After being laid off by D.C. public schools in the fall, Marcia Fuqua was lost in the shuffle of the many people who were unemployed. Instead of returning to education, she said, she looked for jobs that could give her the upper hand.
“I’ve always watched blackjack dealers,” said Fuqua, 48, of Lovettsville. “I just think it would be a great job to have.”
On Friday, Fuqua will get to be part of the action as a card dealer when Charles Town Races & Slots in West Virginia becomes Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races and introduces table games.
“In today’s economy, there’s not a lot of job creation going on,” said Al Britton, general manager at the complex. “So to be able to provide over 500 new jobs is pretty significant and absolutely has an impact on the region.”
Of about 400 dealers hired since December, more than 120 are from Virginia and Maryland. Dealers must be 21 and licensed through West Virginia lottery and racing commissions.
Because of its proximity to both states, Britton said, the casino could keep local residents from traveling to popular destinations such as Las Vegas or Atlantic City and possibly create more employment opportunities.
Initially drawn by the allure of working in a high-stakes environment, Fuqua said she learned there was much more involved than just turning over a few cards and collecting chips.
She said she trained for two months to learn the rules and nuances of blackjack and several poker games. One of her biggest challenges, she said, was learning how to “cut checks,” a method of stacking and counting chips to pay a win-ning bet or changing chips for cash.
The former health and physical education teacher, who taught at Anacostia High School, said her fingers had trouble being nimble enough to smoothly place the chips evenly on the table.
After hours of practice, she finally got it, she said, and soon realized what prevented success early on. “I was trying too hard.”
As her new career approaches, Fuqua said she might experience some nervousness when the first group of players is at her table and waiting for the cards to be dealt. She said the confident facade and tactful diplomacy she used to maintain order in her classroom should help her feel at ease with anxious bettors at a gaming table.
“My knees are going to be knocking. My hands are probably going to be shaking, and my mouth is going to be dry,” she said. “It’s a good nervous; it’s not a bad nervous. I’m ready.”
The casino will feature nine areas where table games such as blackjack, craps, roulette and mini-baccarat can be played.