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I’m Sorry, But SIZE Really DOES Matter


First of all, this has nothing to do with your manhood.  However, it does have a lot to do with how you are treated at the tables. 

Today we are talking about your session buy-in.

Your “buy-in” is the amount of money that you change into casino cheques (checks) when you first walk up to a craps table.

So, here’s the question:

Does the size of your buy-in affect how you are treated, regarded, respected and rated at the tables?

The answer is a resounding:  YES!

I saw some comments by Irishsetter a while back that caught my eye.  Well, in truth, ANY comments by Irishsetter catch my eye because of his keen, unabashed insight, but these ones also stood out because they failed to elicit more than a passing comment from readers of the Message Board.  What struck me ironic about it; was the fact that the impact of the size of your session buy-in is an often overlooked and very under-rated tool that seasoned Precision-Shooting pro’s know about, and often use to their advantage.  Yet, here was some great insight that quickly fell off of the Message Board Top-10 list with nary a comment.

Good Advice is Worth Repeating

It’s long been known that the size of your buy-in has a lot to do with how you are treated by the dealers, boxmen and Table Game Supervisors, Pit Managers, and Casino Hosts (not to mention how you are rated by them).  Yet most up-and-coming dicesetters fail to take the size of their buy-in into consideration when they are looking at ways to maximize the advantage they are trying to gain over the house. 

Your session buy-in plays a significant role in how you are treated, how you are regarded, how you are respected, and how you are rated by the casino.  That’s why we are going to look at it in some added detail today.

First let me thank Irishsetter for kindly and generously letting me reprint his original comments which prompted me to carry this torch a little further down the road today.  He really captured some of the best reasons for using a bigger buy-in when he wrote: 

       With a larger buy in, I give myself a better opportunity to profit more on a good hand. How many times have you witnessed a decent shooter buy in for $100, get whacked a bit while waiting to shoot, and then be playing short when he/she gets the dice? Now they can't do the regression they've been planning because one point-then-seven and they've gone through their session bankroll. I've seen it and I've done it.

       With a larger buy-in, I'm less likely to get any heat. The one thing I noticed about dice crews is, no matter how drunk, or how big an asshole someone is, they won't “86” them if they've bought in large.  I still play low-stakes tables ($1 to $5), I just buy-in a bit larger than the average guy, tip well, treat the staff with respect; and I can tell you that heat has been almost non-existent this year. Even if you're not willing to lose even 50% of your larger buy in, the staff PERCEIVES that you are, and PERCEIVES that you're a serious gambler, so they treat you accordingly.

       When buying in larger, I've NEVER played down to my last cheques.  In fact, I've never played past my 50% loss-limit. I think it's more likely that a player will ignore their loss-limits when they buy in small.

       Although I don't play for comps at all, my comp ratings have also increased significantly."

Irishsetter hit several nails squarely on the head with those comments, so let me give you my own run down of why the size of your buy-in matters, and how it relates to what it is most skilled Precision-Shooters are trying to accomplish when they do so.

Is This Reason Enough…?

       A sufficient buy-in allows you to carry out betting regressions so you can lock up a profit earlier on each hand, and that leads to greater betting-flexibility.

       A larger buy-in reduces “heat” because casinos value MONEY above EVERYTHING else.  The more you have, the more they want to keep you happy.  If that means they have to cut you some extra slack to keep you at the tables; then so be it.  That is the nature of the business that they choose to be in.

       If you combine a slightly larger buy-in, with decent dealer tokes and show some respect towards all the employees; then heat aimed towards you rarely becomes an issue. 

       A larger buy-in increases your "credibility" with the crew, and more importantly with the Pitbulls who track your play (and can give you the most sustained heat).

       Stated another way, a larger buy-in decreases heat proportionately. The bigger your buy-in, the less heat you will receive.  This is the nearly universal truth no matter where you play in this particular galaxy, except for the places that sweat the money and don't have much of a stomach for risk.    This is especially prevalent in places that I’ve specifically mentioned as “profuse money-sweaters” in my other articles, or that are found on Irishsetters “Blacklist”.   In those cases, the inverse is true. 

