Profession : croupier

Key figures in casinos – croupiers take bets at the various gaming tables. We take a closer look at a demanding job where numbers need to be handled with the same skill as the chips.

Friendly but firm, discreet but observant, poker-faced but helpful – the job of the croupier is all about nuance, and much more complex than it appears. In France, the profession first saw the light in the 19th century – when the first casinos appeared. The name is a clear reference to dexterity. “The term croupier comes from the French expression ‘crouper un jeton’, the technical skill of flipping a chip so that it lands flat on the mat”, explains Eric Michelet, Managing Director of the future Club Barrière in Paris. Lighter than today’s American chips, the French chips of the time allowed for a few stylish flourishes – a sign of the croupier’s skill. “Some croupiers were able to throw 4 chips at once into four different squares. This was indispensable on big casino nights», continues Eric Michelet. It’s a little known fact that the word croupier also has much more trivial origins: “The croupier is the one who remains seated at the table. So he stays on his ‘croupe’ (rump), so to speak, hence the horse analogy”.


Compulsory training


Assisted by a table manager, croupiers host and supervise all of the gaming tables: games where clients play against the casino (blackjack, Ultimate Poker, English and French roulette, la boule etc.), games where clients play each other (Texas Holdem Poker) and the semi-electronic games, which have appeared recently. This category is often for beginners, where the job involves dealing some of the cards with the help of a screen and making sure the game runs smoothly. Changing all the time, the job of a croupier requires compulsory training – 4 to 8 weeks depending the number of games involved. It also requires a “gaming permit” issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and subject to certain conditions: you need to be of legal age, of French or European nationality and entered on the electoral register and mustn’t have a criminal record. But that’s not necessarily enough. “Even if you have no criminal record, anything held on police files such as a fight or drug possession might mean a refusal by the authorities”, stresses Eric Michelet.


Many different qualities


Strict assessments are carried out to ensure that the future croupier is able to remain calm in all circumstances. “As they win or lose, a client can flip from euphoria to agression in the blink of an eye. You need to be agile enough to adapt to their moods and keep the right distance”. So agility and psychology, but also the ability to remember the rules of the game, lightning mental arithmetic, a good speaking voice and polished presentation – many different qualities are required. “The job goes way beyond simply handling the chips: there’s a very strong business side to it”, affirms Eric Michelet. “As an ambassador for the casino, a croupier needs to be open and communicative and have the ability to recognise and greet regulars.” Not forgetting the ability to stay alert at the same table an hour and a half at a stretch – often at odd hours. On the plus side, there are good prospects for rapid career progression, with a number of rungs to climb from beginner to head croupier, and even the chance to become a member of the executive committee. Above all else, there’s the pleasure of working in the hushed atmosphere of the casino, where boredom isn’t an option.