Winning at craps!

Nov 25, 2003 3:02 AM

(This is the first in a three-part series on the basics of craps.)

Even after 25 years of dealing craps, it never ceases to amaze me when experienced players don’t know where their bets are on the table, and have even less of an idea what their bets pay!

Some players just don’t understand the need to communicate with their dealers and throw chips willy-nilly about the table, then wonder why their chips are lost or the dealer doesn’t book their bets correctly.

Even the best dealers make mistakes. To put yourself in a position of being shorted on a payoff or to stand idly by while a dealer pays another player for your bet is, in my opinion, asinine.

As a base dealer, I have seen the stickman instruct the other base dealer to pay a player for winning proposition bets and, after the player has gleefully picked up the payoff and put it in his rack, the boxman tells the dealer to give the player another $200 because the stickman computed the payoff incorrectly.

I often have players ask me every other roll where their come bets are or whether or not they have all the hardways bet. Why admit to the dealer that he could hand off some of your bets to his agent (cheating partner) or to a george (tipper) and you would never know the difference?

Players may bemoan the fact that it is the dealer’s responsibility to keep track of the bets, but why put yourself in a position to be screwed by accident or design?

Getting Your Bets Down

There are two types of bets on a crap table: self-service bets and dealer assisted ones. Making self-service bets does not involve any communication with the dealer. You just make the bet as close to you as possible with the smaller denomination checks on top and you try to make your bets when the dice are in the center of the table in front of the boxman.

Dealer-assisted bets, however, require you to communicate with your dealer. When making place bets or taking odds on come bets, the two main requirements are to set your chips or cash on the layout in the come area and verbally tell the dealer what you want to bet and for how much.

For example, "Six each on six and eight." Exact change is not needed ”” the dealer will prepare your change in the come area and hand it off to you before setting up your bets.

When making place bets or taking odds on come bets refrain from throwing your money at the point number boxes. Just set your money in a single stack in the come area and tell the dealer what you want.

You have to look for the dice before setting your checks in the come area to make sure the dice are sitting in front of the boxman. If the shooter has the dice you may still be able to get the dealer to book your bet if you clearly state how much to bet and where you want to bet it. The dealer will then repeat your bet if he understands what you want, can see that you possess enough money in cash or chips to cover your bets and the casino does not have rules forbidding "call bets."

Some casinos still consider it a call bet even if the dealer can see that you have the money to cover the bet. If the dealer or boxman repeats your bet, don’t panic or get your hands in the way of the dice. If your bets are booked, rest assured you have a bet.

Don’t wait until you think it is "your turn" to make a dealer-assisted bet. It is not unusual for four or five players to set checks in the come area simultaneously. The dealer will book and position each player’s bets one at a time until he comes to your bet. If he didn’t hear you or has forgotten what you said, he will ask you to repeat yourself.

What is not understood by many players is the reason the dealer verbally repeats your bet. The reason is to give you a chance to correct him if he has miss-stated your bets.

For example, you set $12 in the come and say;" Six each six and eight." Now the dealer says, "Twelve dollar six." You should now say, "No, six each six and eight."

If you fail to correct the dealer, you should expect the bet to go as the dealer has booked it. The house cannot allow you the option of getting paid $14 for a roll of six and paying you $7 for a roll of eight.

A craps player should have a general idea of table procedures and etiquette so he knows when a dealer should be paying his bets.

After the dice land and the stickman has called the dice, the dealers will collect the losing bets and then pay the winning ones.

When it is a pass line winner the dealer will pay the pass line from "base to stick." In other words, he will start with the player closest to himself and work player-by-player to the player closest to the stickman.

He will then pay the field if it won and then put the new don’t come bets behind the point number box. Then he will begin positioning the new come bets on the point number box starting with the player closest to the stickman and working his way to the player closest to himself ("stick to base").

Getting Paid for Pass Line Bets

When dealers pay a pass line bet with odds they sometimes uses a method called "totaling." Instead of paying the odds and flat bet separately, he gives the player one payoff for the "total" of the two bets.

Dealers do this if they decide the player has sufficient small denomination chips and they don’t want to deplete the bankroll. In order for the player to compute the total he should use the same method the dealer uses: compute the amount the odds pay, and then add that amount to the amount of the flat bet.

Of course, in order to be able to compute a total one must know how much their odds pay! Odds on a point of four or ten pay 2-to-1. So you win two dollars for every dollar you bet.

Odds on a point of five or nine pay 3-to-2. You win three dollars for every two dollars bet. This is why the dealers have been telling you to take an even amount for odds on five or nine.

If you take an odd dollar amount for odds on five or nine you will be shorted fifty cents on your payoff unless you are playing in a casino that uses "birds" (quarters) or half dollars in their games.

Odds on a point of six or eight pay 6-to-5. You win six dollars for every five dollars bet. This means you need to take odds on six and eight in five dollar increments (5-10-15 etc.) otherwise you are cheating yourself out of twenty cents for every dollar bet between five-dollar units.

If you think getting shorted fifty cents here or twenty cents there isn’t important you should remember why whoever taught you the game stressed the importance of taking odds. The house has no percentage on odds: unless of course you are stupid enough to give it one by not taking odds in the correct units.