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Craps Tournaments…Zigging, Zagging and Zinging

To win a craps tournament, you only have to end up with one dollar more than your nearest rival.

My All-In Pyramid Play

Here is betting-method that I've used with considerable success in past tournaments when a random-roller is throwing the dice. In fact this one carried the day for me in both the NYNY and Caesars Palace tourneys a few years back.

       On the Come-Out Roll you wager a minimum PL or DP-bet on the line.


       Once the PL-Point is established, you Place-bet ALL of your remaining chips in a pyramid-bet structure using the following proportioning: 1-unit each on the 4 and 10, 2-units each on the 5 and 9, and 3 units on the 6 and 8.


       To come up with the correct chip-portion to put on each of those bets, you divide your remaining bankroll by 12.


       Let's say that you have approximately $3600 in your chip-bank.   You divide that amount by 12; which works out to $300 “per betting unit”.


       Therefore, $300 becomes your base betting-unit for this round of wagers.


       You then bet $300 each on the bought 4 and 10, $600 each on the bought 5 and 9, and $900 on the 6 and 8.  Again, it’s based on 1-betting-unit each on the 4 and 10, 2-units each on the 5 and 9, and 3 betting-units on the 6 and 8.


       To keep things simple and to avoid confusion in casinos where the dealers aren’t used to seeing bought-bets on the 5 and 9 (which makes economic sense when your wager exceeds $30), then simply Place-bet those numbers for the same amount.  Although your payout will be less…so will the payout-calculation stress for the dealer.


       At this juncture you don't have any money in Odds to back up our PL-Point unless you have a little left over after wagering most of our bankroll on the across-the-board All-In Pyramid Place-bets.  If so, then you can add Odds behind your PL-Point.


       The idea here is to take one, two, or three hits on the box-numbers at full value; and then modify their value to double-the-amount that the current chip-leader(s) has in-situ on his Place-bets.


       If after you've had let's say three hits on the Place-bets for example, then you look at where the chip-leader(s) stand with their bets. If he/they has $600 on the 6 and 8; then you want to have at least $1200 riding on it.


       If one of the near-leaders has $1200 on that same number; then you have to look at how fast HE is catching up to the chip-leader in comparison to how fast YOU are catching him.


       At that point, you have to have your foot deeper into the accelerator than he does, but not so deep that you aren't taking some profit off of the table with each roll. 


       In extreme cases, that may require you to parlay some of your wins until you reach the table-max.  There is a very good chance however that an untimely 7-Out will derail your plans along the way.  Remember, the further behind you fall, the more you’ll have to rely on those last-minute praying-for-a-lightning-strike desperation moves just like everyone else.


       Many chip-leaders like to cruise on auto-pilot once they build a commanding lead. Your job is to scale that mountain as quickly as possible.   The best time to do that is before everyone else figures out who the chip-leader is, and how far behind him they really are.  


       Again it is important to know where the leader is in the chip-count compared to where you are at all times, as well as where the closest rivals are; then you have to bet in a manner where your winning bet-outcomes will let you stand among them…or on top of them.


       Your objective is to catch the leader and to out-accelerate the contenders.


       Make no mistake, the betting-methods I've outlined in this series are all EXTREMELY risky...and they go a LONG way in explaining why I finished OUT of the top prize-money just over 80% of the time.  Equally, it explains why the other 20% of my finishes were so successful and lucrative.


The Match-Them-All Maneuver

Early on, I was in two tournaments at the Riviera where the first-place finisher and second-place finisher were separated by less than $5.   Yes, receiving the second-place money on both occasions was good, but it sure made me search for better ways to get a MAX-profit COMMANDING lead in subsequent contests.

It also showed that I had to keep an even closer eye on the chip-leader and other lead-contenders THROUGHOUT the entire session and not just on the last couple of rolls. 

For example, if you get a commanding lead, then you can match virtually any of the crazy bets that the last-minute desperados make. 

       If they make a $500 12-Midnight bet, you can too. 


       If they wager $2000 on the Field and every box-number, you can too, and if you have built up enough of a chip-lead during the entirety of the session, you’ll still win because you can match all of their bets right up to the table-max.  


