Approaching Guests - Indian Gaming Magazine

CUSTOMER CARE
Approaching Guests: Understanding Critical
Differences Between Slot and Table Game Players
by Eric Booker
T
raditional business environments usually only have
traditional communication challenges. Clients and
business representatives are able to converse without irregular or extraordinary interruptions or excessive stimuli.
Not so with gaming. The very nature of the industry creates
unique scenarios that complicate how and when a host is able
to effectively approach and communicate with a player.
First and foremost, it is important to remember that the guest
has come to the casino to play, so interruptions must be
conducted at a time that is least intrusive to the player. However, interruptions may not only be necessary, they might even
be requested by the guest, so it is critical to seamlessly conduct
business in a fashion that doesn’t interrupt their concentration,
flow or luck. As a result, it is important that the casino staff
understands the differences between the different types of
players, as well as a possesses a basic understanding of the types
of games on the floor, so that they will be able to approach existing and potential clients in a manner that is appropriate and
conducive to conducting business.
Slot Players vs. Table Game Players
As far as a casino host is concerned, there are two different
“types” of players on the floor: slot players and table game
players. While there are many similarities between the two, it
is important to understand their differences and how those
differences impact the casino host’s ability to effectively
communicate with their guests. While both types of players can,
and will, spend hours at a time playing their favorite games, the
slot player may tend to play for longer periods of time. This
may because they feel like they’re in control of the game, or
because the games require less concentration and are less
mentally and physically exhausting than the table games. For
these same reasons, table game players tend to be more
temperamental than slot players because they’re not in
control of the pace and have to exert more mental and
physical energy in the game.
Electronic Games
Although there is an increasing variety of electronic
gaming machines on the floor (slots, video poker, carnival
games, etc.) these players are still commonly referred to as slot
players and can be approached in the same manner regardless
of the type of game being played. These players tend to be the
most approachable for a variety of reasons. First, since they are
in control of the tempo of the game, they can pause and restart
at any time without ramification. They don’t have to wait on
a dealer or know what other players are doing so they don’t feel
like they’re being interrupted. Also, they seem to enjoy
themselves more and tend to be a more casual type of player
76 Indian Gaming
November 2008
in that they don’t tent to take gambling as seriously as a table
player might. With that said, always remember that gambling
is a game of chance and if a player is losing money, they may
not want to be bothered.
Table Games
Just like there are both similarities and differences between
slot and table game players, the same is true of the various types
of table games as well. Understanding both what makes them
similar, as well as different, will better enable the casino host
to approach the guest with confidence and authority. One
thing that all table games have in common is, of course, the table
itself. While technically a host can approach the player either
from the dealer’s or player’s side of the table, it makes better
sense to approach from the player’s side. Not only is this a
subliminal communication that tells the player that the host is,
quite literally, “on their side,” but it will also allow the host to
hear and communicate with the player more clearly and
effectively rather than talking over the noise of the casino and
the other guests.
Another factor that is common between many of the table
games is the amount of concentration that is required to play
well. The higher the concentration required will proportionately increase the likelihood that the player will desire to be
uninterrupted. While most table games require some level
concentration, the amount of concentration required will vary
by game. In addition to the differences discussed below, when
it comes to card games, a good rule of thumb for approaching
players is to wait until the hand is over or for when the dealer
is shuffling. This will be both the easiest time to obtain the
player’s attention as well as minimize any perceived interruption into the outcome of the game.
Although there are similarities between the games, it is
perhaps their differences that are most important to understand, memorize and remember. Unlike the electronic gaming
machines, each table game has its own “culture,” a general feel,
mood or attitude which will largely influence the emotions,
actions and reactions of its players. Some require more concentration than others. Some are higher energy or more physically
engaging. Each has different points during which the game
slows or pauses, which creates the optimal juncture for a host
to approach a guest. As a result, knowing when to approach a
player will vary based on the type of game that is being played.
