How Playboy brought the glamour back to gaming

Dealer Inspector Lou is celebrating almost a quarter of a century in the gaming industry and she credits the Playboy Club’s London revival with putting the glamour back into her career.

As an 18-year-old starting out in the beauty business, Lou was hooked on glamour. So when she saw an advert for a casino training academy which promised a career in which she could travel the world dressed to the nines, she packed-in her beautician’s course and signed-up for a new life as a croupier.

That was in the mid ‘90s and, while Lou quickly discovered that the reality didn’t quite live up to the advertiser’s hype, the industry in general was far more glamorous in those days.

“Men weren’t even allowed on the gaming floor unless they were wearing a decent suit,” she recalls. “It was much more prestigious to be a dealer back then. Casinos were elegant and exciting and the money was fantastic. But then it all changed and the glamour disappeared – until Playboy came back on the scene.

“As it was the industry’s glamorous reputation that attracted me in the first place, this club is definitely my spiritual home. I would love to have been a Bunny and worn the costumes. I’d have smashed it!”

Populating the Hutch

Lou began working in our Old Park Lane building 18 years ago when it housed the Rendezvous Mayfair and says that being part of its transformation into Playboy was nerve-wracking but exhilarating.

As one of the select Rendezvous employees picked to make the transition, Lou was responsible for training all the new Bunny Dealers in time for opening night in June 2011. This was going to be a spectacular relaunch 30 years after the capital’s original Playboy Club - and Europe’s first – closed its doors; its reputation as THE playground of the Swinging Sixties written firmly into the history books.

The club’s 21st century incarnation was designed to evoke the spirit of those vintage years, celebrate Playboy’s history and heritage, and recreate the casino’s inimitable style.

“None of our new Bunnies had any dealing experience though,” remembers Lou. “We were starting from scratch. It was huge and it was crazy, but we did it – and we did it in around four months!”

Nowadays the club takes on experienced dealers and turns them into Bunnies, but the first castings were different. These girls had to be trained as top-notch croupiers as well as being schooled in all-things-Bunny so they could represent the brand perfectly from day one.

Dealing 101

Hundreds of girls turned up for the interviews, hoping to land a glamorous job as a world-famous Bunny. Some of the successful applicants were chosen to train as valets; the rest were sent to Lou to see if they had what it takes to become a dealer.

The first thing the girls had to master was handling the chips. “And that’s hard!” says Lou. “You have to be so dexterous to chip up, to hold a stack securely, and to cut down quickly and accurately.

“Once they got the physical stuff, we concentrated on the maths. Dealers have to be brilliant at their times tables – and not just two to 12 but 17 and 35 too. Flash cards helped a lot.

“Some of that first intake left of their own accord, others we decided were more suited to valet duties, and the rest we worked with day and night (that’s what it felt like anyway!) to get them ready for the grand opening.”

What makes a great Bunny Dealer?

While maths and memory are critical to the role, having the right personality is also hugely important, says Lou.

“If you make a mistake but you can laugh about it and, crucially, make the customer laugh too, then everything will be fine. Entertain your customer by being quick-witted and funny and everyone’s happy.

“It’s all about delivering a dazzling service. On-site training is continuous to make sure we maintain world-class standards and continue to improve the extraordinary customer experience for which Playboy Clubs are renowned.”

Dealer Inspector: diplomat, negotiator, friend

It’s Lou’s job to maintain the integrity of the game, to oversee procedures and security, and to negotiate tricky situations. The tables can be volatile places – especially on big-money games; especially when someone is losing.

“Big money games are the best games because everyone gets a real kick out of them and the atmosphere is fantastic,” says Lou.

“But once a player goes over to a table, it’s that Bunny Dealer’s game whatever her level of experience and however much money is involved. I couldn’t change the dealer even if I wanted to - but I can lend my brain and experience to the game.

“And if things start to get a bit heated, it’s people skills that work to take that heat out of the situation. You have to be able to read the table, understand the way the tide might be turning, sense changes in atmosphere, know what to say when, be diplomatic, but above all, be likeable. Sometimes it feels like handling 16 frying pans at the same time!

“If you can deal a huge game professionally and channel all your nervous energy into making it fantastic fun, then it stops being all about the winning and customers will have a great time whatever happens. You can actually change the way people react to their losses.”

The most money Lou has seen someone win at the Roulette table is £2 million. And the biggest tip she knows of at Playboy Club London is £100,000, bestowed by a new Blackjack millionaire on his lucky Dealer Bunny.

It is a unique Playboy tradition that when one of the girls receives a tip, all her colleagues whoop and cheer.

“Yes, we make a lot of noise!” says Lou. “This is a happy place to play and to work. It’s just great fun!”

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