       During a session; as a small buy-in diminishes, most players place less and less value (and respect) on their remaining funds, and therefore are MUCH more likely to squander the balance.  Loss-limits” become “loss-suggestions” which quickly turn into “lost-it-all”.

       A larger buy-in actually gives you more mental control over your bankroll and a better positive attitude over your game.

       While I'm not suggesting that you need to play psychological tricks on yourself; some people feel more in control and more able to maintain a good positive attitude if they can keep their loss-limit on a $1000 buy-in to, let's say, $150 (15%). Whereas previously, they would have bought in for $150 and been willing to play down to their last dollar. While the loss-total is still the same, they can take solace in the fact that they only lost 15% of their session-bankroll instead of the entire 100%. It's a bit of a self-applied mind-game, but it seems to work for most people.

Need More Reasons…?

The long list of benefits that you get if you are the biggest (buy-in) player at the table pretty much mirrors the reasons for consistent tipping.   Here are few more areas where the size of your buy-in may buy you additional consideration:

       The casino-crews treat “big buy-in” players with one set of very flexible and compliant rules, and they treat “smaller” players, with a more stringent, strictly enforced set of regulations.

       The more that you can have a dealer, boxman, Floor Supervisor, or Pit Boss look favorably upon you; the better you will be treated…and the easier and more flexible the rules will be applied to you. 

       They’ll give you little or no hassle if you don’t always hit the back wall, or if you are a little slow when you set the dice (which you shouldn’t be because of your extensive practicing), they’ll be more patient in waiting for your toss.

       The stickman will step back or step aside to give you extra shooting room, and he’ll be sure to keep his stick and his hands out of your way.

       You’ll also notice that the stickman will be much less “fidgety” when you are shooting from the first couple of positions on either side of him.   He’ll stop moving, to lessen the amount of distraction within your shooting “eye” or line-of-sight. 

       In addition to that, they’ll often book late-bets for you, and they’ll retroactively book super-late bets, especially when the dice-outcome goes in your favor.  Or they’ll say, “no bet” or “Sorry, I couldn’t book that bet for you” on your late bets when the dice-outcome goes against you.  

       They’ll resolve payout-disputes in your favor, even when your mouth wasn’t as clear in its instructions, as your brain was in its intentions, and give you reminders about bets that you’ve forgotten to make, or Odds that you’ve forgotten to wager.  They’ll jog your memory to remind you about your normal supplementary Come-Out bets or Point-cycle hedges.

       They’ll suggest certain “trend-type” bets when they identify a trend or streak, even though you may not have noticed it.  They’ll say something like, “Did you know you’ve thrown at least one Hard-6 on every hand that you’ve tossed today?” or “Every time you throw a 4, you come right back with a couple more outside 4’s and 10’s.”  Or if you start throwing a particular Box-Number that you aren’t on, they may say, “How many more times are you going to roll the 5 before you give yourself permission to bet on it?”  

       They’ll clue-in quicker to your betting methods.  Whether it be regressions, progressions, parlays, or “bets-off” calls; they’ll anticipate your moves and they’ll be sure to ask about a usual bet-change even if you forget to request it.

The whole point is that from the moment that you step up to the table and throw you’re your cash on the layout, your buy-in sets the tone for how they will likely treat you. 

Before you even open your mouth to make your first bet, your buy-in has made a statement about how seriously they will take your action, and how seriously they will respect your being at their table.

A Side-Bar Your Honor?

Now is as good a time as any to give you a bit of insight as to how every players money is accounted for at the craps table that you buy-in at.

       The Table Game Supervisor (or in smaller casinos, the boxman) makes note of the amount of your buy-in when he is filling out your Rating Card (if you hand in a Players Card). 

       The boxman also adds the amount of your buy-in to the “bank lammers” (those little plastic discs that have various denominations printed on them, that are held in tiny fitted compartments near his right elbow). 

       That is how they keep track of how much money, coupons, and markers have been “dropped” into the “Drop Box” through the slot in the table.  

