Just like any other ordinary Malaysian, we go through various exams during secondary school. After I completed Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) in Form 5, I had about four months to go before attending college. During this period, some students will get selected to go for National Service (NS), others may stay home, or work part-time to earn some pocket money. I chose the latter, which led me to apply for a job in a casino—and I got it.
I was still underage then, so needless to say, I’ve never stepped into a casino before. The closest thing I’ve encountered to a casino is watching casino-related movies, such God of Glambers, starring Andy Lau and Chow Yun-Fat; and 21, starring Jim Sturgess and Kate Bosworth.
At that time, no one has ever educated me about working for passion and not the money—I was clearly doing it just for the salary. Compared to working as a waitress, being a casino dealer with SPM as my only qualification pays a lot more than most other jobs out there.
If you were to tell someone that you’ve worked in the gambling industry, they’d most likely say whoa and wow. Well certainly, there were some wow moments, so now I’m going to share a few things that only people who have worked at a casino will be able to tell you.
P.S.: I was Pontoon dealer, which is the British version of Blackjack. Both have similar rules but they are actually played quite differently. The most notable difference is in Pontoon, all cards that are 10s are removed.
1. The dealers can’t help you win money.
This is one very most annoying part of being a casino dealer. Some people actually come up to me and ask me questions like, “Hey so you know how to win, right? Because you’re the dealer?”, “Teach me how to win,” or “What system do they use in the machines that cause us to lose?”
I wish I could help these people sometimes. But the truth is, we’re practically like a robot, albeit a bit friendlier (we provide customer service like answering questions, smile while greeting them, etc.). We just follow the rules and play the game with the players.
To sum it up, we’re just doing our job which includes shuffling cards, paying bets, and keeping the game going. No magic, no tricks, nothing.
2. Feng shui and superstitions are heavily practiced.
Have you heard of stories that the casinos are built based on certain shape to create a better feng shui for the casino to earn more money?
It’s somewhat true.
If you’ve been to a casino, you might know that the interior design of casinos are specifically designed and decorated according to certain feng shui elements. One popular practice is that there are no windows or clocks in the casino.
The casino that I worked at had a ceiling that is shaped like a coffin in the middle of the casino.
Besides that, most gamblers wear something in red before going into a casino because it is believed that the red colour brings good luck. This might sound a little pervert-ish, but if you are observant enough, you might be able to notice many people wearing red undergarments, especially if they are wearing a white coloured outfit.
3. The dealers are not yeng at all.
Sure, in movies, you’d be amazed by casino dealers who are very proficient in distributing the cards, and paying bets and payouts at a very fast speed. They look so cool and professional. Well I must warn you to not fall for this delusional glamorous scene of the world of casinos.
Casino dealers work in shifts and night shifts are the busiest hours. Most dealers choose this job because it pays the bill, not because they enjoy playing the game. Our shifts can be from 7 am to 3pm or 11 am to 7 am.
Most of us don’t really bother to dress up and look hot while we are working. Sometimes we don’t even shower before going to work because we are constantly exposed to second-hand smoke, so we’re going to be very smelly anyway.
4. Mistakes are inevitable, and the casino won’t care (about the small ones anyway).
Newbie mistakes are unavoidable and one common mistake is paying extra winning bets to a customer.
For example, you have to pay the player RM100, and you’re supposed to give them 4 RM25 chips, but you took 5 pieces accidentally and unfortunately your mistake was caught by the surveillance camera.
In the case of such a mistake, the player will think that your salary will be deducted, but in actual fact the casino management don’t really see it as a big deal. The player could even keep that extra chip if they don’t want to return it, but the dealer’s salary will not get affected at all.
They see the bigger picture: It doesn’t matter if the player takes the extra chip, because it’s just more money for them to lose during the next few rounds.
5. The house is always the winner.
Bear in mind that casinos are not the place for you to earn money. The house will always be the winner; they need profit to survive, and that is your losing bets.
I have seen player after player lose their money. I’ve seen someone take out his phone to sell it to the player sitting beside him just to get cash in return to continue playing.
I saw an elderly woman who broke down and cried after losing all her money at the table. I have also seen a player emptying his wallet and then going to the ATM to withdraw a stack of money, desperate to win, but losing it all to the casino again.
Gambling makes people, no matter if they are rich or poor, think that they always have the chance to win more money. You may win occasionally during the first few hours, but you will lose eventually. Winning may be fun; however once you’re an addict, it’s all downhill from there.
And it’s only a matter of time before you get addicted—human beings are weak after all.