On-the-Job: A Casino Pit Supervisor

Theresa LeaVerenz, Pit Supervisor (also called pit boss) at Caesars Tahoe, started in the gaming industry in 1981. She was born and raised in the Lake Tahoe area and, like many people working in gaming, she never thought seriously about entering the industry in the beginning. But as she admits, “Working in a casino used to be just something you did temporarily until you figured out what you really wanted to do. Now casino work is becoming what people want to do for a living.

I come from a family of casino employees. My mother works at Caesars Palace in Vegas as a cashier, and my aunt is a dealer part-time at Harvey’s here in Tahoe.

I have another aunt who used to be a supervisor for 18 years at the same place. But I never considered the gaming industry before I became a PBX (public board exchange) operator at Caesars. I was nineteen and had just been laid off, so I took the job. Later I went to the in-house dealing school. I had a boyfriend who was a dealer, and I knew what he made so I started thinking about the money. Dealers can make $60 to $100 a day just in tips. I had a background in numbers, money, computers, and balancing accounts anyway because I had previously worked in a bank. So as a dealer I was never intimidated when a customer threw down a bunch of money to play. After a few years, I became pit supervisor. Since I no longer had to wear the company uniform, I think I spent $5,000 on suits when I first got promoted!

Promotion is very possible in this business. Things move fast because people are always coming and going. At first you may be stuck in the graveyard shift (2am-10am) which I worked for seven months when I was hired as a full-time pit supervisor. But before you know it you can work swing (6pm-2am) or days (10am-6pm).

After a couple of years as a dealer, a person can be promoted if he or she shows initiative and motivation. You have to let your employer know you are interested, that you want to go out on the floor, and that you’re learning more games. Often you start in management as a dual-rate supervisor where you supervise some of the time and deal the other times. You can see if management will work for you; if it doesn’t, you can always go back to just dealing without losing any benefits.

A pit boss must be versatile and able to focus on more than one thing at a time. My four most important functions are to know the games, interact with customers, motivate the dealers, and always act professionally. I’m basically in charge of protecting the company’s assets. I usually have four to eight tables under me, so it definitely helps that I have dealt many types of games. As such I’m seldom in the position of supervising an unfamiliar game.

I also coach the dealers. I have to be positive and upbeat since I’m responsible for the attitudes of the dealers around me. If I arrive in a bad mood, by the end of the day the dealers will be drained, and the customers will not be having a good time. So, instead I’m constantly the cheerleader.

The beneficial part of being a pit boss is a guaranteed salary. You aren’t relying on tokes everyday, wondering how much you are going to make.

I can take gifts that are worth $25 or less, but I can never take cash. Usually what I do when a customer asks what he can do for me is just ask him to write a letter on my behalf. That’s the biggest tip I can get.

A pit supervisor has more leeway too; I’m not always standing behind a table for eight hours in the same spot. I have more freedom to interact with customers and I can meet more people. But one of the most difficult things is maintaining a good working relationship with your coworkers on a long-term basis. Sometimes it’s difficult supervising people whom I used to work with as a dealer. And I have to please customers too.

I think that anyone who wants in on management should take classes in gaming management. Right now I’m taking one at the University of Nevada in Reno. It helps me understand why we do what we do and what goes on. We learn about potential cheaters, how to interact with customers, and management skills.

There have been a lot of changes in the Tahoe area, good and bad. It’s much busier which, of course, is good for business, but for a quiet home life, it would be nice to go back to how things were fifteen years ago. But it is still beautiful here. If you are going to gamble nonstop you can go to Vegas or Atlantic City. Here if you want to get outside, take a boat ride to Emerald Bay, or ski during the day and gamble at night. And we are getting a lot more dealers from the East. They come out here, see how nice it is, and realize they can be in a place with clean air and still do the same thing for a living. I don’t have a big fancy house, a real expensive car, or diamonds, but then again there haven’t been many things that I have wanted to do and couldn’t. Working in a casino has provided a really good lifestyle for me.

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