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My Favorite Job: Card Dealer at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino
The job I'll never forget...
It was an opportunity of a lifetime for me at the time. It was announced all over that our nearest Reservation, (Hogansburg, NY) was building a casino! And they were looking for employees! All I had to do, was go to the Department of Labor, OR go directly to the Tribal Gaming Commissioner for an application...
I was a single Mom of two kids, at the time, they were 2 and 4 years old. I had landed a job as a paper route delivery girl for "The Courier Observer", and was doing that from 4am to 7am, and the rest of the day was mine. I was sharing a house with my mother, and she babysat for me while I did my paper route. After doing that for a while, it wasn't enough, so I also got a job at "Wilson Farms", which was a little convenient store, with a deli... I worked the deli... So, from 4 to 7, I was delivering papers. I'd come home long enough to shower, and change clothes, and I was off to make subs and wraps for the whole town...
One day, a friend of mine calls me up, and tells me about this CASINO going up on the "Rez". Apparently, all I had to do was go fill out an application, and I was more or less in! But holy CRAP! I'm already working two jobs! WHEN would I be able to fit the classes in??? I discussed it with my mother, and she agreed that it would make a good job for me, as everyone knows that Casino employees had it made! What easier job could I ask for? I'd go to work...TO PLAY! (Sounds like my kinda job!!!) Playing CARDS for 8 hours! Watching people's faces as they won "the big one"... MAN! I couldn't wait!
The very next day, I drove to The Rez, I had to get cigarettes anyway, so I decided to stop in and grab an application. Well, when I walked in, it looked like an office building, but it was actually a shut-down restaurant. There were two girls sitting by the door at a desk, answering phones and stuff. They asked me if they could help me, and I said "I'm looking for an application...". That's all it took... This wasn't just picking up an application- This was FILLING IT OUT! They were there to help, step-by-step, through the application. I know I can't remember exactly how many papers there were to fill out, but it was a thick "packet" and they were in sections. They led me into this room where there were a bunch of other applicants, and we sat and watched a video, and had a "class", then we were all called by name to go sit with someone in a cubicle to fill this book out.
After the initial application, your name, finger prints, and social security number had to be scoped out by the New York State Police, and they did a "hair-strand" drug test, you should've seen how many people quit when they heard of that! There was a complete background check of everything you've ever done, from speeding tickets (paid or not paid-they'd tell you.) And if they thought your financial situation could lead to you stealing from the casino, you were denied a gaming licence. Picky? Yes, but they have good reason!
I was accepted, anyway, so I had to start classes, (on the Rez) at night, after my paper route, and Wilson Farms job, and spending very little time with my kids... Five nights a week, and you were NOT paid for it.
The first class, obviously would be "Black Jack", as it's the easiest. I learned that quick- I liked playing it, too! The casino wasn't due to open until April, and here it was November. You had to have 30 hours in class for Black Jack, and "this many" for "this game", and so-on and so-forth. I got my badge for BJ, Caribbean Stud, and Let It Ride. I was almost finished with "Roulette" when unfortunately, my house burnt, so I had to take a couple of weeks off, which put me behind a bit.
When I went back, the auditions for Roulette were finished, but Joey Gambino, and his wife "G", (short for Giovana) told me I could take the audition after we open. You only had to have a badge for Black Jack to work, but the more games you had, the better. And the classes were FREE! Anywhere else you go, they CHARGE for the training! But to get back to Joey and "G"... They were awesome people! They definitely weren't country folk, like us up here! I think "G" stated once, "I always feel over-dressed!" What a beautiful woman she was! She was older, platinum blond hair, big and poofy, heavy black lines over her eyelids... She was almost a Marilyn Monroe... Joey, he was short, small, and Italian all the way! Ruff and gruff when he had to be, but all-in-all, he was the most talented Pit Boss a card dealer could've learned from.
