Place Yer Bets! … or How to be an Amateur Blackjack Dealer

5 Jan

WHO: Rachel’s House Party
WHAT: Blackjack Dealer
WHERE: San Jose
HOW MUCH: $20/hour
WHY: Money

Open table

STORY: New Year’s Eve, 2011, I get a gig dealing blackjack for an ambiguous NYE party. The post reads “don’t need to be super experienced, just know the basics.” Just the basics—music to my ears. I named my price ($20/hour), and in a matter of minutes was hired via email by “Rachel.”

Carless, I borrowed a friend’s for the day, and on December 31 drove from Oakland to the enigmatic South Bay. Before that, though, there were several things I needed to do: 1) Take a shower, 2) Iron a dirty black shirt, 3) Learn how to deal blackjack.

Hours before the gig, I was still in my red thermals, sitting in a giant pile of laundry, and had no idea what the basic rules of blackjack were, no less how to deal the game. What to do in such situations? Call my brother, of course.

“Hi Danny.” Hey. “I need you to teach me how to deal blackjack.” Okay. My brother is not a gambler nor is he a blackjack specialist, but he is quick. He’s also the guy who built my 7th grade bottle rocket, painted my 9th grade student body posters, and snuck into a house in the middle of the night to retrieve my belongings. So I know he’s used to this shit. I quickly spread laptop, chips and several decks of cards on my studio floor, and for the next two hours my brother teaches me, via google video chat, the order of dealing, what to do for double down’s, splits, insurance, etc. Having dated a poker pro, I already knew how to shuffle cards (face down and toward you) and cut chips. But by far the hardest, most nerve-wracking part of blackjack is quite simply… adding to 21.

Close companions know I have the mathematical skills of a 10-year-old, a stupid 10-year-old. So on the way to San Jose, I dictate basic addition to myself: Five + Two + Seven = FOURTEEN. Ten + Nine + Two = TWENTY-ONE . Nine + Five + Eight equals … Oh crap, stupid eight! I hate you!

Chandelier of Dreams

I arrive at the destination, an average one-story suburban home, and upon entering meet Rachel, the Craigslist woman. “Hi, are you Rachel?” Yes! I am! But I’m not the Rachel you’re looking for. A stout Caucasian woman streaks down the hallway with one large curler in her bangs. Hi! I’m Rachel! Are you Christine? Why, yes I am. How cute. Rachel #2 takes me on a quick tour of the home, which is decorated ceiling to floor with casino paraphernalia. She introduces me to my station: a blackjack table measuring 1 by 1 and 1/2 feet, accompanied by an automatic card shuffler that spits cards across the room. Also very cute. In the backyard, I meet the men of the house, two young-adult types anxiously counting out chips: red, white and blue. One of them is Rachel’s husband, and in addition to being the end of the bloody year, it’s also his birthday, his 30th birthday. I try to hide my disgust (inner monologue: Oh gawd, thirty, yuck, pyoo, ick, gross), and congratulate him with my signature “service” smile. Looks a little like this.

Steve, Craps Enthusiast

After the chips are counted, I go back to my station where I’m joined by an older gentleman wearing a black button-up I can only describe as a “confetti” shirt. This is Steve, the craps dealer. He, too, is not a real dealer. But he does get free rooms at the Wynn because his girlfriend is a video slots vixen. He also likes shouting things like “Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner!” and other classic casino sayings. I make the mistake of asking Steve how to play craps, or what should really be called, THE WORLD’S MOST COMPLICATED GAME.

Thankfully, the guests begin to arrive. They consist of mostly 20/30’s cusps, some with kids in tow, some tacky bump-and-grinders. Each player gets a bag of fake plastic chips with no actual money on the line. I deal for several hours, methodically and slowly, so I have at least 5-10 seconds to add up their cards. Mostly, I keep quiet and pray they add their own damn cards. But as the night wears on and the drinks get drunken, more and more players ask “What is that? What do I have?” Ayeee-uhhh know that 8+6=14, and that there are three 7’s in 21 and two 7’s in 14. If another 7 comes, I can be sure it’s 21. And even if I’m not, the stakes are so very, very low, it really doesn’t matter.

At the end of the night, Rachel #2 walks me to the door and thanks me. “I’ll definitely refer you if I hear of any other positions,” she says. I smile at her graciously because I know, even in low stakes games, a girl still needs a few bucks in her pocket.

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2 Responses to “Place Yer Bets! … or How to be an Amateur Blackjack Dealer”

  1. RJ January 6, 2012 at 4:26 am #

    Did you ever yell, “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!?”

    • charliek04 January 7, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

      I said, “I’m sorry, house wins again. Womp Womp.”

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