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Deal Me In: Tutorial on casino management

20 March 2009

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: A friend at Lake Tahoe is a dual rate dealer. Since he broke his hip skiing, he can't reach the pass line on the craps table. While he recovers, he has been working "the Pencil". He is spontaneous and multi-tasks well. Can you elaborate on this position? Randy S.

Being that once upon a time I held both of these positions – dual rate and Pencil, in that order – let's cover what a dual rate dealer is first.

A dual rate dealer is both a dealer and a games floor supervisor. When acting as a supervisor (also known as a floorperson), the dual rate dealer is responsible for compliance procedures, but also supervises the performance of other dealers to make certain that smooth and efficient gaming occurs during the shift. In a pinch, the dual rate dealer can also pitch cards, so, when acting as a dealer, they are responsible for dealing the game in a proficient manner.

Typically, they must have a comprehensive knowledge of at least three games, and must be able to deal at least two of the three major table games, Craps, Blackjack, and Roulette.

As for "the Pencil", that is the floor supervisor who is responsible for ensuring that the dealers know their table assignments. When on top of your game as the Pencil, sending dealers to do battle is only a momentary distraction from your normal duties, such as supervising a pit of at least six table games and lots and lots of schmoozing, to both players and dealers.

As for your friend having spur-of-the-moment skills, that is a must-have attribute when things get harried, as they often do near the end of swing shift, with tables closing left and right, and dealers needing to be re-assigned or sent home (EO'd or early out).

For instance, you could have a 60-table-games spread around midnight, but you are going to shut down 80 percent of them over the next hour or two. Thus, you've got dozens of dealers closing games and coming your way, with staggered shift start times, breathing down your neck at the pit stand. God forbid you jump someone on the EO list. Oh, and while all this is happening, some goof ball spills a 7-11 Big Gulp across the roulette table.

The Pencil can be extremely demanding, definitely requiring both spontaneity and the ability to multi-task well. In my circumstance, what made matters worse (besides my self-diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder), is that I held the Pencil in a "go for your own" joint, the gist of that being that dealers kept their own tips – no splitting. One thing every dealer knew is where the Whales – big tippers – were, on every table, at any given moment, creating an environment where the inmates –dealers – tried to run the asylum, at times successfully, I might add.

I still get cold sweats at night thinking about "the Pencil."

Dear Mark: Do you think the casino would set the bar video poker machines at say 7/5, and the video poker machines on the floor at 9/6? I seem to have better luck on the floor machines. Tim F.

Absolutely, sure, happens all the time, Tim. Oh, and the reason for having more luck on the casino floor, is because you're playing on a 9/6 machine (nine for a full house, six for a flush) with far superior payback than you get from a 7/5 one.

Although every slot manager is different when it comes to the placement and positioning of machines on the casino floor, it's still your responsibility to be always on the lookout for the best video poker opportunities available. One 9/6 video poker machine can easily be standing side by side to 7/5 one, let alone across the casino at the bar.

Of course drinking and gambling are the casino's favorite mix. In the gaming business, we call those free libations "chip removers."

Free drinks (coin removers for you) have always been part of the casino ambience. It speeds up the process of losing. Unfortunately, influenced by a sundry of alcoholic beverages, a lot of inebriated patrons just don't notice that the bar top machine is only a 7/5.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "As we all know, slots are hungry devils and they can go through our money the way a school of piranha can go through a cow." --Frank Scoblete, Strictly Slots

Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.