Our opening night... I was "Shannon-Badge# 0269..." Wow- I was nervous as all hell! I wasn't one to stand in front of a money-hungry crowd and make "small-talk"... I was shy and reserved, compared to a lot of people! I was white, first of all, and had heard horror stories about "fire water"... I had already made a lot of Native friends, so that wasn't the problem... I was feeling like I was going to have "stage fright"! I was dealing Black Jack, and of course we have to first "check" the six decks first, which means one deck at a time, starting at the left hand top corner of the table, I had to "spread" each deck out, one side, then the other, scan them, to make sure no cards were missing or damaged, then we had to "wash" the cards- which means I had to stir them all up, all six decks, just mess them all up on the table... THEN I had to pick them all up, put them in a pile, separate the pile to make two piles, then proceed to shuffle the cards. (Which, by the way, there is a certain way to shuffle) I did that twice, then put them in the "shoe". (which is what the thingy the cards go in is called...) After someone sat down, I had to "burn" the first card. And if the player wanted a new shuffle, I had to do that mess all over again. (Jerks would do this if they were losing, just to piss me off...)
After this ordeal, I must stand at the table until a player comes along, hands always on top of the table, usually, palms up so the "eye in the sky" could watch you...And they did just that! If you made one mistake, the pit boss was called, and the pit boss would tell the supervisor, and the supervisor would come over and stand behind you until the hand was over, then proceed to humiliate you with your mistake.... Unless, of course, it was something small, then the supervisor would wait until your break to pull you aside...
When someone would come to the table, you would always "burn" the first card, then proceed to deal out the cards. If only one person was there, this is how it would work: Burn card...Players card, face up... My card, face down... their card, face up, my card face up... If I have an Ace showing, I ask if anyone wants "Insurance", which is if you take the insurance, and I check my card, and I have blackjack, you don't lose your bet. If I don't have it, I take your insurance (which is half your bet.) If I have a face card showing, I automatically check my card and if I have BJ, you lose... if not, we proceed with the hand...
I could go on and on with this Black Jack thing, but I'm going to stop here on that for now. What I wanted to say was I survived opening night. But I had to change my attitude to do it. I actually went in the casino every night and acted like "I've never been shy!...WHAT? ME? No way! I am BUBBLY and FUNNY and I like to talk!!!" And this is how I survived! Also, I was an "untouchable", which is what I learned right off the bat... Always APPEAR available, but never BE available... It brought me a load of tips, and they always came back to me when I was there... I had my regulars, that's for sure. Those guys who watch you like a hawk, to try to tear you down... NOPE! The Pit Bosses ended up sticking me on the high tables (minimum of $25 per hand and higher!) all the time! I was a "taker", not a "giver", and casinos love the "takers"!
I remember one night taking a guy for over $10,000.00 (Canadian Funds) just because he found me to be a "CHALLENGE" and couldn't walk away, because of some "superstition" of his... I had a doctor, and a lawyer as two regulars all the time... After listening to them talk after a while, I found out that the lawyer was going through a divorce because of his gambling addiction. He had actually ASKED to be banned from different casinos! The doctor's situation wasn't much different, and guess what? The lawyer was the Doctor's lawyer for his divorce! (Nice, eh?)
I met a whole bunch of different people there, and I miss it tremendously. From male hair-dressers from Montreal, to retired sex-crazed wealthy women looking for a "Sugar Daddy"... I remember "Violet"... She was a very distinguished, very wealthy widow from Canada who came over to relax and blow some money. She seen my name tag, sat down, and instantly became my friend. (Her mother's name was "Shannon", and she felt "at home" with me...) She was a very kind woman. She sent me a tip one time in the mail... I suppose so I didn't have to share it, (which is illegal, I think)... $300 in an envelope that was sealed with this wax stamp, and it said in a note inside, "Shannon... To a perfect girl, with a perfect name... Thank You for befriending such an old lonely lady. Your Friend Always, "V"..." I always wondered if she wrote "V" so nobody could trace it back to her...? Ha ha ha... As I was pregnant when I was working there at the last, she bought me a big sweatshirt from the gift shop that had a picture of a wolf and the Casino's logo on it, just because she thought it would brighten up my "Rosy cheeks"... The shirt was lavender... She was so sweet.
