A Couple Of Things I Learned As A Croupier
I started working in a casino in 2010 and somehow managed to work my way through to high-end Mayfair casinos. Hopefully, I’ll be able to maintain my job even after publishing these, sometimes critical, articles.
Don’t let me bore you too much and let’s get down to what I learned over the years as a croupier.
#1 YOU DON’T NEED TO SLEEP
Sleep is definitely overrated in a casino industry and if you want to have some sort of social life, you will have to sacrifice some zzz’s.
You’ll be working incredibly weird hours and you may have to get up for a Sunday lunch after getting home at 7am in order to catch up with friends and family. You obviously won’t be allowed to drink because you’re back to work that night.
What a silly idea! Of course, you’ll have a couple of drinks.
You’re going to regret it at around 1AM.
The lunch will turn into an all-day drinking session and you’ll end up sleeping 4-5h between your shifts quite regularly.
Also, in summer, you’ll be up every day at 10am because of the heat. Get ready to get no sleep in summer months or pray for really cold July and August!
Need to see your doctor? Just skip sleep and go straight after the night shift.
Be prepared to be awaken every day by deliveries that are not yours! You are the only one at home and your postman will figure it out sooner or later. He will always ring your bell to deliver parcels for everyone in the building because you’re the weirdo who’s always at home.
No, he won’t notice your barking tone and messy hair, and will always ignore the fact that he’s just woken you up!
#2 PEOPLE ARE NOISY
Wherever you move, there’s always going to be someone who “closes” the door with a bang, hoovers for 8h a day, or sings out loud (not just when they’re in the shower).
I can guarantee you that when you start working in a casino, your neighbours will turn into the noisiest creatures in the universe.
You’ll hear a lot of bangs, whacks, stomps and crashes. Someone will always find time to cut grass, start building a second shed in the garden, or hang a picture on the wall, which, by the way, will somehow take all day!
Even if you manage to get the best neighbours ever, there are always binmen to wake you up early in the morning.
You’ll soon find out that even your own friends or family you live with turn into extremely annoying creatures. There will always be someone who feels the urge to turn a noisy washing machine on at 9am and select the longest program in human history.
There will always be someone who listens to the TV or music so loud that you feel like they’re in your room.
And if you think you can get around this by living with people who also work nights, you’re terribly mistaken! As soon as they’re up on their day off, you’ll know about it.
#3 TIPS ARE GREAT UNTIL PANDEMIC HITS (OR SOMETHING ELSE)
Tips are amazing! Until they don’t come. And it doesn’t always have to be due to a pandemic. There could be many reasons for them to plummet. Change in marketing and therefore different customers coming in could be one of them.
When your casino shifts marketing from Middle East to Asia, the decrease in tips can be quite painful. It’s not customary to tip in Asian countries and if you think they’ll do it when they come over here, you’re wrong.
And, as we all learned last year, if the world gets in trouble, you’ll end up being poor in a very expensive country.
It’s been incredibly generous from the government to pay 80% of people’s wages, but if half of your wage is tips, you’re not getting much.
That’s when you realise that tips are not guaranteed and, this year, many people found themselves in a situation where they couldn’t live off their basic salary.
I think we have to start looking at how much we’re actually getting from the company and what benefits are we entitled to. Is our pension any good? How about healthcare insurance? Discounted gym membership? Does your company help people commute? Many scrapped the Cycle to Work scheme which is completely funded by government. Yet, they are happy to pay managers for their cars and parking. With climate change being such a big issue now, it’s a complete fail.
Some also got rid of discounted gym memberships which is another blunder, considering the increase in obesity, type-2 diabetes and decline in mental health.
#4 YOU’LL END UP GOING OUT WITH A COLLEAGUE
Yep. No way around it. You most likely won’t be able to meet anyone else.
And who else is going to understand your weird shifts? They’re not the same every day. The hours change at least 3 times a week! Who else is going to stay on top of it than a fellow casino employee?
You’d be surprised how many people had to deal with jealous partners who didn’t believe the constant change in hours and thought their other half is cheating on them.
I’ve known some to have partners outside the business, I don’t want to generalise. But I’d say good 8 out of 10 casino people’s other halves are in the industry. It’s just easier because they understand.
#5 SERIOUSLY CONSIDER WHETHER YOU WANT KIDS
Do you want to finish at 4am and take your kids to school for 9am? I didn’t think so.
Switching to part-time hours in the future is not guaranteed and the morning shift disappeared from dealer’s rota thanks to the pandemic. It may come back, but will it?
Who is going to pick them up from school when you work a day shift finishing at 10pm?
You are probably thinking: “My other half, of course.” Do you want to spend the next 15 years working opposite shifts to your husband/wife and never see them again? Your life will consist of going to work, taking kids to school, sleeping for a few hours, picking them up, saying hi to your partner, and leaving again.
You won’t have time to go out together because you’ll never see each other. You’ll have opposite days off and your family probably won’t be a family because you won’t spend any time together.
I know everyone says that having children is a blessing, but, come on, let’s get down to Earth and admit that it’s often far away from what we all imagined and instead of idyllic family life, we end up facing a lot of noise, mess, badly disciplined kids, and unimaginable amount of stress.
