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How Much Do Card Dealers Make?
I’ve often pointed out that the people making money in the gambling industry are the casinos, not the players. If you want to guarantee yourself a living in the gambling industry, the obvious way to do so is to own a casino. But not everyone can own a casino.
Working for the casino might be your next best bet.
But how much do card dealers make?
That’s not the only career available in the casino, of course.
But if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably interested in playing casino games for money. Being a card dealer gives you a chance to play cards (sort of) and get paid for it.
This post outlines what a career as a casino dealer entails and how much money you can make dealing cards games like blackjack and poker.
How Being a Card Dealer Works
The dealers at the casinos are employees. They get paid an hourly wage. They don’t get a percentage of the casino’s winnings.
But they do get tips – at least in the United States.
Their job is to keep the card games running smoothly. One of the biggest factors affecting a casino’s profitability is how fast the games move. More hands dealt per hour means more revenue for the casino. Smart casino managers know this and manage their dealers accordingly.
What do you do as the card dealer?
Basically, you’re in charge of hosting the game. You deal the cards. You exchange money for chips. In the case of poker games, you take the rake out of the pot and make sure the blinds are posted. In the case of casino games like blackjack or Caribbean Stud, you take the bets when players lose. You also pay off the players when they win.
Most casino dealers learn blackjack before learning any other game – at least in the United States. In Europe, roulette is the most popular table game, so most dealers learn that game first. Casinos don’t make a distinction between card dealers and dealers who run other table games like craps and roulette.
Craps is almost always the last game a dealer learns to conduct. The game has complicated payouts, lots of bets, and plenty of fast-moving action that might be too much for a novice to handle.
You’re also required to get a gambling license. This is a lot like many jurisdictions’ requirements that you have a food handler’s permit if you’re going to work in a restaurant. A criminal background check is part of this process. A credit check is also common.
You will not be allowed to deal a game in a casino until you have this license. Legitimate casinos take this requirement seriously. Failure to comply can result in lost profits, so they take it seriously.
How Much Is the Average Salary for a Casino Dealer?
Casino dealers are usually hourly employees, rather than salaried employees. The difference is that salaried employees get a guaranteed amount per week, regardless of hours worked. Salaried employees don’t have to punch a time clock.
Hourly employees, on the other hand, get paid for the hours they work. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid. This doesn’t mean you don’t get paid sick leave or vacation time. You might or might not.
The average casino dealer is paid between $8/hour and $10/hour to start. Assuming a 40-hour work week, that means you’re looking at between $320 and $400 per week in earnings.
That’s not a lot of money, by the way. That’s a little less than $17,000 a year on the low end and a little over $20,000 a year on the high end.
But that amount doesn’t account for tips, either. Like many service industry professionals, card dealers depend on tips to make ends meet. A good dealer with a good personality can make significantly more money when factoring in gratuities.
In fact, many casino dealers make more money from their tips than from their hourly wages. On the low end, casino dealers are probably looking at an extra $6 or $7 per hour in tips, making their annual earnings look more like $30,000 a year.
You won’t get rich making $30,000 a year, but you can make a living on that.
Dealing at bigger casinos with higher limit tables can result in more tips. $15 to $20 per hour in tips isn’t unheard of, and when you start getting into those numbers, you’re looking at $60,000 a year in earnings.
If you’re lucky enough to be working at high limit tables at a large casino, you might even be able to pull down $100,000 a year dealing cards. Poker dealers tend to make the most money, and $50/hour in tips isn’t that unusual.
But the big numbers are the exception, not the rule. It’s also roughly where you can expect your earnings to top out as a dealer.
What You Can Realistically Expect to Make as a Card Dealer
Being a card dealer at a casino is like any other profession. Your earnings grow as you gain experience. Expect to start at the lower end of the numbers I mentioned when you’re starting.
Also, it will probably take at least 2 months to become fully trained. You can’t expect to make tip money during your training period – at least not for all of it.
