It was late 2007, and I try and stay in touch with a couple my friends that I worked with at Wang during the 80’s while living in Honolulu: Dan and Milt. Milt was one of the best friends I’ve ever had, and, we try and connect between Hawaii and Vegas two or three times a year, either playing golf, or gambling. But, these two guys’ passion was to play craps. I didn’t know the game. I would embarrass myself by picking up the dice with two hands. It would get worse from there. Yet, I wanted to spend more time with them, beyond getting together for dinner. When they tired of standing at the craps table one would join me at the blackjack table, but the other does not play cards. The only game we’d play together made us look like three old dogs, sitting side-by-side, playing “Wheel of Fortune.”
I needed the male bonding by joining them in the “game.” The one game that made me break into a sweat just by passing the utter chaos of the chips flying and the screams of “5 on the World,” “Buck on C/E,” “Dollar YO!” “Press – Press.”
What’s up with that huge felt template of temptation? What is this foreign language? Who’s the man with the crooked stick? Who’s the fat man hunched over a bank of chips while two others stack bets in an order defying logic that seems as if it would take five years of apprenticeship just to master?
The self imposed pressure was mounting; our next Vegas get-together was scheduled for he third weekend of January, and I needed to get ready.
Jan Hill’s Amazon Gift Certificate to the RESCUE!
I researched books on Amazon, and using my $20 gift certificate I ordered “Beating the Craps out of the Casinos”, by Frank Scoblete. Not one – but two – one for the office and one for my reading room at home. I didn’t want to waste a minute of time. I studied the strategy. I studied the best way to handle the dice, I studied placing my bets, and I studied the language so I would sound like a veteran. I went to a local casino to practice what I’d learned and dropped $200 so fast it made my head spin. Ah, but, for the luck of blackjack I broke even and returned home before sunrise.
And now, the big day: the plane lands, the rental car is ready, I checked into the hotel, then to the casino. And there they are, Dan and Milt, throwing those cubes and chanting the language I had read about. We shake hands like local boys’; I change my crisp $100 bill and start my bets and the male bonding begins.
“What’ you doing there, brah?” asks one, “never seen anyone bet like before,” says the other. Was I on to something? They had never seen anyone bet like that before. I was in crap heaven.
And, over the next two and half days they watched and marveled seeing me neutralize loses and stay even with the house. But, I wasn’t beating the craps out of the casino, not yet. Then one of the dealers said – he’s playing the “play craps and drink for free strategy.”
The WHAT!?! Had I been discovered? Not the drink for free strategy. I came to beat the craps out of the casinos’, not drink for free. I could drink for free at the blackjack table or the slot machines. Was I being barred from the casino next?
No. They let me play! Those people really knew customer service. They were there to let me test my strategy and risk their stockpile of chips.
These were nice people.
And then . . .
It was after dinner Saturday night – my last night and just a couple of hours after my oldest daughter Sara’s boyfriend called me. He asked me for my daughters hand in marriage. I asked him: “which daughter?” Once we had that figured that out: I gave Chris my blessings. I made his day. He was nervous pledging his love for my daughter and asking for her hand in marriage, on speaker phone, with Dan and Milt.
I hoped that would be the turning point of our luck.
My friends shared in my daughter’s engagement and, all the excitement, so off to the tables to celebrate. We descended the escalator to the casino floor of the world famous casino – Main Street. This is where the longest game of craps was played. It lasted for over three hours. And, we were on a mission. Beat the craps out of the casino! I found my place at the south end of one of two tables. Changed what little cash I had for chips and let the betting begin!
I couldn’t find my friends. Where had they gone? There were only two tables and they were lost. Oh, there’s Dan at the end of my table, but, where’s Milt? Okay – at the other table. We are not together – but we are not far apart, either.
“Steve: tell the dealer to put $17 on 6-8-9.” “Steve – do it now!”
Who is this guy in the brightly colored aloha shirt with a plaid sports jacket and the tinted glasses and why is he standing next to me? Who’s Steve and why is he on the other side of the table?
“I’m Richie – what’s your name?” Oh gaud, the guy wants to visit – I can’t concentrate and visit at the same time – go away – your breath smells like vomit.
I answered, “Rick.”
“Well, Rick, why are you betting on the PASS Line and backing it up with odds?”
“My friends bet that way and I thought I’d try a different strategy than the book I read.”
“What do you mean, book?”
“I had read a book this month to teach me this game so I could spend more time with my friends playing craps.”
“But, you seem to know what you are doing.”
YES! Beat the Craps out of the Casinos’ just scored major points. “I like the way you handle the dice. Most people don’t throw well or know to keep their winnings behind their bank, I like your style.”
“Steve: collect your winning.” “Steve: tell the dealer to PRESS.”
Steve was beginning to irritate me and reminded me of an attention deficit disorder candidate. And why was this guy standing next to me and not Steve? Why does this always happen to me?
“I love this game, been playing it since I was twelve years old – learned it in a pool hall in New Jersey run by the mob. I’ve never placed a PASS Line bet in 45 years. I never put a coin into a slot machine.”
What – not a coin even in a slot machine? Who is this guy? Did he know he was talking to a recovering flipper pinball machine addict from when I was twelve years old?
“I used to be a craps dealer and have been barred from the casinos’ cause I know this game better than they do.”
Oh, MY GOD. They are going to throw me out of here just by talking to this guy!
“Let me give you some advice, Ricky.” Mind if I call you Ricky?” “No, of course not, all my elementary school friends called me, Ricky.”
“Why place $15 on the pass line when you can cover three numbers with $16 to $17. Does that make sense, Ricky?” I did the math and by gaud – three numbers is better than one. “Let me tell you something the casino doesn’t want you to know.”