       There were some tournaments where all those bet-matching outlays consumed almost every one of my chips simply because my nearest competitors were each trying a different kind of last-minute desperation move…and I had to match each and every one of them so I didn’t lose the lead regardless of which table-max bets won or lost. 


       That match-them-all maneuver on the last couple of rolls almost always guarantees a win if you’ve built up enough of a lead.  If you haven’t got yourself into enough of a commanding lead; then obviously a match-them-all move like this is much riskier and therefore you have to shepherd your lead much more carefully.


       If you build up enough of a chip-bank in the early to mid going, then you’ll be able to cover off all the wagers that the stalking-pack makes and still have enough left over to win the contest. 


       With the match-them-all maneuver, your wins will keep pace with their wins, while your losses will mirror theirs too.  In one case, I only had $140 left when the final count was taken, but it was still enough to best the rest of the bunch that had also seen their chip-count obliterated with a last-roll 7-Out.   THAT is how close it can get. 


The opposite of that of course is if you are well behind the chip-leader. 

I’ve often found that you can make up huge amounts of ground with conventional wagers (like Inside-bets or Come-bets with full-Odds…albeit at values that are much larger than you’d traditionally wager) which you could and should be making during the middle parts of a session, rather than waiting to make a last-minute remote-chance desperation move.

By observing some of the gutsier moves that near-contenders are trying, you may have to follow suit and make the same kind of wagers but in an even more convincing larger-bet sort of way. 

For example, if a couple of the mid-level contenders are making ballsy moves halfway through the session by way of max-bets on all the Hardways; then you have to determine if they are appropriate for you too.  Remember, it is fearless and determined moves like that which can vault a player to the top of the heap in no time flat.  Of course, failed bets may instantly bankrupt your chip-rack too.

       You can also look for counter-acting ways to make up huge chip-count territory too.  For example, if the chip-leader and all the near-contenders are maxing-out their Place-bets, and by doing the same, you would just stay an equal amount of chips behind them; then you have to consider maxing-out the LAY-bets against the same box-numbers they are betting with.  In that way, a win for you and a loss for them, serves to make up twice as much ground on the chip-gap.


Your Opponents

I break the opponent-category into two camps…the Lucky Ones and the Skilled Ones.

       Winning tournament play is rife with strategy that is often diametrically-opposed to conventional play or at least done in ways that may see you using all kinds of hedges against what other players are doing and not simply with what you hope the dice will do.

       Keep in mind that there will doubtlessly be a handful of skilled players who have been in MULTIPLE tournaments before, and therefore they may have developed strategies that they've honed and perfected "under live fire" or at least learned AFTER they reflected upon what they could or should have done differently last time.

       On the other hand, I was continually amused at the always-losing strategy that many tournament veterans used during each session in each tournament that they entered.  Although they never busted out (lost all their chips) completely; they almost always were in the lowest percentile when the final chip count was done.  It seemed that their conservative strategy to end up with a least a couple of chips was more of a motivation than trying to actually win any of the prize money.

       On the other hand, a strategy like that would work if the tournament included a Wild Card draw where a player is eligible only if he ended a session with any chips, but that is rarely the case. 

       A Wild Card draw is where the names of several non semi-finalists are given a second chance to advance.  In most cases, whether you bust out early or end up with a couple of chips doesn’t have any effect on whether your name is eligible for the Wild Card drawing.  Normally it’s just a matter of whether you were previously eliminated or not, and if you were, then you are eligible for one of the Wild Card spots just like everyone else.

The SKILLED Opponent

Now when I say “skilled” I mean skilled in either tournament-type betting or skilled in dice-influencing…or both. 

       Whether you or any other talented dice-influencer gets your hands on the dice is pure speculation based on game-pace, table-position and of course whether or not dice-setting is even allowed in that particular contest.

       Though dice-setting is not allowed in some tournaments, it is NOT usually expressly forbidden in most of them…and even in the ones where it is banned…skilful quick-setting usually evades notice from even the most observant of arbiters.  We’ll look at a number of quick-setting methods in Part Four of this series.

