Oh, craps

Craps, Gambling, Las Vegas, My-Sugar-Na, Reno

As much as I would hate to turn away readers, if you don't know much about craps, this entry might be hard to understand.  But please, try to follow along.

For years, I've wanted to learn how to play craps at a casino.  Pre-Potowatomi, one of my best friends, I'll call him Pete, would drive to the Chicago riverboats every week for a game.  Pete was pretty cool about it, too.  He would crow about his wins, but he would also tell about his sometimes huge losses.  When I asked him how to play, he would always say that he would show me "the next time we were at a casino".  Invariably, the next time we would be in a casino together, he would start throwing $5 cheques all over the place and I couldn't keep up with him.  I would try to interrupt with a "why did you do that?", but before he could answer, the dice were rolled and he was either collecting or making another bet that I didn't understand.

For our honeymoon in 2005, My-Sugar-Na and I went to Las Vegas and stayed at the Sahara.  One of their perks for joining their player's club was $50 in free table game play.  I found a completely empty craps table (like, at 8:00 in the morning) and asked the croupier to explain the game.  I played for awhile, got a basic idea of the comeout roll and rolling until the point was made or a seven was thrown, but since I was alone, we never got into the prop bets (the hardways, the "Any Seven", etc).  Nor was the "Field", the "Don't Pass" or laying odds discussed.

For reasons I cannot explain, one nondescript day in March of this year I decided to search the internet for a free on-line game (and for rules), so I could learn how to play.  My searching led me to the Wizard of Odds page for craps strategy, and that site had a link to Bodog Online Casino which had a free version of the game for practice.  While playing, something clicked.  I felt comfortable enough to find a slow time to go down to Potowatomi and give it a whirl.  I figured if I could figure out the Pass Line (with free odds), the Come (with free odds) and how to place a 6 and 8, I could play at the table and pick up rest on the fly.

On the next Sunday morning, My-Sugar-Na and I made the trek to Potowatomi.  Needless to say, I was very nervous and a lot intimidated.  There were only 8-10 people on the table, but one guy had a long row of black ($100) cheques in front of him, and about a grand in play on each roll.  I meekly put a $5 cheque on the Pass Line, and craps was rolled.  On my first ever craps bet, I lost.  The next couple of rolls, once a point was established, a seven was rolled before the point, and I lost my money.  Making only the very basic bets at the table minimum, I was out $40 in about 5 minutes.

I walked away and found My-Sugar-Na, and she said that if I had more money and wanted to keep trying, I could.  I went back to the table, and got on a little roll.  In about an hour, I had made back my previous loss (as well as her losses) and we left about $30 ahead.  That got us breakfast at Miss Katie's Diner.

All that little escapade did was pique my interest.  I practiced more on Bodog and others, and made a few more trips to the casino.  In May, I lived at the craps table in both Las Vegas and Reno, and I make (probably too many) visits to Potowatomi each month.  I have made some pretty large wins, and only twice that I can remember did I exceed my bankroll (then kicked myself pretty hard on the drive home).

Since each roll of the dice is an independant event (in other words, dice have no memory.  There is the exact same likelyhood that a seven will be rolled ten consecutive times as there is that a seven will not be rolled ten consecutive times) hot streaks and cold streaks are a matter of luck and timing.  There is no system in craps, just money management.

My money management is that I play the table minimum on the Pass line, and then back up the bet with 3x/4x/5x free odds (regardless of the table limit).  If I am in a bad streak or if my bankroll is declining, I will change to 2x/2.5x/3x odds.  With a house edge of 1.41%, the Pass line bet is one of the very best bets in a casino.  The best bet in a casino are the free odds bet, as they carry 0% house edge.  Once a point is established, I place a Come bet (with the same free odds technique once that point is established) and if one of my points is not a 6 or 8, I will place a bet there at a 1.5% house advantage.  This strategy of playing the odds that least favor the casino is just fine by me. 

I usually do make one high house edge bet, as on a comeout roll I will make a "Any Craps" at an 11% house edge.  Lemme explain...  On a comeout roll, if a 7 or 11 is rolled, there is an immediate pay off.  However, if a 2, 3 or 12 (called "Craps") is rolled, it is an immediate loss.  The "Any Craps" bet is an insurance policy.  In other words, if I bet $5 on the Pass line and $1 on "Any Craps", if a 7 or 11 is rolled, I win the $5 but lose the $1 (a net win of $4).  But with those same bets, if a 12 is rolled, I lose the $5 on the Pass line but win $7 for the "Any Craps" (a net win of $2).  With this, I only actually lose money when I have bets out there when a point is established and a seven is rolled.

When money is really tight, I will play the table backwards by playing the Don't Pass/Bar and the Don't Come.  The difference is that when playing the "Don'ts", you WANT a seven before the point.  In other words, you will win when everybody else is losing.  This can backfire, as if you are playing backwards, if the table gets really hot and you are sticking to the "Don'ts" the other players WILL harass you as they rake in the money while yours gets taken away.

So to the other craps players, what is your favorite strategy?


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