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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Man of letters moving up

10 November 2003

Dear Mark,
I am currently a magazine editor looking to work part-time as a dealer, simply for a little extra income and because I would really enjoy it. I am good mathematically, smart, friendly, know all the games inside and out, a college graduate; in short, a very good dealer. How do I break into the business? Any advice? John W.

Most newbies looking for jobs pitching cardboard get 'em in one of two ways: a) going to a local dealing school and then auditioning, or b) being hired from within, i.e. boosted from some low-level job at ABC casino, like lugging 50 pounds of change strapped to your waist. If you cheerfully survive the mule-service, rarely call in sick, your work history file shows no major boo-boos, and management requires a few new dealers, you may be sent to their in-house college of dealing.

But — and you knew there would be a but — there are exceptions, of which Yours Truly was one. It's known as the Ironing Board method.
I learned on an ironing board from Jerry (who went on to become a gaming control agent for the State of Nevada), then auditioned for a job. Of course, faking it can only go so far when learning on a hot-press table. Initially, like all break-ins, I got the heebie-jeebies if a player happened to bet over 50 cents. That's right folks, my virginal hour dealing blackjack was on a 50¢ game at the Club Cal Neva in downtown Reno.

After my 20-minute break, I was assigned a dead $2 game. No problem, no bettors. I can do this. Then SLOSHY STAN showed up, feeling no pain, and started betting $5-$25 a hand. Five minutes into his play he got a pair of aces, and then split them.
Huh, mathematically interesting, I thought, punching my memory back to the ironing board, but to no avail; Jerry had never mentioned splitting aces. Actually, a frazzled dealer of ten minds with limited knowledge of the game does not know what to do or pay when a player splits aces.

This crisis situation required drastic measures to avoid total disaster. So I pondered briefly whether to call over a pit boss and look like an idiot, didn't, then pretended to know what I was doing. I made the airy decision that if you split aces and got two face cards as lucky Stan had just done, you just got yourself two blackjacks, so I paid him accordingly. Stan liked me. Oh yeah!

I was actually paying this unmerited royalty on split aces for most of my first shift until an old-time pit boss named Dennis Healy (my all-time favorite old-time pit boss) noticed my generosity and asked, "You're new, right?" Yeah, I answered. "Is your name Pilarski?" I replied, yes. Then he asked, "Are you Polish?" Yep, I said proudly. His next words were, "See me on your break."

No slap on the wrist, nothing from Healy, unless you count being put on secret double probation and the demotion to the sole 50¢ game in the house for the next two months.

So to complete my answer to you, John, get a high-grade ironing board and a watchful roommate willing to spend more than four hours tutoring you.

Gambling quote of the week: "Life is a gamble, like crossing the road. One day chicken, next day feathers." —Unknown

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.