My day: Casino croupier Vincent Mou
- 23 August 2013
- From the section Asia
Vincent Mou, 34, works as a croupier in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal. Once a Portuguese colony, the city of 500,000 now attracts 27 million tourists a year, mainly from China, and gambling revenues are five times greater than the Las Vegas Strip.
I first started working in a casino five years ago. Before I worked in an office doing paperwork. The main attraction was the salary - about HK$16,000 ($2,000, £1,300) a month, while in the office I was earning HK$10,000.
First you become a dealer, then a dealer-inspector and then supervisor and then pit manager. I was promoted to dealer-inspector after six months. It's easier than being a dealer because you don't need to sit at a table, you can walk around.
I know all six games - baccarat, blackjack, roulette, sic bo (a dice game), fan tan (similar to roulette) and poker, but mostly I work on the baccarat and blackjack tables. Baccarat is by far the most popular game.
This week, I'm working the night shift from 23:00 until 07:00 in the morning. It's exhausting. There are three shifts altogether - morning, middle and night. We do each shift for six days, take a day off and then switch.
I live quite near the casino. I don't walk to work though; I ride my motorbike. It takes five minutes. Macau is a small place.
I change into my uniform first - it's black with a purple collar. If I have time I go to the canteen and see if there's any news on the bulletin board, then I go to the toilet, grab some water and go down to the floor to sign in.
I have to supervise three to four tables. My position means I have to handle the dealers, my boss and all the customers. It's about communication more than anything else.
Every two hours, we have to sum up the tables and see whether they are winning or losing. If a table is losing a lot of money in a short period, we have to alert the pit manager.
For me, the chips feel like toys, not real money. Of course, if the customers win, I'm happy because they won't cause me any problems. Losing means problems. If the customer shouts at you or says some dirty words, you have to remember it's just work and not take it to heart.
The customers have all sorts of strange habits to bring good luck. Some touch or kiss jade amulets before each round. Others blow on their cards or shout out to try and call or change the next card.
A few will try to cheat or steal chips from another player. You look for people sitting for a long time and not playing. You have to keep an eye on them.
About once every two weeks, I work on the VIP tables where bets are much bigger, maybe HK$10,000 a hand. The VIPs want zero mistakes, so I really have to concentrate. They might lose one or two million dollars in the space of a minute. Sometimes I think to myself: don't place the bet, just give the money to me!
The smoking really gets to you. Luckily, I am standing behind the dealers so I escape the worst of it. Since January, half the casino floor is supposed to be non-smoking but most tables still have smokers. I'd like to work in the non-smoking area but pregnant women have priority.
After I finish my shift I have some breakfast and get home around 08:00. I then sleep until around 14:00 and get up. I'm lucky, I sleep very deeply. In the afternoon, if I'm not studying, I'll run errands, exercise or see my friends - around half of them work in casinos too.
Working at a casino eight hours is eight hours. You don't need to bring any work home. It's not like working with some companies when you have overtime.
I'm studying for my bachelor degree in Gaming and Recreation Management. My company pays the tuition fees and the degree is designed for people working in the casinos.
Each day they have a class in the morning and evening, each with the same teaching, so I can always make one or the other. I've just finished my third year - next year is the last. It might lead to a promotion but I can't bank on it - these days everyone has a degree.
My girlfriend works at another casino as a dealer. Some periods we work the same shifts, sometimes not. It's not easy to see each other. We will get married after I've finished my degree. We've saved up half the money we need.
Macau has changed very, very fast. Before I used to go downtown, but now local people like me don't go because there are so many tourists.
You can't say whether this is good or bad because Macau only has gambling. Las Vegas has been going for 40 years so I think Macau has a long way to go - we've just had 10 years so far.
I only gamble myself at Chinese New Year. I go with my girlfriend, my family and just play for fun. Before I believed in luck a little bit, but now after working in a casino, I know the casino always wins.
Vincent Mou was talking to the BBC's Katie Hunt in Macau.