- Associated Press - Saturday, September 6, 2014

TWIN FALLS, Idaho (AP) - Card dealers have taken over a Twin Falls classroom, but those in charge don’t see a problem. The activity, in fact, is encouraged.

“We’re always trying to develop new talent,” Valerie Stewart, vice-president and assistant general manager of Cactus Petes Resort Casino said Monday.

Five students are learning the fundamentals of dealing in Cactus Petes’s Blackjack Dealers School, hosted by the College of Southern Idaho. The $75 non-credit course is designed to open doors to those interested in careers in hospitality, namely in the casino’s pit.

“You can learn the game, and learn how to deal it in four weeks,” Stewart said.

The Horshu Casino operates 23 table games, including blackjack, craps and poker. Once hired, Stewart said dealers often learn to work other tables, but blackjack is a good entry-level game.



“It allows them to learn betting structure, payout structure and gaming regulations,” she said.

The class is being taught by table games trainer Lauren Walker, who worked in casinos throughout the U.S. for 11 years before recently moving to Twin Falls.

Dealers don’t need college experience, Walker said, but stepping into a career on casino floors is a smart move.

“You can move all over the country with it,” she said.

Blackjack can be a high-stakes money game, but it doesn’t end with numbers. Aside from numerous procedures and policies, Walker teaches students how to deal from a shoe.

“You’d be surprised at how much eye-hand coordination is involved,” Stewart said.

The class culminates in a mock casino experience, where students deal blackjack to Cactus Petes team members.

“It’s one thing to do it in a classroom,” Stewart said. Maintaining conversation with guests brings the game to another level. Some are green and need help, others are advanced, but still need attention.

The students then audition for casino managers in hopes of landing a job in the pit.

“We put them on a blackjack table,” Stewart said, to demonstrate their knowledge and skill.

Students who come up aces in auditions, get jobs on the casino floor. The casino uses their tuition to pay for their gaming licenses. Those who don’t make the grade are given an opportunity to receive additional training.

“We don’t just turn ‘em and burn ‘em,” Stewart said. So far, every person who has taken the class has been hired.

Kristin Bindrup, of Caldwell, aced her audition this February. The transition into dealing was a wild card.

“It was a scary change,” Bindrup said Monday in a phone interview, during a break from her poolside blackjack table.

Bindrup and her husband stayed in a family owned apartment in Twin Falls in order to attend the school. After leaving full-time management positions at Olive Garden and Micron, the couple worked their first day in the pit together March 14.

And the wild card was exactly what they needed. The deal left them working fewer hours for just as much pay.

“It was almost like fate,” Bindrup said.

The couple commutes to the resort together and stays in “extremely affordable” employee housing each weekend. They spend the rest of the week at home with two children.

“We spend twice as much time with the kids,” Bindrup said.

Stewart said dealers start work at $8.25 per hour, Nevada’s minimum wage.

“With tips, we call it a toke rate, they make $20 to $24 per hour,” she said.

The resort employs more than 600 people - 35 to 50 of them are dealers. Many of them work part-time at the casino and hold other jobs. The dynamic, Stewart said, drives the high demand for dealers.

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Information from: The Times-News, https://www.magicvalley.com

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