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Craps Tournaments…Going For the Gold

 DE-Programming Your Advantage-Play Mindset

It is CRITICAL for you to understand that tournament play does not pit you against the casino as it normally does is in your day-to-day advantage-play struggles.  Rather, in a tournament, it is you against all the other players at your table and ultimately against everyone else who is in the tournament.

That isn’t as daunting a task as it may at first sound.   Though luck does figure prominently into this type of contest, skillful bet-execution and gamesmanship are the chief determinants and certainly goes a long way in explaining why some players are multiple repeat winners in numerous tournaments year after year after year.  If there was no skill involved and it wasn’t a positive-expectancy situation; then I simply wouldn’t be writing about tournaments at all.

Making EVERY Roll Count

Since there are usually a very limited number of dice-rolls per round, you have to look at every one of them as a profit-opportunity.  Now that does not mean that you have to put out max-dollars on every roll, it does means that you can’t view each point-cycle sequence the same way you do in a traditional game.

Since there aren’t many rolls for you to work your betting-skill magic on, you have to make each bet and each roll count.  That often means dramatically using even the initial one or two Come-Out rolls of a session to jump far ahead of everyone else.

Keep in mind that most players start off relatively slowly as they get their feet wet and comfortably ensconce themselves into the contest.  In most cases, you can take advantage of their initial conservative play and make some dramatic and unexpected moves that will push you far into the chip-lead after just a few rolls of the dice.  Of course, those same dramatic moves can lead to a quick exit from the tournament if they don’t work out. 

My experience has been, that if you seize the opportunities when most others are still settling in; you can put yourself miles ahead in the chip-count to where it is often almost impossible for others to catch up.

A Little Background

As I mentioned in Part One of this series, I used to play in quite a few Craps Tournaments up until 2002.

Since then, there simply weren’t enough of them on the casino schedules to keep me interested in staying in prime “tournament mindset” mode.  That is, they no longer had a specific craps tournament “season” where I could practice up and get into the right mental frame of mind to string five or six of them together to make it worth my while. 

In fact, most of the casinos that used to hold them on a regular basis got out of the craps tournament business altogether simply because a few players were winning the lions share of them and more importantly, their slot tournaments were drawing a much larger and wider patron base (both literally and figuratively). 

Now that we are seeing a resurgence in their popularity, I thought I’d dust off a couple of my battle-proven strategies and share them with those of you who are contemplating signing up for some of the upcoming events.

In the tournaments that I won or placed in the top three, I used several different strategies.

If I Am NOT The Shooter...

I use a very aggressive Every Chip On Every Hand approach.

That is, EVERY chip in my rack is on the layout at the start of EVERY new-hand roll of the dice. Yes, this method is risky and you will sometimes get blown out of the water VERY quickly.  In fact I lost way more tournaments than I placed in the Top Five in, however, in the ones that I won, it was almost always by a huge margin.

The Every Chip On Every Hand method works like this:

I divide my entire bankroll into three parts...

1/3 on the No-4 (that’s a Lay-bet against the 4)

1/3 on the No-10 (some casinos charge the vig/commission upfront, while others only take it if the bet wins)

1/3 (minus the MINIMUM PL-bet) divided by and wagered on the remaining Inside-numbers (5, 6, 8, and 9).

       If either or both of my Lay-bets fall during a hand, I DO NOT replace them.


       As my Place-bets hit, I collect one (rack the entire profit), and then take the next hit-payout and apply ALL of it evenly on the four Inside-numbers.


       I then alternate that collect one, press all method until the PL-Point is made or the 7-out shows up.


       If the PL-Point is repeated, I reduce my Inside bets to their initial starting point (1/3 of my starting bankroll), and start progressing them again, OR, I look at how much I need to catch up to the chip-leader and increase my Place and Lay-bets in conjunction and in proportion with that. 


       In other words, if I am not the current chip-leader, then I use the Every Chip On Every Hand formula in a single-minded effort to become the leader.


       I also “work” my Place-bets on the Come-Out because the Lay-4 and Lay-10 are also always working on the C-O.

If the shooter 7's-Out, I collect on my Lay-4 and 10 if they are still standing, and then add up all my chips (the Lay-bet profit and any money I retained in my rack from won Inside-hits).  Once I calculate my new total I do the 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 Every Chip On Every Hand division again and put them all back out there for the next roll.

With the Every Chip On Every Hand approach, you sometimes burn out fairly quickly, and sometimes you grab the lead and never relinquish it.

