Game presenters have a unique insight into live casino games that are seldom seen by players. So, when we met Melody at an industry event and learnt of her role as a live dealer, we couldn’t wait to pick her brain about what goes on behind the scenes.
The former live dealer accepted our invite and spoke to us about the best way to turn down player marriage proposals, what happens when you faint on air and what pushing the red and yellow button do.
So, here it is – our first live dealer interview. Enjoy!
Hi Melody. Thank you for carving some time in your busy schedule to chat with us today. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
Thanks for inviting me over, I love any opportunity to talk about my time as a live dealer. So, as you know, my name is Melody, I’m 24 years old, from Malta, enjoy travelling and have quite an eclectic taste in music.
What drew you to become a live dealer? Do you have a stage school background?
If I’m being honest, I simply wanted a way to get into the iGaming industry as it’s really booming here in Malta. I attended performing arts school as a teenager and have acted on-stage so I didn’t have any qualms about being in front of a camera. Live dealing seemed like a natural entry point into the industry.
What’s the interview process like? Are you tested on game knowledge, camera skills and so on?
I had two interviews in total. They do ask about your familiarity with the games but for the most part it’s competency-based questions. I think it’s mostly to see how you react when you’re put on the spot. Many people go into this job without any prior knowledge and do just fine.
When did you begin work as a live dealer? What did your family and friends think of your new job?
I started as an English-speaking dealer around October 2017 after resigning from a radiography course as it wasn’t the right fit for me. Some of my friends were a little unsure of what to think when I quit and made the switch to live dealing, but I couldn’t be happier. I held the position for six months or so.
How long is the training process and what’s it like?
Let me see, I believe the training process lasted between 2 to 3 weeks in total and it’s both theory and practice-based.
We’re initiated in a sort-of classroom setting where we’re given a handbook to brush up on what we’ve learnt in our own time and ahead of quizzes. We’re also familiarised with the rules on how rounds are handled before moving onto the practical part.
The provider I worked for has two main games – blackjack and roulette – and training would commence with the former. We were shown how to shuffle, draw cards, properly show the cards and affirm that there weren’t any hidden ones, how to add the hand totals, when to take more cards and so on.
As you may know at the start of a new game round, you’re required to shuffle the cards or change the deck. Ideally, you should do this as quickly as possible to reduce downtime on the game. The other trainees and I would hone our skills by timing ourselves shuffling to get our time as low as possible.
Once the introductory blackjack training is complete, we move onto roulette. This is saved for last as it’s slightly more complex in some ways. First, you need to learn how to spin the ball and recall the types of roulette bets from our theory-based training. We have it easier than land-based dealers as we needn’t calculate any payouts – that’s all done automatically – but we do need to explain which section of the racetrack the winning number falls within – say Tiers or Voisins du Zero. Memorising that took a bit of time and I made a few mistakes at the start but you simply apologise, give the correct section and carry on.
At the final stage, we go live in an actual studio. It’s quite nerve-wracking but as it turns out, you’re not actually on air that first time. It’s unnerving for the first few weeks as you adjust to keeping track of the screens in front of you, to not look at yourself too much, respond to players on chat, take cues from the pit boss and so on, all under the hot studio lights.
Once you’re officially a live dealer, what shifts do you work?
English dealers work 24/7 so my shift pattern was from 6am to 2pm, 2pm to 10pm and 10pm to 6am – 4 days on, 2 days off.
During each shift you’re at each table for 30 minutes and once that time’s up you either move to another table or are allotted a short break. You’re on air for a maximum of 1 hour 30 minutes but it all depends on the time of day and how busy it is. I’ve been known to just start my break and hear a supervisor call ”Dealer change, dealer change! and need to go back in front of the camera. It varies.
So, what’s a typical day like then?
If I was scheduled to go live at 6am, my commute would begin about two and a half hours earlier. I’d wear my uniform – trousers, a vest and an undershirt – and do most of my makeup at home so I’d only need to apply any finishing touches once I arrived at the studio.
There would be a roll call fifteen minutes before each shift began to make sure everyone’s there and brief us on the day ahead. These would only be brief announcements say to advise if maintenance was scheduled on certain tables, if new rules had been introduced and the like.
When the clock turns 6am, we punch into the studio through a secure pin code and our session is logged using a card which we scan on a device beneath the table. You then introduce yourself to players using your dealer name and a new game begins.
Sorry, I have to stop you there. Did you say dealer name?
Yes, for personal safety we were able to choose our own dealer name. I enjoy singing so Melody seemed like a perfect fit for me.
Interesting, I didn’t realise that. OK, back to your shift.
Your 30 minutes on air is all dependent on the number and types of players who’ll join your table. I’m not the most talkative person but you do hope that the players speak to you in the chat. I did notice that a round on roulette was usually a little more taxing as you’re standing up for 30 minutes but you’re not put on three roulette tables in a row so it’s fine.