Blackjack or “21”
Approaching a full Blackjack table for the first time can be
a rather intimidating experience – six guests playing cards,
friends and onlookers standing around. It may not be easy to
approach the player that has asked to speak with a host. The
best time to speak with the player is either when the hand is
over or while the dealer is shuffling the cards. Do not interrupt the player while they have cards in hand. If the conversation continues while the cards are being dealt, try to keep the
conversation brief so as not to disturb the concentration of the
other players. If it seems that the situation will require a more
in-depth conversation, provide the guest with your business card
and ask the guest to contact you when they’re done at that table.
This will allow the conversation to continue uninterrupted in
private at a more conducive time.
With Blackjack, each player is not just watching the dealer
and their cards, but they’re also watching the other players to
determine whether they’re experienced or novice, whether
their play is more serious or just for fun. As a result, interrupting one player can disrupt other players as well and can be interpreted as rude. So, quite simply, find out what the player needs
and move away.
The culture of the Blackjack table will vary based on the
personality types of the players, their various moods and the
level of play. There may be some banter between the players,
however, the type of constant analysis that is required, both of
the cards and of the other players, can breed a more serious
culture, or tone, to this game. Keep that in mind prior to
approaching players. Learn to identify their non-verbal
communications in order to determine their emotional response
to the game. This will help to identify the most appropriate
way to approach and connect with the guest.
Pai Gow
Pai Gow poker is a game where the player can buy in at a
minimal amount and, depending on how they bet and play their
hands, they can play all day. Unlike Blackjack, once a player is
dealt their cards, they are stuck with that hand. They cannot
discard or trade any cards, which means that the game does not
require a lot of concentration. In most cases, the players are
interacting with each other in a positive manner and having fun.
Generally speaking, the stakes are usually much lower than in
Blackjack and all of these factors contribute to a more lighthearted culture, which makes it acceptable to approach a guest
at any time during the play.
Craps
Craps is a very high-energy game and as a result is usually
considered the most exciting game in the casino. This level of
energy can lead to a higher level of emotional involvement
than the other games on the floor. As a result, the seasoned
Craps player will be more or less willing to indulge an interruption based on how the dice are rolling. If the player is on
November 2008
Indian Gaming 77
CUSTOMER CARE
a downhill tumble, it is best to let the play continue uninterrupted either until they request the services of a host or until
they are done. The only time it is inappropriate to approach
a winning player is when they are rolling the dice.
This game presents several opportunities for approaching
guests. The most frequent opportunity at the table will be after
the dice have been rolled and the bets have been paid. Other
opportunities include when the dealer is raking in the chips off
of the table and when the table is changing shooters. Both of
these scenarios present a pause in the action during which the
casino host can easily begin a conversation, create an introduction or otherwise communicate with the player.
Baccarat
Baccarat is known as an “elegant” game, made famous by
the 007 character James Bond, and is known for the large
betting averages. As a result of the extremely high stakes, this
may be one of the most intimidating games in the casino,
especially for newer and inexperienced host staff. While other
games may have a variety of players, here is where you will find
the “whales,” of the casino.
With betting in the high tens of thousands, a strategy is
critical when approaching the players of this game. While the
easiest strategy may be to wait until the hand is over, it may
also be appropriate to establish contact during the betting
sequence. As always, the best way to approach a player will
depend upon the player, their approachability and mood.
Certainly, that is the common theme for all games. Whether
slot or table games, Blackjack or Baccarat, the key to
successfully approaching a player ultimately depends upon
each individual player. If a player does not feel like talking,
thank them for their time and move on. If a player is excited,
share their excitement. If they’re discouraged, sympathize.
Always read the emotions of the players to determine how to
approach them, identify with them and ultimately make them
feel comfortable.
Interrupting a game at an inappropriate time communicates
to the guest that the host doesn’t understand the business, and
therefore will be of minimal value. Knowing when to approach
a guest is crucial in that it sets the appropriate tone for the
host’s interaction with the guest. This is foundational to the
relationship. This one action communicates to the guest the
professionalism of the casino, the knowledge of the host staff,
and sets the expectation of good things to come. ♣
Eric Booker is Director of Player Development for Snoqualmie
Casino. He can be reached by calling (425) 999-0903 or email
ebooker@snocasino.com.
November 2008
Indian Gaming 79
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