Maryland casino dealer school offers real-world challenges to students


Trainer Rachel Szukala (left) keeps an eye on student Briena Rippy at the Black Jack table as Rippy learns the fine points of the dealer position. Students they take lessons from professional dealers in hopes of landing a job at the Maryland Live! Casino. (Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)
January 22, 2013

Nine thousand people applied to Maryland Live Casino Dealer School. Eight hundred and sixty were accepted — and scores have already dropped out.

“We’ve lost maybe 15 percent,” said Neal Sloane, the casino’s vice president of table games. “That’s what we were expecting.”

On Tuesday, the casino school at Marley Station Mall in Glen Burnie offered the news media a glimpse of how hundreds of aspiring dealers are being trained for the debut of voter-approved table games. More than 500 students are expected to be hired by Maryland Live to work at the casino’s 122 tables this spring, part of a dramatic statewide expansion of casino gambling this year.

The dealer school — a partnership with Anne Arundel Community College — is set up in two converted retail spaces on the ground floor of the mall, with craps and blackjack tables having replaced the merchandise racks and shelves.

Classes will run 12 weeks. Tuition is free. The commitment is heavy, with each class meeting for four hours a day, five days a week.


Murphy Payne of Silver Spring keeps a steady eye on the cards as he takes his turn at the dealer position during a training session at the Black Jack table. (Michael S. Williamson/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The potential payoff: a job paying an estimated $45,000 to $55,000 in salary and tips.

To make the cut, students were working to master every aspect of the job. They collected fake cash from players, split red and green casino chips into stacks, dealt fake blackjack hands and ran fake craps games in a cramped, mostly colorless casino classroom.

“This is how you get them ready for the casino floor,” Maryland Live President Rob Norton said.

But not everyone was ready for the rigor of class. One student didn’t want to cut her nails (they were too long to handle chips, Sloane said). Others decided they didn’t want to stand; there are no chairs around the school’s 27 craps and blackjack tables because dealers in those games don’t sit.

“It’s important that we simulate the real world,” Norton said.

For most, the training is challenging: The craps dealers are struggling to learn stick calls, and the blackjack dealers haven’t yet mastered the side bet. Not everybody is comfortable handling chips yet, either. Then again, it’s only week three.

“It’s a 12-week class for a reason,” Norton said.

And there are more to come. The casino is working with the community college on scheduling more classes this year to put more trained dealers in the pipeline and teach even more games.

Just the other day, four poker tables were delivered to dealer school. Seats open soon.

J. Freedom du Lac is an enterprise reporter for The Post, covering history, gambling, people and places. Previously, he served as the paper’s pop music critic.
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