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The Croupier Interview

By Vera Capilla

Today we interviewed a croupier, a dealer, or as they are officially called at the Mar del Plata Casino Central, ‘a payer’. She is also the daughter of a croupier and has worked at that prestigious institution for eight years, the last three years specifically dealing cards. In this interview she gives us her own perspective.

How did you get into the business?

The Casino is like a big family. It was launched in 1938 and is a national tourist icon. The only way to get in is through an open audition, these are held when someone is retiring and needs to be replaced. I graduated from the last major training Academy held in 2006. The Academy is an intensive four-month training course, there are four hours of classes a day, four days a week. From the hundreds of applicants, they select only the very best pupils. As my father had worked there for 30 years, he advised me not to get into roulette, but to get into dealing cards. He knew the details of each job, and had told me, for example, that in roulette you have to stay longer standing up.

So when you chose to apply you already knew in which game you would be working?

Not quite. When I was selected, I chose between cards and roulette. I was taught to deal cards and assemble the “Sabot”. The cards are shuffled and cut, leaving a green plastic separator which indicates the end of the deck. Interrupting a game by running out of cards would be an unmitigated disaster. In my first season of work I was assigned to be a machines assistant. My role was to monitor the hallway slot machines. It was pretty boring as my main task was to make sure that nobody ran out of chips. I also gave out some of the Jackpots to the winners.
Later I worked as a roulette assistant with four tables under my supervision. I was responsible for helping players collect their winning chips to speed up the game. My first real responsibility came when I started working as a croupier. That day I first felt the nerves that come when you are responsible for a table.

I can imagine, must be terribly stressful!

Yes, it is, especially as you’re constantly face to face with the players and it is you dealing to them, their fortune depends on the cards that you give them.

Some of them make flirtatious comments if they win, and also can leave a big tip, but maybe the next day they will get angry and insult you. Of course in these cases the security will get involved and the player will be asked to leave the room. But this is not a small matter, as tipping makes a huge difference to our salaries. In fact, there is not much difference between the actual salaries of those in the various positions in the room. You can be a croupier, a boss or a supervisor, but the length of time you have worked there determines your take home pay, as the percentage of the tips you keep rises by 5% a year. There is a famous story, the Collacci story. It is about a man who throughout his whole life had refused a promotion that was offered to him, constantly being mocked by his peers. After a lifetime working as an assistant, with no more responsibility other than collecting chips, he retired and to the amazement and envy of everyone, the retirement money he received from working at the same position all those years was exorbitant! A great example of a unique style player.

How do you manage to remain constantly alert?

Well, the croupier has at least 20 minutes of rest for every hour spent at the table and usually doesn’t take more than four or five shifts a day. In the break we cannot leave the building, so we can go to “La peña”, the break room. We have a buffet, a cafe, some comfortable armchairs and a TV. The strange thing is that although we are forbidden to play in the Casino for very obvious reasons, in our free time, in the peña we play, every day without fail, at a private poker table, and we can play up to $ 2000 ARS. This says a lot about the attraction of the game!

Speaking of poker, what games are played there?

In the past during the poker boom, the game had its own room in the Casino. Today there are “Poker Satellites”: small tournaments with a buy-in of $ 300 ARS held on Wednesdays and Sundays. Also there are special events, larger tournaments with more expensive tickets, around $ ARS 3000, with prizes up to $ 60,000 ARS. This is all legal as it is within the casino, as in the Province of Buenos Aires, all gambling is prohibited in a private location.
Of course there are underground rooms and tables, for example, everyone knows about the traditional Poker Knights table in the Club Italiano.

Image ‘Jack of Spades’ by Erich Ferdinand

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