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Mad Professor's Mini-Table Craps Tour with the Vegas Ghost- Part VI

(Read Part I , Part II, Part III or Part IV or Part V)

Ya gotta remember that craps tables weren’t always the huge 16 or 18 player mother-f%#&ers that most casinos have now.  In the early ‘60’s they were still mostly using the old-style one-dealer/eight-player tables.”


As we headed into the driveway that led to the parking structure, Mel (the Vegas Ghost) was opining about the various craps-table sizes all over Vegasville.


He elaborated a little further on the subject. 


Well, from 1931 to the mid-‘60’s, craps was the most popular casino game not including poker.  Yep, it was even more popular than blackjack up until about 1964 or ‘65.  You take some of the downtown joints like Golden Gate (the former Sal Sagev), or the Horseshoe (the original Boulder Club), or the Pioneer Club (the original Apache Hotel), well each one of them had anywhere from six to twenty craps tables.  Keep in mind that those were, and still are, tiny little casinos.”  


Yeah, that’s right, even a small joint like the Golden Gate had almost a dozen craps tables at one time.   They had maybe a couple of dozen slot machines in there when I first got to town, and the rest of the place was filled with table games.  Now they’ve got more than 200 machines in place of all of those craps-layouts, and just two 24-player monster tables.” 


“Back in the ‘60’s all of the small sawdust operations still had a thriving craps operation, but the joints on the Strip were the first ones that started to increase the number of slot machines, and decrease the number of table games”. 


“All of the casinos started using the more expensive three dealers and box-man set-up in the early ’60’s. Before that, most tables were either one-man or two-man operations.  They started making the tables bigger and bigger, but they installed less and less of them.  That’s when the trend towards installing more and more machines started.  Pretty soon, most of the big casinos on the Strip will have a 90:10 ratio in place of the current 80:20 machines-to-tables ratio.  That’s completely opposite to the ratio that was in place when I first got to Vegas.


Here’s a picture of a typical old-style one-man, eight-player table (courtesy of the UNLV Archive).  Since we are on a mini-table tour of Vegas, it shows that craps tables haven’t evolved that much since “the old days”.




We made the slow elevator ride from the parkade into our next mini-table destination:

Imperial Palace

Visit www.arrivelasvegas.com for details on pictures, posters and professional use of our pictures .Come see us!


Where Is It?

Located on the Las Vegas Boulevard “Strip” between the Flamingo Hotel and Harrah’s, lies this 2700-room Oriental-themed resort.  Casino Royale with its low-buck $1 tables is just down the street, while the opulent grandeur of The Venetian’s $10 tables is an equal distance in the other direction. It is directly across from Caesars Palace and the Mirage Hotel, so you are never far from any level of action that you may want to seek out.

A Personal Comment

Let me start by saying that the IP is not one of my favorite casino haunts.  It has a smoke-tinged sewage smell that is most prevalent during spring and fall. 

The fact that this not-so-nice palace is built on top of a Las Vegas flood-plain, and that a major aquifer suffering major subsidence problems flows underneath explains both the seasonal parking garage flooding, as well as the musty backed-up sewer smell that permeates this gaming establishment.

On the other hand, I have made quite a bit of money at this particular Palace and continue to do so to this very day.  For that reason, I’m willing to overlook the sewer-smell with the prospect of overcoming it with the smell of Precision-Shooting profit. 

Listen, not every casino can have the blown-glass Dale Chilully chandeliers of Bellagio, or great “big game” dealers like Caesars, or the upscale, yet relaxed informality of The Mirage.  There will always be a need, and indeed a desire, for low-end gaming resorts that have tons of low-cost amenities and restaurants, and most importantly winnable games in their casino.  The Imperial Palace is definitely one of those places.

The Usual Suspects

Clientele at the Imperial consists mostly of price-conscious package-tour charter travelers who want a full-service gaming-resort without the higher price that that usually entails.  They also have a loyal customer-base who visit several times each year to enjoy the low-cost frenetic action.

