As December rolls round, so do work Christmas parties, and the sort of behaviour that should see you having a stern word with yourself. No, I don't care who you grind against on the dancefloor, or whose mouth you vom in a bit, before shagging someone else. I don't even care about the medley of marching powder you suction up your nose, or how far up their colons you tell management to stick the quagmire of a job you're trapped in out of apathy.
What I do care about, is how you behave at your Christmas party's "fun casino" - at the blackjack and roulette tables over in the corner. You've seen a bit of Bond and eaten free sandwiches at the Gala on Tottenham Court Road. You've ended up at the Empire in Leicester Square, waiting for the trains to start, after Saturday night at Tiger Tiger. And now, at your work Christmas party, at a conference room in Colindale, you think you're Daniel Craig in Monte Carlo.
Mate, you're not James Bond, and you won't convince me you are, by telling me about the time you and your mate put a tenner on red, at a sweatshop casino in Southend. As a former croupier, who dealt games to degenerate gamblers who ruled small countries, this is a bit like telling Paula Radcliffe about the time you did a 3K fun run dressed as a womble.
The chances are, your "fun casino" dealer is used to dealing with hundreds of thousands of pounds a night (in real money). And now they've either left the business, or it's their night off. Either way, all they want to do is earn a bit of extra cash for Christmas, without dislocating their eyeballs, listening to your theory about splitting tens on blackjack. Let me put this in perspective for you: your dealer is The Horse Whisperer, but you are not a real horse. You are a My Little Pony, with a mangled mane, that's been chewed by the dog.
It's not just the amounts of money involved - or the fact that this is "fun money" with your boss's face on every note. It's that you don't know how to play and you say nonsensical things like, "stick" and "twist" at the blackjack table. This is like Del Boy going into a supermarket in Calais and saying, "buongiorno." Blackjack is not pontoon, there's no such thing as a five card trick, and for the love of God, you are not playing against each other - you are playing against the dealer.
But your night at the tables doesn't need to cause this much suffering. You don't have to make your dealer feel like Tom Cruise in Minority Report, looking at the sun after an eyeball transplant. I know you don't know any better, so let me help you. Here is my etiquette guide for fun casinos:
How to indicate whether or not you want another card on blackjack
This is really so simple. Just say, "card" or "no card." Alternatively, tap the table with your finger for a "yes," or wave your hand over your box for a "no." That's it - no jargon needed. No one says "stick" or "twist" in a casino. You saying this, is painful on the level of David Cameron saying, "you ain't no Muslim bruv."
How to hand us your fun money
Again, guys - it's simple: Put the money on the table. Just put it down, and we'll pick it up. DON'T TRY TO PUT THE MONEY IN OUR HANDS. Why? It's ingrained in us not to take money (or anything else) out of punters' hands for fear we'll be fired for taking bribes or colluding in cheating. Does it matter when we're outside a real casino? No. But asking us to over-ride something so entrenched, is like telling a soap star's spouse not to worry that they'll run off with their Strictly partner.
Keep your drinks off the table
Contrary to appearances, the roulette table is not a handy place to put your drinks. When you spill your Tia Maria and coke, the baize (that green felt layout) does not wipe clean. We don't want to keep asking you to pick up your drink - but we will. Can you hear the strain in our voices? That's because putting your drink on a roulette table, is a bit like using the Koran to prop up a wonky chair, then sitting down to enjoy a lapdance.
Wait for me to pay you
It tends to be pretty noisey at these events, and we're sometimes stuck by a speaker. But certain words work like a wrecking ball, to break through the wall of sound: "Hey! You haven't paid me!" Yes, I know, that is because I'm still clearing away the losing bets. That is because there is an order in which we pay out the bets, and I have other bets to pay before yours. But do keep reminding me, in a manner which would see off rival traders at Folkestone fish market.
Don't pretend to be a gambling guru just because you've seen Casino Royale
It's tempting isn't, when no one around you knows any better, to take on the role of expert and teach everyone how to play. But you don't really know how, do you?. And there is someone who knows better - the dealer. The dealer finds you about as convincing as Melania Trump's commitment to end cyber bullying. You are making the rules up as you go along. Instead, ask the dealer - you'll make less of a twat of yourself in a real casino.
Disclaimer: to everyone who has booked me to deal "fun casino" jobs this December, let's just pretend I didn't write this, yeah?Suggest a correction