Place your bets!

More often than not, when you meet someone new, the normal subjects quickly take hold; family, holidays, worst places to eat, the best temperature for red wine... Typical stuff. Then, sooner or later, employment history joins the conversation. When, where, how long for - often commencing with the day you left college.

For me, this chat is always pretty colourful. Unable to find my niche for quite some time, I frittered away my years on gymnastics, bar tending, selling fish and dealing.


Dealing cards. Spinning wheels, counting money - at age 21 I waltzed into the 'glam' life of the London casino. Instantly curious? You're not alone...

'Can you cheat in a casino?' is the question most people ask. No. Not really. Cameras, Inspectors, Pit Bosses - these are enough, but the other punters are the real guard dogs. Everyone is in it for themselves, and guaranteed, however diligently you protect your table, they've seen a trickster at work long before you have.

Being a croupier means you have to go to casino school. Five weeks at 50 St James in Piccadilly learning 17 and 35 times tables, French bets and how to spot top hats (adding additional chips to a stack on the winning number at the last minute). Nights of waking up at 2am to 'clear your hands' because its been drummed into you so much you dream about it, and shuffling endless amounts of Blackjack cards.

My first shift at the Sportsman was during the day. An old guy walked up and threw fifty quid on the table, then wandered off. What? I hardly see red notes in my purse, let alone leave one unattended! 'He wants it on Red', said the Inspector. I went through my training, swapped the cash for chips and placed the note in the drop. Announcing 'No more bets' to well, no-one, I span the wheel. '17, black, odd'. He never even came back to check.

Six months in and I became known as a decent roulette dealer so it was a compliment to be sent to Park Lane. You see crazy amounts being spent in Mayfair, and the Rendezvous attracted high rolling Middle Eastern punters.

Now, I can't add up small numbers. It took me weeks of laying 4's on top of 7's and 3's on top of 9's before I could competently, and confidently run a Blackjack table. After a few months I could even manage a bit of light hearted banter alongside a game, and so I was sent to the Salle Privee with a rather notorious Israeli we referred to as 'Flipper' (busted hand). £5000 value chips (stack of), three boxes open and games over every thirty seconds. That is a LOT of mula crossing the table. I could have bought a small island in the Maldives with the money he lost during the twenty minute stint I dealt.

Still, at least he never threw the table over...

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