I want your job... Croupier
'You need to be dextrous'
Thursday 25 May 2006
Jacqui Terry, 38 (right, centre), is a professional croupier and dealer. After working in a casino for many years, she now runs a poker events company and does television work.
How did you become a croupier?
I just fell into it. I was working at a private members club when I saw an advertisement in a newspaper. My training took three months, and the first thing I learnt was how to handle chips. When you do handle chips properly, it hurts, because it stretches your fingers - but you soon get used to it and your fingers stop aching.
Next, I learnt how to play roulette and blackjack. You learn the procedures of how to spin a ball, which is an art in itself, how to shuffle cards and strip the deck, and how to spread the cards so all the cards are visible when players come to the table. I entered the casino having mastered two games, and then spent a year as a trainee.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to become a croupier?
The jobs aren't often advertised, so one way to find out about work would be to approach a casino group directly and ask whether they had in-house training, or whether they knew of any training schools in the area.
Do you learn a lot of card tricks?
There are no tricks - that's for magicians. What we're trained to do is handle cards professionally, shuffle and deal so that the supervisors and cameras can see what we're doing. We learn two kinds of shuffle - a chemmy shuffle, which is scrambling cards randomly to mix them, and a riffle shuffle, which takes more technique.
What skills do you need to be a croupier?
You need to be adequate with numbers, with a good mind for basic maths - addition, subtraction, and multiplication - but many of the games have fixed odds, so a lot of it is memory and practice. You also need be fairly dextrous. If you're a friendly, outgoing person who enjoys meeting people and is happy to accept a disciplined environment, it's a fantastic job.
What's the best thing about being a croupier?
I love doing television work - getting the chance to meet celebrities on shows like Showbiz Blackjack was fantastic. I love getting to travel. If you're casino-trained, especially in London, you're highly sought-after. You could easily get work on a cruise liner, travelling the world and earning your living at the same time.
What's it like working shifts during the night?
During the summer, it's perfect. You drive home from work with absolutely no traffic, and then go straight out to lie in the garden, have a cup of tea and sunbathe while everyone else is sweating in an office. You can get all your shopping done and run errands during the day. But during the winter it's more difficult, because there's less daylight, and working unstructured hours can be hard on your sleep pattern - sometimes, I've finished a shift at 4am and been back to the casino at 12pm. You do turn into a bit of a vampire.
What's the career path and salary like?
When you apply for a job at a casino, you have to apply to the Gambling Commission for a certificate of approval and be checked by the Criminal Records Bureau, to make sure you have a sound background.
After three months training, you would become a trainee for 12 to 18 months, then become a dealer, then move up to become a dealer inspector, watching the dealer. Eventually you could become a pit boss, then a manager. Salaries in London casinos are much better than outside London. In London, the starting salary for a trainee in a casino is at least £15,000, while a manager might earn more than £40,000.
Jacqui Terry appears in 'Showbiz Blackjack', on Challenge weeknights from Monday, 29 May at 9pm
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