How To: Be a Festival Pit Boss


It is an article of faith that, come summer, every Cincinnatian worth his or her volume in Hudy Delight makes a personal hajj to a church festival to gamble for the greater glory of God. Of course, in the long run, the house always wins—and when the house in question is the Lord’s, this has cosmic implications. So, how do you keep the good times rolling?

Cathy Egan knows. Having managed the festival at St. Gertrude’s in Madeira for 26 years, she’s learned a few things about running the gambling tables. For starters, it’s best to put the high stakes games (Blackjack, Poker, Beat the Dealer, Hi-Lo) inside and the lower stakes games (Big Six, Bingo) outside. “Inside you’re playing for dollars; outside you’re playing for quarters,” she says. At Hi-Lo and Beat the Dealer, the key is the dealer—optimally three: one person to roll the dice and two others to collect and pay out. “These games are high-paced, and it’s very easy for bettors to change their bets,” she says. So three sets of eyes are better than one. Dealers have to stay focused (translation: no beer at work) and keep the crowd pumped. “We tell them to have fun with the players,” Egan says. “We don’t want any tears.” Which is why they’re encouraged to let players know when it’s time to take a break—especially if somebody’s on a losing streak. It’s not easy (“Thirteen-year-old kids do not want to be told to go play the duck pond”) but it keeps the peace.

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