Dealer trainees excited about the future

May 31, 2010|By RICHARD F. BELISLE
  • Jamie Ferrell

Editor's note: Herald-Mail reporter Richard F. Belisle spent some time recently talking to people who are training to become dealers for table games, which are scheduled to be launched July 1 at Charles Town Races & Slots.


Conrad Shewchuk likes playing games and he likes people. He couldn't find a job that better suits those personality traits than dealing cards at Charles Town Races & Slots now that table games are coming.

Shewchuk, 45, of Hagerstown, has been working in customer service at Citigroup for the last three years, the kind of background that casinos look for when hiring dealers.

Shewchuk said he learned, when the referendum on table games passed, that the casino in Charles Town would be hiring about 400 dealers.

He applied, saying he saw working there on the tables as an "income opportunity." Dealers in Charles Town will earn about $45,000 a year in salary and tips, casino officials have said.


Dealing cards is intense and fast-paced. That's an environment that Shewchuk said he "really likes."

He said he's moving to Shepherdstown, W.Va., for a shorter commute.


Being bitten by a piranha, shocked by an electric eel and "finned" by a poisonous fox fish convinced Ralph Ellsworth that it was time to leave the aquarium business.

That decision eventually led him to a 20-year stint in the private security business and finally as a security officer at Charles Town Races & Slots.

And now it's led to a job as a dealer in blackjack and carnival games.

Ellsworth, 53, of Maugansville, is a John Goodman look-a-like. He even sounds like the actor and possesses some of Goodman's jocularity.

"I know it," he said, "but I don't have his money."

Perhaps not, but a lot of money is soon going to be passing through Ellsworth's hands, some to winners, most into the slot that's on every gaming table. "I want everybody at my table to win," he said.

Ellsworth, like his fellow trainees, was hired because of, among other traits, their personalities. "I'm a people person," he said.

"I feel privileged to work here," he said. "Washington County's jobless rate is 10 percent. Where would a single man my age find a job like this."


Joe Hill is going to graduate from Shepherd University in December with a degree in business administration. He worked his way through school for the last four years as a cook in the casino's Epic Buffet restaurant.

Now he's hoping to start dealing craps when the new table games open in July.

Craps is where it's at for Hill.

"I started (training) in craps. It's the hardest to learn and I'm proud that I learned it so fast. I love that game," he said. "It's complicated, fast-paced and exciting.

"I'm framing my craps certificate and I'm going to hang it on the wall next to my college diploma when I get it," he said.

He's looking forward to the day when the first dice roll at his table.

"I've been behind the scenes (in the kitchen) for four years. Now I'm moving to the public area."

He hopes dealing craps will become a stepping stone to bigger things. As the casino grows he hopes to grow with it, into management, maybe even into an executive position, he said.


Jamie Ferrell, 24, of Charles Town, has worked at the casino for six years, including three years in the finance department and three years as a cocktail server.

She graduated from St. James School in 2003 and this year from Northern Virginia Community College.

She's looking forward to moving onto a dealer's table.

"I like the casino environment," she said. "It's going to be an exciting change of pace, something more complicated. It looks like a lot of fun in the movies."

She's training on craps and carnival games.

Like Hill, Ferrell sees working at the track as a career opportunity. She also likes the benefits, she said.

Another plus is the sense of community felt among the employees.

"It's a great place to work," she said. "I love the people I work with."


Martha Fuqua lost her teaching job after 11 years in the Washington, D.C., school system.

"I was riffed," she said.

No matter, she said she doesn't plan to ever go back to teaching.

Single, Fuqua lives in Lovetttsville, Va.

She's training to deal blackjack and carnival games, she said.

"Every day here brings a new experience," she said. "Hopefully, a positive one."

The training sessions, taught by seasoned dealers in a special room in the casino, began in January and run into June.

Developing the skills needed to run a gaming table has been a challenge, Fuqua said. "I've been in college most of life, but this is kicking my butt," she said.

"I like English, history, philosophy. They're my strong points. Math is not. I've gone to Vegas and always had a good time, but I never had any idea what goes into dealing."

One of her fears is making a mistake at the table. "We're dealing with other people's money. I want people to come back to my table."

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