If a Skilled DICE-SETTER Has the Dice

Assume for the moment that the tournament DOES allow dice-setting.   Having the dice in the hands of a talented dice-influencer other than you, could pose a very interesting situation.

If a skilled shooter has the dice and you are expecting him to do what he normally does in regular casino play, by trying to keep the dice for as long as possible and trying to hit the usual Inside-numbers that he usually bets on; then you may be disappointed to discover that HIS INTENTIONS may not coincide with YOUR hopes or assumptions.

In fact, the wiliest of skilled competitors will often do exactly the OPPOSITE of what you are expecting them to do.  Again, the best players will zig at the exact moment you are expecting them to zag.  That’s what an outwit, outlast, and out-bet craps contest is all about.

       If a skilled dicesetter gets his hands on the dice AND he has substantial tournament experience AND there is a $100,000 prize-pot for the taking; he may not have his closest and dearest friends best interests in mind when he is tossing the cubes.

To believe otherwise would be EXTREMELY naive.

Your Friends and Associates As Tournament Opponents

With the currently limited number of big-money craps tournaments going on these days, it’s not unusual to run into a few familiar faces.  In fact, some contests look more like an Old Home Week college reunion than it does a craps tournament.

Here again we get back to gamesmanship.

When you start getting into the $50,000, $100,000 and $250,000 prize-pool range, a lot of guys start to take things fairly seriously. Also keep in mind that many entrants will have actually paid the full-price entry-fee, so they may look at it as less of a social event and more of a money-making opportunity than you do.

You have to honestly determine whether you are there to win the tournament or to make new friends who you will let go on to take the top prize money for themselves?

In tournament play, you are there to WIN!

After you win, you can spring for the post-tournament commiseration booze for your new friends and old acquaintances with all your prize-money; but during the contest you have to realize that it’s every man and woman for themselves…and you have to bet accordingly.

The LUCKY Opponent

It would be nave to say that luck doesn’t have anything to do with the outcome of these contests, but frankly, betting-skill certainly has a way of increasing your “luck”.

Most players are so concerned with their own wagers during a tournament that they don’t take a moment to properly gauge what other players (especially the chip-leader and near-contenders) are doing. 

When you look back at the winner and say, “Oh, he got lucky ‘cause he came from behind and hit a $500 Hardway”; I look at the same situation and say, “The chip-leader got stupid because he didn’t realize that his opponents $500 bet would be enough to blow him out of the water”. 

The chip-leader likely had the chip-bank to match that last-minute move by the eventual come-from-behind winner, but was either too paralyzed or too smug or too stupid or out of betting-position (in tournaments where you have to bet in the order that you are standing at the table); to do anything about it.  In each one of those cases, it was the chip-leaders fault that he lost, and it had virtually nothing to do with his opponents “luck”.

       For example, EVEN WHEN HE IS OUT OF POSITION (where other contenders will be betting AFTER the chip-leader); he has to anticipate all of those last-ditch moves from his opponents. 

       If he has enough of a chip count; then he should be making max-bets on virtually ALL of the wagers on the table INCLUDING maxing out the Props and Hardways. 

       His job is to anticipate the last-minute desperation moves that other players will make if he is forced to bet before they do.

       If he doesn’t have to bet last, then all the better.   He simply has to match any opponent bets that would vault any contenders into the lead.  This isn’t rocket-science, but you do have to use at least some of your powers of observation…and you also have to act upon them.

       Again, you can see WHY I like to get into an absolutely commanding chip lead as soon as possible.  It makes it virtually impossible for others to catch you on the last couple of rolls by way of their all-out little-hope-for-salvation moves simply because your chip-count lets you counter each and every one of them right up to the table-limit…otherwise you are only left with the hope that they won’t make the right bets…and HOPE is NOT a strategy that will win you very many tournaments.

So you can call it “luck” when someone catches the chip-leader with a last-gasp effort…I call it bad betting on the front-runners part.

A “Rarely Last…but NEVER First” Mindset Does Not Work

I realize that it's very difficult for most players to switch over from an "Any profit is a good profit" mentality to an "I need to finish with at least ONE DOLLAR more than the next-best/next-luckiest player to win the Pot 'o Gold” mind-set of tournament play; but you have to strategize that way to end up with the treasure at the end of it all.

