Monday, July 31, 2006

Asleep at the Wheel

I had a new experience last night. I got into work to find that I'd been assigned to a brand-new game for the majority of my shift--Rapid Roulette.

For those of you unfamiliar with Rapid Roulette, it's exactly the same as regular roulette, except that instead of eight players sitting around a table reaching over each other placing chips all over a layout, there are twelve individual slot-like terminals configured around a central table. Each player has touch-screen layout on their terminal, and after buying in, they get electronic 'chips'. Then they just punch up the denomination level they'd like to play (anywhere from 25 cents up to $500) and start picking numbers. Just like on traditional roulette, players can do splits, rows, columns, and make outside bets--odd/even, black/red, etc.

If you're playing, you get 40 seconds to place all of your bets--which is plenty of time if there aren't sixteen hands jockeying for position around a crowded felt layout. Once the 'No More Bets' indication has been called, all screens are locked out until after the ball drops and winners are paid. And winners are paid instantly--no more clearing the felt, mucking the chips, calculating winners, and pushing huge stacks around the table.

Anyhow, it's got the excitement of a table game, without the intimidation factor that keeps so many people at the slot machines instead of the pit.

It takes two dealers to run the game--one to spin the ball and run the computer, and another one to fetch the buy-ins from players, explain how to use the terminal, and deliver the checks whenever a player cashes out.

It's a hugely successful game for the house, and the bosses are all in love with it. The number of spins per hour is way up over the traditional game, so the hold reflects it. The fact that 12 players can play at the same time versus just eight also makes it especially attractive to the bean counters. The players love it too--so much so that we were busy all night until three am, while the traditional roulette tables were mostly empty for several hours. We ended up closing the game only because the graveyard shift doesn't have enough dealers to run it along with all of the other games in the pit.

However, all of this fun comes at a price, and the biggest downside is that the dealer tokes on that game are horrendous. I think that on the first day it was open, the dealers dropped about $15 for the entire shift. Just atrocious--so the people in the nametags and shiny shirts aren't very fond of it. It takes two of us away from more lucrative games like blackjack, so it's a real drag on the toke pool.

Because it's more 'anonymous' like a slot machine, a lot of players don't feel the need to tip. We have a toke box prominently displayed next to the wheel, and every now and again we'll get a buck or two whenever somebody cashes out, but it's been rare. There is also a (too-) little icon on each players' screen that says 'TIPS' which they can press to give us some cash, but there is no way for them to bet a number for us like at a traditional roulette table. That was a big part of the fun--the dealers and players rooting for the same numbers to come up--and it can't be replicated on this game, so our tips have suffered significantly.


The bosses sent Mikey in there last night to give it a shot. Remember--I have never dealt roulette in my life, and have never had the desire to learn. And when I saw my name on the roadmap, lets just say that I was less than enthused to be heading to that table. The fact that I was already exhausted when I showed up for work didn't help much either.

But the game lends itself to good interaction with the players--if you have the personality--and so I jumped right in. In addition to helping new players master the nuances of betting on the touch screen, I was trying to crack jokes, pick an occasional winning number, and keep them entertained. It worked out a little bit--whenever I'd show somebody how to use the terminal, the last thing I did was to make sure that they were aware of the most important button on the screen, the one that said TIPS on it.

As tired as I was, I also figured out a good trick that got a few bucks in the toke box for us. Whenever a player cashes out, I stack up the payout next to the wheel for the Eye to see, then I have to carry it to them on a clear plastic clipboard and present the checks to them, almost like a waiter. Well, I'd do my best cocktail waitress impression, which always got a laugh, but when I'd stack up the checks on the clipboard, I'd leave the odd $1 and $5 checks in a separate stack, positioned further from the player and closer to me as I was presenting the payoff. Subliminally, it worked pretty well. More than a few players would just take the big checks and say "keep the rest". Score!

One guy colored up for $700.75. Instead of giving him all black and three shiny silver quarters, I stacked up six black, four green, and the silver. The boss was standing there at the time and gave me a look like WTF are you doing?, so I whispered Watch this as I walked over to the player's seat to give him his money. The player took then all of the black and three of the green, leaving me a $25.75 tip.

I turned my head to look at the boss and he had a big dumb grin on his face and was nodding his head as if to say, You're right, I should've known...

We've had the game almost two weeks now, and I don't think we've had a night where we've dropped over $50 in tokes for the entire shift. That's why the dealers hate it.

Last night, however, we dropped over $200 on that game. I'm afraid I've stepped in it though, because once the word gets out, I'll be stuck dealing that table for the rest of my days. But just imagine what kind of cash I could make if I were wide awake next time.


PS--I also found out that spinning that damn ball is a lot harder than it looks.

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