Remember you are trying to beat other players.  You aren’t up against the casino, so you can’t treat the chips as though you’ll be converting them back into take-home money. You have to play to WIN.

If I AM The Shooter...

First of all, there is an excellent chance that you won’t have the opportunity to dazzle and amaze your table-mates as to just how good and outstanding your Precision-Shooting skills really are.

Your table-position and the number of permitted rolls or the tournaments time-limit will determine whether or not the dice make it into your skilled hands at all.

Further to that, some tournaments do not allow dicesetting, but I’ll show you in Part Three of this series how to get around that.   In the meantime, if they do allow dicesetting and you become the shooter; then this is how I handle it…

Suck 'Em In...Blow 'Em Out Method

I put out a small table-minimum bet on the Passline, but immediately after establishing the Point, I lay-bet HUGE and I do mean max-limit LAY bets against the 4 and 10.  I want the 7-Out to wipe out my token PL-bet along with everyone else who is hoping for any thing other than an immediate 7-Out.

Now this may sound counter-intuitive coming from a dice-influencer.  After all, most guys would like to control the dice for as long as possible.  The problem is that your fellow contestants are also hoping that you have a long roll too…and their betting will often keep pace or even surpass your own Rightside betting.  Most fellow-contestants who understand the principals behind dicesetting aren’t expecting you to try to end your hand as soon as possible either.  That’s where the beauty, simplicity and CHIP-WINNING dimension of this method makes so much sense.  If you do stuff that others AREN’T expecting (especially if the chip-leader is among them); then their betting almost always reflects that naivet.

 Again, the whole objective of tournament play is to outwit, outplay and outlast your opponents.

 Let’s explore the Suck 'Em In...Blow 'Em Out Method a little more:

       If I have more money available to wager against the Lay-4 and Lay-10 than the max-bet tournament rules allow; then I'll put as much as I can on the Lay-5 and Lay-9 (and possibly even on the Lay 6 and 8) too…regardless of which one is my PL-Point.


       The reason I’ll have my initial table-minimum line-bet on the Passline is so everyone doesn’t immediately know that I am hoping to throw a 7-Out as soon as possible.  Most players are so wrapped up in their own betting that they don’t become fully aware as to what everyone else is doing until it is too late.


       The idea is to suck the Rightside bettors in, and blow them out of the water with a 7-Out as soon as they get all of their big PL-Odds and big Place-bets on the layout. 


       For this approach I use either the All-7 or Straight-Sixes (S-6) dice-set.  Depending on what number my PL-Point is, I might even choose the rarely used Parallel-Sixes (P-6 set) to knock it off.

Conversely, I might scope out the chip-leader (the guy with the most money that I have to beat to get to the next round) and see what he is betting on and then shoot AGAINST his specific objective.

If the chip-leader is on the Don’ts or is Laying bets against me; then that puts me in a position where I DO want to control the dice for as long as possible and knock his bets off along the way.


The objective is to outlast, outwit, and out-play your opponents.

If this sounds an awful lot like a casino version of TV’s Survivor…you are right.

That brings me to my second favorite play if I have the dice and I’m shooting for maximum dice-possession time.

The Svengali Method

In a tournament, the casino has NOTHING to do with your success or failure, but all the other players in the Tournament have EVERYTHING to do with it.

Therefore, what YOU do, and what you get THEM to do, is what winning craps tournaments is all about.

With that in mind...

The Come-Out Roll

I’ll readily admit that part of The Svengali Method is all about trying to entice the chip-leader into betting on the high-erosion Prop bets in a disproportionate way.


I’ll bet the C-O Horn in a fairly convincing way, anywhere from say $40 right up to the table-maximum; then set to try to hit it.  In some tournaments the rules will state “No Horn or World bets”.  That only means that the individual bets that those wagers represent (the 2, 3, 11, and 12 in the case of the Horn-bet; and the 2, 3, 11, 12, and Big Red 7 in the case of the World/Whirl bet), have to be set up with specific chips on each of those straight-up prop wagers instead of having chips stacked in their entirety to represent either of those two “global” (encompassing) wagers.

Even a random-roller has a 6-out-of-36 (1:6) chance of hitting a Horn-number on any given throw.  With a proper dice-set like the S-6 and even semi-skillful shooting; my chances of hitting the Horn increases disproportionately.