       A “count” of those lammers versus how many cheques (chips) are left in the tables chip-bank (the cheques that are stacked in front of the boxman, or part of the dealers “working stacks”). 

       This count will give them an accurate shift-by-shift report on how much a particular table won or lost during any given casino shift.

Buy-In” vs. “Heat” From My Own Perspective

I personally play about 1500 hours of casino craps each year.   That equates to approximately 30 hours a week, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, all spread over roughly 200 casinos throughout North America.

My average buy-in is as follows:

       At the big bet-tolerant houses (like Bellagio, Venetian, Mandalay Bay, Caesars Palace, Beau Rivage, Harveys, Taj Mahal, Borgata, and Foxwoods, etc.) I’ll buy-in (usually by way of a casino marker.  See my four-part Casino Credit Update series for details) for $2,000 or $3,000.  This amount fits into my Profit Skimming - 101 concept quite nicely.

       At the upper mid-market places (like Mirage, Palms, Paris, MGM Grand, Trump Plaza, the Grand casinos, etc.) I’ll buy-in for at least $1,000, and usually $1,500 or $2,000, depending on whether I am staying at one of those particular places and how long I plan to be at the tables.

       At the mid-market places (like Luxor, Treasure Island, Golden Nugget, Flamingo, Claridge, Sands, Mohegan Sun, all Harrah’s nationwide, all the other Tahoe, Biloxi, Midwest, Mid-south, Detroit, Ontario and A/C resorts, etc.) I’ll usually buy-in for $1,000.

       At the lower echelon casinos like Gold Coast, Sahara, Tropicana, Stratosphere, Shreveport-Bossier, Tunica, Lake Charles, Laughlin, Mesquite, Primm, Iowa, etc.) I’ll usually buy-in for $500.

       At small grind-joints, mini-tub locations, or places where they sweat the money more than James Brown at his parole hearing, I’ll restrict my buy-in to the comfort level that THEY are most content with.  In most cases, that means a maximum buy-in of $300, and in some cases, as little a $100 (in $20 bills so the dealer/boxman does not have to call out “Changing one-hundred” to the Pit Supervisor). 

Remember we are trying to fly UNDER the radar with our Precision-Shooting, but trying maintain a good table “presence” at the same time so that we are accorded the best treatment, the most flexible set of rules, and afforded the most generous comps and high-value cash-vouchers. 

Yes, it is a fine balancing act, but it is worth the effort.

Let me put that into a perspective that you can relate to.   I mentioned the ~1500 hours of casino craps that I play each year (30 hours/week, 5 days/week, 50 weeks/year).  Throughout all of that I receive the following amount of heat:

       Four or five times per week (usually once a day) I’ll get a, “Come on MP, don’t make me mention the backwall thing” admonishment from the boxman.

       Two or three times per week they’ll hit me with, “Hey MP, don’t make me look bad here…you gotta hit the backwall with both dice” remark.

       I’ll get a sternly worded, “SIR, you REALLY have to hit the backwall on EVERY throw” reprimand about once every two or three weeks.

       Once every month or two, I’ll run into a boxman whose bulging forehead-vein looks like a throbbing python hiding under a blanket.  He will either say that he wants me to hit the backwall “MUCH, MUCH harder” or if he’s having a bad day and the table is bleeding money like some piss-poor Third World country (or like California) he’ll say something like, “If one more dice fails to hit the backwall one more time, I am passing the dice to the next shooter…do you understand me sir?”

When you consider the number of times that I get my hands on the dice (especially at sparsely-populated tables), and the sheer number of hours that I play; it’s pretty easy to see that the lack of heat is NOT due to my charming personality or my rugged good looks (I’m told I have neither).   On the contrary, it is strictly generated by my polite, good-natured demeanor, decent tokes for the crew, and the SIZE of my BUY-IN!

Okay, Let Me Add a Different Perspective…

This next item may not help your game, but it may help your ego.

       A larger buy-in may grant you additional respect from your fellow players. 