The 75,000 square-foot casino is almost always full, and I’m not just talking about the busier weekends.  This is a non-stop perpetual-motion machine that hums along seven days a week without any discernable dips in the action throughout the entire year.   It’s always either busy, incredibly busy, or unfreakin’ believably busy.

Rooms & Food

The rooms here aren’t all that great and are in need of upgrading, but they are cleaned quite well, and are comfortable despite their relative age.

Food at the Imperial Palace IS NOT a highlight. 

While it will never make it onto Fodor’s Top Ten-Million restaurant list, I haven’t seen too many patrons actually wheeled-out or carried out of their restaurants on stretchers, so I guess they aren’t universally bad. 

However, you should be aware that a number of people have indicated that eating here usually results in child-birthing pain on the low end of the discomfort-threshold, all the way up to uncontrollable gastrointestinal eruptions right in the middle of the casino floor.  As the emperor at the OTHER palace across the street (Caesars Palace) might say, “Vescor praecaveo! (Eaters beware!).

Craps Conditions

They currently have four long, LONG 20-player tables, plus one 6-seat Crapshoot table, which is the one that we are going to be playing on today.

Keep in mind that if you sit in the fourth seat from either end at the mini-table, then the “far” wall is a mere ~32-inches from your release point.  Compare that to a SR-1 distance of ~64-inches on a short 12-foot table.  Now you can see WHY I love these sit-down tables and mini-tubs so much!

Bet-minimums at all tables is usually set at $3, but they have been known to rise to the $5 level on weekends.

The Odds they offer are the Strip-standard 3x, 4x, and 5x variety, while their table-max is usually set at $1000.  If you require more “headroom” for betting, you’ll probably be more comfortable at one of the bigger gaming houses that cater a little more closely to your higher-rolling gaming needs.  They are definitely not comfortable when there are multiple black ($100) or purple ($500) chips in action.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen them sweat any moderate $300 to $1000 wins, even if you do it consistently.

I’ll also add that their main craps tables are not only long, but are quite hard and bouncy.  That is not to say that they are impossible to win on.  Quite the contrary, they are quite surmountable with a properly calibrated throwing technique.  

Their regular tables demand a “classic” 45-degree dice-launch and landing.  However, you have to gauge the amount of roll-out that your toss has, and then retarget your landing area to compensate for it.  Stated another way…you throw the dice as stated above, then you reposition your landing area to suit your throw ON THAT TABLE.  You can read more about that in my five-part article entitled  Long Tables = Po$$ibilitie$.

The Mini-Table

They have a six-player sit-down table that is usually open only on the weekends.  During the summer months (June through September), you can expect it to be open most every day from 1 pm until around 2 am.

Most traditional crap-players scoff at its small dimensions and sissy-seats, and that it isn't a REAL craps-table. Well, to all of that I say, yeah, but it's REAL MONEY that I'm winning HERE, so go GAMBLE at a REAL table with YOUR money, while I happily rake in MY dough on this little beauty!

Do I win every time I play on it?

No, of course not, but my infrequent losses are easily outpaced by my frequent winning sessions.  The “secret” of minimizing losses and maximizing wins isn’t a secret at all…it’s just common sense.

Open or Closed?

I generally try to confine most of my IP-play to their mini-table.  I often call the dice pit to find out if their small table is open.   If it is…I'm on my way…NOW!  The profit that you can comfortably take out of this place is quite a bit higher than most of the other gaming-houses that have the smaller mini-tubs or Crapshooter tables.

Profit Limits?

Compared to places like the Boardwalk, Wild Wild West and Nevada Palace, where we try to keep our profit-rake at or below the $300 mark per session; you can be pretty much at ease with a $500 to $800 win-threshold at the Imperial Palace every time that you play there.

When I am in town, I’ll take in a couple of mini-table sessions here each weekend.  With the amount of action that this casino gets, they hardly pay any attention to a consistent $300 to $1000 winner.

Heat…What Heat?

I’ve never run into any discernable heat or “pit pain” from any dealers or table-game supervisors, nor have I ever experienced any discomfort or undue attention from the alpha-male pit-beasts. 

