♠ Sunday, April 01, 2007
A New Direction. Sort of.
Fresh from the adventures I spoke about in my most recent post, Gil pointed out that not only was Blue Chip Casino hiring poker dealers, but the future casino in New Buffalo, Michigan, was beginning its hiring. Early last week, I submitted online applications to both.
At Four Winds, the name of the new casino in New Buffalo, they had openings listed for both "dealer" and "dealer trainee." They did not have an opening listed for "poker" (or "cardroom") dealer, although there were (and are) openings for various management people in the poker room. I divined from this that, like some other area casinos (particularly Soaring Eagle in Mt. Pleasant), there are no "pit dealers" or "poker dealers," but just "dealers." It may turn out that I was incorrect, but that's for later in the tale.
Within a day or two, Four Winds left a message on the answering machine here. I didn't get the message until the evening, and since my parents don't have long distance service on their landline (I'm not really sure why), I was stuck the next day waiting for someone to come home for lunch so that I could use his cellphone. (My father usually eats lunch at home, since his office is only a couple of hundred feet from the house.) In the meantime, the casino called again, asking if I was available for an "assessment." I interpreted that to mean an audition, and scrambled to make arrangements to get down there.
I did not in fact meet with a dealer audition, but a mass interview for their dealer school. I'm using "mass" a little lightly, here, since there were only about fifteen of us, but even so, each of us only got a few minutes of one-on-one time with the honchos. The honchos spent something close to an hour, mostly telling us what a great thing it is that a project this big is opening in Berrien County, and how great the casino will be, and how great it will be to work there (and in the casino business generally). They did a quickie color-blindness test and a quickie math test ("What's 28 + 72?"), showed us a blueprint of the property, and then started bringing us in to individual meetings with the honchos.
The plan appears to be to take the earliest applicants, and train them in all of the table games, take the next batch and teach them most of the table games, and take the last batch and teach them blackjack. Although I don't know all of their plans for poker (other than that they'll have a room), it seems like hiring poker dealers will indeed be a separate deal. Although I didn't really see any complete losers in this batch, I was left with the impression that they'll send any warm body through their dealer school, and let the school weed out many of them, and let the grand opening weed out more. Even so, I managed to make two positive impressions in the meetings.
First, while the property's general manager was giving his spiel, he mentioned that the management company was Lakes Entertainment. I'd already determined that from the casino's web site, and upon discovering that the World Poker Tour was among Lakes' properties, associated it with Lyle Berman. After the GM mentioned Lakes, I asked, "Do I remember correctly, that that's Lyle Berman's outfit?" The GM seemed impressed when he answered that it was, whereupon one of the sub-honchos (head of training for something or other) pointed out that I was wearing a WPT jacket. (I won it from PartyPoker in April 2004, when they were actually a WPT site.)
The other time I impressed was in my one-on-one, where I asked about the doors the blueprint showed on either side of the poker room: Were those emergency exits, or were those real doors? Poker players don't like to walk through the whole rest of the casino to get to the poker room, and in fact most "locals" places in Vegas have outside entrances right near the poker room. This carries over to some strip properties as well, notably, the Wynn. You aren't going to get extra action from poker players by making them walk past slots, or the pit. I mentined all this to my guy in my one-on-one (who turned out to be the table games manager), and he said that my question was "very astute." Since that's a two-dollar word, it's got to be good.
The casino itself does appear to be unlike most of the others in this part of the country. First, it's bigger. The non-Indian casinos in Indiana and Illinois are on boats, limiting their gaming space, and I don't know of an Indian casino that's bigger in this part of the country. While the layout is much like a "locals" casino, the restaurants and such are aiming for a "Strip" casino quality. There are six different restaurants, at least two of which are high-end. There are at least four other retailers on site. The women doing the presentation were really hip on the porte-cochère, which turns out to be a fancy French way to say "carport," at the entryway (where valet parking is). The poker room is going to have somewhere around 18 tables, although that includes some number of electronic tables. And the casino is already planning its first expansion. (The answer to my emergency-exit question revealed that the back wall is designed so that the casino can easily expand in that direction, including the poker room if it's warranted.)
I expect to be called early this week, inviting me to begin attending dealer school on April 9. I expect to accept. However, I have a couple of reservations.
First, I'm not sure ignoring my attitude about a job is a good idea. The problems I'll have adjusting my sleep cycle to a 24-hour day will be severe. But I've spilt enough (virtual) ink on these topics that I can't add anything new here.
Second, if I'm to be a dealer in the pit, I'll face problems simply in being on my feet all day. Yes, the schedule will be something like 40 minutes on and 20 off, or some such. Yes, the floor is carpeted and they're likely to have those ergonomic pads for me to stand on. But I weigh 300 pounds, and although I'm tall and although I'm large-boned, I don't have a lot of muscle. I'm fat and out of shape. And in other circumstances, after being on my feet for a lot less than forty minutes, I need to sit down. It is precisely this problem that is most likely to wash me out of dealer school, even if I'm otherwise on my best behavior.
Third is the logistical problem. It's a long freaking way to New Buffalo from here. Even without my driver's license situation, the commute is so unreasonable as to be nearly impossible. I'd need to get a place in the area (probably in Michigan City, Indiana)—which I can't afford. I'd need to find a way to get to the dealer school—which I can't afford. I'd need to be able to eat while I'm in school—which I can't afford. Working at McDonalds (say) while I'm down there is probably impossible because of the second problem, and Manpower.com only lists seven jobs in the (wider) area.
Gil and his daughter have expressed some interest in doing the dealer-school thing, as well. This would work—barely—if Gil and I share rides down there from his place, we do school in the evening, and I sleep on his couch. Then I could save the move for once the casino is just about to open, and borrow enough money to minimally set up down there, until I start getting paid. It'd be a pain in the ass but less of a pain in the ass than other scenarios.
Ultimately, I don't have a neat-and-clean solution to the logistics problem. The above works badly, and it relies on Gil wanting to do something that might not work that well for him, but it's the best I can come up with. Maybe there's something I'm not seeing.
Blue Chip casino hasn't called me.