Managing on Superstition


Very Superstitious

Something I’ve been passionate about during my time in this business is making informed decisions. One of my major goals in my journey in this business is to eradicate the practice of managing a casino floor based on superstition. It’s 2019. It’s time for us all as an industry to accept the fact that throwing pennies under a table is not an acceptable tactic. The pennies are the tip of the iceberg of a managing style I like to call Voodoo Gaming.

I’ve walked through many a casino in this country, some as an employee, and countless as a patron, and seen the evidence of such tactics. To this day, I’ll see pennies, or even salt on the floor. I even had one boss who would rig a matchbook to stand up on its own and bend two of the matches so they’re pointing at the player he wants to lose. Another boss told me “I’ll watch this game kid. You can’t watch shit. I’ll watch him and we’ll get that money back.”

I could possibly understand such things taking place in the 70’s, when gaming was still on the rise. That was nearly fifty years ago now. The jury isn’t out anymore. Gaming is a purely mathematical beast.

Modern Casino

In the modern casino, there’s no need for managers or supervisors to be pacing the pit, agonizing over a player’s every winning hand, reciting incantations laced with curse words, waiting on every decision to get that money back in the tray. That’s silly enough in itself. Then you throw in the tactics of telling the dealer to change the shuffle, or do it twice, shuffle early, or cut the deck in half, or any number of other things meant to mess with the mojo of a winning player.

It never really made sense to me why these things would stop someone from winning. But there was no room for rationale with some people. “Trust me, kid. I’ve been doing this for twenty years.” I heard lines like that all the time when I was coming up in the business. I wish I had the guts back then to point out that didn’t necessarily mean they were right, or that twenty years was a long time to do something wrong.

I learned later on that these tactics not only were not effective, but they’re counterproductive, harmful even. All the things I mentioned about extra shuffles or early shuffles, or cutting in half, all of them cut into profits. The more time the dealer spends shuffling, the less hands they’re dealing, and the real world, the math tells us that more hands equals more money.

It goes beyond procedures, to actual personnel. The same boss who told me I couldn’t watch shit had a favorite dealer, his “ace in the hole”, he called him. This dealer was in his seventies and maybe dealt forty hands an hour. I watched him for five minutes, saw him deal three hands. Multiply that by twelve and add a couple bonus hands, because that’s what kind of guy I am, and that gives us a stone cold 40 rounds per hour.

What was said boss’s explanation for his man crush on this dealer? “Nobody ever wins with him.” Of course they don’t. He doesn’t deal. Nobody loses either. They simply hover around even and get lulled into stories of golf and the good old days. I suppose that’s preferable to some bosses, but let me be clear, it shouldn’t be. Give me that fast and flawless dealer any day. Dealer’s like that don’t thrive under Voodoo Gaming management, because, “They always dump.” No, they don’t. You just remember the times they dumped. When someone gets on a win streak with a fast dealer, the money piles up quick. The key is that they get through the win streak faster too, and get back to losing like they’re supposed to. It’s math. It’s reality.

The Truth

There’s no such thing as dealers that always lose, or dealers that always win. They all always win, that’s what the games are designed to do. Our job is to let the games do exactly that. As long as there are sound procedures in place, the games work. Sound procedures are important, because they protect you from the real threats to the games. I promise you, the simple act of someone winning is not, in itself, a threat.

We’ve got to be able to stomach the natural ups and downs, the built in variance to these games. Jackpots hit. Win streaks come. Pacing around cursing the dealer, the player, and the blackjack gods isn’t helping anyone. Knee jerk reactions are a no-no too. Changing procedures or shuffles because a game lost money that day is something that has happened, and continues to happen far too often.

If your game normally holds 19% but it only held 9% that day, that week, that month even, fear not. That’s the variance monster. People win sometimes. They have to. Sometimes it happens in a concentrated time period that makes your numbers look bad. But we’ve got to be able to stomach that, let the game do its job, and watch it correct itself. Next month, you could very well be in for a 25% month, and 29% the month after.

Our job isn’t to worry about individual wins and losses. Our job is to ensure to game integrity is maintained. We do this through proper training, procedure enforcement, and productive coaching of our team. Proficiently trained dealers and supervisors are the key to the games doing what they’re supposed to do.

Now, obviously, if you’re holding that 9% over, say, a six month period, something could be up. There could be a dealing procedure that is being done incorrectly, a misunderstood rule, or even theft. When you start getting into the quarterly and yearly hold percentages, it’s worth taking a look into low numbers. I’ve seen too many people worry about monthly, weekly, daily, even single session numbers with far much invested in the outcome. Chances are if you work in gaming, you’ve come across these types too.

As the kids say, “Don’t be that guy.” My goal is to see that mentality take a permanent L.O.A.

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