Mad Professor's Mini-Table Craps Tour with the Vegas Ghost- Part X
Okay, I’ve taken you to some of my favorite mini-table haunts both on and off the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip. Today I’m taking you to one that is close to everything, but doesn’t usually register on the gaming radar. In fact, it barely even shows up on the pro-players sonar screen. That’s all the better for those who like to make their money out of the limelight, and in the casinos at the actual tables.
So strap your ass into the backseat, ‘cause Mel, the Vegas Ghost and I are taking you for a crapshooting ride to:
Ellis Island Casino & Brewery
Where Is It?
It is located behind Bally’s and Paris Hotel-Casino, on Koval Lane. Koval is a popular short-cut for taxi-drivers, road-savvy tourists, and locals. It runs parallel with the Strip, and allows rear access into a good number of the mega-resort properties (from MGM Grand in the south to the Venetian in the north), while avoiding most of the gridlocked tourist traffic.
From Bally’s backdoor to Ellis Island’s front door, a pedestrian would need about 12 minutes and one bottle of water to make the 108-degree walk.
Ellis Island Casino is the gaming and restaurant portion of the world’s largest Super 8 Motel. While I’ve never actually stayed in one of their rooms, I understand that they are of Super 8 quality, which is to say, better than a Motel 6, and not quite as nice as your local Ramada.
While the motel has been around for more than 34 years, the casino is about one-third that age. At ~36,000 square feet, the EI has enough room to hold a large number of relatively new slot machines, but only about seven or eight gaming tables. Thankfully, one of them is now a craps table.
Ellis Island’s Mini-Craps Table
There hasn’t always been a craps table here, and I can’t guarantee that there always will be one in the future, but it’s here now, and I like to play it on a semi-regular basis. In fact, the one full-size table that they used to have here in the early 90‘s went missing in action for more than a decade. Fortunately, increasing motel, restaurant and casino traffic has meant that their gaming-business warranted a new, albeit much smaller craps table.
Bet minimums are usually $3, and they RARELY raise it to the $5 mark. Once in a while they MAY lower the limit to $2, but I haven’t seen it that way in several months. In any event, they offer 3x, 4x, and 5x Odds.
The 9-foot table sports a good layout that has a few miles on it, but the felt is relatively new, and they do change out the dice every day. They chemically steam-clean the felt once a month, which tends to subsequently slow the dice-energy down quite a bit. The more recent the cleaning, the slower the dice go. You can gauge how recent the cleaning has been by the remaining odor of the residual solvent that smells like a combination of stinky feet and LysolÔ. As the residue fades and gets replaced by dirt and natural skin oils, the dice speed up.
You will notice that despite the short 9-foot length of the table, you still need to throw with enough force so that the dice have enough speed AFTER their first bounce to make it to the other end of the table. Most short tables require a minimum of throwing effort, while this table requires about 30% more. To put that into perspective, you have to throw the dice as if you are on a 12-foot table.
This table is totally predictable IF the dice land squarely to the backwall. However, if you tend to land them unevenly, the dice may make sudden and ACTUAL 90-degree off-axis turns upon initial touchdown. The table is very, VERY touchy that way. It is imperative that your throwing motion and the angle of the dice at their release point is aligned as squarely as possible; otherwise this table makes them quite susceptible to random “walkabouts” and sideways hopping and popping.
I also found that if I restricted the amount of post-release follow-through of my arm, the dice would leave my hand at the correct upward angle, yet the natural backspin and sharp, steep descent would bring the cubes down exactly where I wanted them, and their unused forward-rolling energy would dissipate within three or four inches of rolling TO the backwall. To read more about this type of technique, I would invite you to read the first four chapters of my ten-part Mad Professor's Shooting Bible series.
Who Plays Craps Here?
Depending on your outlook on life in general, and craps in particular, I have good news for you, or perhaps you’ll take it as bad news. It’s a small table that accommodates eight people and I can tell you right now that most of them will be NEW players.
Since this place hardly even registers on anyone’s sonar, especially serious craps players, you will rarely find any seasoned pro’s in these waters. Rather, the game is played in a less-intimidating, fun atmosphere that encourages newcomers, neophytes and curious tourists who never had the courage to join in the more frenetic, more expensive, full-sized, traditionally-crowded mega-hotel tables.
You are likely to find your table-mates are comprised of a few blue-collar locals and a couple of mid-America tourists who like the friendlier and slower-paced ambiance of a very relaxed, lower-cost gaming experience.
