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This summer, go out and win a craps tourney

Jun 10, 2002 10:58 PM

If you are a regular crapshooter, you might want to enter a craps tournament this summer. Some of these contests are free to enter, some cost a few hundred dollars and a few cost quite a bit more, depending on the prize money.

Several casinos have weekly craps tournaments with no entry fee and a low $50 buy-in, just to bring people in the door. Other contests require expensive entry fees ($500 or more) and high buy-ins ($1,000) but come with a hotel room for two nights, all meals a cocktail party and a nice gift ”” and, depending on how many people enter, the grand prize could be as high as $50,000!

When you’re playing in a tournament, you have to make different bets than you would in a normal craps game. You are no longer playing against the house, but all of your fellow contestants. Your goal is to have the most money at the end of a certain number of rolls (usually 100) or a certain amount of time (usually one hour), so you need to keep an eagle’s eye on your fellow players’ chips and be aware of their bets. If everyone happens to lose money, then the person with the least loss wins the tournament.

Sometimes, when a lot of people are competing, you’ll be playing in "rounds," which are like mini-tournaments. If you win the first round, then you advance to the next one. In some tournaments, the top two players from each round advance, and there might be as many as ten prize winners at the end of the tournament.

Before you play, familiarize yourself with the rules, because they are different for every tournament and sometime are different for each round. For example, some casinos will require you to have a pass or don’t pass bet on every play, in addition to any other bets you might make. Others might not allow proposition bets over $25. And still others might mandate that your chips be in full view and not covered up so everyone can see what you’ve won or lost. These and other aspects of unusual rules are explained to you in an orientation meeting before the tournament, so pay attention.

And, remember, each tournament is different! The smaller ones will let you play with your own money, the way you normally do. You simply purchase chips from the dealer. But the field must be leveled once the prize money gets over $50, so everyone must buy in beforehand (usually with $500) and is restricted from adding more money to their plays later. When you hit zero, you are through and you must leave the table.

Although the basic rules of craps are the same, the strategy is different. You have to pay attention to what your fellow players are doing!

If, for example, you have won $300 and your closest competitor has won $200, and he bets $90 on the six and eight, what will happen if a six or eight rolls? He’ll jump ahead by $5 (enough to win), so you might want to watch him and match his bets exactly to stay even.

Or what if you’re in second place with $200 and the number one player has $300? You’ve placed the six and eight for $90 each and he matched you. Maybe you could bet hard ways or place the five and nine. You must do something different in order to overtake the front-runner.

Some people who are close to last place resort to bets not normally made ”” like betting the maximum on the two or twelve. In the last few rolls of the game, they realize it’s the only way they can win.

When you begin play, you’ll see that there are conservative players playing pass or come with maximum odds, and aggressive players who bet hard ways and proposition bets. If these aggressive players continue, they’ll usually (but not always) lose their money before the final round. If you’re in the group playing pass/come, you need some way of breaking out of the pack ”” like waiting for two consecutive points to be made and then jumping to the don’t. You’ve got to try things, be inventive and make bets that the other players wouldn’t think of making in order to win.

Let’s say the leader has $100 on the pass line and the point is 4. He takes $200 odds. You could then play the 4 for $200. If a seven rolls, you’ll suddenly find yourself $400 ahead, as he would have lost $300 and you won $100.

In the last few rolls of the game, you must become super aggressive, especially if you are not in first place. Sometimes this means betting all of your bankroll on one number. Say eight is the point and the leader is $300 ahead and has $100 on the pass line with double odds. You’re in third place and all you have left is $300. You might place the whole $300 on the six, take it down after it hits once and then pray that a seven rolls before the eight does!

Tournaments are not for everyone, but they’re fun to play, especially the inexpensive or free ones. Give them a try ”” you’re sure to learn a lot and maybe even make some friends ”” and some money as well!