You never know how it may go in a game of blackjack. Some live for the thrill and agony of a single hand. Others focus on the prospects of what the next card may hold or otherwise, dwell on what could have been. There through the highs and lows, keeping company across the felt are those special few — dealers.
Gabriella Beck, one of Dickinson’s newest blackjack dealers, shared the ins and outs of manning the tables and the lessons she’s learned along the way.
Don't be fooled by her timid demeanor, Beck’s eyes are as sharp as her tongue and quick wit. She can break hearts with a single card, and yet have those eager souls wanting more.
Beck has only been sitting in the dealer’s chair for three months, employed by the nonprofit Dunn County Fair Association (DCFA), but her ever growing knowledge and experience have proven she is well suited for the job, much like the ace and face needed to win blackjack.
“I like having a lot of people (at the table) because it becomes very humorous. We can all joke around very easily, like my regulars at (Phat Fish Brewery Co.) They’re all really funny,” Beck said. “And the more people that play, the more likely they are to tip.”
The bulk of North Dakota’s gambling revenue comes from charitable establishments, which generates nearly $200 million in annual income. Charity gaming revenue in North Dakota ranks amongst the highest in America. It’s people like Beck who keep players entertained and spending their money for a good cause.
In North Dakota, those engaging in charitable gambling must be 18 for lottery; 19 for bingo; 21 for casinos and cards.
Not for everyone
The hands of a blackjack dealer are quick, yet meticulous. Their eyes are watchful of the most minute of details. The cards, the chips, the man in the back watching and wondering if he too can test his luck.
Dealers provide a sociable atmosphere of good fun whether the table wins or loses. DCFA Gambling Manager Dawn Widener explained in further detail what she looks for in a dealer.
“It's not for everyone. Some people can get intimidated by (counting cards),” Widener said. “The counting tires you out, especially if you're not used to it… You are also constantly talking and engaged with the table. I remember when I first dealt, my mouth would be sore from talking so much.”
For Beck, it is the anticipation that keeps her intrigued with blackjack. She favors it over the electronic games and pull tabs because of the social aspects.
“Why gamble with a machine when you can with people? You can have a conversation and you can socialize and be personable,” Beck said. “Even when they lose it’s still fun... I want them to play as long as possible because I like the excitement.”
Blackjack may be Beck's ideal gambling game, but according to Wediner, the electronic machines are generally played more and pull tabs have high popularity in Medora at The Boot Bar and Grill.
“You lose some, you win some. Our tables lose money and they make money; they do both…” Wediner said. “It's gambling, people are there for entertainment… If (our dealers) can give (patrons) a fun experience, then that is all that we ask.”
My ideal job
Each table has a list of rules that must be followed and if not, the dealer can opt to kick anyone from their table.
“That's part of their job. You are dealing with people who may have had too much to drink or get angry when they lose. Being able to tolerate some of it, but being able to stand up for yourself also is important,” Widener said.
For Beck, charisma and tolerance are two key factors of dealing, but she has a clear cut line on what she will tolerate.
“I have never had to kick anyone out before. Normally, I will give them warnings and say, ‘Hey, let’s just bring it down a notch.’ Most people think it's funny when someone gets rowdy. But if they get rude or make anyone else at my table uncomfortable, I would kick them off my table,” Beck said.
Widener has been pleased with Beck and her work ethics thus far, giving her more responsibilities outside the blackjacks table — such as checking and fixing their electronic machines.
“She is very eager to learn, very helpful and personable. She deals in a manner in which I like to see,” Widener said. “There are a couple of dealers that I take under my wing that I treat like my children and (Beck) is one of those. I wouldn't say that I am hard to get along with, but honesty and integrity is huge and doing things by the book… She is good with all that… I wish I had a couple more Gabbys.”
Beck loves the game, and does not show any signs of stopping and believes that blackjack dealing can be a career.
“I think it's long term... It's like my ideal job to have fun while working,” Beck said. “ I learn everyday, I learn all the time and I am advancing in my dealings working for (the DCFA) and I want to keep going up.”