The Best and Worst Craps Dealers - Tuesday 24th of January 2006

Many gambling writers consider craps the most exciting game in the casino. I fully agree with that assessment. In its theoretical package, craps has a rhythm and movement that at times is breathtakingly exciting. The possibility for spectacular wins is always present - all you need is one hot shooter. There is always a feeling of "it's about to happen!" at a craps table.

However, the real-world game of craps is often not up to the theoretical game because some dealers, through ennui, hostility, or disrespect for their customer base, make it quite obvious that they aren't enjoying the game and are actually wishing that the craps players, as burnt-out dealer Lewis Cogniscent said, "go down in flames."

Cogniscent is a dealer of nine years who disrespects the players. In fact, he dislikes the players. "I really think that craps players are for the most part idiots. Their cheering and intensity is laughable to me. I just can't take them seriously. So I don't."

When Cogniscent works the stick he purposely puts his big belly out over the table, "They can shoot around me the shooters can. It doesn't matter anyway how they shoot, so they can shoot around me. The game is random. I find that shooters who take care with their rolls are really irritating. Just pick the dice up and throw them. I don't know why they bother to set and act as if they have some magic way to throw the dice. They don't."

I played several times at Cogniscent's table and I must say he is definitely one of the most disagreeable dealers it has ever been my misfortune to meet. He's always making comments under his breath but he often makes them so loud that you can hear him two or three tables away. Even during good rolls, he takes no delight in players winning, or players tipping. I have never seen him even acknowledge a tip. He usually has a sneer on his face as he pays off winning bets.

As great a game as craps can be, it can't reach its theoretical pinnacle when a dealer such as Lewis Cogniscent is working the table. A butcher isn't a heart surgeon after all.

John Graham is an altogether different story. John has been dealing for six years and now works at one of the glamorous Las Vegas Strip casinos. John is a student and lover of the game.

"I have read maybe thirty books on craps," said John, "and I sometimes play the game myself. I enjoy all the myths and superstitions of the game and I love to see shooters have great rolls. I think shooting the dice is the single most exciting thing in casino gambling. You are being given the opportunity with your own throw to beat the casino. It's a great feeling to pick those dice up and try to turn luck your way."

John is the type of dealer who actively roots for the players. "They are our constituency; I want them to be happy. Knowing that the dealers are in their corner, that we want them to win, makes the game of craps just that much more exciting for them. The dealers don't exist if we don't have players."

Most craps dealers ride the range between Cogniscent and Graham. Many are not students of the game; they just deal, take the losing bets and pay the winning bets. While their professionalism is appreciated, such dealers merely allow the game to be played competently. They don't affect the feelings of the players at the table; competence is their contribution.

Dealers that tend to be like Cogniscent, ruin the game for just about everyone. When some dealer is frowning and making sarcastic comments, only the dimmest player is unaware of it. The rest of the players are aware that this particular dealer is not someone who is making the game a fun experience.

Thankfully, when you run into dealers such as John Graham, the game takes a leap upwards. Having a player-friendly dealer makes the game a team effort - us against the house edge. Dealers who root for the players are dealers who make the game fun - and they are also dealers who tend to get more tips as well.

Sadly, the disgruntled dealers are slowly but surely not only ruining the game for the players but they are hurting their own job prospects. It is no secret that the new wave of casino managers, men and women who have not gambled and have no first-hand knowledge of what it's like to be a player, are always looking to cut costs. A slow craps game, with all that personnel, is an easy fix - get rid of it and put money-making slot machines in the space.

Today's dealers should be aware that they must keep the players happy. Frowns, guffaws, sneers, belittlements will merely make the "age of the slots" a reality.

I have noticed that in Las Vegas, many of the casinos have reduced the number of their craps tables - fewer tables equal fewer jobs. The time of the Cogniscents must come to an end or great dealers such as John Graham will also be out of jobs.

We craps players love the game and we enjoy playing it at tables with great dealers. The fact that the machines are rapidly vanquishing the table games is not something we are happy to see. But I can tell you this - I won't play craps at a table manned by Cogniscent; I'd rather read a book!

Dealers reading this article should look to John Graham as the role model for craps dealers, and also as the potential savior of their jobs.

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