As I said, I met a whole slue of people there... Other dealers became my family, as I seen them just as much as I seen my real family. I became part of the team, and I loved it! I was a fast and accurate dealer, and I got along with everyone, made everyone laugh, or at least smile... I made out huge in tips, the other dealers always thanked me because we had to share our tips. Our tips were given to us in our checks as an added hourly "tip wage"... Which usually brought me up to anywhere between $15 and $19 an hour... It was awesome money for a single, pregnant mother.
Then, there was the "Early-Out" List... (Before I was pregnant) which I signed regularly, so we could get out of work early as the night died down, and we would all meet up at "Charlie's" or "Smokey's" and get hammered and all drive home... Smart one, eh? Well, it was fun while it lasted, but I got pregnant, stayed working, the doctor took me out of work a couple of times, but I kept going back, right up until the doctor said "NO MORE!!!" At 9 months, I was shoveling my driveway, trying to put myself into labor! (It didn't work) I stayed out of work until the baby was 6 weeks old, then I went back for 3 months, and ended it... It was too much on me. I actually went into labor at work. (early labor) and Joey Gambino was the first to know...
"Hey Joey, I need to go..." ....."WHY? YOU IN LABOR?" He yells... I say "Yes", and he asked me if I needed a ride, but instead, he let a friend of mine out early too, so she could ride with me to the hospital...
I definitely loved this job. I miss it so much, and it makes all other jobs look tiny. But the truth was that I hated the hours! I worked the "Swing shift" which the hours were: 6pm-2am... 7pm-3am... 8-4 and 9-5. They could schedule any of these hours to me at any time... And you were guaranteed a 9-5 at least once a month... Sometimes, they even threw in a 10-6! I was signing the E.O list too often after a while, calling in, when I really didn't have to... Just screwing everything up for myself. They let me go a week without work or pay, to set me strait, and I didn't like that at all! I straitened out, but being pregnant and after having the baby, I was a different person. I needed my baby-time and kid-time, and I wasn't allowed that with that job.
A Casino Card Dealer is something I loved being- I even worked in the "Cage" at one time, but I liked being around the people too much for that. There is no job in the world that can compare to this one. And I would suggest it to anyone who asked.
We would all get together with our paychecks once in a while and drive to Hull and gamble there, as we weren't allowed to gamble in our own... I won a couple of times, it was fun. I hated it when the pit bosses and supervisors over there would notice me "shuffling my chips" (A dead give away of another fellow dealer) because they would watch me like a hawk, and ask me continuously if I'd like a Player's Club Card... ("No...Just let me give my money to you and I'll be fine!")
The Akwesasne Mohawk Casino was a great experience for me, and I wouldn't have changed anything about it. I met some of my good friends there, got a "Key" and a "Non-Key" NYS Gaming Licence there, which my number will always be my number, so I'm told... If I ever wanted to go back there, it would be easier, because all my information is stored on a computer, or in some file somewhere. I honestly haven't been back there since I picked up my last check, but I plan on taking a trip there soon, just to see if any of the same people still work there, or not. Maybe I'll start a shoe off with some witty newbie to the dealing business and take them for all they've got...? And maybe it would be the other way around... Who knows?
If you are ever near Hogansburg, NY, stop in the Casino and give your luck a chance... You just might hit it big! And if you need any tips, just ask me!
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Which Casino game do you best prefer?
The Movie "CASINO"
If you haven't seen this one- YOU MUST! "Casino" is a true-life story of how Vegas came to be... Robert DiNero, Joe Pesci, Sharon Stone... They were all perfect picks for these parts! Notice: I didn't watch this movie until I started working at the Casino... Joey Gambino advised us to watch it, so we had a "head's up" on what to expect... (AHHHH!) THEN he told us AFTERWORDS that it isn't like that anymore... (I don't care what anyone says.... ALL casino's are hitched to the mafia SOMEHOW...) Either in the past, present, or future... Just make sure you watch this movie, OK? It's an "A+" in my book!