Who had any idea that there were so many ways to shuffle and deal a standard deck of cards? One tutorial says do it this way, a how-to guide says do it that way, and then that cheeky woman from the E-How.com video turns around and gives you an entirely different way. It seems like a skill that one should have learned around the time of their first whistle or that time they discovered they could snap their fingers. Yeah, well- I learned to snap in sixth grade math class and I still haven't figured out how to whistle. I suppose it makes sense that I'm only just now picking up a deck of cards.
I found the Card Game Company while looking for one of those diamond in the rough opportunities on Craigslist. It was sandwiched between "R U A RAPPER" and "Be my dirty personal assistant." Whereas most Craigslist ads are vague and riddled with poor grammar choices, this ad seemed legitimate enough; it gave a real contact as well as a thorough breakdown of what the company does. Let's say that your son wants to have a Las Vegas themed Bar Mitzvah. Rather than cart him and his lame 12 year old friends to Nevada, you can actually call a company to come build a fake casino and let the kids indulge their complete lack of self control with pretend money.
I googled the company and, after finding they had been in the business of guilt-free gambling for over five years without any lawsuits, sent an e-mail.
"Greetings," it began, "I'm a local actor and recent grad and I'd love to work the casino parties."
"Wonderful," the reply said, "Do you have any experience with blackjack, roulette, craps, or hold 'em?"
I briefly thought of an on-and-off-again relationship I had with a professional poker player and wondered if it might count as a lame excuse for second hand experience.
"Y-" I began. I stopped.
"Ye-" I tried again. I sighed as I hit the delete key.
"No," I replied.
I'm pretty sure the only reason I was called to the training session was because of my headshot. I look very cool and poised in this picture; just the type of person who won't get flustered or crack under the pressure of having to do simple math in microseconds. It doesn't really represent me as a person at all.
On my way to my first training session, I tried to remember what my ex told me about poker while we were dating and and amazed myself with just how much I didn't retain. I have never been drawn to card games and while the other kids at school were learning the basics like go-fish or gin rummy, I was out in the recreation field running around with a makeshift cape made out of brown paper towels from the bathroom.
I went in through the front door and took in the space: an elegant, spacious hall with hardwood floors and exposed brick walls. In the center sat Bill, the owner of the company, and three young hopefuls.
"What? No leather?" cracked Bill. I surveyed the hopefuls. Leather jackets. Leather pants. One had a leather hat. Oh, hell no.
"Sorry. Must have missed the memo," I replied dryly.
"AH, I'm just kiddin'. Come on, take a seat. You missed the history of the company, but we'll go over all that stuff later. I'm going to show you guys how we do blackjack."
From what I gather, the job of being a party casino card dealer is 80% Shmoozing, 10% peer mediation, and 10% legitimate, actual knowledge of the game.
"If you mess up, just crack a joke. Most of the time these people don't know what the hell is going on and, if you're doing your job correctly, you will smooth over any confusion. Even if it's your own."
Shuffle cards, deal cards, explain the rules about the cards while you chat up total strangers by asking them questions about their astrological sign; on their own, they weren't so hard. However, as we all took turns dealing a game of black jack, nearly everyone cracked under the pressure of having to walk and talk at the same time.
"So," began the twenty-five year old who looked seventeen, "This is what this does -"
"What what does?" Bill interrupted. "Remember, these people aren't going to know the rules of the game. Use your words."
"This card is an ace, so that means that it can be a 1 or an 11."
"Good, but what does that mean for the player? If you don't tell them what the added total of their cards is, you're basically telling them to take forever to decide their next move. And remember, small talk. Small talk."
"So where's everyone from?"
"Nope. Should have done that in the beginning, when you took everyone's game tickets."
The next to deal was a big girl in a strong smelling leather jacket. Her hair was dyed black and she had circles under her eyes. She picked up the cards.
"What do you do first?" Bill asked.
"What are you doing?"
"You have to be able to talk to people. Boring customers is bad for business."
"Yeah, but I learn by doing first and then I get into the swing of it later."
"Yeah, but you really ought to think about doing that now."
"But I'm just practicing."
I saw the mental strike whiz through her name. Someone wasn't going to be coming back. She finished dealing almost as quickly as she started and, suddenly, I was the one dealing the cards.
"So," I joked, serving up eye contact to the other trainees, "Whodoya like?"
Whodoya Like was an inside joke and a popular ice-breaker within my former classmates. Notice that I said former classmates and not the rest of Earth. I promised myself that I'd stop using topics that could not be explained in under fifteen seconds when I read that most people subconsciously decide whether or not to continue listening to you after twelve seconds. My problem? I tend to assume that if I find something funny, then everyone else should and will find it funny, regardless of the fact I beat it into their heads for five minutes. Luckily, someone didn't even give me the opportunity to fail with Whodoya Like.
"Johnny Depp!" squealed the leatheress.
"Ah, I bet you love Pirates of the Caribbean," I said as I laid her cards. The conversation took off from there and while the players talked about which was better, Pirates of the Caribbean or its Skinamax counterpart, I finished setting up the table. I still didn't know what the hell a "double down" or a "split" was, but as we were getting ready to go home, Bill pulled me aside.
"Hey, just wanted to let you know that you did really well. As well as could be expected from someone with no knowledge of the game. Anyway, I want you to come back for another training session. We can probably get you started on the blackjack tables for some upcoming parties. Nothing too crazy. You game?"
"Sure," I replied.
"Do you own a black cocktail dress?"
"No, but I can make that happen."
"Alright, make it happen. Good answer. Our guy dealers wear suits and the lady dealers wear what I think most women refer to as the little black dress. We used to have dealer uniforms for everyone, but the girls just looked frumpy and giant. You understand."
"Of course, we still have alternate options for ladies who may not feel at their best in a cocktail dress. You understand."
"Not that I have anything against a big girl, but you understand."
As I drove myself back to my apartment, I mentally celebrated my growing status as the odd job queen. Gay friendly babysitting? Check. Promo Model? Got it. Pretend-Gambling Card Lady? Yes'm. I checked my mail while I was waiting for the elevator and saw that my check from the TV Show promotion had come in. $250 dollars for 15 hours of work over two days.
Not bad. Not bad at all.