Charles Kaplan - Dealer For A Day
(In case you wondered what it is like
on the other side of the table)
by Charles Kaplan, R-2558

Charles Kaplan on Dealing, August, 2000


I am a casino chip collector. Although I do sell some chips at local chapter meetings, as a collector, I mostly trade and buy chips. A friend of mine, also for the most part a collector, has had a table at the Annual CC&GTCC Convention for the last couple of years. After he reserved a table for this year's convention, he learned that he would have to attend a professional conference in Los Angeles at the same time. He was hoping to get to the CC&GTCC Convention by Friday at the latest. Since he needed coverage for his table while he was going to be at his conference I agreed to share his table. This way he could have his stuff on display for the whole show and we would be able to back each other and be able to pursue our collecting activities. I would, of course, get the opportunity to sell and trade my duplicates at the show. My friend's plans did not work out quite as anticipated and he found out just a few days before the convention that he would not be able to make it to the convention at all. And so I inherited a table and became a chip dealer.

I was very optimistic. This would be a lot of fun. I could now get into the show room with all the other dealers while the collectors were outside. I'd have first pick of all the good stuff and get tremendous dealer-to-dealer discounts.

I did a lot of work to get my chips ready for the convention. I inventoried all my duplicates and figured out my selling prices based on the latest price guides. Do you know how much it costs to keep up with all the latest price guides? I printed up signs and business cards and price sheets. I made sure all the chips were in nice 2x2's that were in 20 pocket plastic pages ... that were in seven 1" binders all with the current prices. To transport all my chips to the convention, I bought the largest rolling carry-on suitcase that the airlines would allow in the overhead compartment. No way was I going to check this luggage! Preparations all completed, I headed out to the convention.

My flight went smoothly. Arriving at the gate we heard over the plane's loudspeakers, "Welcome to Las Vegas, where the local time is 11:42 am and the temperature is 106 degrees." Welcome to Las Vegas in the summer. By the way, I've heard it said that Las Vegas has 3 months of good weather and then 9 months of summer.

I was carrying and rolling about 60 lbs. of chips, books and supplies around, along with my laptop and another bag with my clothes. I'm in good shape; I mean I play tennis 5 times a week. But, I don't care what anyone says, dry heat is baloney. Carrying all the stuff at 106 degrees, I felt like I was going to pass out any second. Eventually I made it to the Tropicana. Why are these casino's so large? I really got my exercise carrying my stuff for miles and miles. And then, after registering, I entered the show room, as a Chip Dealer.

The first thing I have to tell you is that, not surprisingly, I found every dealer I ran into very nice and helpful. They offered to watch my table when I needed a break and they were eager to lend a helping hand at any request. After setting up my table, I was able to look around and get a couple chips I needed. One thing that I quickly learned is that steep dealer-to-dealer discounts are a myth. I think every chip dealer is also a chip collector. The mark up on casino chips is not so large that you can get great deals buying single chips. The big discounts are earned on large transactions. Something that is way out of my league.

Well not too much time to play, the reception and early bird trading sessions are about to start. A shower and a change of clothes and I was off to the reception. I was astonished to find the room filled to the rafters. I got there about 15 minutes after the reception started and there was no food left, no beer or soda, only some wine. There were so many friends I wanted to find and say hello to, in this crowd it was impossible. Luckily a couple of New York friends saved a seat for me at their table.

At my table with some New York friends

On Thursday the Convention bourse floor opened and the long hours went by quickly. I was selling chips and talking to friends I only get to see once a year. I had absolutely no difficulties at all on the selling floor. No arguments, no rip-offs, no hassles, no problems. Whenever a New York friend would walk by, they would always ask if I needed a break. I took them up on several of those offers, both to visit the restroom and to check out the other dealer's tables for chips I needed.

Unfortunately, soon after the show room closed, evening events like the Club business meeting, the Auction or the Poker Tournament were starting. I really needed some down time after working all day and missed some events I really wanted to attend, especially the early morning educational sessions. But with the jet lag and the long hours in the show room, I needed some sleep. Can you believe I was using up my vacation time from my real job, in order to work at the convention?

That's pretty much how it went. Long tiring days and nights, but having lots of fun. I did spend more on buying chips than I sold, but I am a collector and not a dealer, so no big surprise.

I learned that it is pretty tough being a dealer. Physically it is very demanding standing behind your table on the show floor eight hours a day and then participating in an evening event. Financially, it is also difficult. Figure out how much it costs to prep for the show, transportation to Vegas and then hotel and food expenses. To that add $295 to rent a table. You have to sell an awful lot of chips just to break even. In my case, my low-end stuff sold a lot better than my high-end chips, so I did not break even. But, since I am a collector you have to look at it differently. I was going to convention anyhow, dealer or not. The main reason I went to the convention was to have a good time and get some chips, so my main objectives were definitely accomplished.

My understanding, from talking to other dealers, is that it is very difficult to make a living selling chips. The dealers are mainly at the convention for the same reasons I was: to meet friends, have a good time and add to their collections.

The dealers in this hobby take the major financial responsibility for supporting the convention. The club gets over $30,000 a year from the dealers for table rentals at the convention. At the convention, members do not provide any direct financial support to the Club, admission is free. Collectors should be very appreciative of this set up. In many other hobbies members are charged admission fees to attend a show or convention.

Would I do it again? Absolutely! Next time, though, I would really like to share a table, so that I could participate in many of the activities going on away from the show floor.


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