With many years under his belt as a professional table games dealer, Steve Zlobin says a successful dealer also has superb people skills. As the Director of Games for Monarch Casino Resort Spa in Black Hawk, Zlobin oversees close to 250 people at the prestigious mountain casino.
Besides his love for gaming and honing his craft, Zlobin prides himself on helping people grow and develop as dealers—while staying motivated by the guests who keep coming back for more. We sat down with Zlobin to find out more about how it works.
Describe your job as a table games dealer at Monarch Casino.
“The job of a table games dealer is to be first and foremost an entertainer while following fairly strict rules on how to deal the games. Our guests come in for escape, entertainment and personal interaction. Unlike slots where the machine has no personality, table games are all about human interaction and the experience at the table. Whether your game of choice is craps, roulette, blackjack or baccarat, the dealer is an essential part of the game and the experience.”
What else does a dealer do?
“The dealer is your guide to new games and builds a relationship with you over time. For many guests, the dealers and supervisors they see regularly when they play become a part of their extended family. They celebrate birthdays and anniversaries and share their problems with the dealers. I have seen dealers and supervisors even help people grieve when their loved ones pass away. Very much like any entertainer, a dealer can either make or break your experience regardless of your luck at the table. I loved working as a dealer for a number of years before moving into my current role as Director of Games for Monarch Casino Resort Spa at Black Hawk, CO.”
What does a typical day look like?
“In this industry, we say that there is no such thing as a typical day. When a dealer comes to work, you find out what game you’ll be dealing for that day and go to that table. That’s where the typical day ends because once your shift starts, anything can happen. You might deal to a group of business professionals, a birthday party or a party of guests on their night out. We have plenty of bachelor/bachelorette parties that enjoy playing at the same table and creating memories that will last for a lifetime.”
What are some things a dealer must keep in mind when there are new players?
“As a dealer, you have to be like a chameleon at the table. Different people want different experiences, some want a loud, boisterous table with lots of cheering and celebration, while other guests prefer a quieter experience with more conversation. A good dealer is able to identify and adapt to the experience the guests are looking for and provide it.”
How did you get into this profession?
“I got into this profession like most of the people who work in a casino: by complete accident. I was going to college in Iowa and playing a little bit of poker at the local casino on the weekends. I had, like many college kids, an aimless part-time job at a bar to help pay my way through school. I didn’t particularly enjoy the job and didn’t get any benefits from it. While checking my players card comp points online, I saw that the casino was advertising part-time dealer jobs and I thought to myself, ‘I can do that,’ and applied. The interview went well and they offered to train me on blackjack, craps and roulette. The training schedule was extremely flexible around my classes and enjoyable. The rest is history.”
Have you always aspired to work in the hospitality field?
“Not at all, in fact, quite the opposite. Through high school, I focused primarily on STEM fields and majored in electrical engineering in college. I was always interested in technical things and liked to tinker with cars, appliances and computers. It wasn’t until I was in the casino business that I fell absolutely in love with it. There are very few industries that provide such a wide spectrum of people, departments and careers as the casino business. It’s a fun, fast-paced and extremely rewarding environment that most other careers can’t match.”
Are you a Colorado native? How did you end up at Monarch Casino?
“I am as far from a Colorado native as one can get. I was born in Ukraine and moved with my family to the United States in the late 90s. After a brief stay in New York, my family moved to Iowa where I lived for ten years. While in college, I visited a friend of mine who came to Colorado for school and fell in love with the state. In 2010, when the gaming limits increased from $5 to $100 and games like craps and roulette were permitted in the casinos, I found an opportunity and moved. When Monarch announced the plans for the remodel, expansion and hotel, I was very intrigued. I spoke to a few people I knew in the business and saw the vision that this company had not only for the property but for this market overall and decided this was my new home. I joined the organization in 2014 as a casino shift manager and was a part of the garage implosion, the remodel and the hotel addition. In 2016, I was given an opportunity to take the leadership role in the table games department.”
What are some of the highlights of your job?
“The highlights of my job are the team and our guests. The people I work with are definitely a highlight, after all, we are in the entertainment business. My team, which has grown from 65 to approximately 250 people in the last year, is the biggest reason I look forward to coming to work every day. To watch someone, go from not knowing anything about table games to getting dealer training, to getting on the table for the first time, then growing and developing to be one of the top dealers in the department in a few short years is truly rewarding. Helping people grow and develop to their full potential motivates me and the rest of the leadership team.”
What about your guests?
“Our guests are the other highlight of the job. You get to know people from all walks of life. We trade stories and experiences about things and places that otherwise I would have never known existed. The interactions and friendships over years are priceless and have truly made me a better person.”
Do you have any interesting stories to share?
“Through my 20 years in gaming, I have seen our guests make small wagers that changed their lives, had longtime players lose loved ones and find healing when their birthdays hit on roulette and seen team members join our training program and change fields and find a career with purpose and growth. I have been to hundreds of bachelor parties and birthday parties. I have rung in the new year with old friends and in the end, I’ve made hundreds of memories. Every day ends with a great story to tell or a moment I will never forget.”
Any tips for players?
“Don’t be intimidated to approach a game—the best way to learn a game is to step up and start asking questions. Dealers are your guide to help navigate these uncertain waters. They are there to show you the game. Also, a common misunderstanding is that you need to play to learn, not true! You can observe a game in play and ask the dealer questions so when you are ready to sit down you have all the information that you need to have a great time.”
What about the rules?
“Some rules are posted and easy to understand, whereas some you will only find out if you break them. Don’t be embarrassed; it is all part of learning. Always play within your limits and stop when you are ready to have a great meal. Lastly, dealers work primarily for tips, so if you had a great time don’t forget to take care of them.”
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a table games dealer?
“A table games training course is the best place to start your journey to being a dealer. You’ll be introduced to the games, rules and regulations, payouts and table etiquette. The training is designed to help you discover if this is the right job and industry for you. You will never know until you take the plunge.”