‘It’s a great gig,’ says Tampa Bay poker dealer

PALM HARBOR, FL (WFLA) – Charlie Catanese is quite the character, with a larger than life personality. He has a quick wit and a heart of gold. With an endearing Brooklyn accent, the native New Yorker-turned-Floridian is the kind of guy you could talk to for hours. His stories are colorful and bold as he talks about the culture of casinos. And, he knows a thing or two about it.

The professional poker and craps dealer has been dealing cards for nearly 2 decades. “I’ve got to be honest with you, it’s a great gig. You have to have the right attitude,” he says.

As a long-time, memorable and friendly poker dealer, he has dozens of repeat customers that he has known over the years with a resume that includes Tampa Bay Downs and Seminole Hard Rock Casino. “You get to know people, you know their families, their kids,” Charlie hold WFLA.

When he and his family settled in Tampa Bay, the former bagel store owner from New York saw an ad on TV for professional casino dealers. His wife told him to answer the ad, and he did. He said with a smile, “The rest, they say, is history.”

As a longtime card dealer, Charlie admits that the most important part of working in a casino is reading people. “You have 9 people sitting together in front of you, and you have to make them feel comfortable,” he says. But sometimes, he says, things can get heated.

In fact, Charlie recalled one story where a guy wouldn’t get off a cell phone while sitting at the table. And, when Charlie didn’t deal him in, the guy began cursing and yelling. Charlie immediately notified the pit boss, the unruly player was asked to leave. “You can be on your phone during a hand, but then when we deal another hand, you have to be off the phone or else you won’t be dealt in.”

And, what about pet peeves? First of all, don’t be an overly aggressive player. “Wait your turn,” Charlie instructed. “Don’t be making bets before the dealer calls on you. The dealer runs the table.”

Also, don’t fake your bets. Some guys, Charlie maintains, will act like they’re making a large bet, then won’t. “This is called taking a shot. It’s bush league.” And, don’t forget the most important rule: Always tip the dealer. “The guy works on tips. It’s customary to give him a tip.”

Charlie has been on both sides of the table – as a dealer and a gambler. He loved playing in the World Series of Poker. But, his favorite game? Craps. “So exciting,” he said, waving his hands in the air. “Quick money and lots of action. I love it.”

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