In some locations, you can’t realistically expect to get a job as a card dealer without attending some classes at a dealer school, too. That costs money in tuition. And you’re not earning money when you’re attending school. You can expect to spend 100 hours learning your trade in a dealer school.
You should also keep in mind that you might not even be able to work a full 40 hours a week. The casino industry is notoriously seasonal. Casinos don’t pay dealers to sit around waiting for players – not if they can help it, anyway.
Your personality plays a big role in determining your earnings, too. Players are more likely to tip dealers they like.
I was playing Texas Holdem at the Stardust a few years ago. At one point, I pushed my chips all-in and announced, “Carpe diem.”
The dealer was a stern bald man with a Russian accent who immediately corrected me, “English only at the table, sir.”
Sheepishly, I explained to him and everyone at the table that the phrase meant “seize the day”.
The dealer replied, “I KNOW what it means, sir. You could be signaling another player by speaking in a foreign language, though.”
I replied, “Couldn’t I be signaling another player by saying ‘seize the day’ in English?”
Maybe he was having a bad day, but guess how much money I tipped him when I won the pot?
I shared that story over breakfast with a professional poker player who was outraged. He told me I should have complained to the card room manager and tried to get the dealer fired.
I didn’t think that was necessary, but I wasn’t going to tip someone who’d been rude to me.
Keep that in mind if you get a job as a dealer. Yes, you’re there to enforce the rules.
But it won’t kill you to do so diplomatically.
And you’ll make more money if you anger fewer players.
Pros and Cons of Being a Casino Dealer
The pros of this profession are obvious to anyone who loves gambling. You get to work in a casino and be around gamblers all day. And you get paid for it.
You can even get paid well for it, especially if you have a good personality and know how to get along with people.
You’ll get to meet lots of new people on a regular basis. You’ll also be exposed enough to the realities of casino gambling that you’ll probably never make a negative expectation bet again.
On the other hand, players who are losing can be rude and even cruel. Money is the great magnifier in this instance. Dealing with the public always means dealing with potentially cruel or rude customers. But when a lot of money is on the line, the public intensifies their usual tendencies.
Also, casinos usually serve free drinks, so you’ll probably encounter plenty of drunks.
If you’re a woman, you can expect to get plenty of unwelcome attention from sober and drunk males alike. Having a thick skin and the ability to gracefully turn down such advances is a worthwhile skill to develop.
Many casinos and poker rooms still allow cigarette smoking on the premises. If you’re concerned about second-hand smoke, being a casino dealer might not be the ideal career for you. According to the CDC more likely to develop respiratory illnesses, casino dealers are than the general population.
For an interesting perspective on being a blackjack dealer in Vegas, read this post. The young woman there works for a casino as a dealer in the party pit, which means she wears lingerie while dealing. Imagine the kind of attention she gets.
She explains that beginning dealers are on a 3-month probation period and don’t get employee benefits until they’ve been working at the casino for 6 months. The only item I disagree with in her post was her claim that the dealer will never give you wrong advice about how to play your hand.
I’m not convinced that all blackjack dealers in Las Vegas know basic strategy well enough to avoid giving incorrect advice at least occasionally.
Pursuing a career as a dealer in a casino is an affordable alternative to other ways of making money in the casino industry. If you don’t have the bankroll or temperament to be an advantage player, playing on behalf of the house is one way to make money. Opening your own casino isn’t an option for most gamblers, either.
How much do card dealers make?
It’s all over the place. Beginners at small casinos start out making $17,000 a year, which isn’t much.
But it shouldn’t take too much effort, education, and know-how to get up to $30,000 a year within a few months.
And if you’re dedicated to your craft and a people person, you could be making $100,000 a year or more within a couple of years.
Drawbacks include having to deal with obnoxious casino customers, the anger of players on losing streaks, and – in some cases – second-hand smoke.
I’ll leave it up to you to decide if the pros outweigh the cons.
You can read more about working as a dealer at a casino in some of our other blog posts. This post about careers in the gambling industry explains some of the opportunities you might pursue beyond dealing cards. The ultimate guide to gambling careers lists 19 jobs you might be interested in at the casino.