Like I said earlier, this place is always rocking, and they consider the sit-down game a place for “small fry” and therefore the Table Game Supervisors do not give it any discernable attention.

A Tip about Tips

The dealers respond well to tips, and I would urge you to do it early in your play, and to put their bets on wagers that have a decent chance of coming in. 

While they might appreciate “the thought” when you put a buck on the 12-Midnight; if it’s not one of your higher-echelon Signature Numbers, then you aren’t putting any money “in their pocket”.  It’s better to put a buck or two on the Pass-Line for them.   While it doesn’t have as high of a payout, it has a much better chance of helping your cause and their cause as well.

Why Toke the Dealers?

You may tip because you appreciate the great service and the friendly banter of a good dealer, and that is a strong enough reason to put a dollar out there on the layout.

However there is a better, more compelling reason to part with your hard-earned money.  Toking (tipping) allows the Precision-Shooter to have a greater latitude in maximizing his dice de-randomizing abilities. 

For example:

v     A dealer will be more lenient in your throwing motion.  He might step back or lean out of the way so that you have more freedom of movement with your arm-swing.

v     A dealer may have a more relaxed attitude about your consistently hitting the backwall with the dice.

v     If there is a rule about “no dice-setting”, the dealers may be more accommodating in bending that rule. 

Game Speed

Granted the speed of play on a single-dealer table is somewhat slower than a regular-sized table, but there is also a more relaxed, community feel about the game.  While the dealer has to serve six players, they generally staff the table with some of their strongest-skilled staff so that the game proceeds at a decent, but unhurried pace.

You still get about 75-rolls per hour on the Imperial Palace mini-table, compared to about 90-rolls on the normal ones.  That speed and the smaller number of players pretty much guarantees that the dice will come back to you once every 20-minutes or so.  That is less than half the time it takes on a usual-sized table.

I sometimes feel a little sheepish about my winnings on the mini-table. I almost always stash a number of $25 chips that flow my way. I sometimes have my girlfriend cash some of them out for me. I also hang onto the big ones to re-use as a buy-in at subsequent sessions.

Just Because it’s Small Doesn’t Mean it’s Easy

Yes, the Crapshoot table is small, but that does not mean that making a profit is a cakewalk.   Your Precision-Shooting skills still have to be up to par, AND you have to control your betting as well or BETTER than your shooting. 

In addition, you may have to readjust your throw-trajectory.  The shorter distances actually disturbs some people and they overestimate the small amount of energy that it takes to propel the dice without causing undue “pop” and “scatter”. 

Dice-shooting requires constant readjustment, and the small dimensions of the 6-player sit-down Crapshoot table requires nothing less. Remember that depending on where you are seated, the backwall can be as close as 28-inches away from your dice-release point.

Even if there is another Precision-Shooter at the table, I don't load-up on them unless they have qualified themselves as being WORTHY of my money. That's not egotistical, it's just good money-management.

Playing on a mini-table doesn’t automatically mean that you are going to be making a pile of money.  It’s just as easy to lose a bundle on the small tables as it is on the bigger ones. 

I, myself have lost money on these tables, especially when I lose discipline if things aren’t going my way. 

Losing discipline = losing money in the craps world.

It’s easy to fool yourself into thinking that with such a short throwing distance, that IT’S GOT TO BE EASY.  Let me tell you here and now, IT IS NOT EASY. 

Don’t let your guard down.  Don’t delude yourself, and especially don’t pile on the money until you are SURE that your Precision-Shooting efforts are working.  Then, and ONLY then should you raise the sperm-count on your bets and increase your wagers accordingly.

Preparation meets Opportunity

I had called ahead to make sure that their mini-table would be open.  Mel and I timed our arrival to coincide with a shift-change that would bring about a fresh set of dealers and the opening of our particular mini-table.

When we arrived the table-bank of chips hadn’t yet been unlocked or counted down, so we knew we had a few minutes to wait for the dice to be unleashed from their foil wrapping.  It also meant that we could get the coveted (by Precision-Shooters) positions at the 4th and 5th chair (counting from the left) at the table.  These two positions give the best angle to the side-wall/back-wall corner of the table.  It is into this spot that the dice are most easily lofted and more importantly, most easily controlled in their outcome.

