Character Guest Post:
by Cara Bertoia
Yeh, I’m Derrick from Donegal. I’m the table games director at the Night Hawk. Don’t believe what people say about me especially that tight arsed bitch Caroline. I’d like to see how long she’d last in the mean streets of the East End, in London, where I was raised.
She can’t see I am a damn good boss. They should have made me casino manager instead of her. Who ever heard of a bird running a casino? She’s probably sleeping with the Chairman John Tovar. I see the way they look at each other. It’s like they speak a secret language.
Don’t start me on John. All the guests and employees act like he walks on water. It’s as if they think he’s not just the Indian chief but some kind of shaman. With his braids he looks like Pocahontas, pretty like a bird. I like his cousins, the Tovar twins, a whole lot better, they know the score. Don’t look too closely don’t upset the good gig we have going on here.
Caroline caused trouble for me since the first day she walked through the door. Towering over me in her heels, trying to intimidate me. She acted all lady boss, calm and efficient, but I could tell this wasn’t going to work out. I don’t know what the problem was, but I have never done well with lady bosses. They don’t really understand how this business works. Blokes know that if you scratch someone’s back, they’ll scratch yours in the future. It’s what I did for my employees. I did favors for them to help them make more money, and they passed part of it my way. We have an understanding. Do you see the problem?
I first walked into a casino in London when I was laying bricks at the Golden Nugget. Working inside seemed a damn site better than freezing my bum out in the cold, wicked streets of the city. I signed up for a grueling training class in roulette. I remember the thrill I felt the first time I spun the ball around the heavy mahogany wheel without it flying into space. I had to memorize so many multiplication tables, it almost did my head in. But I survived. We started with fifty in the class and ended up with five. I’m glad to say, London dealers are the gold standard.
We were wanted all over the world, from South Africa to cruise ships circling the globe. A captive audience. I met the Ex on a Regal Cruise ship. An American who fancied a man in a suit. I fancied a green card. When the marriage ended, I walked away with a green card and a restraining order against me. I tried to get as far away from San Diego as I could which is how I ended up in this godforsaken desert, with a bitch for a boss. But it is a sweet gig and I don’t intend to lose it.
It’s not my fault, the only thing there is to do around here is play at the casinos. It’s so hot in the summer you feel it in your bones when you walk outside. The dust from the wind storms so thick it settles in your suits. I can only spend so many nights on the couch drinking Guinness and watching the telly. When I get off work casinos an hour away in every direction entice me to eat, play, win. I get the itch about half-way through my shift. I drive to Indio Springs convinced I will walk away with a small fortune and make up for the losing streak I have been on lately.
At first, it all goes to plan. I keep hitting numbers at the roulette wheel, turning a thousand into ten thousand. It feels so good to win, there is nothing that compares, even sex. In the flow, I feel invincible. But a plonker like me never knows when to quit. I keep telling myself the next roll will be my last as my pile begins to disintegrate. Before I know it, I am back to my one thousand and then down to naught. Pissed off at myself, I slam my fist on the table. A few minutes later security escorts me to the door. Hope the Chairman doesn’t hear about that.
But I can feel it starting again, that itch. But tonight, I will quit when I’m ahead. It will happen, I will climb out of this hole. All it takes is one good night. Only four more hours to go. I walk over to watch the blackjack game and notice this idiot making money hand over fist. But I’m not worried I know he’ll walk away with nothing. Because it’s hard to walk away from a winning streak. But I will tonight.
I’ve learned my lesson. Want to come with me to Indio Springs? I could teach you roulette.
About The Book
Caroline Popov, alone, heartbroken, and deeply in debt ends up in glamorous Palm Springs, California where Native casinos have just opened, offering employment to thousands. She lands a job at the Palm Oasis Casino where she is mentored by the charismatic tribal chairman, John Tovar.
Embraced by casino culture, Caroline works her way up to casino manager of the Night Hawk, in the High Desert of Southern California. There, she is responsible for managing multicultural team members, satisfying the demands of often unique guests, and growing revenue while rooting out corruption.
In the process of rediscovering her inner strength, she learns, you have to gamble like your life depends on it. Because it often does.
About the Author
Growing up in a strait-laced Southern family, I was always fascinated with casinos. In my twenties on a summer hiatus from teaching in North Carolina, I drove to California and became a dealer at Caesars in Lake Tahoe. Well, I can tell you that after teaching high school, handling an unruly gambler was a piece of cake. My mother highly disapproved of my working in a casino, “a place so bad it has ‘sin’ in the middle.”
Eventually, I succumbed to pressure from the family and returned east to take a high-tech job in Boston. I also began working on my MFA in writing at Emerson. I wanted to write the first realistic novel about casino life from the perspective of an experienced table games dealer. I am always amazed that normal and sometimes quite intelligent players become absolutely clueless in the casino. They repeat superstitious nonsense and no amount of logic can change their position, maybe my novel will.
While in Boston I was offered the opportunity to join Princess Cruises as a croupier. Jumping at the chance, I spent the next five years circling the globe. Sometimes life exceeds your dreams. I was awed by the wonders of Venice, the fjords of Norway, and the Northern Lights in Leningrad.
I returned from ships with a very special souvenir, my Scottish husband Ray. We went to work at the Spa Casino in Palm Springs. We now live in Hollywood, Florida, where I write about my casino years while wistfully gazing out at the ocean.
I love to see any of you out there reading Casino Queen. Send me a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post it on social media.
Thank you, Cara B
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