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

(Read Part I , Part II, Part III or Part IV or Part V or Part VI or Part VII or Part VIII or Part IX or Part X or Part XI or Part XII or Part XIV)  


Spending some quality dice-time profitably playing an early morning session on the Colorado River at the Edgewater Hotel seemed like an excellent way to start our final day on the Mini-Tub Craps Tour of Southern Nevada.

We were in the presence of a ribald group of "Laughlin millionaires" (that’s someone from Laughlin or Bullhead City with more than $100 in their pocket).  I had met these guys the night before, and they were still at the same table, in their same spots, when I returned to it nearly ten hours later.  They had been up all night playing 25-cent craps and drinking their share of free booze.  

In actual fact, they appeared to have been drinking the state of Arizona, California and New Mexico’s fair share of free booze, and the waitress continued to re-supply the troops every fifteen minutes or so.  Mel and I each tossed one final redeeming hand before tossing our luggage into the trunk, then dropping the roof of the car, and heading back to the center of the craps playing universe otherwise known as Las Vegas. 

We had one more casino to visit before wrapping up this tour.   I was looking forward to settling down at a very beatable sit-down Crapshooter table at:

Silverton Hotel-Casino

Some of you may remember this 300-room hotel as the old Boomtown Casino at the extreme southern edge of the LV hotel-strip.  Although it hasn’t completely shed its old mining-town motif, at least it no longer resembles the long-abandoned ghost-town theme that it once did.  As the suburbs around Vegas grow, once remote places like the Silverton become local neighborhood casinos that see more frequent visits from nearby residents.

To say that this casino is “just off the Strip” is a bit of a stretch.  Well actually, it’s a BIG stretch.  Although it’s only about two blocks away from Las Vegas Boulevard (The Strip); in actual fact, few tourists have ever even heard of this place, let alone being able to tell you where it is.

Where Is It?

It is on Blue Diamond Road, located between its Interstate-15 off-ramp and LV Boulevard.   That places it roughly five miles away from all the mega-resorts, which pretty much guarantees that your chances of being run over by a demonically steered baby-stroller is low enough to let your “Is this Sinland or Disneyland” guard down.  On the other hand, there is a disproportionate number of electric wheelchairs, power-driven scooters and wheeled oxygen tanks, that you have to be sure you don’t get tripped up on your way to the easy-to-find table-games pit.

They also have a free shuttle (10 am to 10 pm) that rumbles between the Tropicana Hotel, Callaway Golf Center, and Belz Factory-Outlet Mall, before finally disgorging its cargo of human flotsam and jetsam at The Silverton. 

I’ve never actually stayed in one of their 300 rooms, so I can’t pass judgment on them.  However, I haven’t read of any more people getting killed here (recently), so I suppose it’s an okay place to rest your head and dream of sugar-plum craps fairies who throw those mythical never-ending hands.

Although the 30,000 square foot casino is small by Strip standards, it will soon be undergoing a major expansion along with the addition of further restaurants, amenities and a significantly larger hotel tower.

The Dealers, the Table, and the Game

The dealers here are universally good.  Although some of them haven’t been in the business for very long, they are good-natured, and definitely appreciate any toke-action directed their way. I hope I don’t have to remind you that small casinos like this are not used to hosting big bettors.  With that in mind, you may want to restrict your buy-in to no more than $100 during the day, and a max of $200 during the busier evenings.

There is just one mini-table here, and it is of the six-seat sit-down Crapshooter variety.  Although the table is slightly bouncy, and the felt is a little bit worn; you should have little difficulty adapting your throw to the shorter throwing distances.

The game is usually set at either a $1 (most times), $2, or rarely a $3 bet-minimum, and a very appealing 10x-Odds offering.  These two elements equate to an awfully attractive betting situation, especially for skilled shooters.  One bonus to this place is that I’ve yet to see them “sweat” any major wins that I’ve been able to extract out of their craps game.  On the other hand, with the growing proliferation of skilled dicesetters, you may want to temper just how much you take off of the tables, so that it doesn’t spoil future visits for you or other Precision-Shooters.

First Session

Four intrepid players were already in action when we sat down and bought in for $100 each.  Although my two favorite seat positions were occupied, I took up a spot at the #3 chair (when counting from the left).  The far-wall right-wall/corner is approximately 45” away from this table-location.

From the immediate Stick-Left position on mini-tubs and Crapshooter tables, I shoot with a smooth, back-handed knuckle-ball release that is suited to this type of hard, but slightly bouncy layout.