Pre-Game Banter

As we awaited for the start of action, I asked Mel about any IP “stories”.

Well, did you know that the Venetian was the SECOND casino in Vegas with canals and gondolas.  The Flamingo Capri (the origin of the Imperial Palace built by Bill Capri) this was the first.”

In the picture below, you can see the main lagoon with one of the canals that heads towards the back of the property, while another leads into the main-entrance valet area, and the third canal dead-ends near the pool.

Flamingo Capri

 Yep, there was a big lake-lagoon with canals, bridges and walkways through an ornate terraced garden.  You could catch a boat ride at the front near valet parking and the gondolier would paddle you around for a while.  They didn’t charge for it, but a nice tip always showed gratitude for the boatman’s effort.   Of course, it was a diversion for “the girls”, the wives and girlfriends of the male table-game players.  If the girls were happily engaged in other activities, then the guys would stay and play at the tables that much longer.  You gotta remember that back in ’63 the whole subservient housewife/girlfriend thing was the rule rather than the exception.”

Mel, the Vegas Ghost continued, “I remember sitting in the Captain's Cabin Cocktail Lounge with Ralph Engelstad in ’72 the day he closed the deal to buy the property and he talked about how he was going to renovate and expand it into the Imperial Palace.  He told me of his plans to do the whole Asian-theme.  Although I didn’t accept his job offer that day, we became and remained good friends over the next two decades.”

The Nazi Connection

Ya know”, added Mel, “A lot of people give Englestad a lot of grief because he had some unusual revisionist views of World War II, but I’ll tell you one thing: after September 11th, 2001 the Imperial Palace was the ONLY Strip casino that didn’t have ANY layoffs.  That says a lot about Ralph and how he values his employees.  Park Place (Bally’s, Paris, Caesars, Flamingo, etc.) and MGM-Mirage (Golden Nugget, Treasure Island, Bellagio, etc.) laid-off 12,000 workers each, and Mandalay (Luxor, Excalibur C-2, NYNY, etc.) laid-off 10,000 people.  Ralph promised his employees that there would be no layoffs no matter how bad business got, and he kept his word.”

The Vegas Ghost was in mid-tirade, so I didn’t interrupt him.

Forget all of that damn nazi stuff!  He apologized publicly for housing a Nazi memorabilia display as part of the Imperial Palace Car Collection, and for throwing a couple of themed parties on Hitler’s birthday.  Listen, that was done in incredibly bad taste and I told him so, in no uncertain terms.  The fact is, a lot of my family was wiped out by Hitler during the war, but at no time during the twenty years that I’ve known Ralph has my background or religion interfered with our friendship”.

Our Mini-Table Play

Making money was the objective of our visit to the Imperial Palace.  Mel and I had the table completely to ourselves for a grand total of two-and-a-half minutes.   With a $3 limit and four empty chairs, the table was an irresistible magnet that filled with players immediately.

I would like to tell you how we had a great session and won a ton of dough, but it just didn’t happen.  The dice were not tumbling at all in our favor.  Instead, in five trips around the table neither Mel nor I was able to squeeze out any profit.  There were a few hands where we were close to getting into the “profit-zone”, but we never managed to cross that threshold during that first session.

I changed target-areas, I changed throw-trajectory, I changed dice-sets and slightly altered my grip.  I changed the amount of throwing-force, and I even changed seating positions with one of my table-mates in a non-comical version of musical-chairs.   None of those changes brought about any consistency, and it certainly didn’t bring about any profit for either of us.

Yes, I was disappointed that my own Precision-Shooting failed to deliver cash into my hands.  On the other hand, I managed to keep my losses under the $150 mark.   Mel was a little more adventurous and his bankroll paid a hefty price for the thrill of the chase.  He dropped about $470 as he started betting on our other table-mates despite the fact that their shooting was even more dismal than ours.

