If you love gambling, being a casino dealer may seem like the greatest job in the world. You get to play the same games you already love, only from the other side of the table – meaning you’ll get to win a little more often than you already do. Sure, you don’t get to keep the winnings, but they pay you, right? Plus you’ll be getting tips from grateful players, and you’ll always be at the heart of the action when someone wins a big jackpot. And with the gambling market getting more competitive every day, casinos everywhere are looking for qualified dealers to fill jobs.
But despite that initial rush of excitement you might feel when considering going into the dealer business, there are some factors you’ll want to consider before taking the plunge. Here’s a look at a few of the benefits – and drawbacks – of taking a job as a dealer at a casino.
How Much Will I Make?
This is the big question on everyone’s mind when they think about any job, including becoming a casino dealer. The answer here varies, and in ways that may help you decide whether or not this job is right for you in the first place.
The first thing you’ll need to understand is that the base pay for dealing poker, blackjack, baccarat or other casino games like roulette – that is, the money the casino pays you directly – is pretty slim. When you first start out, you may very well make minimum wage; in other casinos, the starting salary might begin at $7 or $8 an hour, rising to $10 or more as you gain experience. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average base pay for a casino dealer is a paltry $14,700 a year.
But you and I both know that this isn’t where the real money comes from in casino dealing. The tips are where the real cash is made (at least in the United States – in some countries, dealers don’t receive tips, but are compensated with a higher base salary), and that brings up the total amount a dealer might make significantly. Figures on how much a dealer could make on average when including tips (and any benefits the casino provides for its workers) vary tremendously, but many peg it at somewhere between $30,000 and $60,000 a year. Some dealers may make even more than that, with some pulling in as much as $100,000 or more according to some sources (though new dealers should know that this is not typical).
On an hourly basis, tips can help dealers bring in anywhere from a few extra dollars to $50 or more per hour, depending on how busy they are, what game they’re dealing, and how generous the players are. The biggest tips come from dealing poker, but with all of the rules (which can also vary from house to house), players, and pots to keep track of, it is also the most challenging and skill-intensive game to deal.
What factors influence how much money a dealer might make? When a dealer first starts at a new casino, they may be forced to work at games that are slower-paced, less popular, and generate fewer tips. The demand for dealers can be somewhat seasonal as well, and when the casino doesn’t need as many tables open, there won’t be as many hours of work to go around, cutting into the earning potential of working in this field.
You might expect that dealers at upscale Vegas properties would make more in tips than their counterparts at smaller regional casinos, but this isn’t always the case. Sure, if you’re dealing for high-rollers in the VIP room, you’ll want to be at a big casino: those tips are going to be massive compared to the ones you’d see on the regular floor, and those opportunities are only available at luxury resorts. But for the “average” dealer, the amount of money you make will come down to what games you’re dealing and how much the players like you. That means that more skilled dealers will make more in tips, but also that more personable dealers will do better. If you’re not a “people person,” dealing definitely isn’t the profession for you. Keep in mind that some casinos also pool tips between dealers, meaning that no matter how much your players are rewarding you for your service, you’ll be sharing that with your coworkers – so you’d better hope they’re doing a good job, too.
It’s also important to bear in mind that the biggest whales are not always the biggest tippers; high-roller rooms everywhere are rife with tales of pro player cheapskates (this is typically, but not always, in poker) who tipped little or nothing after scooping massive pots. On the other hand, sometimes lower-limit games draw more relaxed, recreational players who tip better because they are just having fun and feel like it’s all found money anyway.
When Dealing Isn’t Fun
While there are definitely some great things about being a dealer – and we’ll talk more about those in a minute – there are some downsides as well. For one, you’d better like being on your feet. Poker dealers may be able to sit and deal their game, but for any other table game, you’ll be standing throughout your shift. You’ll get breaks – a typical shift pattern for a dealer consists of an hour on the floor, followed by 20 minutes off – but all of the work you do while standing at the table adds up, and the job can be both mentally and physically tiring.
The players aren’t always kind, either. You’ve probably already noticed players berating dealers for their own bad luck and poor play, and it only gets worse for dealers when they really do make mistakes. But it’s not just the players who are angry that might get to you. If you don’t think you can deal with taking large sums of money from people at the tables, you may not be able to handle the job of being a dealer on an emotional basis. And remember, you will be under the constant and watchful eye of casino surveillance at all times; their main job is protecting their own money more than their customers’, and to that end, they watch dealers for anything that might look like cheating, collusion or out-and-out theft very carefully.
The environment of a casino isn’t necessarily for everyone either. This is especially true when it comes to casinos that still allow smoking – which, except for many poker rooms, is still most U.S. casinos anyway – which can be tough on those who do not smoke themselves. This is changing, though: today, casinos in the United States that do allow smoking often have non-smoking gambling areas as well.
Training and Benefits
There are some positives to becoming a dealer that you may not have considered as well. Typically, you won’t have to have too much training to get into the field: a qualified dealer school may have you ready to handle at least some games (such as blackjack) in two months or less, and it may cost under $1,000 to get that training. Some casinos even offer in-house training, especially when they’re first opening.
The scheduling of a casino can also be a positive for many workers. Since there are plenty of people trying to fit into the schedule, and with most casinos being open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, schedulers are often flexible for dealers who want to work odd hours or know they need certain times off in advance. Of course, the scheduler can also be your worst enemy if they’re only assigning you to slow times or they need you to work hours that aren’t convenient for you or your family, or on major holidays when the casino must still be fully staffed for players.
At casinos operated by major corporations, the benefits can also be a surprising plus. Many of these casinos offer retirement programs and health plans, as well as flexible time off that can make scheduling personal days and vacations even easier. You may even be able to transfer to another casino owned by the same operators fairly easily if you’d like to, which can be perfect if you are willing or interested in traveling to new locations.
Deal or No Deal?
While we’ve definitely presented both sides of the coin in this post, we’re not trying to scare anyone away from becoming a dealer. For some, this really is a dream job, and for many others, becoming a casino dealer can be a good opportunity – either as a good job to hold while working towards their actual dream, or as a way to get into the gaming industry. If you’re a people person who enjoys the casino atmosphere and can deal with the varying hours and income, then becoming a casino dealer might just be right up your alley. Want to know more? Check out Casino.org’s exclusive and in-depth guide to becoming a casino dealer.