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And the Survey Says…

When I walk into a casino, I always survey all of the craps tables that are open.  At places like Castaways, Mahoney’s Silver Nugget or Silverton it’s easy because there’s only one.  But during busy periods, in places like the MGM Grand, Trump’s Taj Mahal or Beau Rivage, there can be up to twenty tables open.

What am I surveying?

Well, there are a couple of things that I am looking for:

      What are the table limits?

      What are the table odds?

      How crowded is each table?

      What player positions are open?

      What bets are on the layout?

      How full or empty are the players racks?

      What is the general mood at each table?

      Do I recognize any other players?

      Do I recognize any other Precision-Shooters?

      Do I recognize any “hard-ass” or “helpful” box-men?

      How are my “favorite” tables doing?

      Do any players appear to be in the middle of a Hot roll?

      Are people drifting away from any particular Cold tables?

      Are there different Odds available at different tables, or with different minimum bets?


Why am I looking at all that stuff before I venture into my pocket to bet even one measly dollar?  Let me explain.

      Table limits determine what my own limits are.  The lower the table-limit and higher the maximum bet allowed, the more flexibility I have in the game.  There have been many, many times when I started play at a $1 to $500 table.  Starting with minimum Pass Line bets and Full Odds, plus $12 Place bets on the 6 & 8; I have worked my bets up to the table maximum on the Place Bets by increasing them on every other hit.  That’s a lot of hits, and but it’s also a lot of locked in profit.  Likewise, after several wins on the Pass Line, with high multiple odds, I frequently hit the maximum allowable odds bet very quickly.  It’s somewhat frustrating and annoying when you hit your head on the upper table limit.  Yes, I’m grateful for a great roll.  No, I don’t regret starting at a low-limit table, but on a very hot roll, it’s a trade-off that confines your profit potential while still maximizing your flexibility. 

      Initially, Odds bets only make a difference on my Pass Line wagers.  But if I am at a $1, $2, $3, $5 or $10 table that has 5x, 10x, 20x, or 100x Odds, I will sometimes replace my Place Bets with Come bets and Full Odds after they travel to the number box.  This way I get maximum advantage of “free odds”, while still collecting on each box-number that I roll during a good hand. Here’s an example:

House advantage decreases as the amount of
money bet on odds increases on a $10 Pass Line bet

Odds Multiple Odds Bet House Advantage
no odds $0 1.41414%
single (1X) odds $10 0.84848%
double (2X) odds $20 0.60606%
triple (3X) odds $30 0.47138%
quintuple (5X)odds $50 0.32634%

(click here for more on the House Advantage)

  The number of people at each table, determine to a large extent, how often I will get to shoot the dice. I like to shoot as often as possible, and I seek out uncrowded or empty tables.  If a table is fairly full, but the dice are getting to be near where my position at the table will be, I might “belly up to the bar”.

      Open positions at the table determine where I can stand.  I do have a few favorites of course.  If one of them is open, I am more likely to stop at that table to observe the action a little further.  I keep my eyes and ears open to hear and see what is happening at other nearby tables.

     Seeing what bets are on the layout tell me quite a few things.  How many people are actually betting, what denominations are being bet, and what type of action is being bet on.  That can tell you a lot about what is currently happening at the table, together with what has been happening immediately before the table was approached. 

      The fullness or sparseness of the players’ chip-racks answers questions that I don’t even have to ask.  It generally tells me the type of players that are at the table, and their relative size of bet, or whether the table has been hot or cold recently, etc. 

     The general mood at a table may not have an influence on the dice, but it does have an effect on ME.  Call it hudu, karma, or positive vibes; if players are in a good, enthusiastic, high-energy frame of mind, good things usually follow with my shooting.  If everyone’s mood is as dark and somber as a funeral home after a school bus crash, then there’s a good chance that it will have a negative effect.  Again, it may not affect the dice, but a moody, bitchy, complaining set of players can take the shine off of any eager and enthusiastic emotions that I may have had, and, like it or not, it does affect my Precision-Shooting.  The old saying about not being able to soar like an eagle if you hang around a bunch of turkeys seems appropriate if everyone is grumbling, complaining and feeling negative.  Attitude matters, and if I want to hear negativity, I’ll call my ex-wife! 

      I play in many, many gaming jurisdictions, at more than 150 casinos.  I remember faces, especially if I see them over and over again.  I run into players in Las Vegas who I know from Puerto Rico.  I remember players that I’ve met in Lake Tahoe when I see them again in Niagara Falls. When I play in Biloxi, I sometimes recognize people that I’ve played craps with in Atlantic City, Illinois and Michigan.  A certain camaraderie forms from mutual recognition.  It also brings like-minded people together in a common cause. 

      What I said in the previous paragraph goes triple for recognizing other Precision-Shooters.  I make about 20% of my income from the efforts of other skilled players.  It is a small but growing fraternity that I am pleased to be a part of.   Even if I do not know the other talented crapshooter, I will remember his face as best I can for future reference.  I may say something like, “Great Shooting”, but I never say anything at the table that might be overheard by any dealers, box-men, Pit Bosses, or other players about his “skill”.  I consider that bad form.  When it’s my turn to shoot, I expect that that little bit of respect is returned after I have what is hopefully a superb hand. 

      Box-men can be either neutral, a help, or a hindrance.  Given a choice I would take the first two and leave the last one.  The box-man can set and enforce arbitrary rules, which can take away a lot of the fun and profit potential from my rolling.  If it’s a “No dice-setting; No winners allowed here!” attitude, I’ll seek out a better table. 

      As I previously mentioned in other articles, I track where certain “sweet spots” are on various tables that I play at.  If I go into a casino that I have frequented in the past, this information will help me get acclimated to the dice-pit set-up, and to the tables and “spots” where I have done well in the past.  It makes a HUGE difference in confidence, and that is usually borne out in my subsequent successful performance with the dice. 

      If a table appears to be in the middle of a “hot” roll, I may try to get a bet in if there is a space open.  I’ll be as unobtrusive as possible, and believe me it can be done so that the shooter is not disturbed. If you can do it without slowing the game down, or having the shooter even take notice of the “new face”, then I think it’s okay.  One little tip: If you need to change money to casino chips, and you are too polite and/or superstitious about throwing money on the layout during a hot roll, I have an alternative plan which I sometimes use.  Ask a fellow player if you can buy chips from him for the above-noted reasons.  Most will happily oblige your request, then you can bet as a regular player.  The casinos strongly discourage that activity as an illegal action on your part, so be VERY subtle, and just swap as little money as possible. 

      If people are drifting away from a Cold table, I’ll also check out the action there.  Again, depending on where the dice are relative to my intended shooting position, I may slowly approach, then buy-in and just wait until the dice come to me.  Alternatively, a Cold table represents a profit opportunity on the Don’t Pass and Lay Bet side of the action, and it should not be ignored as a revenue-generator.  Remember, you are not there to make friends; you are there to make money.   If you need another friend, buy a dog! 

      At some “low-rent” tables, they offer 2x Odds on $0.25 or $1.00 bets, but offer up to 5x, 10x or even 100x Odds on Line Bets of $5 or more.  The table card usually explains that, but you can ask a dealer if you are unsure. 

So next time that you go into a casino, you may want to take a look around the dice pit, and survey what is happening at all the tables before you settle on one.

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

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