I told him that the table obviously wasn’t working for us, and suggested a quick departure.  Instead, Mel wanted to stay and play a little longer in hopes that things would turn around.  I raised my eyebrow and shrugged my shoulder in a semi-humorous “well-it’s-your-money-so-spend-it-any-way-you-want” dismissive sort of way.

I headed for the:

Imperial Palace Car Collection

As some of you know, I am an avid car collector, and I never tire of checking out what is currently available in the market.  Every vehicle in this museum is available for purchase.  Even if I didn’t have the money to pursue my passion, I would still enjoy the display of antique, classic and special-interest vehicles that span 100 years of automotive history.

Cars are definitely one of my passions and if you want to read about that particular affliction I would kindly invite you to read my Wine, Women, Song…and Craps article.

Meanwhile…back at the Mini-Table

When I returned to the table, Mel had less than a dozen chips left in his rack, and they were not of a color that would make a player proud.  I didn’t NEED to ask how the table had been, but I asked anyway.

Mel said that he had switched to the “darkside” soon after I left, but that immediately brought about a rash of Come-Out winners followed by Point-then-winner hands.  As soon as he transitioned back to the shooters-side of the equation, he said that the dice sensed his decision with the most hellish of ironies with an immediate 7-Out.

I asked Mel if he was just about finished with that table.  He replied that he was going to give it one more try.  There weren’t any open chairs at the table, and the dice were still two shooters away from Mel’s spot.

I noticed one of the huge tables was quickly losing players at a rapid rate and I sensed a profit-opportunity.  I walked around to it and bought-in.  There were four players left at a table that only minutes before on my way by, was just about full.  The four remaining players had fewer chips left in their rail than Mel did in his. 

I immediately laid the 4-to-lose for $50.  Two rolls later, the 7 showed up like all of the Pass-Line players seemed to expect.  I wondered to myself why they were all on the Pass Line if the table was SO cold, as I collected my $24 in net profit.  The next two players had hands that were only longer than the first guys hand by a roll or two.  Each one of my No-4 wins chipped away at my previous loss.

The dice came to me at the SR-4/5 position near the hook of the table.  I used the Long-Ranger grip and delivery but the dice wobbled like a pair of wonky front wheels on a damaged shopping cart.

I couldn’t get comfortable with the corner of the padded table restricting my full throwing motion, so I moved to the straight-out position at SR-7.  I managed to make two Point-winners with a decent handful of Inside Numbers in the interim.  That clawed me back to my original buy-in, plus a handy $37 profit.

Now $37 doesn’t usually get me excited, and this one didn’t either, but it made me satisfyingly happy.  Even though my mini-table shooting had been pure C-R-A-P, I didn’t let it get to me.  Instead, I took a break and returned with a “winning” attitude. 

I didn’t let my previous loss poison my thoughts, not did I dwell on the negatives of losing a hundred-and-a-half.  I saw a trend-opportunity on a cold table, and I bet into it.  It paid off, but when betting against random-rollers it just as well could have gone the other way.  My own shooting provided the last bit of impetus to put me over the top in terms of making a profit, albeit a modest one.

I glanced over to the mini-table just in time to see Mel departing his chair, and I met up with him on the way to the cashiers cage.  Mel cashed-out nearly $800 down. 

I didn’t say a word about discipline or loss-limits.  The last thing that a player wants to hear after a major loss is to hear SOMEONE ELSE tell them what they did wrong.  THAT message should come from yourself.  I let Mel walk in silence as we headed for the car, as I was pretty sure that that particular “discipline and loss-limit” soundtrack was playing loudly in his head.


Since I made this Mini-Table Tour with Mel a while back, Imperial Palace owner Ralph Engelstad has passed away.  The future of the IP is open to debate and speculation.  Being located in a prime mid-Strip spot makes it an obvious redevelopment target for some major operators…so stayed tuned on that front. 

In our upcoming “Part Seven” of this series, we’ll visit another Mini-Table venue where more profitable shooting will hopefully return.

Good Luck & Good Skill at the tables…and in Life.


The Mad Professor

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