Now here’s the thing…

If I hit the first Horn-number and get a nice payout, I MAY NOT necessarily increase my Horn-action as I would do in a regular game.   In fact, I might even quietly call my Horn-action down, but chances are I’ll leave it up there for “window-dressing” but for a much reduced amount of money.

There’s an excellent chance that the chip-leader (and several close contenders to the lead) will now wager quite a bit MORE than me on the Horn for the next roll now that I’ve “validated” that bet in the chip-leaders mind (and the mind of others too).  This is where the Svengali thing starts to come into play.  They will often bet those wagers to the table-max in hopes that I throw a repeater and especially in light of the profit that I just raked off of that bet.

That’s when I’ll try to establish my PL-Point (and specifically AVOID hitting another Horn-number).

Remember in Tournament Play, you often have to zig when most other players (especially the chip-leader and lead-contenders) zag.

Once I establish the PL-Point (and I've decided that I want to keep the dice as long as possible instead of trying to simply knock-off the chip-leader with one of my MEGA Lay-4 and Lay-10 bets); then I take AT LEAST HALF of my current bankroll (half of my chip-value) and Place-bet it evenly on the Inside-numbers (5, 6, 8, 9). I’ll then use the value of of one of those Place-bets, and that will determine the value of my Field-bet.

       Let’s say that I have about $4500 in chips.


       I’ll use about half of them to spread across the four Inside-numbers.  That’s $500 each on the 5 and 9, and $600 each on the 6 and 8.


       I then use the value of one of those Place-bets (~$250 or $300) and bet it on the Field.

Yes, this is a modified Iron-Cross, but stick with me on this thinking for a moment because, again you have to be mindful that you aren’t playing with real-money; so you can’t treat it like it is.

If you need to get in the chip-lead or want to stay in a commanding chip-position; then you have to make some pretty gutsy moves, and that often means letting it all (or at least ~50%) of your bankroll hang out on every roll.  Sometimes it takes even more aggressive betting, and when the dice are in YOUR hand, that is the time to take maximum advantage of it. 

Winning a craps tournaments is rarely accomplished through meek and mild betting.

Depending on how I'm feeling about my shooting, and how many rolls (or minutes) are left in this particular tournament-round, and of course where I stand in the chip-lead; then I'll match my bets to either maintain my lead OVER my next closest rival, or I’ll bet in a way to catch and surpass the leader.

Your chip-level (as gauged against where the leader stands) will determine what you bet on, and how much you bet. The chip-leaders betting will determine the tempo and height of the bets you need to make to surpass him (or for you to maintain your lead over your nearest rivals).

The Svengali Method is designed to do just that.

Once you have your Place-bets in position, you take your per-hit profit and rack UP TO half of it, while you spread the rest of it (at LEAST 50% of your just-made revenue) and evenly distribute it on the Inside-numbers (or to the Outside-numbers if they are the ones that are recurring).

If it’s the Field-bet that is producing the profit; then you take some of that profit and pump up your bet-volume on the Field, but in a proportion that is equal to AT LEAST 50% of your ever-growing Place-bets.  So if your Place-bets are now individually in the $1000 or $1200 range, then your Field-bets should be in the $500 or $600 range.

As a Precision-Shooter, now might be the right time where you COULD call off ALL of the bets that you can call off, and then SET for the 7-Out while your opponents have the lion’s share of their chips or at least their un-racked profit ON THE LAYOUT.

It all depends on where you stand in the chip-count, and how many minutes or rolls are left in the contest, and to a different extent; your sense of fair-play and gamesmanship.

If you are there for the fun and frivolity; then I suppose it's okay for someone else to walk away with the prize money.

If on the other hand you want that top prize money for yourself; then you have to PLAY like you want it and you have to BET like you want it, and yes, you even have to strategize SO YOU WILL GET IT!

And if you feel bad about beating everyone else; then you can buy the post-tournament drinks for the guys who didn't play, bet and strategize like you did.

Do These Methods Work?

All three of the methods that I just discussed are EXTREMELY risky. 

I finished in the top three of just under 20% of all the craps tournaments that I entered up to the end of 2002.

That means the other ~80% of the craps tournaments that I entered saw a very quick first-round exit, so consider yourself PRE-WARNED about the volatility.  

On the positive side however, the 20% of the tourney’s where I did place in the top three, fueled gargantuan amounts of prize-money winnings that made the 80% losing-rate a downright pleasure to endure.

Huns, Vikings, Mongols and other Barbarians At The Table

You CANNOT be shy about your betting when you are in a craps tournament. 