Ellis Island’s mini-tub does not have the party atmosphere of Casino Royale (Mad Professor's Mini Tub Tour - Part II) or the gritty and dusty corral feel of the Wild Wild West Casino (Mad Professor's Mini Tub Tour - Part IV), yet you will find an easy-going, medium-paced game where your Precision-Shooting efforts are never discouraged, and your skills are profitably rewarded.
I’ve got to tell you that this was one interesting session. Both Mel and I had decent hands, but none of them were outstandingly long. In fact, most of them never exceeded twelve or fourteen rolls, but the great thing was that Inside Numbers constituted almost all of them.
Despite the whooping and hollering that the new players (recently converted FORMER blackjack players) were making over the unleashed enthusiasm (and profit) of their newfound game, I was surprised that the two remaining open spots at the table stayed empty for more than half the time we were there. That would tend to indicate that you should be able to find an open spot even on a relatively busy weekend evening, as we did when we were there. I have made several subsequent visits and confirmed that fact. In each visit, my Precision-Shooting has remained steady in that 12 to 14-toss category. While that is significantly lower than my benchmark, it is nonetheless acceptable and definitely still quite profitable.
My approach for this session was pretty simple. Using the $3 Pass Line minimum, and some very steep Place-bet regressions after their initial hits, the money tumbled in with good regularity.
I backed all of my PL-bets with full Odds, but more importantly, the real profit came from those steeply regressed Place-bets where I had our dealer set up $88 Inside bets (or $64/$68 Inside depending on the Point number), then reduce them to $22 after one hit. The steadiness of profit that this type of betting approach brings in when your shooting is up to par, never ceases to amaze me.
Why Short-Hands Can Still be VERY Profitable
If you have read my article entitled Can Frequency Compensate For Shortness? , you will know EXACTLY how Precision-Shooters take advantage of even the very shortest 3 or 4-roll hands. Once you surpass the standard 1:6 Sevens-to-Roll ratio, AND you are aware of your Signature Numbers, AND your betting-method is tailored to take maximum-advantage, and minimum-risk of your SN’s, THEN you are well positioned to make some VERY consistent money off of your own skill.
“I’d Like to Hop Every Possible Place-Bet Combination Please”
That is EXACTLY what one local player said after watching me shoot for the third time. I did a double-take when he said that, since my brain couldn’t quite believe what my ears had clearly heard. Thankfully, the dealer told him that “Hop” bets weren’t allowed at Ellis Island.
Although he seemed disappointed, it didn’t seem to daunt his betting as he made $50 bets on each of the Hardways, and $3 bets on all of the box-numbers. He parlayed every single bet that won, and for the rest of his time at the table, never collected one single, solitary dollar to put in his rack. Every buck that he made, got plowed right back into a much larger bet. I looked at Mel without changing my facial expression, and he simply said, “Now there’s a casino managers wet-dream”.
Once my hand was finished, Mel wanted to make a bet with me as to how long this guys bankroll would actually last. Mel’s forty-odd years of experience in casino-management paid-off as he was much closer to the mark than I was. Mel chided, “It looks like the Mad Professor is picking up the steak and beer tab after this session”. I replied that, based on our play, Ellis Island was going to be picking up that particular tab tonight.
The fact that this guy stood there watching me throw and marking down every combination that I was throwing for three hands in a row, made me wonder if perhaps I was missing something about my own Signature Numbers and further possible profit-potential that they held.
I made a mental note to take a closer look at those 24 Place-bet combinations (only 14 actual individual Hop-bet possibilities) to weigh their merit. Mel must have seen that curious look in my eye, and he added, “Forget about it. You’ll only dilute your own winnings, by trying to outguess your already good performance. Plus they’ll be so wrapped up in setting your Hop-bets, that your hourly win-rate will drop because you’ll be throwing the dice about 70% less per hour. You might as well go and play at a crowded table instead of solo, ‘cause you’ll be throwing just as often”.
Another Word about Hops and Props
While higher-edge Prop and Hop bets may look more appealing, they also tend to bring more scrutiny from the Pit. While the table-game supervisor may not necessarily be interested in your actual shooting, he will be interested in ensuring that the dealer makes the correct payoffs to you when it wins.
If a shooter is receiving a lot of high-paying Props, then naturally the Pit-guys are going to take more notice of the player doing the “bettin’ n gettin’” than they will of more normal action. I realize that some players like to draw attention to themselves at the tables and make themselves the center of any particular universe that they are in. I also understand that their egos crave adolescent attention and positive affirmation that makes them feel loved, adored and worthwhile.
However, winning parlayed Prop and Hop action may bring attention that is a pleasure to bask in right now, but as more and more notice is focused on dicesetting, that ego-satisfying attention that some people crave, may bring about undue changes to the game as we know it.
