Pulling the Trigger

I often say that playing craps is like stepping onto a battlefield where you are pitted against the casino. Every wager on the layout has you at a disadvantage. The casino has unlimited ammunition in the form of its bankroll, while you are limited to the money you bring to the table. Sooner or later exhaustion will set in and you will start to make poor decisions. Meanwhile, the casino brings in a fresh crew and the battle continues. They have you out-manned and out-gunned.

To be an effective player you must maintain a certain pace. In fact, P.A.C.E. is an acronym I came up with to help you remember the steps to winning the craps wars.

Plan . . . your play
Accept . . . the fact that you may lose everything you brought to the table
Control . . . your emotions and fear by visualizing success
Execute . . . your plan without stopping or looking back once the action begins

To be an effective player your session begins long before you step up to the table. Before seeing any live action the General makes elaborate battle plans. You must plan your play before you hit the tables. The General weighs risk versus reward before putting his soldier’s lives at risk. In the same manner, you must decide just how much you are willing to risk for the opportunity to win. Like the General, you must control your emotions and fear in the heat of battle. You must execute your plan flawlessly, without looking back once the action has begun.

There are two ways to fight a battle – defensively and offensively. Let’s think about the defensive fighter. The enemy attacks and he uses everything he has in an effort to save home and heartland. He may ultimately win after a long pitched battle, but often home and heartland are destroyed in the process. He is left to bury his dead and survive on the dregs of war. On the other hand, the offensive fighter is the master of lightning-fast attacks. He quickly takes advantage of every opening and opportunity wins the day handily and emerges with all the spoils of war.

To win at casino craps you must strike quickly when there is an opportunity. You increase the size of your wagers while you have an advantage, capitalizing on the moment while accepting the fact that at any moment you may be struck down by the enemy. The reason so many players fail to do that is that they cannot accept the possibility of loss. They are afraid to lose, so they play not to lose. They play defensively instead of playing to win, and opportunity passes them by.

What leads me to pull the trigger once I’m at the table? Other than the obvious – betting on my own hands or those of proven precision shooters – here are four of the targets I look for:

1. The shooter makes his first Pass and gets beyond the second toss of his second hand. Just about every monster roll starts with that first Pass decision, but all too many hands end with a quick Seven-Out after the second point is established.

2. Any inside number repeats at a higher than expected pace during a shooter’s hand. Let’s say the shooter tosses a Five, followed by a Six, then another Five. At that point, if I do not already have a bet on the Five I will get one.

3. Multiple naturals on the Come Out. One thing all great craps hands have in common is that the sevens roll at the right time – on the Come Out. To me this is a powerful indicator of a potentially hot hand.

4. Multiple hardway numbers roll during a shooter’s hand. While the hardways are high vig bets, they are a good indicator of a hot hand. Watch the prop box as the hand progresses. If you decide to play the hardways set aside a small portion of your bankroll for this type of action. If you lose that portion of your bankroll – you’re through betting the props.

Many years ago I played a session with a couple of my students at the old Grand Casino in Gulfport. One of the things I had drummed in the students’ heads was that the best bet on a random roller is “no bet.” So it was not surprising that they were slow to jump in on the hand of a shooter who threw the dice from straight out, tossing them so hard they bounced all the way back to him on almost every roll. There was nothing pretty about this shooters toss – except the results.

He started off by setting the Six as the point. He immediately repeated the Six, then set it as the point again. I promptly Placed the Six, and two rolls later collected a win. Since the shooter had made two passes I played $5 on the Pass Line and took double odds when he again set the Six as his point. Then he started throwing Fives. After he threw two Fives in a row I placed the Five. In short order he tossed another Five, then made his Pass on the Six. Forty minutes later, when the shooter finally Sevened Out, I had a $100 Buy bet on the Four, $100 on the Five, $150 on the Six, $30 on the Eight, and $50 on the Ten. The shooter had not tossed a single nine in the entire hand. The seven wiped out over $400 of my action, but I had already taken over $1500 off the table. My students, on the other hand, did not make a dime off the shooter’s hand. He was, after all, a random roller. And the best bet on a random roller is no bet.

Nevertheless, this was a hand that kicked off a significant profit with very little downside risk. I could have started out with $110 inside or $162 across and made more off the hand – assuming it played out the same way. Instead I risked a single two-unit bet on a repeating number – then took what the table gave me. In short – I followed the trend – which I think is the smart way to play.