Not everyone has a job where people throw money at you every day but for Tracey Stoneman it’s par for the course.
The croupier at Alea casino in Leeds has seen all manner of things in her 18 years in the industry.
She spoke to Neil Hudson about growing up in Leeds, nudist gamblers, travelling the world and why she will choose a good book over television any day.
“I’ve been a croupier for 18 years, since I was 20 and I’m now 38. To begin with it was nerve-wracking.
I went on a six-week training course and then after that I was out on my own on the tables and people were throwing money at me.
You learn on the job. It can be quite intimidating to begin with because you have to keep order and keep your eye on the ball and make sure there are no late bets but it’s something you get used to.
“With roulette, what you end up doing is watching the table and the players, not the ball – the ball you learn to listen to, you can hear when it’s slowing down and at that point I will call ‘final bets’ and then ‘no more bets’.
You’ve got to watch out just in case someone puts in a large late bet on a number. In addition to roulette, I also deal black joker and three-card poker.
“I had a good childhood. I grew up in Cookridge, Leeds and went to Ralph Thoresby high school, which I left when I was 16.
My first job was in the Royal Air Force, which I joined after school. It was always something I had wanted to do, mainly because I thought I would get to travel the world.
“I became a telecommunications operator. I wanted to see the world, but at the time I joined the RAF it was undergoing a lot of cut-backs with many bases closing, which was very disappointing for me. Despite being in the RAF, I was very much a free spirit.
That’s when I left the RAF and became a croupier instead – I’d heard about the casino jobs on the cruise ships and, even though it was completely different to the RAF, it meant I could travel. It was a job which enabled me to do that.
I spent a few years travelling and working on cruise ships. My adventure took me to many places in the US, Caribbean and Central America before returning to work back in the UK.
“If you had the experience and you were good, it was one of those jobs where you could take time out and it was odds on you would be re-employed by a British casino on your return.
As a croupier, two days are never the same. Most of the people I see come in to spend small amounts of money as part of a night out. They have a budget and are out for a bit of fun. You do get high rollers too, who will come in and can afford to spend a lot of money and they enjoy doing that.
However, I think the weirdest thing I ever saw was when I worked on a cruise ship and there was a nudist group on board and they all came into the casino to have a flutter. It was hard to keep a straight face.
“The best piece of advice I can give you is never go to bed on an argument and never put off until tomorrow what you can do today. Life is just too short.
“My philosophy on life is to respect other people, to be kind and treat them as you would like to be treated.
The last time I cried was when my mother had a health scare, which happened quite recently. She had to go into hospital for an MRI scan. I cried when I found that out and I cried when she was given the results, even though she was fine.
To relax you can’t beat curling up on the settee with a good book and maybe a glass of red wine. As a parent with two children, those moments when you actually get time to yourself are rare but when they do come along, that’s what I like to do.
“I would rather sit and read a book than watch the television. If I had an entire evening off, I think I would probably also have a Radox bath.
One thing I could not live without is my music. I like all kinds of music from reggae to R‘n’B. My favourite artists are Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse and Bob Marley.
I am most proud of my children, Courtney, 8, and Charlie, 6, who are both absolutely amazing. I am also proud of raising money for charity. I have taken part in a number of runs such as the Jane Tomlinson 10k, I have done the Leeds Half Marathon twice, the Bradford Half Marathon, and the Yorkshire Three Peaks. I have also worked as a volunteer link worker for the West Yorkshire Community Chaplaincy Project. The charity is based in Leeds and their aim is to rehabilitate ex-offenders on their release from prison.
“The best thing about Leeds is it’s such a multi-cultural city. I have lived in London and other places, but I find Leeds such a beautiful city, there’s a lot more to it than first meets the eye. Living away for a while and seeing other parts of the world makes you appreciate where you are from. I spent that many years in my 20s wanting to get away from Leeds and explore the world, which I did, that I think I appreciate coming back more. I just feel comfortable here, plus it’s a great place to bring your children up.
Something that might surprise people about me is that I lived in Jamaica for eight months and shared an outside toilet with a goat (when it rained).
“A clean joke...? Who invented fractions? Henry the Eighth!”