       Unfortunately, many players are able to finish their tourney-round with chips, but nowhere near enough to be at the top.  Therefore they do not advance.


       To my way of thinking...you have to decide whether you want to win the pot-of-gold...or whether you just want to finish in 87th-place out of 400 players but still be able to say that you ended up with x-dollars worth of valueless chips in your hand at the end of a round.


Chip Estimating and Determining Where You Rank in the Chip-Count

I’ve continued to make a big deal about knowing where you are in the chip-count compared to everyone else at ALL points during each session, because it is an absolutely critical element in giving yourself the best shot at winning.

       If you wait until the fifth last roll when they do an official chip-count of all your table-mates, and you only realize then how far behind the chip-leaders you have fallen; in most cases you are going to lose. 


       The last three to five rolls is when EVERYONE else is going to do their desperation moves too. 


The only way that angle works is if your desperation move is unmatched by anyone else’s desperation move AND the subsequent roll produces the exact results you need, AND that result then pushes you into the lead.  That’s a lot of things that have to go right for you to pull a win out of the fire.  It’s not as easy as pulling a rabbit out of a hat.  It’s more akin to pulling a hat out of a rabbit. 

       If you wait until the last couple of rolls to make your BIG MOVE, just like everyone else, then there’s an excellent chance that you’ll LOSE just like everyone else too. 


       The savviest tournament players often build a quick and commanding lead early in the hand so they can then match whatever any close-following chasers are doing.  That way they maintain a lock-step lead over their pursuers.


The best way to get around that is to start your ascent EARLY, and not wait for someone else to become the dominant leader like almost everyone else does. 

You’d be surprised at how often most players will hang back with ultra-conservative betting UNTIL someone else gets a huge lead and then they (and everyone else) starts betting like crazy. 

Herd-mentality is what keeps the sheep as sheep.  Skilled tournament players don’t wait for a leader to emerge…they take the lead for themselves…and rarely have to relinquish it.

I suppose most player like being part the “hunting pack” as opposed to being “the hunted”, but often times the chasing hounds get so far behind, that they lose sight of, or even the scent of their lead-prey.

I think that it's critically important to be able to do chip-rail value-estimating like a Table-game Supervisor does, so you can keep track of how everyone else is doing chip-wise at every roll along the way.

Therefore, it's important to be able to look at your rivals chip-rail and be able to estimate just how much further ahead or behind they are to you.

       Almost right from the first roll, it is important to observe how various players are betting.


       As each roll progresses, you'll see certain players break away from the pack and take a chip-lead position.


       You have to gauge how far their bets are taking them, and how much it is going to take to catch up and surpass them based on your current bets versus theirs.


       Keep in mind that calculators or writing materials are NOT usually allowed.  Additionally, talking to spectators or “spectator-coaching” is strictly prohibited in most events. 


       That means that your spouse or friends can’t help you keep track of how everyone else is doing in their chip-count, nor can they provide any tactical betting advice.  You have to do it on your own.


       Any chips that aren’t on the layout have to remain in a players rack in full view and are usually required to be arranged by denomination; so that makes your job of chip-estimating much easier.


       You should learn how to estimate what a sideways-laying stack of 10, 15, 20, 30, 50 and 100 chips of the same denomination looks like.


       You should be able to roughly add up and estimate what an opponent has in his chip-rail in less than five seconds.  Remember you want to keep tabs on ALL of your competitors. 


       A good way to practice that in the casino during real-world play, is to look at your own stacks and accurately estimate how much is there.  You could also practice by looking at a fellow players chip-rail and estimating what they have too.  Just make sure you do it nonchalantly so they don’t think you are looking to pilfer their cheques or anything like that.


       Equally, you want to observe and estimate how much each fellow contestant has on the layout.  By knowing which wager-position within each box–number corresponds with its correct table-position; you can keep an eye on what your nearest rivals are betting on and then properly gauge where the majority of your wagering-weight should be bet.


       As each winning payoff is made, you should also be observing what each player does with his winnings.  Is he racking it, pressing it or parlaying it?  Is he spreading it across other box-numbers or is he putting up some Prop-bets in the center of the table?  Is he maxing-out his PL and Come-bet Odds or is he reducing any of his action? 