By the time I had settled my cheques in the rail, and had a drink (OJ) in the built-in cup-holder; two players had 7’d-Out with seemingly blinding speed.  I ventured a buck on the Pass-Line in hopes that the player on my immediate right might actually throw at least ONE Box-number before getting blown away.  In truth, I wanted to have a line-bet down in case they enforced their randomly-enforced, “You have to have a line-bet (PL or DP) on the previous player if you want to throw the dice” rule. 

To my mind, the $1 bet was a sacrifice to the gambling gods, or at least to the gambling-corporation-gods for the “right” to shoot the dice when they came to me.  As it turned out, the sacrifice lasted about as long as the virtue of a drunk virgin on Ecstasy at a frat party. 

Since I wanted to calibrate my throw to this table-position/distance first, I intentionally didn’t venture very much money on my first turn.  I put a buck on the line, and backed it with 3x-Odds (instead of the full allowable 10x).  I wanted to adapt as painlessly as possible (yet still have a chance to win a bit), so I Placed $22 Inside, with the intention of Pressing them only after I dialed things in.  Surprise, surprise, surprise…my roll lasted almost as long as the previous shooters did.  So much for instant gratification…this was more like instant emasculation, with $26 worth of bets being lopped off the top of my bankroll. 

I knew Mel was staring at me, because I felt the heat of his glare on the side of my neck.  He had lost half of his buy-in in the space of less than one minute.  To be fair, he did get to see a total of four rolls from two different shooters, so by reckless gambling standards, he was getting his moneys worth.  I intentionally didn’t look in his direction because I knew him well enough to know that I’d see the “What the hell happened there?” look.  He ended up throwing a fairly good hand when the dice went to him.  Once he finished his hand, the dice quickly circled around the table. 

Our “never-been-married,-never-want-to-get-married” female dealer was doing more laughing than actual dealing as Mel regaled her with “dealer horror stories” that he had lived through over the decades that he’s spent on the other side of the casino tables. 

The Pit Supervisor came over and Mel recognized him as a former employee whom Mel had passed over several times because of his incompetent skills.   Mel congratulated him on his new posting and said, “At least you don’t have to torture the players with your lump (lousy dealer) moves anymore”, I didn’t know if he’d take it in the good-nature that Mel intended, or whether our playing-time at Silverton was quickly drawing to a close.   Fortunately this guys sense of humor was obviously much better than his dealing skills, because he laughed right along as he and Mel traded a few more sharp barbs before he moved on to watch over a crowded BJ game.

My second go-round with the dice was quite a bit better than the first.  At least the dice were landing flat, and no longer doing a pirouette, then veering towards the outer wall.  I recouped the $26 loss from my previous hand, and added another $58 to the win column.  The target area for my initial dice-touchdown was about 18” from the backwall.  Although this gives a lot of “running room” for the dice to do what they have to do (exhaust their energy), it also gives them a lot of opportunities to go awry, and NOT do what they are SUPPOSED to do (pop and scatter instead of staying on axis, and maintaining their primary faces).   

On the other hand, the close proximity of the backwall means that all their energy has to be spent by the time that they reach their destination.   Since my table-notes indicated that a high-lob does not work well for me on this tub from the SL-positions, I used a higher-energy, low-trajectory, moderate-backspin toss that made the dice bounce twice and tumble on-axis (but they do not maintain their primary faces very often with this toss), before coming to a stop.  I would characterize this type of throw as more of a “percentage shot” rather than an actual “precision-shot”, but on this particular table; that was what the table and my current shooting-position limited me to.  So far I was satisfied with the results.

 Mel Rehashes the Mini-Table Specialist Idea

Mel’s next two hands made him more confident than ever that a modestly talented Precision-Shooter could make a fairly decent living exclusively specializing at mini-tubs and sit-down Crapshooter games.

His reasoning went something like this: 

       The shorter the throwing distance, the easier it is to keep the dice on axis.

       Mini-tubs have throwing distances from 30” all the way up to less than 60” if you are at the closest-to-the-back-wall player-position.

       So far, none of the mini-tables use any serious amounts of underlays or foam padding, nor are there any tables that have uncontrollable bounce-characteristics.

       Dealer tokes bring quite a bit of dice setting latitude, even at the “No Dice Setting Permitted” casinos.

       With few exceptions, the mini-table casinos are rarely packed with serious players.  Therefore, it’s an infrequent occasion when you won’t be able to get into an open spot.

