Casino Stories - My First Experience At Craps
I'd always been a little intimidated by most table games in a casino. Card games were not as difficult for me as others because card playing thrived in my family. So, I usually played blackjack or video poker. Occasionally I would venture into a live poker room.
I knew, however, that the percentages were the best in craps (barring perhaps baccarat which I truly didn't understand). I'm strictly a recreational player in a casino and am willing to lose a few dollars in order to have a good time. The idea of a return of 98.4% without any mental strain sounded like more fun than striving to get just over 100% at blackjack by counting cards.
I decided to try the game.
Although it was an intimidating environment, I decided to use the percentages that I knew about. If I found a craps game where I could bet a minimum bet of $5 and there were 5 or so players at the table, I could expect about 40 decisions about win or lose every hour. That way, for an hour's activity I would lose a couple dollars on the average (40 decisions at $5 would be $200 bet and a loss of 1.6% would be $3.60). I could stand that if I could learn more about the game. I figured if I lost every bet in an hour, I'd lose $200 and if I won every bet, I'd win $200. Both of those being extremely unlikely and I knew I would wind up somewhere in between.
Never having played craps before, I was nervous as I approached the table. I watched for a bit before I stepped up to the table. The game of craps is played on a bathtub looking table that is about 10 feet long and 4 feet across. The surface of the table is about 18 inches below a rim and is covered in a green felt material. On that green is printed a confusing array of numbers and squares and ovals. There are four employees working at the table, running the game and watching what is going on. They take in the money when a loser occurs and pay out the money when a winner occurs.
Big stacks of chips are placed on the green felt in front of the one employee who is seated. The seated employee sort of acts like he is running the game. Two of the remaining three handle most of the confusing bets and the third employee has a stick in his hand that they use to push the dice to a player prior to the player rolling them. Three of the four employees are on the casino side of the table and the employee with the stick is on the public side.
On the green surface about 8 inches towards the center of the table from the rim are two painted strips a couple inches apart that run almost entirely around the table that sort of looks like a racetrack. The word “pass” is printed in the open part of the track. Most of the individual players have placed chips on that race track.
At the end of the table away from me, a man puts some $20 bills on the table and an employee takes them, counts them, and gives him a stack of chips. The man puts the chips in a groove in the top rim of the table and watches the proceedings. Suddenly, one of the employees says “seven out”. Instead of rolling the number he wanted,or an inconsequential number that would have been a neutral occurrence, he had rolled a seven. The employees scraped most of the chips off the table and stack them in front of the seated man. A few players had winning bets - they had bet expecting a seven before the player had success rolling the number he was striving for. Most of the players put a new groups of chips on the race track area of the table. I continued to just watch for a few minutes and hear such things as “four – a winner pay the line” and begin to understand a little of what was going on.
I took a deep breath and dug $100 out of my billfold and laid it on the table. The employee that was on my end of the table beside the seated man spread the twenties out and counted them a couple times and pushes a stack of red $5 chips towards me. “Do you have a players card,” he asked as I picked up the chips and put them in the groove like I'd seen done. I did and handed it to him so he could track my betting activity while I was at the table.
He handed it to the seated employee who entered something on a computer terminal beside him and flipped the card so it landing in front of me. “Good luck, Don” he said.
Then I waited until there was a flurry of activity in the removal of chips from the table and I placed a chip in front of me on the racetrack. No one paid any attention to me. The fellow with the stick pushed the dice to the a man a couple people away on my left and he threw them to the other end of the table. “Seven – a winner – pay the line” said the fellow with the stick and one of the employees put another chip on the table beside the one I had placed on the racetrack. I watched the others and most everyone picked their extra chip up and put it in the groove so I did the same thing. I was thrilled. I'd won $5.
Very quickly, the dice were returned to the fellow that had thrown a total of 7 on the dice and he threw them again. “Six – the point is six” said the man with the stick and waited for a moment while there was another flurry of players putting more chips on the table. I think they were betting that a six would show up again on the dice total before a seven but not being sure I didn't do anything but watch. They pushed the dice back to the player to my left and he threw them. “Seven, a loser,” the fellow with the stick said and the employees scraped almost all the chips off the table and started stacking them on their side. I'd lost my $5 winnings. That's not good.
I put out another chip. The fellow with the stick pushed the dice to the player on the left of the player that had just thrown them. That player picked them up and threw them. “Nine – the point is nine”, the fellow with the stick said. I realized that this could go on and on and it did go on and on.
After winning or losing, I continued to put out a new chip or pick up the chip the casino paid me. Each time I lost the dice would be moved to the next player in a sequence that was going clockwise around the table. When they were pushed to me, I'd seen it happen often enough that I picked them up and threw them to the other end of the table. They bounced around and came up a total of twelve. “Twelve – a loser” said the man and took my chip. I put another chip down, satisfied that I'd thrown the dice properly and now that I lost I could just watch and bet for a while. He pushed the dice to me, expecting me to pick them up and throw them again. I didn't quite understand but I threw them and continued the game. Soon I realized that the dice went to the next player only when a seven was thrown and was a loser.
After a while I looked at the groove in front of me and counted my chips. I had a total of $110 in chips and was tired of standing there. I picked up my chips. “Let me color those up for you” said one of the employees on the casino side of the table. I wasn't sure what he meant but put my chips on the table and he counted them and gave me a black chip worth $100 and two $5 chips. I'd been played about ½ and hour and had won $10.
This was easy and still a little intimidating. I decided I liked the game. Then I realized that even though I was armed with the percentages and knew that a total of four would occur 8% of the time on the initial roll and that it would repeat before a losing seven 33% of the time, I hadn't used that knowledge at all. I had seen, however, that if a player had to throw the dice more than once to reach a decision, some players put additional chips on the table directly behind their original bet on the racetrack. When their bet was a winner, they would receive varying amounts in return dependent upon the total on the dice and the true odds of that happening. I decided that I should investigate that extra payoff and perhaps make additional bets next time I decided I want to play craps.
Contented, I wandered into the casino, watching people having fun.