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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Don't Be Intimidated by Craps; It's Simpler than You Think

9 January 1995

s tables are like ant farms. So much happens at once that they look confusing. But each participant has simple functions with limited options. It takes no great intellect or rigorous training to be an ant. Or a craps player.

In craps, someone throws two dice and everyone bets on how they'll land. Richness comes from the variety of bets players can make on numbers that will or won't show, and therefore from money they can win or lose on every roll.

Say you'd like to try craps but have been put off, thinking it's too complicated. Here's an easy way to play, step by step, A to Z. The procedure is admittedly arbitrary; others would be as effective. You'll be in on the action, one bet at a time on a single number, getting a good shot at a profit with a $100 buy-in. Further, you'll know what you're doing, why, and how each throw affects your bankroll. The only thing you'll miss is a turn throwing the dice; when they're slid toward you, just say "pass 'em, please" and they'll go to the next player in rotation.

It's as simple as one ant carrying a single crumb toward the hill.

For this first foray, I recommend $6 "place" bets on the number eight. On active wagers, you win $7 when the dice show eight (6-2, 5-3, or 4-4) and lose your $6 when seven (6-1, 5-2, or 4-3) appears. Nothing else counts.

Find a $5 table with space at the rail. Limits are posted on placards on the rear table walls in front of the dealers. To buy chips, wait until the "stickman," the dealer at the center of the table on the players' side, is mixing up the dice. Then, drop your $100 in the area marked come, telling the dealer behind the table, "fives and ones, please." The dealer will count eighteen $5 reds and ten $1 whites, get OK'd by a pit supervisor, and move the chips toward you. Pick them up and rack them.

You're ready for action.

1) Look for the circular "puck" on your end of the table. It may be near the back corner, black (OFF) side up, indicating that a shooter is "coming out for a new point." Or it may be on a numbered square, white (ON) side up, showing which point the shooter has to repeat.

2) Make your bet when the puck is ON a number, while the stickman has the dice. Drop a red and a white or two reds (the dealer will make change) in the come area and tell the dealer, "place the eight, please." If the puck is ON the eight, clarify your bet by saying, "place the point, please."

3) The dealer will position your bet along the edge of the eight box corresponding to your spot at the table.

4) If eight pops up while the puck is ON, the dealer will pay you $7 and leave your bet alive for the next throw. If seven rolls with the puck ON, your $6 will be removed. Under any other conditions a different number shows or the puck is OFF your bet gets no action.

Be realistic about wins and losses. A good reference point for this mode and level of play is $30.

1) If you drop about $30 down then bounce back, quit after losing the bet on a shooter who has brought you close to or over break even.

2) If you get $60 or more down, forget about profit and try to cut your losses. If the cold streak persists, quit after you lose a bet on the table and have $10 or less in the rack. If the game warms up, quit after you lose the bet on a shooter who has brought you back to a loss of $30 or less.

3) If you win from the get-go, or never get over $30 behind, quit when you lose the bet on a shooter who has boosted your bankroll by $30 or more, or pumped your profit above $30.

Instead of carrying a big roll of reds and whites when you leave a table, exchange them for a smaller stack of higher-denomination chips. When the stickman has the dice, set your chips in the come area and tell the dealer, "color, please."

Indulge me three details that separate sharpshooters from schlemiels. Keep your paws on or behind the rail; dice hitting your hands won't draw you winners' thanks but will incur you losers' wrath. If you break even or make a profit and the dealers have been courteous, tip them when you quit; $1 to $5 is appropriate for a $100 buy-in and single $6 place bets. And, before you walk away win or lose, tip or stiff thank the dealers for the action and wish the solid citizens around you good luck.

That's it! Your maiden game. Nothing fancy. Too many beginners get befuddled fussing with embellishments no expert ever uses. Individual bets are simple; combinations get complex. As in the ant farm. Sumner A Ingmark, the shooter's Shakespeare, preferred to put it poetically:

To have a shot at winning and
Keep craps from getting out of hand,
Make only bets you understand.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.