Obviously, one winning session will not bring about changes. However, you have to consider the cumulative effect that it has on the Pitbulls who keep seeing the same parlayed winning Hop bets get paid over and over again. Only the truly naïve or truly greedy would refuse to admit that big parlayed Hop-bets will bring closer scrutiny to this craft that we call Precision-Shooting.
Just in Case the World DOES NOT End Tomorrow
Playing sensibly and taking moderate profit from a large number of casinos is probably the best way to maintain a low profile, and ensure that you aren’t spoiling it for other Precision-Shooting students of the game that come along after you. I know the urge to rape, pillage, burn and ravage the earth with wanton disregard is the ego-maniacal code that some people choose to live by, but sometimes it’s best to play like there just MAY be a tomorrow, and possibly even a tomorrow after that.
The Rest of Our Session
Mel and I ended up staying at Ellis for just over three hours. Normally, I’ll make a quick Hit ‘n’ Git, but with the increasing number of players that eventually filled up this lone table, it made it easier to go in there, take some of the casinos bucks, and not overexpose MY face to the disappearance of THEIR money.
Again, although my shooting was less than stellar, it was good enough to derive some decent profit. I always find it mildly amusing that sometimes the short tables are the hardest to adapt to. Well, I find it mildly amusing when I am WINNING, and mildly frustrating when I am LOSING.
In either case, it is always important to keep your bets within a comfort range where you are not forcing your throws or over-thinking your toss. Even at a cheap $3 table, you can still lose a ton of money if your shooting isn’t dialed-in.
The E.I. Players Card
Just like nearly every other casino in North America, Ellis Island has it’s own players card, called the Passport Players Club. As with most places, it’s intended for use by slot and table game players alike.
This yellow-colored beauty not only lets them track your casino action, but it allows you to print out your own comps at their new self-serve Passport Central kiosk. No need to even ask for a comp. You just insert your card, and punch in the restaurant of your choice, the number of people in your party, and the printer does the rest.
Of course, you can use the more conventional, ask-the-table-game-supervisor method. Either way works well, although the kiosk is faster if you are in a hurry, while the old-fashioned human-approach locks your face, name and award-winning personality into the mind of the somewhat over-worked Pit Supervisors who tend to increase the rating of people that they have come to know and like.
What Is Compable?
Don’t be afraid to ask for a comp whenever you play here. The worst they can say is “No”, and at Ellis Island, I’m not sure that that word is even in their comp-dictionary. From comped micro-brews and steak dinners to free rooms and gratis slot, BJ and roulette tournaments, the EI has a liberal comp policy that puts the major casino-corporations to total shame.
There are always plenty of freebies and giveaways for locals and anyone else who is on their monthly mailing list.
The Brew That Puts “Brewery” into Ellis Islands Name
Yea, yea, I know that some people would consider it a sacrilege to talk about a casino that has its very own brew-pub without talking about the beer. Okay, I’ll sum it up in four words…I DON’T LIKE IT!
While the original Ellis Island in New York’s Harbor quenched the thirst for freedom of the poor, tired and huddled masses, it was not known for it’s fine libations. Unfortunately, neither is Ellis Island Casino & Brewery!
Okay, if you took some of them old 78-rpm shellac-based phonograph records and melted them down, then filtered the resultant liquid through a week-old loaf of bread, the taste would be the same as Ellis Islands Gold Ale, but why would you even want to try that. Their beer could turn a heavy drinker into a tee-tottler in less than 20-ounces.
What is redeeming is that their brewed-on-premises root beer is a little bit of sarsaparilla-heaven here on earth. Yes, the cocktail waitress will bring it to you at the craps tables, and YES, they will definitely appreciate your generous tip for that particular service.
A Word About Their Food
It would be unfair to talk about Ellis Island without mentioning their food, and their 24-hour $4.95 steak-dinner special. It’s garnered a Las Vegas Advisor Top Ten placing for close to 40 months in a row. In the “It’s-been-four-hours-since-our-last-price-increase” world of Las-Vegas, forty months is definitely a long time. It’s a 10-ounce top sirloin which comes complete with rolls, soup or salad, green beans, choice of potato, and garlic toast. It IS NOT listed on the menu, so you have to ask for it like you’re a member of some secret Carnivore Society. Don’t worry, the waitress will know exactly what you are talking about.
Okay folks, that’s it for this venue. Until we meet up at the next mini-table on this tour,
Good Luck and Good Skill at the tables…and in Life.
The Mad Professor