I have to ask – what’s the set-up like beyond what us players see in the lobby? Do you have any controls at your disposal?
So, there are two monitors in front of you and a camera in between or at the top. You’re expected to maintain focus on the camera while keeping an eye on the screen to read the round results or see cues from the supervisors. It’s a matter of finding a balance.
In terms of controls, you have access to two buttons – a yellow one for assistance and a red one that calls for assistance but also stops the table. The rules for when to use each one are explained during training – for example if the roulette ball flies out of the track, you’ll need to press the red one. Other than those two there are no controls really. There’s no need for them and if players could see us messing around beneath the table it wouldn’t give a trustworthy impression either.
When you got the hang of things, which casino games did you enjoy leading the most? Which did you enjoy the least?
I preferred blackjack as there were typically more players at the table so my time there was more entertaining. Roulette could be a bit boring as there was less player interaction – it felt like you were announcing winning numbers to ghosts at times, plus you were required to stand for 30 minutes straight.
You’ve mentioned preferring tables with more players a few times. What information do you have about them and can you see how much they’re betting?
We can only see their username which is why it’s common to hear a live dealer ask which country a player’s from to get a conversation going. You’re unable to see how they’re betting so if you hear one of us congratulating players on a winning streak, or similar, it’s all based on memory.
How important is the chat facility then and do you encourage players to use it?
It’s essential as the time at the table can get pretty dull otherwise. The players we’d get weren’t too talkative but I’d try to start a conversation and even embellish stories or pass off friends’ anecdotes as my own to get a conversation going. It’s all about keeping the players entertained.
I remember a particular player who liked to film us – we’d recognise him by his username – so we’d be a bit weary of how we’d act or what we’d say. He’d ask us questions like Do you know how to rhyme or sing and say things like ”Roses are red, violets are blue…” finish this rhyme for me. It was all in good fun and kept the shift light-hearted so none of us really minded.
Did you ever have to deal with any rude comments?
Well, yes, I’ve had to politely turn down a few impromptu marriage proposals and turn a blind eye to inappropriate requests. I think unpleasant encounters come with the territory.
Swearing on live chat is starred out automatically by the system so you cannot read it in full but you can make out what’s been said. If a player complains about the game being rigged or having more luck with the previous dealer you can choose to reply to them or not. It all depends on how they’re communicating with you. You can explain that you have no control over the cards or where the roulette ball lands but you also cannot argue with people. It’s unprofessional and a nuisance to other players who’d like to enjoy some time gambling. If they use abusive language excessively, you can report them to the pit boss and get them banned from chat.
The most important thing is that you cannot take anything that’s said to you too seriously. A colleague of mine found the perfect way to deal with rude comments – he’d simply smirk and cheekily say “Someone’s being naughty in chat”. You just have to laugh it off.
Let’s get into the juicy stuff. What’s the craziest thing that was caught on camera?
Dealers fainting due to the temperature in the studio was definitely quite shocking. You see, the thing is, you cannot leave the table until a replacement steps in. If you feel a dizzy spell coming on or feel unwell, you must buzz in for the pit boss who’ll then need to find your replacement before you can step off set.
I was coming off a cold once and ended up having a coughing fit on camera. It was dramatic too – tears were streaming down my bright-red face – but I had to call the pit boss and wait there until my replacement entered the studio. I remember the players at my table were sweet actually, they encouraged me to leave and take care of myself but I couldn’t until the next dealer showed up.
What’s the best and worst thing about being a live dealer?
Customer interaction is simultaneously the best and worst part. The players you encounter really make or break your shift. Compliments from players are always nice to hear – within reason – and players showed concern when I was unwell during a shift which I appreciated. As with most customer-facing jobs, though, you do come across the occasional player who’s perhaps down on their luck and chooses to take it out on you. That’s never pleasant to experience but it’s all part and parcel of the job.
You said that you no longer work as a dealer but do you play any casino games in your free time?
I love gambling as a whole but it’s not something I actively spend my money on. I think it’s a cultural thing. Here in Malta, locals aren’t able to enter a land-based casino until they’re 25 years old so it’s not something I’m accustomed to. That being said, since my time working as a live dealer, I developed a liking for live casino games over slots, especially blackjack and poker. Table games are just more immersive and you’re in control of choosing how to play your cards so it’s more engaging.
Lastly, what would you say the top three skills needed to be a live dealer are?
To be quick on your feet, confident in front of the camera and have a thick skin.
The job is real-time and you never know what a player might come out with so you’ve got to be adaptable. You can’t be camera shy either but I’ve noticed that your confidence builds over time. And lastly, you need thick skin to do this job. You’re essentially looking at yourself all day so you have to let go of any hang-ups you may have about your appearance and not let any remarks from players get under your skin.