       Since most of the regular players who frequent these places are low buy-in low-rollers, it rarely takes very long for your favorite table position to open up.

       If Las Vegas is the Mecca of the gaming world, then it is the center of the mini-table universe, based on the sheer number of them in the immediate area.

       That being the case, it is relatively easy for a player to move from casino to casino, without wearing out his welcome too quickly at any one of them.

       All of these ”good” thoughts were tempered with the fact that most of the mini-tub casinos are also loss-adverse.  That means that a dedicated mini-tub Precision-Shooter would have to fly VERY LOW below the casinos radar to keep Pit-heat to a minimum.

Mel looked at me as though I was going to disagree with his analysis of the situation.  I shook my head, and said that I couldn’t find any real  problems with his reasoning, but it would all depend on just HOW MUCH money a player NEEDED to earn on a per day or per week basis, that would really determine if the mini-layouts were appropriate for this kind of low-buck, low-profile casino-earnings lifestyle.

The First Session Continues…

Mel continued to shoot better than normal, and the rest of the random-rollers continued to shoot like…random-rollers.  Some of the players did good, some did bad, and the dice did exactly what they usually do when they are in the hands of casual players who throw them haphazardly.  That is, there was no discernable pattern, and I used a low-buck version of my Choppy-Table Short-Leash Method (as discussed in Dodging Bullets As A Darksider and further expounded upon in Part II of the article of the same name). 

Instead of using the usual $5 as my base-bet, I would commence each sequence with a $1 DP-bet after any RR made their first PL-win.  It was working so well that I increased my base bet to $2 after it brought in a win on every subsequent roller that I bet against.  By the time I had thrown another pretty remarkable hand of my own, I re-raised the base-bet on that method up to the $3 mark.

I never cease to be amazed at how effective this betting-approach continues to be.  Even when a lucky player comes along and throws six Pass-Line winners in a row, and I reach my $285 loss-limit on $5 base-bets, I am still satisfied with the more-than-matching profit that the successful hands do generate.  With a $1 base-bet, your maxed-out loss-limit is $57; not an entirely ungodly amount of money to risk when kept in perspective of your overwhelming chances of winning.

I’ve been playing this game for nearly 25 years, of which the last 13 years have been full-time as a professional Precision-Shooter (a minimum of 1200 hours per year over the last 10 years), and I can say one thing about this particular betting method.  I have NEVER come across ANYTHING that comes close to matching it for bankroll-safety and profit-consistency.   On the other hand, it cannot be used on any “every shooter” basis unless the table continues its choppiness.

Stated another way; you’ll find yourself in choppy or cool table situations at least 60% of the time.  In real-world conditions, nothing else comes close to reducing bankroll-volatility and increasing profit-generation than this approach.  End of sermon…now go and sin no more.

Mel needed to make a couple of work-related calls, and I had to make social arrangements that included the ultra-hip, ultra-retro Shady Grove Lounge at Silverton (complete with an Airstream trailer, “outdoor” bowling lanes, and an innocent-age sort of Shady Rest late ‘40’s trendiness), so we took a break from the action.  I had been sitting on my ass for just over ninety minutes, and a leisurely stretch was in order if I wanted to maintain my focus and throwing consistency.

Second Session

By the time I returned to the mini-tub, a couple of our former tablemates had disappeared.  The dealer said that they had gotten chopped up by …wait for it…THE CHOP.  I smiled wryly since Mel and I had just finished talking about the merits of my choppy table method, and here was a perfect example of how otherwise perfectly sane gamblers had let their fairly decent winnings get chipped away by the back and forth unceasing erosion of choppiness. 

Oh well, I wasn’t here to convert the infidels over to my brand of religion, nor was I going to preach to a congregation that was no longer present (they ran out of money before they ran out of faith in their “PL with max-odds, two Come-bets with max-odds” devotion).  To my mind, it’s probably better to say a couple of novenas and make a generous contribution to a worthy charity rather than being subjected to the constant bankroll whipsaws of “but the gambling books tell me that is the best bet in the house” way to lose.

On the upside, their steady losses meant that there was more of their money in the casinos coffers for me to win, and my profits would have less of an impact on the corporate bottom-line.  Besides, it also meant that the dice would be moving more quickly around the less-populated table now.

Both of the two seats that I really would have preferred to be in were the only ones that were still occupied, so I returned to the chair that I was in during the first session.

