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Best of Vin Narayanan
Top-10 casino workers who deserve our thanks27 August 2012
This top-10 list of casino workers who deserve our thanks is my show of appreciation for past services rendered, and a thank you for the future good times I know you'll provide. Happy Labor Day.
Don't underestimate the impact a good bartender can have on your casino experience. Bartenders are a fount of information about the casino, the locale and everything else you need to know about the town and resort you're visiting. They're also the people who can comp your drinks for playing video poker at the bar, and upgrade or give you a free drink (both have happened to me) to show their appreciation for your patronage. Take care of your bartenders, and they'll take care of you.
9. Casino host
You can tell I'm not a high roller because this is only ninth on my list. I've only had a casino host once – and she wasn't really mine. On one of my trips to the Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut, I went with someone who rated a host. Because I arrived with the VIP, the host decided to take care of me as well (which was very nice, because I didn't ask for it, and neither did the VIP). And let me tell you, that was a lot of fun. I didn't need to check in; the key was delivered to me at a table on the floor – as was a player's card. Bags went straight up to the room. And if I wanted anything at all, I just had to call the host and she would set it up for me. Now that's service.
It doesn't matter if you're traveling on a budget, or if you're a high roller. A good concierge can help you, suggesting restaurants for your price range, getting you reservations at popular dining spots, finding hard-to-get tickets for shows and arranging almost anything a tourist could possibly want.
At most casinos, and especially in Las Vegas, you're better off valeting your car (especially if it's a rental) than you are parking it yourself. Valet service is generally free (except for whatever you choose to tip the valet), and with valet service, you can drive right up to the entrance of the casino. If you choose to self-park, prepare for a long walk from your car to the casino – and even longer walk from the self-parking entrance to the casino floor. Valeting can save you 15-20 minutes. Just make sure to tip your valet driver. He or she is driving your car.
It's easy to forget the housekeeping staff. But you shouldn't. After a long night of gambling and partying, people don't necessarily treat their rooms very well. But the housekeeping staff always gets the room clean and spotless again, so guests can enjoy a good night’s sleep when they return to the room. Members of the housekeeping staff are the oft-forgotten heroes of the casino industry and deserve much appreciation.
5. Pit boss
It's also easy to forget about the pit bosses when you're gambling. But you shouldn't. Pit bosses are the people who keep the table you're playing on open, even when you're the only player at it. They're the ones who let you keep betting $10 per hand, even though they just increased the table minimum to $25 per hand. And they're the ones who keep an eye on how much you’re gambling, so your player card can be credited. Pit bosses make sure the gaming floor runs smoothly, so you can enjoy your time at the tables.
Bellmen are frequently the first people you see when you arrive at a casino. They open the taxi door for you and help with you with your bags. And a good bellman can get your trip off to a great start – or a great ending. There's nothing like arriving at a casino with a bellman who opens your door with a smile and looks genuinely happy that you're there. It makes you feel good about your decision to spend money at the casino.
I usually spend about a month every summer covering the World Series of Poker Main Event. And on my last day in Vegas, before I head to the airport to catch my redeye, I check out of my hotel near the Rio and catch a cab to the Wynn. And every year, the bellman remembers me, frequently by name. He welcomes me back to the Wynn, grabs my bags so he can store them for the day and hands me a claim ticket. It's this type of service that's turned the Wynn into my last-stop ritual in Vegas. Thanks to a great bellman, I now spend the last hours of not only that trip, but almost every trip there, spending money on their gaming floor and in their restaurants.
3. Cocktail waitress
Cocktail waitresses have a tough job. They're on their feet all day in skimpy costumes trying to keep track of drink orders for people who might not be there by the time they get back to deliver them. Their tips are often directly proportional to how well people are doing at the tables. And they cover a ton of ground on each swing through the gaming floor. But they're a critical part of the casino experience. Typically, a customer at a casino deals with only a handful of people. And the cocktail waitress is usually one of them. If the waitress stops by regularly and delivers drinks quickly, patrons are happy. And if she doesn't, patrons become dissatisfied – even if the casino is really busy that night.
