Are Blackjack Dealing Schools Necessary? We Ask a Teacher to Let You Know
Over the past few months, we’ve been seeing a lot of casinos requiring prospective blackjack dealers to enroll in a local dealer class. Often times, these courses require a monetary investment as well as a large time commitment, with no guarantee of employment. Because we’ve seen an uptick in these classes, we asked ourselves if they’re really necessary.
Our questions led us to Heather Ferris, the owner of Vegas-Aces, a free information resource that teaches visitors how to deal different casino games. Heather has 15 years in the casino industry, starting out as a dealer and working up to becoming a consultant and adjunct professor at UNLV. Needless to say, she had some answers for us related to the influx of dealer classes we’re seeing.
Q. Heather, thanks for joining us today. We’ve been seeing a lot of stories recently about casinos charging for casino dealer training. What are your thoughts?
A. My favorite mantra is, “Every casino is different” and it’s true for this as well. It all just depends on the casino. There are some casinos that offer zero dealer training, while the casinos that do offer training, one of three things can happen. One, the casino charges people for the school and there’s no guarantee that they’ll get hired. Their Final Exam is the same as their audition to get hired. Two, the casino hires the dealers based on personality and friendliness. Then they provide the dealing school for free but they make the new dealers sign a contract saying that if they quit or get fired within the first six to twelve months, they’ll need to pay for their dealer training. And three, the school is free to anyone who wants it. This typically happens with lone casinos, where there’s not another casino for miles. These casinos desperately need dealers and the only way they’re going to get them is by hiring locals and training them. My thoughts on the matter tend to be in line with the latter. I believe all education should be free, but I’ll go into detail on that later on.
Q. Recently we’ve seen a lot of casinos that are beginning to offer dealer schools. I’ve seen you mention that paying to go to dealer school isn’t really necessary, can you explain why?
A. When people go to a dealing school that charges an enormous price, they think they’re going to have high-quality instructors and help getting a job. In reality, it’s students teaching students and only the management’s favorites get placed. However, one of our industry secrets is you don’t have to pay to go to school in order to get a job as a casino dealer. Anyone can get a job as a dealer at any time. Casinos hire people based on personality, not dealing skills. They’re looking for a person who is friendly and enjoyable to be around. If players have fun being around that specific dealer then they’re more likely to stay at the table longer, therefore, losing more money. As long as the rookie knows the basic skills such as shuffling a deck, cutting chips and how the game operates, the casino will teach them finer points of dealing. Once the rookie has been hired, they’re encouraged to learn more games while on break. This is highly recommended since the casino is paying the rookie for learning a new game, instead of the rookie paying a dealing school to learn the same game.
Q. What resources do you recommend for those interested in becoming a blackjack dealer?
A. Twenty years ago there was one, maybe two, websites that had some information on how to be a dealer, but not much. Most dealers would go to the Wizard of Odds website to learn the rules of the game. This is still an excellent resource today with a ton of information and one to add to your list. Around that time I decided to start my website, vegas-aces.com. I wanted to provide people all of the information needed in order to be a dealer and get a job without having to pay to go to school. Thankfully today we have more resources available to people who are interested in getting into the casino industry. YouTubers such as myself and Marc Shumusker with True Poker Dealer explain the mechanics of dealing the game and the policies and procedures that must be followed and why. Because of the range YouTube has to offer, people can get more of an education today than in the past.
Q. If someone is going in for an interview to become a dealer, what tips do you have for job seekers?
A. If you’re new to the industry and have no previous experience, you’ll need to apply at a break-in house. This is a casino that hires new break-in dealers or people without any previous dealing experience. If you’re not sure if a casino is a break-in house or not, you can ask Human Resources if the casino will hire people with no previous experience when you go in to apply. Before you start applying, first make a list of all of the casinos you want to work at and number them from 1 to 10. One being the casino you want to work at the most and 10 being the casino you want to work at the least. Apply and audition starting with spot number ten and slowly go up the list until you hit spot number one. This way, you’ll be able to make all of your inevitable mistakes and embarrassing moments at the casinos you don’t want to work at. This will also help with your nerves and anxiety so by the time you get to the casino you really want to work at, you’ll be more confident and sure of yourself and you’ll make less mistakes.
Submit your application and then a few days later, go into the pit and ask for the shift manager. Let the shift manager know that you’re looking to get an audition and that you’ve already submitted your application to the casino. Be sure to show up in your salt-n-peppers, ready for an audition. Salt-n-peppers are the same thing as your black-n-whites. These are the clothes you wear to an audition. This includes black dress pants and a long-sleeve white dress shirt with a collar. Black shoes and if you have a black-tie, wear it, if not, that’s okay. Casinos look for people who have a good personality. Someone who is happy, nice and can interact with the guests while dealing a clean game. That’s why it’s a good idea to practice dealing to your friends and family before going on an audition. At-home practice is necessary and vital for every dealer in the casino industry. We all need many hours of at home practice in order to gain the muscle memory skills needed for this job.
Q. Can you give us some information on your site, Vegas-Aces as well as your inspiration for starting it?
A. Vegas-Aces.com is the world’s first free dealing trade school. We teach people all around the world how to deal table games and we help get them a job for free without having to pay to go to school. This is our corporate activism; it’s what we do to make this world a better place. Vegas Aces Services LLC is a marketing company that creates promo videos, websites and other marketing material to help promote your idea. The majority of our clients are new table game inventors, in which we create their table layouts, rack cards, lollipop signs, other promotional materials and then we help get them placed into a casino for a Field Trial. We also offer training seminars and training videos for casinos and other companies in this industry.
My inspiration for starting Vegas-Aces was a combination of my own experiences attending a dealing trade school along with the strong conviction that if you can’t afford to feed yourself or your family, then how are you going to afford to go to school and get a better job? Because of my experiences, I understood that people weren’t required to go to school to get a job as a dealer. All someone really needs is a friend to teach them the basics and plenty of at-home practice. So I became that internet friend that was willing to teach people a new trade skill. Plus, I strongly believe all education should be free and easy to obtain for everyone. People shouldn’t have to struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table.
Q. I do have to ask: What’s the craziest thing you’ve seen as a casino dealer?
A. Oh my… The stories I could tell you… I’ve seen celebrities act their worst; players starting with $20 and leaving with $20k; players who lose $25k in one hand like it’s nothing, urination, defecation, vomit, and other bodily fluids, fights, cheating, drug use on the tables and even a puppy or two running around the pit. I’ve seen a player punch a dealer and that same dealer punch that player right back and not get fired for it. I’ve seen people win millions on a slot machine jackpot and sometimes you’ll see a naked person or two One thing is for certain, casino dealing isn’t a boring job. It’s the best of both worlds because you have the monotony of doing the same thing over and over again every day, but on the flip side, you talk to people from all around the world, no two days are the same and you tend to see the craziest things happen.
Q. Do you have a favorite casino game that you like to deal? If so, what is it and why?
A. I love to deal Pai-Gow Poker and Roulette. Those were always two of my favorite games. On Pai-Gow Poker I loved how slow-paced and laid back the game was and the majority of the game is setting hands which is my favorite part. I also love it when a player banks because it changed things up a bit, making the game more interesting. I loved Roulette because of the math, spinning the ball and pushing the cheques.
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