Physical Limits, Mental Limits…Your Limits

When you choose to shoot from “out of position” there are two big factors at play.  First is the physical one.  Obviously, the distance to the backwall and the way you are positioned to it, is different from the shooting-spot that you are most comfortable with.  Second is the mental factor.  If you get it into your head that you cannot win from a new and different position, especially the one you are in NOW; then chances are YOU WILL NOT WIN, and it has everything to do with the way that your HEAD is positioned, and not by the way your body is positioned!  

If you think that you won’t win; then you rarely will.

Returning to a table that has been sending some cash-flow in my direction has a way of inspiring confidence.  Winning breeds confidence, and more confidence tends to bring in more profit.  Good karma and bad thoughts both have a way of becoming self-fulfilling prophesies. 

When I first walk up to a table, I am confident that I’ll do well.  However, that confidence is tempered with caution about not venturing too big of a chunk of my bankroll until I have dialed in a particular layout.  However, if I’m returning to it after just a short break (less than one day); then my confidence level is higher still.  Now that doesn’t mean that I am willing to “bet the farm” or even a prize cow from out of the herd.  Rather, it means that I’ll step up my bets a little quicker, and I’ll be more likely to let some of the successive-hitters rise a lot quicker to the comfort level of the particular casino that I am in. 

Comfort-level that is matched to your bet-tolerance and that of each casino is very important, but still quite subjective.  The rule of thumb is;  The lower the casinos minimum-bet, the lower their win-tolerance will be”.  Although this isn’t always the case, you have to let COMMON SENSE, not COMMON GREED guide your decisions!

Know YOUR Limits as Well as THEIR Limits

You’ve heard the term, “Bet with your head, not over it”?  Well in the “heat-control” context (to ensure that the casino don’t start to “sweat the money” by worrying about how large your bets are, or how much of their money that you are winning), we should also say, “Bet to THEIR comfort-level, not just YOURS”. 

Even though you may be quite comfortable with much bigger bets, don’t let greed ruin a great thing, especially on the mini-tables.  If they are comfortable with flat-bets under $25, then don’t go in their like a bull in a china shop or a like crack-whore in a drug lab.  Don’t start making big bets that will make them regret the presence of your dicesetting ass in their casino. 

Don’t burn your future opportunities with current greed. 

Second Session Continued…

I was keeping a close eye on the Pitmeister to make sure he wasn’t keeping too close of an eye on me.  The winnings were flowing, but the table wasn’t exactly hemorrhaging red.  Instead, I was bleeding off about $100 every thirty minutes or so.  That wasn’t an unreasonable amount to extract from such a low-budget gaming-house.

My shooting continued on track, and Mel suggested that I should think about shooting from the SL-spots on the Crapshooter tables more often.  I agreed that my shooting from here was actually MORE consistent, but it never gave me the “ohmygawd, that was a MEGA-roll” type of hands that I was used to on these sit-down games from the SR-positions.  Instead, from this spot, I’d usually deliver hands in the 8-to-20 roll-range, but fewer Point-then-Out results.   I decided that it would be a good idea to go back over all of my previous session-notes to calculate whether it was more profitable to have steady 8-20 roll hands (and rare quick Outs), or a few more early outs, combined with a much healthier number of hands in the 30-to-40 roll range.

The dice came around again, and my consistency was still there.   A decent length hand combined with an early regression, and what some might refer to as Passive-Aggressive Pressing; led to excellent profit in my rail, without having an excess of money left exposed on the layout.   Though we all understand that you have to bet money on the table to make money in your rack, there is always that fine balance to consider when it comes to how much you should initially put out there, versus how much you should keep out there, and finally just how much you should push your winnings in the hope of winning more on each and every subsequent hit.

Press, Same Bet or Regress?

Normally, what I will do when I am on a good roll at a low-budget casino like Silverton, is to press my bets up to a level that is near the high side of their comfort-zone (but still careful not exceed it), and then keep the bets at that level.   While some people regress their bets once they reach a certain level, and then try to build them back up again; I prefer to continue receiving the larger payouts for the duration of the hand.  Both methods are certainly valid and have merit.  It’s just that if my shooting is up to par, I would rather not artificially restrain my winnings for the sake of a lower locked-in profit. 

I still ALWAYS lock-in an early profit as often and as quick as I possibly can.  However, I also believe in letting my winning run when I’m on a good roll.  I suppose this is part of my, “I am NOT a gambler, I am a PROFESSIONAL Precision-Shooter” mindset.  That pretty much dictates that my priorities are:

       Maintain the safety of my bankroll through strict loss-limits, and by avoiding unqualified bets on random-rollers.

