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Jack it all in to be a… croupier

Stuart McCallum is one of the top casino croupiers in the world. Ahead of competing in the European Dealer Championships 2017 (“It’s like the Champions League for croupiers”), he reveals what it’s like to work in a casino where customers win – or lose – millions on the turn of a card…

Lucky Break

After I left school, I worked as a barman. A casino manager spotted me, liked my personality, and said, ‘Give me a call.’ I’d never passed a maths exam so the thought of working with numbers sounded crazy. But to my relief, I discovered that croupiers don’t do sums; they learn shortcuts. For example, a single number on roulette pays 35 to 1. If you can learn the 35 times table off by heart, you’ll instantly know the pay outs.

Social Animal

An engaging personality is key, especially in a casino where the clientele includes sports stars, billionaires and celebrities. You slowly build up a rapport with each customer. Do they like eye contact? Are they superstitious? The Chinese, for example, don’t like the number four as it sounds like ‘death’ in their language.

High Rollers

I’ve gradually worked my way up to Les Ambassadeurs, which is the best casino in London. It’s a stunning Georgian townhouse with a library, chandeliers, a cigar garden, and chefs from around the world who’ll cook any cuisine you fancy. Premium membership costs £25,000 a year but that includes privileges like access to a private box at Wimbledon.

The House

The dress code is smart but you don’t have to look like James Bond. During the day, the minimum bet on roulette is £10 a spin. In the evening, the minimum bet on blackjack is £50 a hand. If a customer wants to play with large sums, we have a £1million chip. Each game has a ‘house edge’; if the player bets £10, the casino typically profits 50p and returns £9.50 to the player as winnings. Blackjack has the lowest edge: 0.5% on average. 

Chip Tricks

Dexterity is important. The first thing you do in training is learn to hold a stack of 20 chips without spilling them, but other skills come with experience. For instance, I can put my hand over a stack of chips and – boom – pick up exactly 20 by gauging the pressure on your palm. Watching a good croupier is like poetry in motion. Done right, it’s an art form.  

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JOB SPEC

Hours

Most London casinos open 24hrs. I might start at, say, 10pm and finish at 6am. 

Salary

As a trainee you’re looking at £20K. You can work your way up to £35-40K at a good casino. Expect £500+ in tips a month. The largest single tip I’ve received was £1,000. 

Location

Mayfair, London. But I’ve worked all over the world.

Benefits

Travel. The standard of dealing in London is really high, so if you have a London casino on your CV you’ll find that you’re in high demand all over the world.

Responsibilities

Croupiers have a duty to behave professionally at all times, with a focus on social responsibility.

Skills

An engaging personality, a commitment to great customer service, discretion, and nimble fingers.

Qualifications

You don’t need any academic qualifications. Criminal records are a no-no.

 

Illustration Chris Barker

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