I am aghast at reports of the demise of the “bird”
(25 cents) craps game in Las Vegas, especially on Fremont Street.
Perhaps I am being a bit too nostalgic and have forgotten
what it is like to deal to players who, for eight straight hours, bet nothing
but 50 cents on the big six and eight plus 50 cents in the field.
But aside from the all-day grinders, there is (or at least
there was) a group of gamblers that enjoyed the bird game and helped prepare
break-in dealers to deal the games on the highway (Strip).
I was one of those gamblers myself. I would bet $4.50 across
(placing each number for 75 cents, including the point), and pressing them until the
cheques turned green ($25). Here’s how it worked when it worked:
Four or ten rolls: Pays $1.25. Press both the
four and ten to $1.25 each so they are now in correct units. Quarter change.
Five or nine rolls: Pays $1. Press both
the five and nine to the correct unit of $1.25. No change.
Six or eight rolls: Pays 75 cents. Press
whichever on hit to the correct unit of $1.50. No change. Note that both will
have to hit in order to get them to correct units.
So, in as little as four rolls of the dice, the gambler has
pressed a mere pittance of $4.50 into the correct bet of $8 across. From there
it is merely a matter of straight pressing (doubling) the individual bets as
they hit until they reach a level that the gambler is willing to take same bet.
As I said, for me that is when I had $25 on an outside number (4, 5, 9 or 10) or
$30 on the six or eight. After making the same bet on each number, I would press
each number every other time it hit.
You can get to the $25 dollar bet even faster if you are
willing to invest some additional chump change from your rack and “power
Fore instance, if your $1.25 on the four or ten hits, it pays
$2.25. You can then drop the dealer a quarter and have him take it to $3.75.
When that bet wins it pays $6.75 and you now have $10.50 and can buy the number
for $10 and even have the 50 cents juice.
Now, even my own contemporaries (jaded dealers) might label
me a grinder for starting out my series with only a $4.50 investment. But I feel
I am betting on a long hand showing and most of the time it won’t. So
the less I risk initially, the more chances I can afford. For a “double saw
buck” I could get four chances for a trip to nirvana. Besides, if the
shooter throws for 20 or 30 minutes, the dice gods will not know or care whether
I started out with 75 cents on a number or $5, as long as I am willing to press
Now we all hear about the struggles of the downtown casinos
and how they can’t compete with their strip counterparts. It makes one wonder
if the downtown casinos are shooting themselves in the foot by eliminating one
of the few benefits that sets them apart from the carpet joints on the Strip.
In all fairness, I think there are at least two factors that
need to be considered. The first is inflation and the stark reality that a
quarter is not worth as much as it once was to any business, including casinos.
The higher cost of doing business means that you might have
to turn away a customer like myself, in order to make room for someone that is
willing to risk more than $4.50. The second factor is the higher cost of
maintaining the staffing needed to keep an additional game open dedicated to
“bird” players. The increase in the minimum wage and the increased
cost of providing employees health insurance coverage are the two most obvious.
I must wonder, though, if it is also a change in the
philosophy of running a casino. I know for a fact that casinos have offered
things, which taken alone, were guaranteed to lose money for the casino.
Good examples might be the $5 match play coupon and the 49 cents
breakfast. The concept was that if you got someone in the door, to eat breakfast
or cash their paycheck, they might decide to play a little craps.
And the player that starts out betting 75 cents on the pass line
might later decide to bet more. If there was a change in philosophy it must have
been the realization that most customers were never going to bet more than the
table minimum. So if you decided to operate a bird game, it better be because
you will be content with the profits from players who bet that way.
I hope that bird games won’t soon become extinct. Pushing
all those checks on the bird games of Fremont Street is one of the things that
made me the dealer I am today. Besides, table minimums for the financially
challenged, is one of the things that sets Las Vegas apart from the other
so-called gambling Meccas of the world.
(Dale S. Yeazel is the author of “Precision Crap
Dealing” and “Dealing Mini-Baccarat.” Full color E-books on
CD-Rom available for only $20 each (plus tax) at Gamblers Book Shop and Gamblers
General Store in Las Vegas).