Bringing The Energy

Every week on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I am dealing in what is called “the rotation,” which basically means what it says: I rotate through all the different table games. I deal Blackjack, UTH, Pai Gow, Baccarat, Crazy 4, Roulette, 3-Card Poker, and so on. Every week on Saturday and Sunday I am a craps dealer. I deal craps for an hour and a half, and I deal high limit blackjack for a half-hour before going on break.

On average I make more money in rotation, because over the course of a six- or eight-hour shift all I need to do is run into one (1) good player and my day is pretty much set. On craps, on the weekends, I generally make less money, because it’s a five (5) person crew and we all pool our tips. So for argument’s sake on Wed-Fri I might make $200 going for my own, but to make that same amount on Saturday and Sunday the crew would need to make $1,000 collectively.

Despite making less dealing craps — as opposed to keeping my own during weekdays — there isn’t a game I would rather deal. It is the only one that constantly keeps my attention, and the only game I can say that I haven’t seen it all. While on every other table game there’s a fixed outcome of a bet either winning or losing, on craps there are hundreds of different bets, payouts ranging from 30-to-1, to 15-to-1, to 9-to-1, to 7-to-1, to 9-to-5, to 7-to-5, to 7-to-6, to 6-to-5, to 3-to-2, to 2-to-1, and there are multiple ways of paying and pressing and finding quicker routes to arrive at the proper payout. (I probably made what I do sound more complicated than it actually is, but at the same time if you’ve never seen a serious craps game in action you might think I was being generous.)

Craps is also a social game. It’s a verbal game. The dealer’s job doesn’t interfere with the person rolling the dice; we are not part of the game the same way dealers are necessary for delivering cards out of a shoe on blackjack or baccarat. It’s the one table game at a casino where the dealer’s “only” job is to book and pay bets. Other than that, the destiny is controlled by the person shooting the dice.

Part of why craps appeals to me is that it’s a team game. We’re a crew. And along with myself, every weekend I get to deal with two of my good buddies at work, Ryan and Spencer. The three of us represent 60% of the craps crew on any given weekend day.

Ryan is in his mid-40’s, and he 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 try to to take 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.

Spencer is a tall black dude from Minnesota, and he is also in his mid-40’s. He’s generally a lot more friendly and easygoing than Ryan, but his dealing ability is also a lot stronger so he doesn’t require as much attention. Spencer is fun to have on the crew for many reasons, but I’d say my favorite thing about him is that he’s competitive. I think we both enjoy being good at what we do, especially when dealing the most prestigious game, and so over the years we have driven one another to be better. Without someone like him being on the crew as consistently as I am, I don’t think I would be the dealer I am today.

To keep this short: I love these guys, and I love that for two days every week we basically get to talk shit and have fun on the craps table. I think only recently I’ve had the realization that I’m pretty lucky to have a job that I like. I take for granted that it isn’t like that at most places, and I don’t have the freedom to make money while I’m essentially just kicking it with my friends.

I’ve been on a ton of different craps crews, but lately the three of us have started finding our sweet spot. A couple months ago Spencer, Ryan and I were on the craps table together and a Korean guy (who’s a regular that we all like) told me: “This is fun. When you and Spencer are on the game you always bring the energy.”

It stuck with me because it was one of those moments where I thought to myself, ‘You know? He’s right. We do bring the fucking energy.’ It’s like it took someone to say it, to remind me of what it is we are actually doing. People can roll dice anywhere. What we on the weekend crew are selling is entertainment. We are contributing to an experience.

As a 31 year-old I take some pride in that, since I don’t think having a “positive attitude” and providing a “positive experience” for those around me has ever necessarily been my calling card. In spite of having a very public, frontline job I prefer spending most of my time at home writing or watching sports. Working as a dealer for the last 7-plus years has definitely made me better at understanding how I come off to the world, and over the course of that time I have found myself picking and choosing different sayings and expressions from dealers I look up to in order to get to the best version of myself.

Craps was the game that humbled me. I’ve worked with so many dealers — from Atlantic City and Vegas, to Iowa and Florida — and I was always the youngest and always the least experienced. I made it a point when I started out to let everyone know I didn’t mind receiving constructive criticism. I guess it’s a thing with a lot of millennials that they are snowflakes, or whatever, but as 24 year-old I wanted to prove myself to these people. And I wanted to be the opposite of all the stereotypes that tend to get attached to my generation.

I can’t imagine a better way to go about it, particularly since now I’m on the other side of it. I am a veteran craps dealer. Now I am the one who is often looked at to provide answers to some of the more complicated payouts, and I find myself being patient with new dealers. I mean, it would be pretty fucked up if I wasn’t.

Much of my humility with the game has left me, but I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. It just means I’ve grown up a bit. One of my bosses, a Wisconsinite named Shannon, told me a couple years ago that “You are always sure of yourself, but most of the time you’re right.” As someone who has always been branded as cocky and arrogant, that’s about as much as I could ask for. I can be whatever you think I am or whatever you want to paint me as, but to me as long as I’m right it’s all fair play.

Craps has been many things for me over the last five or six years, but ultimately it’s been my vindication in the industry I’m in. Every craps dealer can be a blackjack dealer, but not every blackjack dealer can deal craps. And once you are in the arena of craps dealers, it’s all about separating yourself from the pack. I wouldn’t say I’m the best craps dealer who’s ever lived — because that wouldn’t be right — and I won’t even say I’m the best craps dealer at the casino I work at. All I’m saying is you can’t have the conversation without my name being brought up.