I’m not talking about them getting all awe-struck if they see you throw down more than one genuine $100 bill.  Instead, I’m talking about the added consideration that some players will give you when it is your turn to shoot.  They may give you a little more “comfort space”, or they’ll be sure to keep their bets out of your dice-landing area with their Odds once they realize that you are shooting in close proximity to their line-bet. 

On it’s own, this “peer respect” may not be a big deal to you, but taken into consideration with all the other benefits that a larger buy-in may bring to you; the multiple on-going benefits are just too hard to ignore.

I Cringe When I See…

…Or read about some guys who buy in for $20 or $25, and bet $3 or $5 on the Pass Line, backed up with 2x-Odds and then have to decide WHICH Place-bets they will wager their remaining $9 or $10 on.  Yet, those same players lament the fact that it is SO hard to make consistent money at the tables.  Hell, when you give yourself such a limited chance to succeed, it sure as hell is difficult to consistently succeed.

I was reading a low-traffic craps Message Board the other day, and was struck by the fact that a VERY frequent poster (>400+ posts) said that his total bankroll for the week was $21.  When it comes to playing at $3 or $5 tables (or the occasional $10 table as he admitted), how good do you really think your chances of winning are? 

Hey listen, my own Precision-Shooting is pretty damn good, in fact it is outstanding.  However, if I was to follow his $21/week formula (a $3 or $5 Pass-Line wager with 2x Odds, plus Place-bets on the 5 and 9, and then more Place-bets on the 6 and 8 if the “mood” strikes him), just like him, I’d run out of money before my bet-sequence was even made, let alone have the chance to throw the dice and hit my chosen numbers.

That is obviously an extreme example, but the abundance of times that I spend at the tables tells me that this kind of thinking isn’t as rare as you might think it would be.  Spending up to 100% of your buy-in on just one series of bets is definitely NOT the way to riches, or even the way to a 10% or 15% return on your investment.  It is a one-way ride to almost never-ending losses.

You’ll Pluck Yourself Bald…

…By pulling out your hair over the frustration of not having money in action on the bets that your money SHOULD be on.  When those good rolls do come your way, you’ll have the irritation, annoyance and gnawing anger that you don’t have enough money to make the kind of bets that you should be making when opportunity comes pounding at your door.

If your buy-in isn’t big enough and you can’t afford to make suitable bets at the appropriate time; then you really shouldn’t be in the casino in the first place.

More Similarities Between Tokes and Buy-In

There are even more similarities and more benefits between the recompense you’ll derive from dealer-tips and those you’ll receive when using an above-average buy-in.

       The dealers, boxmen and Floor Supervisors feel that it’s incumbent on them to make your gaming experience as comfortable and hassle-free as possible.   A lot of times, when a “big” player approaches the table, virtually all of the staff will welcome him by name.

       If your buy-in is generally known to be large, they’ll make room for you even at a jam-packed table. 

       They will generally start your Rating Card as soon as you buy-in, but if you forget to hand in your Players Card at the beginning of a session, they’ll back-date (time-wise) the Rating Card to give you more accumulated playing time.  This results in higher comp ratings.

       The best Floor Supervisors (also know as TGS-Table Game Supervisors) will keep a small address-type of book with frequent big-players Players Card numbers in it.   That way, they can start your Rating Card immediately, and they can waive off your Players Card on a busy table by saying, “Don’t worry Mr. X, I’ve already got you started here.”

       Often times, a smart and alert floor-man will look around to see if you are still playing at a different table than the one you started at, then he’ll bring the Rating Card to your current table to ensure that the comps and rating continue to accumulate on your account.

       They will sometimes have another player move so that you can comfortably settle in to your “normal” spot.  Or when they are preparing to open a new table (usually at a shift-change), they’ll reserve your spot at the soon-to-open table with a lammer (one of those plastic “off”, “on”, “buy” or “lay” buttons) to save your place, as they count down the check-bank, unwrap new dice, and do the necessary paperwork that has to happen before they can start the game.