A good cocktail waitress does more than deliver drinks quickly, however. The best of them enhance in your casino experience. Sometimes, it's nothing more than a little light flirting. But more often, it's going the extra mile for a player.
A good example of this is the last time I was in the Venetian sportsbook, which had just been remodeled by Cantor Gaming. The cocktail waitress that day spent some time talking to me and a couple of bettors while taking our drink orders. The conversation was an excellent respite during a long day at the sportsbook. And she even offered to make a food run. I appreciated the offer and declined. But it's that type of service that makes me want to visit the Venetian sportsbook again.
2. Front desk representative
The first interaction customers have with a casino is often when they're checking in. And this experience sets the tone for the trip.
A couple of years ago, I stayed at Bally's Las Vegas for a night. After an absolutely awful stay months earlier at another Caesars property, Imperial Palace, I walked in with low expectations. But my experience at the front desk changed my mind quickly.
I was able to check in quickly despite the fact there was a long line. And the front desk representative was very gracious. She apologized for the wait, even though I've been in much, much longer registration lines in Las Vegas. The type of room I'd reserved wasn't available, and she instantly upgraded me to a much better one. And then, after recognizing I had just arrived after a long flight, she asked if I was hungry and suggested good spots for a vegetarian to eat at in Bally's. I hadn’t planned on eating at Bally's that night, but my experience at the front desk was so positive I decided to give it a try. And much to my delight, the food was very good.
On the flip side my experience with the Riviera front desk was so poor, I’ve refused to visit them again. I spent more than an hour in line waiting to check in. Then when I was ready to check in, the non-smoking room I’d requested wasn’t available. Instead of giving me a better non-smoking room (I’d booked the smallest, and yes, they confirmed other larger non-smoking rooms were available), they put me in a smoking room. And when I told them I was mildly allergic to cigarette smoke, they told me it was either the smoking room or pay more money for a bigger room. I couldn't afford the bigger room at the time, so I took the smoking room and bought some allergy medicine.
Room snafus happen. It’s part of traveling. So that’s not what soured me (completely) on the Riviera. What bothered me the most was how little they cared about whether I enjoyed my stay there. When I reached the front desk, I was greeted by a scowl. There was no hello or welcome message – just a demand for my identification and credit card. There was no apology or even a hint of regret for not having a non-smoking room. I was an order number that needed to be processed and moved on. And I was a burden on their precious time.
I didn’t spend any money in the Riviera that trip. And I haven't been back to the Riviera since that trip. There are plenty of places in Las Vegas that will treat me like a real person. And I now really appreciate the importance of having good people at the front desk.
Dealers have the toughest job in the casino. They have to administrate the game quickly and efficiently. They have to figure out how to engage their customers. Do the players want someone chatty? Do they want someone quiet? Do they want the dealer to help them? Do they want to figure things out on their own? And ultimately, they have to make the game fun for the players, even when they’re losing money.
Dealers also have to handle drunk people at the table, angry people at the table and people with varying degrees of skill playing the game. They have to nurse beginners through the process while remaining ruthlessly efficient for the experienced player at the table. And they have to be able to convince players who are watching instead of playing to give the game a shot.
Dealers have to do all of this while dealing the cards correctly and making the proper payouts. This is not an easy job.
A good dealer helps players enjoy their gambling experience. A poor dealer drives away customers.
One of the reasons I love playing blackjack is a Caesars Palace dealer in Las Vegas took the time (in the middle of the night) to teach me how to play. I spent hours at his table on my first trip to Vegas, and he showed me the ins and outs of the game. I learned to love the game – and become relatively successful – thanks to his patient tutelage. Yes, it helped that he and I were the only people that spoke English at the table. But just as important was that he was able to keep the game moving while teaching me how to play.
Now, whenever someone suggests a visit to Caesars Palace, I'm interested. Caesars is the home of my first gambling experience. And it’s a time I remember fondly thanks to a really a good dealer.
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