Aside from manual dexterity, facility with numbers and a polished appearance, croupiers need skill with people and a mix of both ease and reserve.
On the way to Casino Wien in Vienna’s 1st district, I stepped aside for a modest motorcade and police escort, turning just in time to see a hand waving regally from the window and a tiny Union Jack uttering gaily from the antenna. It was Prince Charles, in town for the day.
There were two strange aspects to this incident: One was that no one had seemed to notice. Two was, well, just the pure chance of it all.
Bemused, I headed inside to meet Gert Krones, a croupier at Casino Wien, who is also fascinated by the role of chance. It was chance, after all, that brought him there in the first place, when as a 20-year-old, he had answered an ad on a whim. Twenty-seven years later, he’s still there.
Aside from manual dexterity, facility with numbers and a polished appearance, croupiers need skill with people and a mix of both ease and reserve. Emotions tend to run high in a casino, so they must learn to not react, stay calm at all times and be in control behind the table.
Krones, who also trains other croupiers, encourages new recruits to go abroad somewhere and play a few rounds (croupiers working in Austrian casinos are not allowed to gamble themselves) – “to stand on the other side,” as Krones puts it. “This way they can understand and empathize with the players.”
Krones is always impeccably turned out, his demeanor and appearance classic and elegant, as it would have been in casinos 50 or even 100 years ago. The biggest change has been in the customers – and not, one senses, for the better. “When I first started out, the men would arrive in suits and ties and the ladies in evening gowns – it was something special,” he remembers. “Now we’re just one leisure activity out of many. It’s not unusual to see people in jogging pants. The style has changed – not ours, theirs.”
So back to the princely encounter, which somehow foreshadowed our meeting: Despite police escort, the sight of royalty on the Kärntner Straße barely raised an eyebrow. The elderly Chinese ladies walking into the casino – in spite of their jeans and down jackets – seemed a lot more excited.
In my career, I’ve had my share of ‘wow’ moments. I’ve seen bets laid that went into six gures – now that’s something that gets the adrenaline pumping!