“It’s been crazy good,” Gaming Manager Anna Rowe said about the success of Vegas-style table games like Craps, Roulette, live Poker and Blackjack. But to offer the game, you’ve got to have the dealer — 500 dealers to be exact.
Jason Rowe, one of Harrah’s standout dealers, offered advice to new recruits at a casino job fair last week. Expect to be a bit nervous when you’re first starting out, including sweaty hands. But it all becomes natural eventually.
“If you can deal a $10 blackjack game, you can do a $10,000 blackjack game,” added Christina Esmay, another Harrah’s dealer on hand at the job fair. “It’s all about muscle memory.”
Already the largest private employer west of Asheville, Harrah’s beefed up its payroll by 600 employees during the past year as a direct result of table games and the increase in guests they spurred. Of those, 500 were actual dealers.
But, professional card dealers are not a dime a dozen in Western North Carolina. So recruiters have had to get creative, taking both card-dealer training and job fairs on the road.
Jones Douglass drove all the way from Blairsville, Ga., last week for a card dealer job fair Harrah’s hosted at Southwestern Community College. The commute to Cherokee from his home is 74 miles. But he’s been out of work since last November, and Harrah’s is one of the few employers handing out new jobs these days. Harrah’s is now up to 2,900 employees across the resort. It is nearly always hiring to replace people who leave.
So, Douglass, like many across the region, was willing to overlook the lengthy commute.
After working construction for 22 years, however, he never imagined himself as a card dealer.
“That never crossed my mind,” Douglass said.
Rowe, who lives in Haywood County herself, said the lure of Harrah’s jobs have drawn applicants from far and wide who are willing to make the commute.
But the payoff can be worthwhile. The average pay for a card dealer at the casino is about $20 per hour including tips. The job also carries generous health benefits and a retirement match.
Not just anybody can do it, though — the effortlessness of the pro dealer comes with practice and patience.
It requires astute analytical skills and a knack for getting along with clientele — from greasing the skids of the high rollers to sympathizing with players down on their luck.
“It’s more than you think. Your math skills have to be impeccable — very sharp and quick,” Rowe said.
But the job also takes people skills, explained Jason Rowe, a dealer talking shop with job seekers at SCC last week. Dealers don’t just have to deal cards but also deal with the occasional irate gambler. When people lose, they can get upset, and guess who is standing right in front of them at the table?
“Some people get mad, lose money, but if it gets to that they’re taken care of and escorted out,” Jason Rowe said. “Don’t take it personally.”
He has worked at the casino for eight years and became a dealer as soon as table games went live last year.
Trainees start out learning the three core games — Blackjack, Three Card Poker and Let It Ride — in a four-week, full-time training course through the casino. They also have the option of taking card-dealing courses through Haywood Community College or SCC. Eventually, they advance into the more complicated games.
Dealers work eight-hour shifts, in hour-and-a-quarter rotations followed by a 20-minute break. Running a table can be mentally fatiguing. Meanwhile, the customers keep pouring in.
As one of the premier casinos in the Southeast, customers have flocked from far away to Cherokee to try their luck at live tables games. A World Series of Poker tournament at the casino this spring was evidence of the pent-up demand in a multi-state area of the South devoid of other casinos, touting some of the highest participation numbers on the professional poker circuit.
Esmay, who graduated from Western Carolina University with a four-year degree, said she never envisioned herself as a card dealer but has grown to like the profession.
“I never thought I would be in card dealing — but I’m glad I am,” Esmay said. “Every day is really interesting.”
Want to apply?
Job-seekers looking to work in the live gaming industry can apply online at www.caesars.com or walk into the employment office at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort in Cherokee during normal business hours Monday through Friday.