There are FEW who move on to the next round, and there are MANY who get left behind.  Your goal is to share in the spoils of victory.  That often means that your betting has to be like that of Attila the Hun or Genghis Khan or Eric the Red if they were tournament contestants.  You have to conquer and subjugate your opponents, and in a craps tournament, it all comes down to how viciously you bet.

If you are Bogarting your chips because you are afraid of losing them; then chances are you'll end the round with nearly as many as you started with, and that is almost NEVER enough to move on to the championship round.

The idea is to ramp your bets up as quickly as possible. You have to get into a dominating chip-position.  If the dice get on a hot-streak tear, you have to understand that most of the other players will be betting aggressively too. 

       You have to OUT-BET all of them (for the moment).


       The idea is to make as much profit as possible in as short a time as possible.


       If you have to parlay some of your wins to make it happen (and to keep up with the chip-leader), then do it.


       If one or two or three of you are taking a commanding lead over everyone else at the table; then that's a good thing, because you have reduced the number of guys you have to beat.


       A break-out chip-lead group of three or four players may start to emerge after just five or six rolls of the dice…and you want to be among them.


       How you bet with them (in relative lock-step) or against them (by making bets that are opposite and counter to what they are betting on), depends to a large part on how many players from this current table will advance to the next round.


       If four players from your current table are going to advance to the next round, and you are among them; then it makes no sense to make bankroll-threatening wagers that would jeopardize your advancement, especially if the lead group that you are in has a safely commanding lead over everyone else.


       In other words, if the four of you are far and away ahead of everyone else at the table, it makes no sense for you to risk your advancement simply for the ego gratification of being the absolute chip-leader within that group.


The Last Five Rolls 

There is a chip-count that takes place near the end of each session.  Usually they’ll do it before the final three to five rolls.  It gives everyone a chance to see exactly where they stand in terms of possible advancement and how far they are ahead or behind.

The three strategies that I just covered are designed so that you are either WAY ahead by this point.  Equally though, there is a chance that you’ll have busted-out before this point.

What usually happens during the last three or four rolls is that guys who have been playing conservatively all along suddenly wake-up and realize that they're in an all-or-nothing contest, and they have to put all of their chips on the table in one last desperate attempt to catch the chip-leader.

Most times they fail. 

In those instances, a smart chip-leader will mirror the bets of any likely "contenders" who might try to catch him with a desperate last-roll move.

If let's say the lead-guy has between $15,000 to $25,000 compared to your $1,000, and you go "all in" on the prop-bets or the Field; all he has to do is to "mirror" your bets (bet the same as you do), and there's no way to catch him. 

By the way, Hop-bets are NOT usually permitted during tournament play. You might want to determine that before you start crafting a strategy. Also center-of-the-table Prop-bets are often limited to either $100, $200 or rarely $500 at most of these events.

Kamikaze…Desperado…and Last-Ditch-Effort Moves

Sometimes you will find yourself so far behind that only a desperation move offers any hope of being able to catch up to the lead-pack.

If I notice that I am falling behind the chip-leader by an ever-widening margin; then I might divide my remaining bankroll into three, and use 1/3 of it on a Field-bet parlay. That is, bet one-third of your money on the Field...if it hits you parlay it. If it hits a second time, you reappraise the situation (vis a vis, where your chip-count stands in comparison to the leader), and decide if you should go for a third table-max bid on the Field.

If your first Field-parlay fails (and there is a ~56% chance that it will); then you could use another 1/3 to try for the Field-parlay again.

If that attempt fails; then you have the remaining one-third to try some desperado moves, but I wouldn't leave it 'til the last second because nearly everyone else will be trying the same sort of thing.

I guess by now you can tell that I like to get ahead and STAY ahead with a COMMANDING chip-lead when I get into tournaments. That way, when the "Ohmigawd, we only have two rolls left!-guys wake up, it's way too late for them to do anything about it.

As far as last-roll gambits are concerned (if you are behind)...well, you have to look at what it will take to catch the chip-leader, and if a Horn-Hi Whatever is required; then you have to go for it; but chances are that a savvy chip-leader will have figured that into his final-bet sequence as well.

Next Time

In Part Three of this series, we are going to be looking at several more betting methods that I’ve used successfully in a number of tournaments, as well as a couple of strategies that definitely fall far outside of the conventional playbook.  I hope you’ll join me for that.

Until then,

Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tournament Tables…and in Life.


The Mad Professor

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