       Lock-in an early guaranteed profit through regression on my currently strongest Signature Numbers.

       Let excess profits pile up and multiply through passive/aggressive Pressing.

If I reach the point where I’m concerned about how much money I actually have on the layout; then I’ll simply stop the alternate-pressing (on every other hit) until I lock in a few more wins.  If I’m feeling particularly uncomfortable about the size of any of them; then I either regress them (which is very, VERY rare for me at this juncture), or I’ll turn them off for a roll or two simply because I AM NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THINKING ABOUT DISTRACTING STUFF LIKE THIS during a good roll (or during ANY roll for that matter).

Mel and I each shot three more hands before heading towards the 24/7 Sundance Grill with an ample comp in our hands, a healthy profit in our pockets, and a wide smile on our faces.  Things had gone quite well for both Mel and I on the Mini-Tub Tour, and this seemed like a nice casino to complete the journey.

Some Reflections and Reminiscences

By this point, we had played at fourteen mini-tub houses here in Las Vegas and nearby Laughlin.   We had made a ton of profit, yet we had been careful not to wear out our welcome at any of them.  We had shielded a good chunk of our profits, as well as our Precision-Shooting skills.

Mel was more convinced than ever that even a mediocre dice setter with enough practice under his belt, could turn these mini-tubs into his very own profit playground.  We both acknowledged that greed and discipline were the principal limiting factors when it comes to keeping things under the radar and on a sustainable track.

Over a plate of decent, but unremarkable food, Mel asked where I had encountered my first Crapshooter "sit-down" table.  I responded by telling him that I played at what I think was probably the first one to be installed in the U.S. way back in 1989 at the Sands in Atlantic City. It was only open for about one and a half years, and got very little action. My Precision-Shooting skills were still in the formative stages at the time, and I had contemptfully smirked every time that I walked by this felt-covered aberration.

On one very busy weekend (I wish I knew of ONE weekend when A/C wasn’t busy), all the other "real" tables were full, so I sat down at third-base to play. Like most others who tried it out, I found the throwing angle to the backwall/sidewall was kind of weird. What was weirder was that the dice were sometimes landing in whatever top-position the stickman was sending out to me. That is, if he delivered them with the 5 & 3 on top, the dice would sometimes land in an Easy-Eight 5 & 3 call. Believe it on not, that was my FIRST sustained evidence that the dice could be thrown and not only stay on axis, but also consistently end up on the primary faces that they were first set.  It would take YEARS and YEARS of additional experience before I was able to transfer that particular skill to the longer, more conventional table-lengths.  Thousand and thousands of craps-playing hours later, and the rest, as they say, is history.

As we were heading back for a final session at Silvertons sit-down game, I told Mel that I had just made arrangements to spend an entire week in Mesquite, Nevada.  He looked at me as though he had just heard the most ridiculous nonsense of his entire life, and said, “Mesquite?!  Mesquite is like Satan’s waiting room…only hotter!  Why would you even consider going there?  My response was a simple, “Because of the craps, baby, because of the craps.”  He just shook his head in disgusted disbelief.  I’ll have a full report on my Mesquite craps-exploits in an upcoming article entitled “On The Road In Mesquite”.

Session Three

As soon as we neared the table, we both gave each other a “What the hell is going on here?” look.  The table was full and there were another half dozen players waiting to get onto it.  We didn’t even have to say anything.  We both knew this third session just wasn’t going to happen today.  It was an unceremonious end to what had been an outstanding tour.

Mel asked if I was sure that we hadn’t overlooked any other short-length money-makers.  Wellllll”, I replied, “there is a smallish 9-footer at the Mark Twain Casino in La Grange, Missouri (across the ditch from Quincy, Illinois), and there was one at the Blue Chip Casino up in Michigan City, but they’ve gone to a conventional layout, and there was one at the Fort Garry Hotel up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, but I’m told that one has also been replaced, so that’s about it, buddy.”  He nodded his head and added, “Then let’s piss on the fire and call in the dogs, ‘cause this hunt is over.”

I was pleased by the results that all of the mini-tables had produced…although some of them contributed WAY MORE than others.  All in all, it was a memorable, and VERY profitable trip.  Thanks for joining me on this one, and I hope you’ll be part of the next one as well.

Until then,

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


The Mad Professor

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