Gaming | 21 Feb 2018 | By Dallace Rickson Jolly
Holding All the Cards
Croupiers have front-row seats to the fun and games taking place around the felt-topped tables on the casino floor 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We offer a glimpse behind the scenes into the life of a croupier.
It would be futile to ask a croupier to describe a ‘typical’ day at work, because this job is anything but typical. The random turn of a card or spin of the wheel, the variety of faces lining the tables – some blank, others nervous and excited – some wins, some losses, days, nights, early hours of the morning… no day is ever the same for a Sun International croupier. One of the few constants, they say, is the regulars who tend to stick to their favourite games. Players are known to be a superstitious lot, and most have rituals they follow every time they slip into their favourite seats on the casino floor. These are the guests croupiers will greet by name but not necessarily engage with, as some players prefer to remain focused and not chat to the dealer. Others will pause for a chat or a laugh and a catch-up.
ALL ABOUT FOCUS
One of the most finely honed skills a croupier possesses is the ability to read the players at the table. Anticipating bad situations before they crop up means a croupier needs to focus not only on the game, but on the players’ actions and moods, too. Everything else that happens during a shift is as much of a surprise to the croupier as the hand being dealt to the player – and that’s where the croupier’s nerves of steel come in handy. Tension can mount, particularly when dealing to high-stakes players.
LEARNING THE ROPES
If non-stop action and interacting with people from all backgrounds sets your pulse racing, a career as a croupier may be on the cards for you. Training to become a croupier is relatively simple. It takes about three months to train on the blackjack, poker and roulette tables. Baccarat training usually follows once you’ve mastered the three most popular tables games. Most casinos have in-house training programmes but there are independent training schools that offer courses too, such as Unique Initiatives Training School.
WHAT THE CROUPIERS SAY:
WE ASKED FOUR CROUPIERS TO SHARE SOME OF THE PROS AND CONS OF THE JOB
Thomas Molefe, 30, has been a croupier for almost nine years. He says it’s not unusual to see a player so engrossed in his game that he takes a deep draw on an unlit cigarette – more than once!
Interacting with guests is a highlight for John Hlongwane, 28, who has been a croupier for 10 years. He enjoys meeting a variety of people from all over.
For some 13 may be unlucky, but for Itumelang Gatyeni, 35, the 13 years he has spent working as a croupier have brought out the best in him. He says he thrives on the constant interaction with players and the air of excitement in the casino.
Funeka Nzuzo, 27, has been a croupier for five years. She loves watching people playing for the fi rst time and explaining to them how the games work. She has to keep a beady eye on rookie players though, who have been known to innocently try and spin the roulette wheel – only the dealer is permitted to touch the wheel and the balls.
FOLLOWING THE RULES
Excitement aside, every job involves certain mundanities – and being a croupier involves a lot more than just arriving on time at the table, dealing and taking bets. At the start of every shift, the croupier prepares the table by counting the float and checking all equipment, including the dolly (the plastic marker placed on the winning number in roulette), the plunger (used to push the money through the slot in the table), and the roulette balls. During the shift, which is usually nine hours long, the croupiers run the games by spinning the roulette wheel and dealing cards. They are also on hand to explain the rules of the game to the players at the table and ensure the rules are followed.
PLAYING YOUR CARDS RIGHT
These are the etiquettes and procedures croupiers have to follow at the tables:
TIPS Croupiers may accept tips from players but they have to declare the tip to their supervisor and drop it on the table. The croupier may not pocket the tip at the table.
CLEAN HANDS All croupiers are required to show ‘clean hands’ when leaving a table to show the players, pit bosses and security cameras that they’re not holding any chips or cash swiped from the table. So, if you see a croupier clapping their hands once, they are not applauding a player’s win.
TAKING BETS Any money or chips being exchanged must be placed on the table and not handed directly to the croupier. The croupier will then pick up the money or chips from the table.
Next time you spot someone in the supermarket clapping their hands before taking something off the shelf or asking a cashier to place money on the counter, chances are they may be a croupier by profession…
THE TERM CROUPIER COMES FROM THE FRENCH WORD ‘CROUP’, WHICH REFERS TO THE BACK OF A HORSE.
Sunbet Pty Ltd (registration number 2008/014410/07) trading as Sunbet is licensed by the Western Cape Gambling and Racing Board. No persons under the age of 18 are permitted to gamble. Winners know when to stop. National Gambling Responsible Gambling Programme 0800 006 008.