I get to work at 9:30 in the morning, a half-hour before my shift starts. About half of the other dealers are already in the Break Room. Several of them are playing a game called Tonk, a Gin Rummy variant. It's popular because it's fast, and you can play a half-dozen hands in a 15-minute break. I pick up my tokes (My share of the tips from the previous day) without bothering to check how much it is, and sit in for the next hand of Tonk. My luck is running good - I manage to win six dollars before it's time to go in. One of the dealers rushes in, frantic to get his tokes before we go in to relieve the Graveyard Shift. I don't understand why... it's not as though he can do anything with them while we're standing our shift.

We have a full crew today - nobody called in sick. This is a mixed blessing. More people means shorter stands at the tables, but also less tips. The difference on the tips is minimal, though, so I'm glad that we have the extra relief. A full crew means one-hour stands, with 15-minute breaks in between. When people call in sick, the time on the tables increases - I've had days where I was on for 2 hours between breaks.

At some unseen signal, everyone stands and makes a last-minute check of their appearance. Vest straight, hair neat, check. I'm good to go. We march downstairs to the Pit in a loose mob, chatting softly among ourselves. When we get to the end of the Pit, the talking stops, as we wait for our table assignments. The Pit Boss assigns me to open up a Blackjack table. I go stand patiently at the table, where a metal and glass rack contains the table's checks (chips).

After a few minutes, the Pit Boss comes over and unlocks the rack. We both count the checks, to make sure that there's the same amount as when the table was closed. The pit boss spreads two decks of cards on the table in front of me, and I count them to ensure that there aren't any missing cards. There never are, but we do it anyway. They're new decks, so the cards are still in order. I shuffle them a half-dozen times, then spread them out on the table again. Then I clear my hands (wave them over the table to show the cameras that I haven't palmed anything), and put them behind my back, and wait.

The casino is slow today. I watch the few gamblers who are up this early (Yes, 10 AM is early in a casino) and the cocktail waitresses, and think deep thoughts. Like wondering what's for lunch, and what that waitress's bust size is, and whether I could get a date with her. The time passes slowly. Eventually, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I clap out and clear my hands, then step to the right, while still covering the table, until the dealer who just tapped me out steps into the spot I was just standing in. Once I'm sure that the table has been covered, I turn and walk out of the pit. I'm not being overly cautious there... if I walk away without making sure that my relief is in charge of the table, it's my butt on the line, not his. It's only been a half-hour; short stands early in the day are common, as they stagger the relief to ensure a steady number of dealers in the pit.

I walk back to the Break Room. We're not allowed to be anywhere else in the casino during our breaks, except the lunch room. This is supposed to prevent any collusion between players and dealers, but it also protects us from angry players, as well. There aren't enough people there right now to play Tonk. Although there actually are enough people, only about a third of the dealers like playing. Some don't understand it well enough, some don't like it, some just want to save their money. I get a book from my jacket, and sit down to read.

The break is over soon enough, and I go back down to the pit. I'm assigned to Roulette. Easy when there are no players... just keep the wheel spinning. I'm not as sharp on Roulette as I ought to be, so I run over payout tables in my head. After a while, a player comes up, sits down, and throws a $20 bill on the table. He's a regular, Old Slim, so I know without having to ask that he wants to play at the table minimum, 25 cent checks. Roulette has special checks, which are valueless away from the table. This lets us assign any value necessary for a player to play, and also lets us differentiate whose checks are whose when there are multiple players. I pull out four stacks of Blue (Old Slim's favorite color, and not usually the first color to get issued), and call out, "Change twenty." The Pit Boss calls out confirmation, and I push the checks across the table to Old Slim. While he starts laying checks all over the layout, I drop the Twenty in the box, where all real money goes.

I use my right hand to slow down the wheel (I had it spinning far too fast - that lets me go longer without having to spin it again), then pull the lighter ball out of the change cup, press it to the inside rim of the wheel, and flick it. I keep the ball in the corner of my eye as I watch Old Slim lay out checks at a frenzied pace. The ball slows to a certain speed, and I wave my hand over the table, saying, "No more bets." Old Slim, as usual, hastens to get a last few checks on the layout, in defiance of my declaration. It's no problem - he's not watching the wheel. The ball finally succumbs to gravity, and slides down from the inside rim. It dances around - the wheel is still going too fast - and finally settles in the green space, 00. Old Slim curses - he never bets the zeroes. I mark the spot, and sweep the checks off the table. The moment I remove the marker, he's placing checks down at a frenzied pace again. I start mucking checks with my left hand, while I slow the wheel a bit with my right.

Old Slim wins on the next spin, two checks straight up on the number. I push three and a half stacks out to him, and he tosses a few checks towards me across the layout. A tip. I take the checks, knock them loudly on the edge of the wheel, and set them down in a specific place on the rim. Over the next few spins, he keeps "winning," but he puts so many checks out on the table, that he usually gets back less than he bet for the hand. The House loves players like him.

All too soon, he runs out of checks, and walks off grumbling. I muck up the last of his checks, straighten up the stacks, and fish the ball out of the wheel. Then I look at the checks he toked me, and break them down. Twelve checks, three dollars. I place three silver checks (the ones that are worth something) alongside them, and call out, "Check change three." The Assistant Pit Boss calls out confirmation without looking over, and I drop the three checks in my shirt pocket. Then I take the Roulette checks down off the wheel, and add them to the stacks, and start waiting again.

