Nadia Postma, Montecasino's tables secretary, hands the trophy to Tando Guzana, Dealer Champion of the Year 2017.
BEING a dealer may sound a little sinister if taken in the wrong context.

But for Tando Guzana, a dealer at Montecasino, nothing makes him more proud.

The 31-year-old won the 2017 Dealer of the Year at the National Dealer Championship hosted by Tsogo Sun. The finals were held at Montecasino with 18 finalists from the group’s 14 casinos around the country (one each from the smaller casinos and two each from the major casinos - Silverstar, Gold Reef City, Montecasino and Suncoast) pitting their knowledge, dealing skills, customer service standards, and more against each other in a series of tough challenges.

According to Glenn Joseph, COO of Tsogo Sun Gaming, the 18 represented 1.2% of the number of dealers employed by Tsogo Sun, making it a significant achievement to be selected as a finalist.

The judges, represented by management from each unit, assessed technical skills and other aspects of the dealing cycle in American Roulette and Blackjack trials, and the top five were selected. They were given the same question and time to prepare their answers. At the awards dinner, the top five presented their answers on stage to a panel of judges, and answered an additional unprepared question.

First place was awarded to Guzana.

“I am that person who facilitates the gambling on the other side of the guests. They come to my table and play. I will be the guy engaging them and playing with them.”

Guzana is skilled in poker, American roulette and blackjack, among others. He says the job requires a person to have good maths capabilities. “You need to have a Grade 12 and be willing to work flexible hours. The training takes place for some months and then you get to deal. There is a lot of counting that goes on.”

His favourite game to deal is American roulette. “It is more challenging than the others. There are so many aspects involved if you can play that game then nothing can faze you. It is so interesting and I love the surprises it comes with every day, especially the way people play it in different ways.”

Guzana walked away with R10000 and a Vodacom phone valued at R6000. Second place went to Cheszine Muller from Suncoast, who won R5000 and a R3000 Vodacom phone; third prize was won by Boniwe Khumalo, also from Montecasino, who received R3000 and a R3000 Vodacom phone; and fourth and fifth places went to, Mbuso Dube (Suncoast), and Given Motaung (Hemingways), who each won R1000.

“I would encourage other people to go into it (dealing). You may look at it and think it's not much but it’s challenging and allows you to work your way up. In the casino there are so many opportunities for growth. If you feel like dealing isn’t for you there are lots of departments to go into.”

Guzana loves the environment he works in. “The people and the guests the environment is great. With Montecasino, the moment I step inside I leave all my problems outside. I have that much more energy; even if I come to work tired I am encouraged to go on. I want to keep going and the different people we meet every day have interesting stories to tell.”

Originally from Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, Guzana started as a trainee dealer in 2008 and has been with Montecasino since 2015.

The general manager of Montecasino, Mike Page, said Guzana was a shining example of the Tsogo Sun values of teamwork, service, opportunity, growth and ownership. “We pride ourselves on delivering on Tsogo Sun’s vision of creating great experiences, and our well-trained, motivated and passionate staff ensure that we are able to fulfil this promise.”

Guzana's next step is to get a supervisor's position. "In this industry you can be good but your attitude determines how far you can go. I want to instil that.”

Tsogo Sun has a portfolio of over 100 hotels and 14 casino and entertainment destinations throughout South Africa, Africa and the Seychelles.