News and Notes

Casino dealer-in-training excited to meet people

Ten years in the insurance business drove John Poole to gambling -- as a virtue, not a vice.

When Charles Town Races and Slots opens its revamped casino in July, Poole will be among the crowd, making payoffs instead of bets.

Enrolled at the venue's dealer-training school, Poole said it was an easy decision to leave his former job for one in the gambling industry, "something I've always been interested in," he said during a break from learning.

The transition between insurance and dealing was eased by the greatest similarity between the jobs: accuracy. Poole likened making casino payoffs to recording insurance data, both precise operations.

While most of the about 400 trainees learn two of the available 12 types of table games, Poole doubled his load by mastering four -- roulette, craps, blackjack and novelty games, which consist of four poker-type games.

The challenge of learning craps and roulette has been a high point of Poole's training, but he knows he cannot stop practicing for even a week.

"Going to Atlantic City and seeing dealers who have dealt for 10 to 20 years, you learn tips from them, but I've got a long way to go," Poole said.

Born and raised in Frederick County, the Woodsboro resident plans to turn his four months of training into a full-time job to help support his infant son.

"I'm constantly practicing and doing mock games," Poole said. "It's the only way you'll survive on the floor."

In training since February, he has made friends among his fellow dealers. Four-hour courses over a few weeks at a time have created a bond among the novices as they get to know one another, Poole said. He is one of about a dozen students from Frederick County.

Casino General Manager Al Britton said his staff searched first and foremost for dealers with people skills to work in the social setting of table games.

Poole is confident he fits that profile.

"I am an exciting type of person, that's why I want to be in the middle of that," he said of the work he hopes to do for the next 25 years.

He called dealing the best of both worlds, "because you're having fun giving a person an opportunity to be a winner for the day," not to mention constantly meeting new people.

Despite the natural need for math skills in the gambling industry, Poole, 40, said dealers learn techniques to make the quick arithmetic easier.

A couple of weeks before his training ends, Poole is excited about getting a fresh start.

"After 10 years in insurance, it gets a little dry," he said. "I'm most excited about seeing the people come in and have a good time."