Wait – I don’t want to lose my free drinks. How risky is this strategy and can I remember it? I just finished reading the most published book on craps and I can’t understand why Richie wasn’t mentioned.
“Do you see where they placed the numbers? They are right in front of the dealers. You have to talk to the dealers to play the numbers.”
But, I liked placing my own bets. I could screw-up and no one would know except me.
“See all these big areas with lots of numbers that cover the table? Those are sucker bets.” Now, he’s talking my language. Blackjack has a sucker bet – it’s called insurance.
“Back in the day” – oh, he even talks hip, “there were no sucker bets.” Craps was the number.
Here’s what I’m talkin’ about: place a $5 PASS Line bet when the 6 is “on” and when you win you get $5 and have to keep your bet on the PASS Line. When you bet on 6 with $6 and the number hits, you win $7 back and can call your bet off.”
“Does that make sense Ricky?” In a strange way this guy was starting to make sense. So, I had to ask: “Richie – how much are you charging Steve over there?” “I take 40% of his winnings and he pays $20 for my little card.” “I want to show you my card.”
Card, this man has a card? I have a spreadsheet on blackjack strategy*, but, not a card on craps. Oh, lord – I want that card. “I want to show you my card – it only takes a few minutes to explain and I promise you – you won’t be able to retire playing this game, but, you will learn to win when the dice are hot.”
Richie – you had me at hello.
“Come on – “I’ll – meet – you – in – the – men’s’ — room.”
Oh, no, not the men’s room. Why me? Why not Dan or Milt? Why do I always attract the: meet me in the men’s room kind of guy?
“Okay” I said – I really had to pee anyway.
“Let me show you what 95% of craps players don’t know about this game. After your numbers start hitting and you have collected your base bet – you are now playing with the casino’s money.” “Does that make sense, Ricky?”
Like any apprentice zombie – “yes master.”
“Okay, now you start to put your bets on fire.” Each time your number comes up you PRESS it. You’ll receive some money back to keep your bet even. And, when you get this down, sometimes you collect and sometime you press. Just, keep leveraging the casino’s money, never your own, except your original $16 or $17 bet.” “Be patient because only one in 14 knows how to throw the dice. You know how to throw the dice. I like the way you throw the dice.”
On the way to the men’s room, I discretely pulled $20 from my empty wallet and folded it into my shirt pocket. I had no idea what he might do to me in “the men’s room.” I was ready for the transaction and anxious to learn the mystery of this man’s strategy.
As we walked back to the craps table, Richie warned me: “don’t let the dealers see this card and if they ask you what it is you tell them, “none of your damn business.”
Back at the tables, Steve said something to Richie and he turned to me and said, “Steve wants to get something to eat. If this card works for you – call me – call me the next time you’re in town and I’ll go out with you.”
I now had the guarded secrets to the casinos. It was better than a treasure map. The strategy that has barred this retired casino dealer from playing the strategy he knows better than anyone. I wanted back at my place at table. I wanted to get into the action with my new strategy that only I now know – not Dan, not Milt – only me.
And, all because Richie liked the way I handled the dice.
“Thanks Richie, I will.” And, the two of them disappeared as they entered the main casino floor full of slot machines.
When I got back to the craps table, I was greeted by the same guy who was to my left when I left the table with Richie. “I couldn’t help but over hear your conversation with that guy – and frankly, it made sense. I’ll give you $10 bucks for half the cost of the card* if you wouldn’t mind e-mailing it to me.”
I now know that the cameras upstairs are zeroing in on me. They had a live one on craps table #2 – someone call security.
“How about I give you my e-mail address and I’ll forward it to you on Monday, and thanks for the $10.” His $10 and my $7 made the $17 I needed for my last bet as all my chips disappeared while listening to Richie tell me his strategy. The numbers just weren’t coming and that’s craps according to Richie.
I laid my last $17 out on the COME Line and said to the dealer, “6-8-9.” He spread-out my three bets and the dice were thrown. Again, and again, the dice were thrown. We started to realize this guy from Maui was throwing the dice for the past 20 minutes, now 30, now 40, now 50 minutes and he’s passed the golden arm status of throwing the dice without crapping out for over an hour.
Milt was now standing behind Dan as the “action” at his table had stopped and everyone was watching three and four deep at my table. Watching the action and wishing it was them. Black chips were being thrown with “100 on six the hard-way.” And, that’s when it hit me, my chips were changing from red to green and suddenly green to black. This is what playing Vegas is all about.
Then, the casino police arrived.
Oh, please don’t ban me from the game.
They were refreshing the fat man’s bank and bringing out the glorious “orange chips.” I had never seen anything so beautiful and the excitement was increasing. We are cheering for numbers and they are hitting. We are clapping and rearranging our chips to squeeze them into the final half inch of rail space the casinos provide for times just like this.
I saw gambling losses from the past two days retired, dinners paid for that weren’t already comp’d and I was now in a league I’ve never played in before. I was winning and winning big. Never before had I seen chips like this. And, then one hour and twenty five minutes later, a dice was thrown off the table.
The jinx, the superstitious and the howls.
“OFF” – “OFF” – “OFF.”
I didn’t understand.
“What do you mean OFF?” The shooter from Maui, said: “man, I’ve got over a thousand bucks out there – tell them OFF!”
“OFF, I shouted and that Maui boy’s next throw was a seven.
What does that mean? Are we done? Did I lose?
It took the dealers about 10 minutes to pull the losers chips and return bets that had been turned OFF by frightened gamblers. Me included.
Richie taught me good. I had no idea that you could turn $17 – $10 of which was given to me by the guy to my left, into $1,810.
Thanks to your gift certificate, Jan, and, that was the best trip to the men’s room I’ve ever taken.
*Please refer to the Las Vegas Job Aid on this blog site.