Ten or fifteen minutes later, three tourists walk up. They're young, arrogant college kids, like so many I've seen before. They each toss a Twenty out onto the table. I ask their preference, and they tell me that they want One Dollar checks. I take one check from each of three colors, and stack them on the rim of the wheel, and put a "20" marker on top of the stack. I change up their money for checks, one stack each, and they start playing. After four spins, one of them is already out of checks. He tosses another Twenty out, but before I can change it up, I feel a tap on my shoulder. I clap out, clear my hands, and step to the side. One of the other dealers, Jeff, takes my place. Jeff has a magic touch on the Roulette wheel. He'll string along tipping customers for long periods of time, squeezing tips out of them without letting them actually win much. As far as I know, it's just luck and a charming personality, but it seems like he almost always comes out with more money than any of the players at his table. But that's not too surprising, really... ninety percent of the players at Roulette walk away losers, anyway. I drop the three dollars into the Toke Box on my way out of the Pit. Amusingly enough, though, if you ask 100 gamblers how they're doing, 95 of them will tell you that they're "even, or a little ahead." It would be funny if it weren't so pathetic.

Another break, and I'm back in the pit. This time, I'm assigned to an active Blackjack table. I run off my usual line of patter, and chat lightly with the customers. Never anything serious - that might distract me from the job. My rule, not the House's. Once, early on, I was drawn into a heated political argument by a player, and had to be pulled from the table. The Pit Boss hates doing that. So, I watch myself, and try to avoid making any comments that a customer might take offense at.

The hour flies by when I'm actively dealing, especially to friendly players. When I'm tapped out, the Assistant Pit Boss is waiting by the Toke Box. She holds out a slip of paper to me. It's a lunch voucher, a sign that it's lunch time. I drop thirty dollars in tokes into the box - an excellent pull for an hour's work. I walk off to the lunch room in a good mood.

I spend my half hour lunch leisurely eating, and chatting with other employees. This is the only time we can socialize with anyone besides the other dealers, and I like to take advantage of that. That waitress is having her lunch too, so I chat her up a little. She lets me know gently that she's not interested, so I keep it polite. The lunch itself is up to its usual standard - nothing fancy, but definitely a cut above anything I'd fix for myself. I end up spending the last ten minutes of my break in the Break Room, reading a little more.

When I go back in, I can feel some tension in the air. One of the players at Table 3 is drunk - it's only 1:30, but this isn't surprising - and playing badly. Of course, I get assigned to Table 3. I run off the patter again, and start dealing. This guy's not just bad, he's an idiot. Of course, the alcohol might have something to do with that. He's so obnoxious, he's scaring other players away to different tables. I keep any hint of my thoughts off my face, and just deal. Eventually, I bust him out, and he wanders off to do god-knows-what.

I end my stand, take my break, and come back in. This time, I'm assigned to Let It Ride, one of the side-action games. There are a couple of older tourists playing, and they seem to be doing well. I wish them luck, and start dealing. They are on a roll... holding their own, mostly, with the occasional big win. By the time my hour's up, I have a heavy pocket, and they have more money than when I came. They cheerfully thank me, and I go on my way, dropping the money in the Toke Box on my way out. I've definitely earned my keep today... some days, I don't put anything into the Toke Box. That's why tokes are split, though... some tables pull in the tokes, some don't, and it would be unfair to the dealers who get stuck at dead tables not to split.

After my break, I get put back on Blackjack again. The drunk guy is back, and still doing badly. He's getting angry about losing, too, which isn't something I want to deal with. But nobody asked me, so I do my job. By now, though, the Assistant Pit Boss is watching over the table. Her presence seems to keep him from exploding, for which I'm grateful. Eventually, though, it gets to be too much for him. After busting him three hands in a row, I beat his 21 with a natural Blackjack. He throws his cards at me, hitting me in the face with them. One of them falls off the table. I calmly collect the cards still on the table, and call out, "Card down inside." It's totally unnecessary, since the Assistant Pit Boss is standing next to me, and already bending down to pick up the card, but it's protocol, and I have to follow it. She puts the card in the rack after checking that it wasn't damaged, and warns the drunk about his behavior. The game continues. After several more hands, I finally bust out the drunk again, and he leaves. I'm glad... I don't like having angry people at my table. One of the other dealers had a guy take a swing at him once. It's not common, but it does happen. And the worst part is that we're not allowed to defend ourselves. That's Security's job.

Having no more players at my table, I spread the cards on the table in two sweeping arcs. It looks smooth - it's a very practiced move. After a while, a player comes up and sits down at my table. Time to play again! I scoop up the cards and shuffle. Before I'm done shuffling, I get tapped. Since this table is a shoe (A device that holds multiple decks, usually 6 or 8), not single or double deck, I finish the shuffle, and leave him with a clean shoe.

The day's almost over! A 15-minute break, then another half-hour on, and I'm done! Some of the Swing Shift dealers are already here, so I play a few hands of Tonk with them before I go back in. I get put on Roulette again, which is dead. I give the wheel a good spin, and relax. This time, I'm not running tables in my head... The day's almost over, and I'm thinking about going home. I wink at one of the waitresses as she walks by, and she favors me with a smile. But I know she's married... it's just a friendly gesture. Sure has nice breasts, though...

I get tapped out by one of the dealers from Swing. He's a new guy that I don't know. I wish him luck, and head back up to the Break Room. I collect my jacket, and head out to the bus stop. About half of the dealers head to one of the neighboring casinos to drink or gamble some before they head home. We're not allowed to patronize the casino we work for. But I don't drink, and being a dealer takes care of most of the gambling urge that I used to have, so I just head home.

It's not a great life, but there are far worse, and I enjoy it. How many people can say that?

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