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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: You can pitch cardboard at any age

8 August 2008

Dear Mark: I am a recently laid off autoworker in Detroit who is being forced to look for a new career. I am considering dealing blackjack. My question is, is there any age limit to dealing cards? I am 57, and I was wondering if that is too old, and if at that age I would lack certain skills needed to deal the game? Dan O.

Once, when I was having one of those whining "why am I here" moments while dealing blackjack, a pit boss clued me in that "a chimpanzee could do your job, so, shut up and deal." Not one to leave it alone, I sassed back, "Yeah, but I doubt a chimp could make the correct payoffs on blackjacks, nor wait for his hourly bathroom break." That bit of wit cost me two weeks of dealing 50-cent blackjack, where a whole different type of primate played, but he was right. Blackjack is a pretty darn easy game to deal, and little or no skill is required that would be affected by age.

I've known plenty of dealers in their 70's, and I am acquainted with possibly the oldest person ever to deal cards in a casino, that being John Stanislaus Matuszak, who was dealing at the Blue Chip Casino in Michigan City, IN, when he was 86 years old.

So, Dan, as an unrestricted free agent from the auto companies, with their unfulfilled promise of 30-and-out, at 57 you still have time left to have a lengthy career in gaming, that is, as long as you can hold it for 60 minutes between trips to the head.

Dear Mark: Where did the name blackjack come from? Dave E.

The game of 21's common nickname, blackjack, comes from illegal casinos in the early 1900s that paid a bonus if a two-card 21 was made up of an ace and jack of spades, or in some cases, if the ace of spades was accompanied by a jack of clubs. The jack being black was the trigger to the bonus -- hence the origin of the word blackjack.

Dear Mark: Assuming no one else has brought this to your attention, I think you need to check your math with respect to the total hours you spent in a casino working. If you spent 50 weeks a year for 20 years that would be 40,000 hours (41,600 with no vacation). 8,320 hours would be only one day a week for 20 years. Glenn

What math wizard Glenn was really saying in his question was, "Pay no attention to that man (me) behind that curtain."

And he's right. My back from emptying buckets of coins from slot machines at 3 a.m., or the carpal tunnel ailment every dealer claims to get (I never did, but I use it as an excuse now and then to get out of household chores) from pitching cards one hand too long should have told me that my figure was light by over 30 thousand hours.

Then again, I was the "early out" king, jumping on the EO list any chance I could get, so those missing 33,280 hours may still be too high.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "It would seem that the odds of smacking Megabucks twice are much longer than the odds of Earth being sucked into a stellar black hole." --Basil Nestor, Casino Player

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
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.
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.