting to be honest while on the other defend myself and not lay down to one of my bosses like so many others do.

I don’t know if this is a pride issue. It probably is. I think I was just so pissed off that another dealer, or two, decided to run their mouth(s) to the big boss when the situation could have been handled internally. I am not many things — among them are “fighter” — but something I have always understood is that when I have an issue with another person, particularly a coworker, I’d much prefer to bring it up to their face than bitch about it to one of the bosses. I just think the latter is an extremely chickenshit way to operate.

There’s a lot more to say about our conversation, but most of it involves the interpersonal politics of the table games department and I’d have to spend too much time explaining the terminology and what everything means. The main thing is that I admitted I was in the wrong. I didn’t lie about anything. And I let it be known how stupid and how much of a waste of time it all was. I defended myself, basically. It won’t happen again.

But as I offered my signature on the verbal warning writeup that I did not read — though I assume it said something petty like “Eric didn’t immediately go to stick like he was supposed to, instead he decided to get a cup of coffee and smoke a cigarette” — I told my boss, frankly, that “I know you think I’m a bullshitter, but I really do care about being good at my job,” she cut me off. She cut me off and told me something I may never forget:

“I don’t think you’re a bullshitter, Eric. I think you are cocky and immature.”

Being labeled “cocky,” or “arrogant,” isn’t anything new to me. Teachers and students have been telling me that since I was in high school. If kids were capable of utilizing a certain lexicon at an earlier age they would have been saying the same thing when I was 5, or 15. I carry myself a certain way. I can sound condescending even when I’m being genuine. I can come off sarcastic when I’m being completely real. I could probably tweak these things about myself, but the person I am is consistent and people generally like me.

The best compliment I ever received has happened twice, actually. When I was 18 my girlfriend at the time told me, through a quote from an author the two of us enjoyed, that “it’s not arrogance if it’s true.” And when I was in my late 20’s, one of my bosses — in reference to my craps dealing — told me “You are very arrogant, but most of the time you are right.”

I’m a proud person. I’m competitive, obviously. I like to be right, whether it’s betting on sports or figuring a correct payout on a complicated bet on the dice table. I care about winning, I care about being successful as a human being; I care about everything to some degree. It has drawbacks and it turns some people off. But most of the time, like 99 percent of the time, you want me on your team.

Over the last handful of months I have grown disillusioned with my place of work. Perhaps that’s a product of driving an hour to get there, five days a week, for the last seven years and three months. Maybe it has to do the idea that craps dealers know more than anyone else and are constantly shit on, and get moneymaking opportunities taken away from them. Maybe it has to do with the tribe I work for giving us $30 gift cards for Christmas when other casinos are handing out $1,500 bonus checks to their workers for the holidays. It isn’t just one big thing. It’s a bunch of little things that have happened over time.

For so long I was just happy to be there. I made it to the big leagues, insofar as the Southern California casino circuit is concerned, when I was 24 years old. I was making more than double the money as my previous casino. I was surrounded by wealth, whether players who were retired millionaires or coworkers who owned houses and had side businesses. In many ways it was my dream job as an early 20-something. If worst came to worst, I thought, I envisioned myself being okay with the fact of making six figures a year and living in the desert.

Something about the “cocky and immature” comment just rubbed me the wrong way. I’m a craps dealer, so it’s not like I’m thin-skinned. I can handle verbal abuse from strangers. It’s part of the reason I enjoy getting out of bed in the mornings if I’m being completely honest. For so long I tried to make my dealing so good, and so bullet-proof, that you would have to be a complete imbecile to attack me in any way — whether about my dealing, or my social game. I’m always ready for it when it comes, because there are only a handful of people in the world who actually know a goddamn thing about me and everyone else couldn’t hurt my feelings even if they tried.

That’s why I take the comment so personally, because it isn’t some stranger. It’s someone I’ve worked with for over five years, someone who knows how good of a dealer I am and how far I’ve come since I was a (probably cocky and immature) 24 year-old. It means nothing coming from a stranger, but it means something coming from the second-in-command boss. And sitting here, I can’t seem to find a way to forgive it.

When I got started in this industry I wanted to work at the casino in San Bernardino, California, because it’s the dead-nuts number one casino in terms of making money in all of Southern California. It’s in my hometown. It’s the place I gambled at almost every day from the time I was 21 years old to when I became a dealer in the first place. It has a tribe that takes care of its workers. The benefits are great and the bonuses are comparable if not better than other casinos in the region. It’s a move I should have made a long time ago.

The reason I haven’t made it is because I legitimately loved the place I am currently at. The money has always been good, the people I work with have been awesome, and overall it’s been a laidback environment. For over seven years I have basically gotten away with being the person that I am, and the people I work with have loved me and appreciated me for it. I’ve had no business looking for greener pastures.

I’m at a different point in my career now. I realize at this point, as overly honest as it sounds, that I could walk into literally any casino and get hired if that’s what I wanted. I looked at job postings the other day — at the casino in San Bernardino — and saw they were hiring for full-time dealers, and I was almost disappointed. A part of me wanted them to not be hiring so I could just walk in, ask to see the shift manager (or whomever deals with hiring), get an audition and make sure that I got hired.

As it stands, I don’t know what my timeline looks like. I don’t know if I’ll send my resumé in two weeks, or two months, or if I’ll make like ten thousand dollars this month and decide to stick around a while longer. All I know is that, mentally, I can feel that I have already checked out. I’m tired of making the hour-plus drive — which sounds silly because I’ve been doing it for over eight years at two different properties — I’m tired of basic ass rotation dealers making more money than craps dealers, and I’m tired of the fact that the tribe I work for doesn’t give as much of a fuck about me as other tribes would. Like I said, it wasn’t one moment that brought me here. It’s many things, over a long period of time.

The casino in San Bernardino was always my destination, whether I like it or not. I would have gone there sooner had they not required two years of dealing experience when I was brand new, or if I hadn’t fallen in love with the casino in Rancho Mirage.

But this is what happens. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that. I couldn’t honestly tell you if it would be a smart decision at this stage of my life, if it would have all the bells and whistles I imagine or if it would be a lateral move or a negative one. I don’t really care at this moment, either. All I really feel is that the conversation I had in the office on Wednesday could act as the straw that broke the camel’s back, if I were to use even more cliches.

It’s also possible that I’m tired of being a dealer. I still see an entrepreneur when I look in the mirror everyday, but dealing has always been my vehicle that I believe would carry me into a position where I have the resources to run my own show.

I’ve been so happy for so long, at least professionally, that I didn’t picture myself wanting this until much further down the road. In my life I have found that the best decisions I have ever made are usually the ones that haven’t required a lot of thought and planning. They have been no-brainers, but almost on a whim. These decisions have given me the most impactful relationships of my life, and made me a dealer in the first place. Never forget that I was in line at a McDonalds on 40th street in San Bernardino when I decided to use casino winnings on dealer school.

Almost ten years later and I’m still doing it. I’m still here, earning money by dealing stupid card games for the entertainment of the masses. This change will be one of the biggest of my life, but I think I’m finally ready. I’m not going to be one of those people who gets stuck in the same place, at the same job, because I’m comfortable there. I want a new challenge. But when it comes, I’m sure, I can finally get on with the business of figuring out what’s next.

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