Sunday, February 12, 2012

(Bad) Craps Tactics

Dan and I recently took a trip to Reno. One of the reasons we chose Reno over Vegas for Super Bowl weekend is the fact that you can find craps tables with a $5 minimum easily while in Las Vegas I don't know for certain but I'd expect that during Super Bowl weekend a $25 minimum bet would be typical (or higher).

Craps is one of the few games in which, if you play it right, you can just about run even odds against the house. And you can do this EASILY (i.e. with little thought) - those that compare this vs. blackjack (21) which also can be played relatively closely to even odds in some circumstances - have to realize that if you are basically standing and sentient you can do this with craps, but if you try this while not paying attention at a blackjack table it will likely backfire.

So how do you play this even odds way? Pretty simple. 1) play the pass line 2) put down maximum "odds" behind the pass line. Thus at a $5 table in Reno you put $5 on the pass line, and then your maximum odds were 5-1 on a 6/8, 4-1 on a 5/9, and 3-1 on a 4/10. Tables differ and some places odds are higher or lower (I've even seen "unlimited" odds or limited to the table maximum, which probably would be $1000 at a single bet, but I've never seen anyone put down $5 on the pass line and put odds like that). Thus you'd put down $5 at the pass line and between $15-$25 for maximum odds to execute this strategy. Alternatively, you could just put $5 on the pass line and $10 "odds" on every roll - that works too (since the odds are "even" regardless). You can throw down $100 at the table and play for potentially a very long time using this strategy. If it goes against you put down another $100 and most of the time you'll get it back. At a $25 table (above), you'd probably want to put down $500 to run the same strategy, and be prepared to throw down another $500 right away if luck ran against you. This isn't as much fun - you need to "think" harder and it is stressful.

And then they give you free drinks. You need to tip your waitress (I guess theoretically there could be a "waiter" but I've never seen anything but female waitresses at the tables, anywhere, ever) a buck or two per drink but that's still a good deal. And they come around A LOT. Why? Well if you don't bet in the manner I listed out above (with a couple alternatives), instantly you start being a big moneymaker for the table.

We saw a LOT of bad betting strategies on the Reno craps tables. Since we were there a long time (hours) a lot of people joined up, busted out, and left.

The absolute worst was someone who walked up and wanted to put money on "black or red". The craps dealers told them to go to the nearby roulette wheel.

Many people set up "on the numbers" on the come out role. This meant they just "bought" the 4-10 across the board; if those numbers came up (before a 7 craps) they made money, and then it was wiped out when craps was rolled. While these aren't TERRIBLE odds, they certainly aren't near 50/50 net. Many times when this strategy WAS paying off, you'd hear "press it" which means doubling down on an existing bet instead of picking up the chips (and holding the winnings). This often meant that the 7-craps roll was devastating for their longer term strategy because they didn't pick up the winnings that would have funded their next round of betting.

We couldn't figure out what some people were trying to accomplish at all. One guy threw down $1000 plus and bought chips and just had them in front of him in no order, with hundreds, twenty-fives, fives and ones all mixed up. This is not a good sign. He was kind of betting the pass line, then he'd buy some numbers, and then he'd start betting on the "hard ways". These bets are just sliding down the abyss of being more and more friendly to the house and away from 50/50 drinking for free nirvana Dan and I were seeking. Then, towards the end, he put maybe $200 on the pass line and 4x odds ($800) on a "5". In this case, if the "5" won, he'd make $200 on the pass line and at 3/2 odds (since that is the inverse of the chance of rolling a 5 before a 7) he'd make $1200 on the pass line for a total of $1400 (plus he'd get back the $1000 he wagered so he'd have $2400 overall). The "5" wasn't rolled, a "7" was, so he lost his $1000 which represented pretty much everything he had, and he walked away from the table. Dan and I were shaking our heads at just throwing away $1000 - while that was his first sensible bet of the day (near 50/50) you don't just show up and put all your money on one roll; that isn't much fun and most times it will end in tears or at least bad vibes. He busted out and walked away and while he was putting on a brave face it had to hurt a bit.

At least that guy clearly knew HOW to play craps; for that one roll he was doing it sensibly; many other people just seemed to do things that made no sense. A younger guy in a t shirt showed up with winnings from somewhere else and just made inexplicable "buy" bets and lost it all right away; a girl was putting money on field bets but she didn't pick up so it kept doubling. All these people were just walking up to the table and throwing their money away - it was crazy.

Another sign of "soon to lose" behavior was holding chips in your hand and not putting them on the rail - this usually meant either random actions I can't even put together in a coherent (if ill-advised) thread or just playing until they were out of money, another table favorite. Those that bet consistently tended to be neat and tidy - the very few.

In a way it makes sense; if everyone played the pass line with odds they'd shut down the craps table because it wouldn't make enough for the casino to justify it being staffed and for the risks they take when the luck goes against the house. But fortunately for them there is an unlimited amount of bad-odds craps tactics for players to take and the money just gets sucked up into the craps table like a giant vacuum.


Dan from Madison said...

Over time, yes, pass line and odds is a winner - but like you said OVER TIME. You will be down and up but the free drinks keep coming.

I loved those guys who blew in during halftime of the Super Bowl and were putting $25 bets on hard numbers or one roll bets.

Interesting thought that if everyone played pass line and odds that they would shut down all the crap tables.

The dealers, however, seemed to actually enjoy our company over time, since we were relatively sober (this isn't saying much compared to some) and tipped them pretty good since we didn't BLOW through all of our dough in 5 minutes.

I think in general the dealers in Reno were the friendliest I have ever seen. They even put up with the obliterated guy drinking straight whiskey out of a cup that could barely put together a sentence but he did drop a load of money for the house. In Vegas that guy would have been run out of the joint FAST.

Dan from Madison said...

I should add that I have never seen so many field bets. That bet is horrible (you don't even get odds!?) but so many people were playing it.