For many, being a croupier sounds like a dream job. Working in glamorous surroundings, rubbing shoulders with customers from every walk of life from the poor chancer right up to the super-rich and seeing huge sums of money gambled on the spin of a roulette wheel or the turn of a card.
But it’s not everyone who can make the grade as a croupier. The most basic skills that you need are incredible manual dexterity to deal cards perfectly every single time and a lightning-fast mathematical brain that can calculate odds and accumulators almost instantly. Then there are the trickier skills of being able to read character and relate to people, not to mention having the eagle eye to spot if a player’s acting suspiciously in any way.
And while the pay’s not huge – on average it’s around £16,000 a year – there’s always going to be the occasional big tipper who will be ready to share some of the huge winnings with the person they believe helped them to clinch it. Plus working for even a few months in a casino is also going to give you a wealth of stories that you can dine out on for the rest of your life.
The first and most obvious, are the tales of great gambling daring or persistence and almost every croupier will have at least one tale of a customer who has lost a fortune in a night but has doggedly worked their way back into profit. For example one London croupier swears that he was there when a customer blew £10,000,000 and spent the next day winning it all back.
It’s also true that croupiers tend to see all human life in the casino and – unfortunately, the odd untimely passings too. One Las Vegas croupier tells the story of a man at his craps table who rolled the dice for the first time and shouted: “It’s my day!.” He lost but still shouted the same thing for the next four rolls of the dice until, on the sixth roll, he only managed to say “It’s . . “ before keeling over with a suspected heart attack. It really wasn’t his day.
Unwelcome guests can also be a problem. Another Vegas croupier recalls one night at the blackjack table when a player undid his jacket to reveal a three-foot long snake coiled round his neck. Just as the dealer was about to ask if it was real, the snake flicked a forked tongue in his direction – and the player was escorted off the premises by security. Perhaps he’d brought along his lucky mascot in an attempt to avoid making any mistakes while playing blackjack.
Of course, where there’s cash there’s always going to be temptation, and it seems that some casino employees just can’t resist giving into it. For example, there’s one story of a croupier who secretly fed stolen chips through a hole in his pocket into his sock hoping to get a friend to cash them in a few days later. Luckily the security staff were on to him before that was possible.
Conclusive proof, in fact, that when the chips are down the casino really does always win.