Why Craps Books Begin on Page One

From time to time a player will ask me if I’ve ever noticed that every craps book ever written seems to start out with sixty or seventy pages of the same old stuff on how to play the game. They tell the history of the game, describe the modern layout and how it came to look like it does today. They introduce you to the various members of the craps crew and tell you about their jobs. They provide you with a glossary so you’ll understand the language of the game the explain things like odds and payoffs. They go on to confuse you by talking about Downtown odds and Strip odds. Sometimes they’ll throw in Reno odds to confuse you even more. Then, somewhere around Chapter Six, they finally get around to telling you to make a Pass Line Bet, take full odds, and then to follow that with two or three Come Bets with full odds. There’s a good chance the author will throw in a couple of tables they built in some spreadsheet program they cut and pasted into their manuscript and a photo or two they purchased through an on-line rights agency. Odds are they will include a “war story” or two – real or fabricated – about a huge win they scored  – or dreamed they scored – at the table once upon a time. They may also include information about seminars they teach and where to reach them for more information. Some such books – and I’m talking about books by some of the biggest name gaming authors in the business – are just out-and-out infomercials! And at the end of the day, you don’t really get a lot of great information from them. In fact, if you took all of those books and stacked them end to end – you’d find that that’s about the best use for them.

Reading these books, on the other hand, might not be so helpful. Particularly if you paid good money for them. That’s why those of us who have been around the tables for more than a few years continue to recommend the same authors over and over when we talk to new players. We talk in terms of guys like The Dice Doctor, John Patrick, Frank Barstow and Lyle Stuart, to name a few. Yeah, they’ll give you a little bit of the “rules” stuff. Barstow, for example, dedicated exactly nine pages in his Beat the Casino book explaining how to play craps. Then he got right into specific betting strategies that would get you there. He went through Pass/Come methods, Place Bet methods, Hybrid plays, his version of the Six and Eight Progression (starting with $1.50 each on the six and eight), and what he calls “Counter-action” systems – which essentially involve changing sides to follow or buck the trend at the table. He also goes through “new shooter plays,” Don’t Plays, Step-Ladder Plays, Hedge Plays and more. In truth, if you need more than forty or fifty pages to tell someone how to play the game and give them the best methods of play then you need to take a writing class.

If you want to add in Dice Control basics you’d be looking at another fifty pages or so. Call it a hundred and ten pages if we tossed in some of those charts and photos and a war story or two. Add in a section on Advanced Dice Control techniques and we might manage to stretch our book out to a healthy two hundred pages. Of course, we’d have to add in an appendix and a glossary to cover that stuff we omitted up front, but we’d put that in the back of the book where it belongs.  So call is 220 pages max for a craps book that covers everything, and you could probably get it done in 180.  But I digress.

One thing you’ll notice again and again as you read books by the old timers is that they all drew from what I refer to as a “common core of knowledge.”  But before I get into that let’s take a step back from craps and consider a couple of other fields for examples. If you are a farmer in my part of the world you know that there are certain crops you can plant around Mardi Gras each year (cold weather crops like greens, asparagus, snap peas) and certain crops you don’t plant until after Easter (beans, okra, corn). If you are a hunter you set your hunting blinds up downwind of the game trails and allow for windage when shooting. If you bet the puppies you probably watch for the big dog that takes a dump on the way to the gate and bet on him. All of the above are things that are drawn from the field of common knowledge. Farm long enough and you learn that if you plant your beans too early a late frost will kill them. Hunt from up wind and you’ll go home with nothing but ticks. And we all know that that dog is taking a dump to lighten his load before he runs. And often a big dog will knock half the field down in the first turn and go on to win.

Craps is the same way. There’s a field of common knowledge that you eventually learn to draw on. Some people scoff at the “superstitious” craps players who turn their bets off at certain trigger events – those things you’ve heard me refer to as Energy Draining Events. But as I said earlier, one man’s superstition is another man’s science.

They naysayers talk about “confirmation bias” and the fact that players basically see what they expect to see and ignore any other results. Nevertheless, I can cite example after example where turning my bets off because a player was breaking the rhythm of the game by arguing over a payout, the game stopped to pay out an ATS hit, the cocktail server tapped the shooter and he shifted out of his shooting position to talk to her, the shooter’s girlfriend/wife/significant other interrupted him and asked for another $100 for the slots and he begrudgingly gave it to her, the dice flew off the table, a stick change occurred mid-hand, etc., and it saved me a ton of money. It happened in our last Vegas seminar, where turning my bets off at the right time made the difference in a $3750 win and a $750 win. I’ll take that extra $3000 any day.

Charting is another tool in the common knowledge base. Many of the authors mentioned above talk about charting in their writing. I teach it in my classes. I’ve been at the table in Tunica where eight different people were charting. In some cases there’d be three or four Strategy players, a couple of Method players, a Beat the Odds player and someone who’s playing their own system comprised of a mash-up of all three plus their own twists. Oddly enough, they’re all writing down the same numbers and they’re all betting differently. But my point is – charting is common to the game, even if you do all of your tracking with chips, match sticks, quarters, or in your head. Honestly, the advent of the ATS layout makes charting much simpler for guys like me who like to chat up other players at the table and may, on occasion, lose track of what’s rolled. What I will tell you is that charting is part of almost every betting system out there. My thoughts on the subject are this. Simply find a charting approach that works for you and wear it out.

Remember that old saw, “Where there’s smoke there’s fire?” If enough people are saying the same thing – maybe there’s something to it.

Where can you find this core of common knowledge? Well, you’ll find most of it mentioned on the craps forum in one post or another. Stand around the casino tables and watch the veteran players long enough and you’ll learn from them as well. Or, you could buy a book – or a betting strategy. I can almost guarantee you that you’ll find most of the things I’ve mentioned in there. If not – sign on for one of my betting strategy classes. We cover it each and every time.