[Note: The interviewee still holds this job
and wanted to remain anonymous.]
Q: When did you lose your faith in humanity?
A: I work at a casino. About six years ago a guy keeled over on the smoking patio. There were two women with him. One ran into the casino to get help, but the other one who was still out there—she stole his chips. That’s when I lost faith in humanity. It turns out that the woman who stole his chips was a registered nurse!
Q: How did you start working at a casino?
A: My fiancée was a table games dealer, so I started as a dealer for two years. I spent another year as a supervisor. Then I went to another casino and started doing surveillance, which is what I do now.
Q: Is it tough to be a dealer?
A: At first, but it quickly gets to be like muscle memory. I’ve gone in on my worst days, completely hung over, and I can still do blackjack.
Q: The people who are gambling—are they really annoying?
A: It’s like any job where you work with people who can be a pain in the ass.
Q: Do people ever get angry when they lose?
A: Sometimes players will get in a fight…
About two weeks ago in the poker pit two guys had words. One guy left, but then he came back about thirty minutes later and grabbed the other guy by the back of his head, and hammered his head into the table.
Another time, there was this MMA guy who was at home and beat his wife with a hammer. Then he got in his truck and drove here, because his ex-wife worked at the casino. He drove his truck right through the glass front doors of the casino and into this huge atrium area. Then in the camera we saw the local police come in with their guns drawn…
Q: What happened to the guy? Did the wife die?
A: His wife was OK. They arrested him; when he tried to back out he was stuck.
Q: That’s insane. You sound like you’ve seen it all.
A: Yeah… I’ve been working at casinos for 12 years and stuff happens all the time.
The other night a woman got into the elevator and started pissing. Then as she got out, she left a trail as she walked out of the casino.
And you can only see people fall down stairs so many times…
Q: You see people fall down stairs?
A: Yeah, all the time. One particular time when I was doing surveillance work, a lady fell down the stairs ass over teakettle. We were reviewing the tape and this lady I worked with was looking over my shoulder, and she kept asking me, “Can you rewind it again?”
It turns out she was doing research on the fall, because she was working closely with the police on a case where a woman had a similar fall.
In my job I work a lot with law enforcement and get to learn the procedures for all kinds of situations.
Q: Do you see a lot of people cheating?
A: It goes in waves. There are periods of calm and then the shit hits the fan and lots of things start to happen.
There are organized cheat teams from overseas. Like Hungarian or Ukranian. They’ll play Caribbean Stud, where there is a $100,000 payoff if you get a royal flush.
Q: How do they cheat?
A: They’ll put little thumbtacks under their thumbnail to mark the cards. Or they’ll do card-switching.
A: Yeah. Imagine you’re sitting to my left. Then I put a card in my right hand and tuck it under my left arm. You do the same—tuck a card in your left hand and pass it to me under your right arm. It happens so fast it can be hard to catch. These guys do it for a living—they’re polished.
Q: How do you confirm that they cheated?
A: Before we pay out there is a process. We’ll watch the past six hands and the dealer will fan the cards out to make sure they’re all there. And we take facial photos of all the patrons at the table. Then they’ll send the cards to the surveillance room for us to look at.
Organized cheat teams are falling by the wayside though.
I’ve caught people on a small scale too. Just the other day someone showed me a guy who had a winning hand and capped his bet.
Q: Capped his bet?
A: Yeah, he put extra chips on top of his stack. We reviewed the footage and he’d done it three or four other times. The police arrested him and charged him with cheating at play.
Q: What’s the penalty for that?
A: I think it’s a fine.
Q: Do dealers ever screw up?
A: It’s human nature—it happens. If you think about it, you deal like 60 hands per hour. We can identify when a new dealer shouldn’t be dealing a type of game, but you have to really screw up to get fired.
Q: Do you have access to places in the casino where normal people can’t go?
A: I do. All of our access is controlled. Dealers have limited access; I’m in surveillance so I have full access. If a camera stops working we send a surveillance person—for example to watch people count.
Q: You mean you have access to the room where they count the money?
A: Yes. It’s a drab, well-lit room. There are probably 5-10 people there who wear one-piece jumpsuits with no pockets. The tables are clear plexiglass so we can see if money falls down. There are also great big counting machines.
At first I was like, “Wow, this is so much money.” But now I’m like “Geeze, this is boring.”
Q: What’s the best way for me to get a comp hotel room at a casino?
A: I would say that if people bet big for their first few hands, and are friendly with the person who is rating their play, it would be the best way to improve your chances of getting comps.
Q: What’s the craziest comp you can remember?
A: There was one CEO… they comp’d him his jet fuel, which must have been like $150,000.
Q: How much does that mean he would’ve spent?
A: He must’ve lost a million—maybe more. Although it might have been a loss leader for the casino.
Q: What is your day-to-day job like? Do you work with interesting people?
A: When you work in surveillance, you are in a dark, windowless room with next to no outside interaction. There are really no visitors, so your co-workers are who you are stuck with. You see the same people day in, day out. You hear about their relationships, family, TV shows, shopping habits, political views, and everything else. And I mean everything.
You may not like the person you work with, but you form a common ground. We have been in situations where co-workers have died, lost children, marriages broke up and new babies born. There is an intimacy that forms that I don’t think many people will ever experience in their professional lives.
Q: That sounds really nice.
A: Yeah. Good, bad, and ugly, we are a family.