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  • Writer's pictureLeonie Vajen

A Female Dealer in the World of Poker

Oh, you’re a poker dealer? Isn’t that dangerous? You must know all the tricks! Can you help me cheat? You must get some insane tips! Those are the most common reactions I have gotten from people when they find out that I work in a casino as a poker dealer. And while I hate to disappoint and wish that the latter was true, that has not been my experience.

I was genuinely contemplating writing about this topic as I still consider myself to be new in this profession especially compared to colleagues who have worked as poker dealers before I was even born. However, I have come to realize that, as with everything, my experience is going to be different no matter how long the experience is. For one, I am a young woman in a male dominated environment. I have also not worked in major tournaments (tournaments held by Poker stars for example) or casinos such as in Vegas which impacts the type of people I interact with.

How It All Began

Let’s begin with how I started the job in the first place as I have realized that the profession of “poker dealer” or “croupier” is always a surprise to people when I tell them what I work as. I first started this job in Germany in April of 2022 and worked there until the end of August of the same year. This was about half a year after my high school graduation. I had never even been inside a casino and had only played poker once in my life. But I wasn’t starting university until August, so I decided to look for a job.

As I was browsing through online advertisements, I found one ad for a job as a poker dealer. And, to be completely honest, I had no idea what that meant. So, I looked at the description out of curiosity more than actual plans of applying. But as I read through the qualifications, I realized that besides having barely any understanding of poker, I was actually qualified to apply. To be fair, what really convinced me was that all that was required of me was to send my information and show up.

Two weeks later I went to the casino and met my instructor and four other people with whom I was going to be taking a seven-day course. During these seven days, I was taught two forms of poker: Texas Holdem and Omaha Holdem. The session took 45 minutes with a 15-minute break, which is the average work rhythm in a casino. I learned poker terms, how to properly shuffle and deal cards, how to count and cut jettons/chips, what tax to take, how to read cards, how to be a referee and narrator, and how to do all of this in flowing and set motions.

I worked in this casino for half a year until I moved to Malmö, Sweden, to start university. To be completely honest, I wasn’t even as sad leaving high school as I was leaving that job which was mostly due to my coworkers there. I’m telling you, casino workers become family and have one of the best senses of humor. Luckily, a player at that casino had mentioned that Malmö, too, had a rather large casino, and, in my experience, casinos are constantly looking for staff. While I was exploring my new home and surroundings, I stumbled upon the casino and asked the first person there for a job. I was directed to an office, introduced myself, and one week later I was sitting in an official job interview which concluded with me signing a contract a day later. Funny enough, this day was my 20th birthday, which is the minimum age required to work in a casino in Sweden.

When I started there, I had to learn a new set of motions and I got to know new co-workers. The latter was an experience just as good as in the previous casino. However, working in a country with a language I don’t understand and making small changes in a routine which I exercised for six month, 5 days a week with around eight people constantly looking at your every move, is and was fun but came with anxious moments of being uncertain in a movement or getting distracted by everything happening around you.

Hearing this, it might seem like that can be quite a bit to navigate through. Yet, I have not yet talked about what I found most valuable to be taught - not only regarding my work, but in how I narrate other parts of my life, how I present myself. Of course I have not learned how to present myself just through that job and am certainly not done learning. But I can say that the amount I have learned and been taught directly in a short period of time is significantly more compared to other periods in my life.

The Answers to Your Questions

The reason why it was important for me to be prepared not only skill-wise, is because there is a reason I get asked if my job is dangerous. Generally speaking, there is a potential for conflict in this profession. After all, guests are not having a game night with friends but are playing for money. Emotions can run high, superstition might be part of a decision, manners, and etiquette amongst players might cause a discussion, and some might simply not like each other or, and for that matter, like the dealer. Whatever the situation, the dealer is often easiest to blame. In addition to that, consider that most poker games open at 6 or 7 pm and official games will continue until the casino closes, which is 3 to 4 am. Once you are at the table that means concentration for at least 30 to 90 minutes.

Nonetheless, my experience in either casino has been positive in a way that, I have recognized, most of the people whom I have talked to about my job do not expect. But I was lucky in my work environment, as I was always checked in on and protected, even more so as a young woman. If I ever got a comment based on my gender my coworkers would oftentimes be more offended than I was. I was also always given the option of refusing to go to a table, which luckily only happened once. If you have ever been to a casino, you will have noticed a substantial number of cameras, security constantly walking around, and a person called either Brush or Floor, responsible for the general oversight of the games, keeping an eye on the table, always ready to step in.

Now for the serious questions, with the disappointing answers, everyone keeps asking. No, I cannot help you cheat. I have no idea how to actually play poker and know absolutely no tricks. I do not get “insane” tips. In Germany we are allowed to take a collective tip but no individual ones and in Sweden we receive no tips at all as that would be seen as a bribe. However, to not completely disappoint, if you have gotten curious, there are a lot of other countries where you are allowed to receive and keep tips.

Poker can be as glorious and shady as some movies make it out to be and just as frustrating as getting 16 cards in Uno after everyone added every +2 card they had for both the dealer and the player. But it is a job that I overall enjoy doing and which is very practical as a student as your university and work schedule will never collide.

Written by Leonie Vajen.

Cover photo by Marin Tulard.


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