       You have to observe what every player is doing, and then decipher how their moves are going to affect your position in the chip-count. 


       When you get lazy and wait for the last two or three rolls because this all of sounds like too much work to go after $50,000 or $100,000 or $250,000; then at least you’ll have the Awards Banquet to fill your tummy as consolation, because your pocket certainly isn’t going to be filled with much, if any, tournament gold.


Team Play…Legal and Ethical, or Banned and Immoral?

Prior to a tournament, a group of like-minded entrants often decide to pool their chances of winning by agreeing to split the winning proceeds amongst themselves, if any participants in the team advances to the final round. That means, if any member of the team finishes “in the money”; then the prize-money is divided equally among them.

In and of itself, that is not a bad way to increase your chances of getting a piece of the pie. Though the eventual winner, if he is part of a team, has to split his top-prize with fellow teammates; it also means that he would have enjoyed just as big of a slice if someone else on his team had won and he finished in last place.

It's a "Share the wealth...share the pain" approach of increasing your chances of getting a slice of the prize-pie.

Did I mention that it isn’t a bad way to play IF THE RULES DON’T PROHIBIT team play? Ah yes, there’s always those darn tournament Rules and Regulations that we have to contend with.

Now why on earth would a casino put a “No Team Play” rule in place?

Well for one reason and one reason only. FAIR PLAY!

When you allow team play, you open up a whole can of worms that I only want to briefly touch upon here. The reason I don’t want to explore it in depth (despite my vast knowledge base on this subject) is because I know how pernicious and self-defeating the whole process can become.

As I mentioned in a previous chapter of this series, craps tournaments used to be quite popular and well attended back in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s; however there was an air of collusion that pervaded many of the big-money tourneys from about ’96 through to late 2001. By the end of 2002, enrollment had dropped off to where ONLY teams were involved and the casino marketing departments knew that the whole idea of using tournaments to draw in fresh players and reward loyal ones had been supplanted by well-financed and highly-organized teams who were winning almost every big-money event from Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe/Reno to St. Maarten and Puerto Rico.

Collusion between team-members or at least the appearance of collusion between team-members or the temptation of collusion between team members where prize money sometimes tops hundreds of thousands of dollars, especially when teammates are at the same table in the same session and using betting methods that will vault one or the other far ahead of everyone else, is one of the principle reasons that Team Play is now strictly banned in most tournaments and also chief among the reasons that most casinos got out of the craps tournament business in the first place.

For example, if you have one team member go all out on the Rightside, while a fellow member at the same table goes all out on the Darkside; then you have a situation where one or the other can easily vault past everyone else.

When you stage two or more team members at the same table for each session, then you can almost guarantee that you'll populate subsequent-round tables with various members of your team too. Therefore, the likelihood of advancing one or more of your team into the Championship Round and into the much sought after prize-pool, is virtually assured...and almost always prohibited by today’s craps tournament rules.

 However, that isn’t always the case.

There’s been a fair bit of off-the-Message-Board discussions about the recent the Las Vegas Hilton’s $100,000 Craps Tournament.  As most of you know it was won by Randman who was part of a team made up of Axis and GTC alumni, Dice Coach students and others.  Prior to the tournament, they decided to pool their chances of winning and agreed to split the prize-money proceeds.  That meant that if any member of the team finished “in the money” then the prize-money would be divided equally among them.

As it happened, one of the team members did win the entire event, and good to the intent of the team, everyone shared in the prize money.  Since the tournament organizers didn’t object to team-play in that event, everything worked out exactly as planned.

Making A Side-Deal Before or During the Final Round

You’ll also see a different kind of ad hoc prize-splitting arrangement in nearly every kind of tournament when it comes down to just a handful of remaining participants. 

Often, the last five players will agree to split the entire Top Five prize-pool amongst themselves regardless of which of the five of them finish with the most tournament chips at the end of it all.  This isn’t a bad idea, nor have I ever seen it prohibited or discouraged by the rules.

We have more winning strategies and inside tips to cover in Part Four of this series; 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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