       If you’ve read my Creating More Shooting Opportunities series, you’ll see that the bigger your bankroll, the more accommodating the casino will try to be. 

Obviously a lot of these benefits mirror those that you will enjoy as a frequent tipper (for the dealers).  When you combine tokes for the dealers with a large buy-in, the benefits multiply because you are raising your “value” to both the dealers and to the casino itself.  

A couple more benefits of a larger buy-in:

       Can include having them open up a new table at a higher bet-minimum that you and only a few other players are comfortable with.  Although I don’t recommend playing at a level higher than you are comfortable with, a higher bet-minimum table usually gives you more chances with the dice.  On the other hand, it takes away some of the bet-flexibility you have at a cheaper table, since it forces you to raise your betting-levels just so you are able to regress them down.  Since the table-minimum is now higher, you will also have to have more money in action, more often.

       When you first walk up to the table, they’ll often take your “call bets” before they even “see” your money, even though this move is strictly against the rules in EVERY gaming jurisdiction in North America.  Again, if they know you from past sessions and they are aware of your normal buy-in; then they’ll push the boundaries of their operating procedures.

       A big factor that most people overlook when it comes to using a larger buy-in is that the boxman will usually control the game-speed to YOUR liking whether or not you are the shooter.  If you are the impatient type, they’ll try to keep the action flowing.  If you are a slow bettor, they’ll try to reduce the pace to ensure that all of your bets are booked.

       If you are a non-smoker, they’ll often ask if anyone else at your end of the table is a smoker.  If there aren’t any smokers, they will politely put up the “No Smoking” placard at your end of the layout.  Moves like this doesn’t cost them one red cent, nor one ounce of energy; but it virtually guarantees a higher-level of appreciation from the player, and it provides recognition that he is a valued customer.

       If you are a well-known player of substance, and you ask for a Casino Marker (credit), the Pit Boss or TGS will “give the nod” (approval) to the boxman to dole out chips before he even consults the computer credit-file.  He does this based on his current knowledge of your credit availability, or the amount of “front money” that he knows that you have in your account.

       In most cases (unless you are on the list of the worlds Top-10 biggest assholes) they’ll be extra generous with your Player Rating, which leads to bigger and better comps.  This alone is worth anywhere from a 10% to 75% premium (increase) over your actual (deserved) ratings.

       With that in mind, it is important to remember that lower-rung casinos have a much lower comp-threshold than the higher-rung resorts.  A good rule of thumb to remember, is that the lower the table bet-minimum, the better the dealers will treat a good tipper.  That also applies to the size of your buy-in.  They are taught to show respect to the bankroll FIRST, and the player SECOND.

       Another tangible benefit of enhanced ratings based partially on the size of your buy-in, is the amount and frequency of cash-voucher mailings.    Instead of receiving $10 or $25 vouchers once a month; it translates into multiple $50 vouchers that arrive in your mailbox twice or even four times each month from casinos that use these items to reward valued customers.

       Dealers may be a lot more lenient on their “discretionary” stick-calls.  This especially includes “leaners” (where the call could go either way, but they’ll make the dice-call in your favor instead of announcing the other less desirable 7-Out decision).

       When you are looking around for a cocktail waitress, they will often summon one from another area, or the Pit Boss will even call for one on the phone.  It is important to remember that alcohol makes it easier for the casino to separate a man from his money.  You might want to save your “serious drinking” for a post-session celebration, and substitute water, juice or coffee while you are actually playing.

       Before you depart the table, they’ll often ask if there is anything thing that you need, comp-wise, such as lunch, dinner or perhaps a show.

This list covers the more overt help that the dice-crew can give a “large buy-in” player.  There are many, many more benefits that are far too numerous to list here.

Have no doubt.  There is definitely one set of rules for players who buy-in “large”, and a completely different set for players who don’t.  Obviously this DOES NOT give you a free license to mistreat or berate the crew, or to have unreasonable expectations.  Behave yourself, and don’t act like an “I’m entitled to special treatment” idiot, and you’ll soon see the dividends of a larger buy-in start to tumble in.

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


The Mad Professor

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