TL;DR – You don’t have to be a math genius to become a casino croupier.
Way before the Internet and video-streaming websites like YouTube and Netflix became a thing, as a child in the 90s era, SBC’s (now MediaCorp) locally-produced Chinese dramas were my go-to. And my favourite drama definitely has got to be The Unbeatables (双天至尊).
Believe it or not, this gambling serial was such a hit and a huge influence that it made kids staple poker cards together in a lousy attempt to imitate the characters in the show. Some even went around shaking dices in a cup, trying to stack them up together.
Fast forward to the present day, I’m sitting face-to-face with a real-life casino croupier, and about to burst with curiosity. I so want to know if there’s really any Yan Fei or Long Jia Jia equivalent in the casino.
Wendy Tan, 50, has been working as a croupier in the casino for the past nine years.
I let out a little gasp and ask if she’s a “God of Gambler” (赌神) by now.
Contrary to popular belief, Wendy tells me that it is not at all necessary to be very good at gambling or be a math genius to become a casino croupier since the skills required to add up and payout bets are taught and there’s a formula for it.
How about the games in the casino? Which are the games which will give a player the best run for money? I ask earnestly.
“Actually there’s no one game that gives you the best chance of winning,” she laughs. “Because it’s all dependent on your own luck!”
Working as a croupier, Wendy gets tipped from time to time when customers are feeling generous. And like most casinos in the world, the casino at which Wendy works in pools their tips and then split them evenly.
Having been to a few overseas casinos myself, I’ve seen customers with all sorts of strange habits to bring good luck. For instance, some would mutter something under their breath or kiss a jade amulet before each round. Others would blow on their cards or shout aloud and call for their desired cards.
In her nine-year stint as a croupier, Wendy has not encountered any customers who turned aggressive on her, neither has she seen anyone being dragged out of the casino yet. However, she does have her fair share of experience with rowdy customers who would yell profanities when they lose money. To which she gets over by pretending not to hear them.
A team of specially-trained Responsible Gambling (RG) Ambassadors is also deployed at the casino to keep a lookout for potential problem gamblers. And where necessary, they may step in to provide patrons with assistance and information on responsible gambling.
“We have good security measures in place,” Wendy affirms.
Ten minutes into the interview with Wendy, I learned that before working in the casino industry, Wendy used to spend more than 10 years working as a production operator in an electronics manufacturing company. Whoa, what a change!
An unexpected twist of fate changed the course of Wendy’s career. She became one of the 20,000 people who were employed by Singapore’s integrated resorts (IRs) in 2010 and is now a certified croupier after going through a three-month intensive training in a Casino Training School.
“Actually back then, the position that I applied for was a technician role in the casino – not a casino croupier. But since they needed manpower to fill the positions for croupier, I decided to take a leap of faith and give it a try,” Wendy tells me.
I did a mental calculation in my head and concluded that Wendy was in her 40s when she made that career switch.
“Transitioning into a totally new role in a totally new industry was difficult in the first year. When I was working as a production operator, I only had to deal with machines and electronic components. But being a croupier means I have to interact with customers, which is very different from what I used to do. The learning curve was steep, but I got to try new things.”
It didn’t take me long before I realised that this 50-year-old jovial lady here whom I am speaking with isn’t someone who’s afraid of learning new things.
In fact, She is also a complementary therapist in diet and nutrition certified by the International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC).
That’s so un-croupier, I thought.
But later, I learned that diet and nutrition has always been an area in which Wendy is interested in. More importantly, she’s an avid learner. She believes that the importance of learning new skills has become even more apparent as the world evolves and that each and every one of us should possess a certain skill. Or even better, a set of skills, and not just one single skill.
The former Institute of Technical Education (ITE) graduate also believes that lifelong learning becomes increasingly critical to keep herself agile and resilient if she wants to be able to open up new doors to new possibilities. And there are plenty of new opportunities these days.
“If I don’t keep learning new skills to stay relevant, who knows, one day I might just get displaced and become redundant in the workforce. By then, it will probably be too late for me to plan what’s the next step to take if I don’t have any relevant skills.”
“But if I have a specialised skill set, I know where I can go next to look for a new job. I can feel alive again right away.”
One thing led to another, today, Wendy is also a certified massage therapist with her Level 3 Diploma in Holistic Massage awarded by ITEC.
While Wendy enjoys her work as a casino croupier, she tells me that it is also equally for her to “plan ahead” and “be ready for tomorrow’s needs.” Hence, she’s very grateful that there’s the Workforce Skills Qualifications (WSQ) scheme which she can leverage on, subsidizing up to 90% of her course fee.
“Right now, I am just practicing what I’ve learned at home on my family members. Because if I don’t practise it, I might just forget them in time to come!”, Wendy laughs as she tells me when I ask her if she has ever thought of turning her passion into a career.
But well, you’ll never know – after all, anything can be possible if you put your mind and heart to it.