Do You Really Want To Stand at a Crowded, Smokey Craps Table for $12 an Hour?

You may have seen the article awhile back about the restaurant worker who protested for a $15 an hour minimum wage in his Pacific Northwest city. The city passed an ordinance that required restaurants to pay a $15 minimum wage and over the next few months over 400 restaurant employees, including our protester friend, lost their jobs because the restaurants couldn’t afford to keep them. It’s pretty much Economics 101, and something politicians don’t seem to understand since most of them have never run a business. Yes, we can pay the waiter $15 an hour. But now he will handle nine tables instead of six, service will suffer, and that $14 “beef tips and natural gravy special” you like will cost you $21. Oh, and he’ll still expect a 20% tip on that $21 tab and if you happen to live in San Francisco they’re going to add a surcharge to your tab to cover your server’s health insurance. Seriously. But I digress.

If you look at your craps play as a business then you have to decide if there’s a break-even point that, below which, you just can’t afford to play. If you are spending $50 on gasoline to travel to and from the casino, another $150 on a room and $50 on meals and incidentals you already have a $250 nut to crack before you step up to the tables. If you’re flying halfway across country it’s even worse. So take the time to do a little math. How many hours are you planning to play? Two? Five? Ten? If you’re only going to play two hours then you have a $125 an hour cost basis. At five hours of play you have a basis of $50 an hour. At ten hours it drops to $25. So if you’re only winning $15 an hour – minimum wage in that crazy Northwest restaurant town, you’re not playing to win – you’re playing for fun. If you consider losing fun.

What got me to thinking about this was Zeke Feinberg’s 90’s era “beat the recession” book on how to “Earn Each Hour $12 to $24 or More Playing Casino Craps.” Zeke may have been a hell of a gambler but he couldn’t come up with a book title that was less than a paragraph long. The book is over 200 pages of math lunacy, and many of the pages contain only two or three lines of ALL-CAPS Zekeisms. Still, Zeke manages to come up with some strong suggestions with his “Remember” lists:

Remember not to chase lost place bets by increasing the dollar value of a series of bets.
Remember that the casino is working a grind system against the players. Let’s grind them back for a pleasurable income.
Remember that after a loss, do not make any subsequent place bets until a point has been established and another 5, 6, 8, or 9 has rolled. This will avoid the Point-Seven situation.
Remember the best bet is the place bet for one hit and down.

These are just a few of the Zeke rules. Sound like some of the Heavy rules? Well, if you’ve read much John Patrick you may recall that some of these are his rules as well. The same goes for the Dice Doctor and many other “old school” crapsters.

In fact, if you’ve been following my posts on the Axis Power Craps Forum lately you’ve probably read about the “core of common knowledge” among veteran craps players – knowledge that’s incorporated in just about every craps system on the market. Zeke, by the way, said something to the effect that “One man’s superstition is another man’s science,” and went on to talk about tracking for sevens after those things I refer to as “Energy Draining Events” at the table. Yes, I think he may have been onto something. The items listed above are great examples.

Zeke’s preference for betting on the right side was to skip the Pass Line wager and Place bet the Six and Eight. His second choice was to bet the Inside Numbers. His third choice was to bet the Five, Six, Eight OR the Six, Eight, Nine. The Pass Line, he said, Lost 50% more than it won. He was, of course, referring to the established Pass Line wager. The Pass Line bet has an advantage on the Come Out roll, but only on that roll. Zeke only bet the Pass Line when he was the shooter. Otherwise he was pretty much a regression or a one hit-and-down player. If this sort of play reminds you of the strategies recommended by John Patrick – you are once again – exactly right. Maybe it’s just an Atlantic City thing, right? Er, wrong.

Another author from that same era who DID understand math was Thomas Midgley. Midgley was an engineer who graduated from Cornell. He painstakingly tracked 7500 rolls in live games in Vegas casinos, then analyzed them mathematically to determine exactly what the best methods of play would be. What he discovered was that despite the fact that each roll is an independent event, the rolls actually came in cycles. Yes, I underscored that for a reason. Because if events occur in cycles then they can, in my opinion, be predicted. Weathermen do it all the time. Oh, they don’t always get it right. But most of the time they do. Every heat wave here in Texas is preceded by a certain set of conditions. A happens, then B happens, then C happens, then next thing you know it’s so hot you’re boots are full of sweat. I’m of the opinion the same sort of thing happens all of the time at the craps tables.

Midgley presented his work in his landmark book, Craps, A Smart Shooters Guide. My pal Shootitall introduced me to Midgley many years ago and gave me a copy of the book. I misplaced it for a couple of years and ended up ordering a replacement copy. About that time the original book showed back up again – hidden in a sock drawer or some place like that – so now I have two copies. That’s okay. It’s a great book so when I go looking for it next time I’ve doubled my odds of finding it. That’s right, I’m officially a senior citizen now. Anyway, it’s a great book. Based on his personal results, he determined the best strategy for most players was a follow the trend strategy that combined with Place Betting the six and eight with making continuous Come bets with free odds. I find this to be a very strong play if you can stand the bankroll volatility.

Which gets me to the point of this article. Bankroll volatility. A small stakes gambler can buy in for $200, play systematically and grind away all day and not really get hurt. He’ll win some and loose some. If he manages his money properly he will probably never go broke, but he’s never going to get rich off his play either. He can stand at the table all day, make Zeke’s $12 bucks, tip the dealers a dollar and the cocktail server a dollar and go home with an extra ten spot in his pocket. The follow-the-trend guy who follows Midgley’s recommendations or takes a Three-Point Molly approach risks much more. Playing Midgley’s strategy he’ll place the six and eight for $30 each, then start making $10 Come bets with $30 to $50 in odds. In four rolls of the dice he can have well over $100 on the table. If that’s you and you see the seven rake that $100 three or four times in a row you’ll see what I mean when I talk about bankroll volatility. However, if all of those bets repeat and win – you’re in bankroll volatility heaven.  That’s because the bankroll volatility knife cuts both ways.

Personally, I don’t want to deal with all of that volatility – or those contract bets. I’d rather Place bet, regress from time to time, let the dice tell me what numbers to bet, and progress the bets naturally according to how often they hit. As for my take on how to win larger amounts more consistently – how to win $120 to $240 an hour at craps instead of making $12 to 14? It’s not complicated. Just add a zero to Zeke’s hit and down strategies. Instead of betting a $12 six and eight – bet them for $120 and play the same way – one hit and down. Instead of thinking small – think tall. A play that works for low rollers should work just as well for the big boys? Why not go big or go home?