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Meadows' dealer hopefuls to be schooled on technique

| Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The hardest part about training card dealers for a casino operation can be convincing them to forget everything they learned at home or the local fire hall, the poker manager at the Meadows Racetrack & Casino said yesterday.

"They all do it differently, and as far as I know, they do not use the right technique," said Peter Lau, a card dealer for more than 20 years.

Starting March 29, Lau and other professional trainers will teach the finer points of dealing poker, blackjack and other table games to people chosen as potential employees. The Washington County casino expects to hire 515 dealers before offering table games to players in July.

Trainees will go to classes four hours a day Mondays through Thursdays, studying at least 120 hours to work at a blackjack table and 160 hours for craps. They will learn at least two games, such as Texas Hold 'em, three-card poker and Pai Gow.

Those who get through training will earn a graduation certificate from the Community College of Beaver County, but not necessarily a job. The classes are free, and training could prepare dealers for work in any of the state's casinos.

"When you go through it and you're still standing at the end of the day, there's a huge chance you'll have a job," said Sean Sullivan, the Meadows' vice president and general manager.

Blackjack and craps dealers can earn $40,000 to $50,000 a year, including tips. Poker dealers can earn $50,000 to $60,000.

Classes will take place in a poker room on the first floor of the casino building in North Strabane. Tables from the Meadows' sister casinos in Las Vegas sit scattered across the red-carpeted floor.

Trainers came from casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and West Virginia. Most plan to stay as floor managers when the card play starts.

Even people who think they might know how to shuffle a deck of cards will learn how a professional dealer does it: Hands holding the cards like a bird, barely touching, with the 52 corners gently falling one on top of another.

Pitching cards to the players• Even harder. Don't flick the wrist; do use the middle finger as the engine, and never, ever, flash the face side so anyone can see it. Lau tells dealers to warm up before each session with at least 20 minutes of practice pitching.

Don't even ask about craps.

Joe Sauers, a craps dealer who used to work at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City, moved to the Pittsburgh region where his wife grew up. As legalized casinos spread across the country, dealers have followed opportunities, he said. He was working at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack & Resort and keeping his eye on Pennsylvania.

"I knew eventually they would have to add table games," he said.

Sauers said he was accustomed to seeing celebrities and high-rollers in Atlantic City, with one player wagering $200,000 on every roll of the dice. The challenge here will be to help dealers and players to learn the games, he and other trainers said.

Tom Tenney, an assistant shift manager who will teach craps, said the Meadows will train dealers and then make sure they know how to engage and educate players. He moved here from Las Vegas.

"You've got to take them step by step and show them how the game works," he said.

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