According to divorce lawyers Crisp & Co, 42% of marriages in the UK end up in divorce and 60% end before their 20th wedding anniversary! Sorry, those are just terrible odds.
Even if you somehow manage to stay together, you’re not going to have a same day off with your partner for the foreseeable future. I guess these people who manage to have a family don’t get divorced because they don’t even have time to tell each other that they’re out.
#6 ON THE LIGHTER NOTE, YOU’LL BE ABLE TO TRAVEL!
If you’re in your 20s and have no commitments, do it! My 20s working as a croupier have given me the best times of my life!
When I first started, you could take holiday whenever you wanted and you could even sacrifice as little as 40h to get 10 days off! Good old 10h shifts.
I’m not entirely sure this will be the case now since many casinos reduced numbers to bare minimum. But they’ll have to hire again and perhaps it will get better over time.
Also, summer is usually a great time for tips – certain customers come in summer and if you are decent in money management, you can save up a lot to send yourself travelling. I’ve been to weekend breaks in Paris, Marseilles, Prague, Rome, Budapest, Barcelona, and countless places here in the UK.
My job allowed me to go to countries I’ve never dreamed I could go to; South Korea, Hong Kong, USA, Mexico, Cuba, Norway, Santorini, Thailand, Cambodia, and less exotic Italy, Spain, France, Austria, and many more.
I didn’t have to pay it with a credit card and when I did, I was able to repay it over the next couple of months.
#7 GOING OUT DURING THE WEEKEND IS A NIGHTMARE
Another great thing about working weird days of the week is that you can go out on a nice and quiet Tuesday evening.
Why is it so good, you ask? You can improvise! You don’t have to book! You can just turn up and there will always be a table available for you. Also, many places do midweek deals to attract more customers, so you’ll often be able to get 2for1 drinks or meals.
I hate going out on a Friday or Saturday. It’s busy and you have to queue just about everywhere to get in. Not to mention the prices! There’s no happy hour on a Friday night. And with London prices for a pint slowly climbing to £7 in some places, you may want to think about when and where are you going.
It’s a lot easier to book show tickets during midweek! They are often considerably cheaper and you don’t have to book them months in advance. A couple of days before is usually enough – I managed to get tickets for The Book of Mormon 2 days in advance and that night out didn’t cost me £500. Some weekend ticket prices are crazy, climbing towards £200 per person. And don’t forget your drinks and food while you’re out!
#8 IT’S AN EASY ENOUGH JOB IF YOU DO IT LONG ENOUGH
After a few years, being a croupier is actually quite easy. It’s a very repetitive job and many customers always play the same way. It all becomes more about remembering rather than counting.
It also becomes a lot easier when you stay in one place for a couple of years and establish a relationship with the players. Some of them are actually quite fun to be around.
It’s also a job you don’t have to take home. The second the main casino door shuts, that’s it. My brain is empty. Yes, sometimes we get upset by how a customer treated us or perhaps we had a run-in with a colleague, but it all goes away when you get out of the building.
The main benefit of being a croupier is that you don’t have to bring unfinished projects home with you.
Sometimes we get treated badly but it all comes down to how well we can deal with it.
It’s important to be resistant to words. Yes, they can sometimes be sharper than a blade, but they don’t have to be if you don’t let them bother you.
And I think this applies to any job where you’re required to work with people. Whether you’re a waitress, bus driver, security guy in a club, a croupier, or a call center operator, you have to brush it off. There will always be someone who’s agitated and rude, but we have to be better than that!
9# MAKE SURE YOU HAVE FRIENDS OUTSIDE THE CASINO
I kept it towards the end because it sort of contradicts the idea of not having a sociable life.
Even though it’s incredibly hard to maintain or find new friendships while working unsociable hours, it’s crucial that you try!
Casino environment is a very specific little world and after a certain time, you’ll be fed up with it. You’ll get to the point where you understand that even though people in a casino are friendly, not all of them are your real friends.
Casinos have always been plagued by gossip and envy and you shouldn’t plunge yourself wholeheartedly into this world with your entire soul. Keep secrets about your life and don’t tell everyone everything.
Always keep a thread that connects you with the outer world and a trail of breadcrumbs to lead you out if you have enough. Make sure you stay in touch with people outside of this world to get a reality check from time to time.
It’s incredibly easy to fall into this special little universe and get lost forever. Many of us haven’t realised it until pandemic hit and woke us all up from this casino trans.
Thanks a lot for chewing through all the 2 000 words or so. It was a long journey and I appreciate you stayed with me.
I know some of these points are quite apocalyptic, especially the one about kids and family, but I think this is not just a casino problem. There’s awful lot of pressure put on people and families these days. Prices are going up and having a family is becoming incredibly challenging. People have less and less time to attend to their kids and this results in a generation that worries me.
Hopefully lockdown has showed people how bad their work/life balance has been so far and made them implement some radical changes. And, what do you know? Maybe even our employers will notice how difficult a life can be and perhaps they’ll offer employees decent benefits.
I would be incredibly grateful if you could share this piece around – I think it could relate to other customer-facing roles, not just a casino environment, and I think some employers could learn something too.
I’ve also written more casino articles: