The Crapshooter's Buffet
BY: Stephen 'Heavy' Haltom
The Sunday buffet brunch has become a bit of a tradition when the family joins me on one of my Las Vegas outings. It is a meal that "fits" my family for many reasons. Breakfast is my wife's favorite meal, and since the Sunday brunch includes a variety of breakfast offerings - many cooked to order - it's right up her alley. The fact that she can order a Mimosa from the bar doesn't hurt either. My older daughter is a hard-core vegetarian. For her, the fruit and salad bar - combined with vegetable stir-fry, rice and beans from the Oriental section of the buffet - make it all worth the trip. Of course, the younger daughter is into pancakes with "sprinkles" from the dessert bar and chocolate dipped strawberries. Then again, she is just as likely to go on a quest for a burger and fries. Me? I usually opt for a western omelet, a slab of ham, a bowl of fresh fruit and a couple of biscuits with butter and honey. Yes, I do enjoy the Sunday brunch. There is something for everyone on the buffet. In fact - it's a lot like the game of craps. There are many options.
Crapshooters can bet with the dice or against the dice. Players who favor the math of the game can lay max odds on the don'ts. Players who play intuitively can bet the hops and props. Players with limited bankrolls can make a single table-minimum wager and get in the game. Players who can afford the action can spread out over every number on the layout. However, before you jump in the game, it is important to know what it takes to win. Since there are so many choices on the Crapshooter's Buffet every player should take a look at. Let's walk down the line and see what is available.
The most important part of dining at the buffet is knowing what is offered. In craps parlance, I refer to that as Knowledge of the Game. One of the silliest questions I hear people ask at the craps table is "How do you play this game?" Standing at the table with your hard-earned cash at risk is not the time to learn. Before placing your first bet you should have mastered all of the basic rules of the game, understand the terminology, have a working knowledge of the correct odds and pay-off, and be comfortable with both the pass and don't pass sides of the game.
Once you know what is offered on the buffet you will probably want to head over to the salad bar. That's where they keep all the green stuff. In craps, the salad bar is your Bankroll. I like to think of my casino chips as bullets. On the battlefield, if you run out of bullets you are as good as dead. That's why it is important to build a sufficient bankroll before stepping into the casino. You will always have limited funds to play with when your bankroll is compared to the casinos. The Pit Boss can roll out the reserves anytime by calling the cage and having the security boys bring out a chip refill.
One of the challenges of buffet dining is pacing yourself. After all, you want to save room for dessert. In the game of craps that equates to playing a Conservative Strategy. A college professor friend of mine loves to play marathon craps session. Few things give him more pleasure than standing at the tables for eight-hours at a stretch. But long sessions are not the gambler's friend. The casino's edge will invariably grind you down. The only way to survive these sessions over the long haul is to adopt an extremely conservative betting philosophy. In my friend's case that consists of a single Don't Pass bet with single odds. On every win, he increases his odds bet by one unit, and continues to increase his odds bets by one unit until a loss. Then he begins his progression again with single odds. While he will never win a huge amount of money, he will rarely lose a large amount either. He is patient and plays his strategy flawlessly, and it achieves exactly what he wants. He saves room for dessert.
You must approach the table with the same type of logically conceived, conservative game plan. That does not mean you have to limit yourself to the pass line or don't pass - or limit yourself to a single bet. It simply means you step up to the table with a plan. A strategy that allows you to adjust the size of your bets based on your bankroll, minimize your losses, and maximize your wins. How? By positioning yourself to take advantage of the gambler's friend - the almighty streak.
After you've scoped out the buffet's offerings, decided how much of what you want to try, and sampled the salad, it's time to get down to some serious eating. The meat and potatoes of winning at casino craps are Money Management and Discipline.
I can only guess at how many times a player standing next to me at the table has pointed to a stack of chips on the layout and asked, "Is that my money?" I have heard it hundreds of times through the years. However, money management is more than watching your bets. As I mentioned before, you have to adjust the size of your bets in relation to the size of your bankroll. But money management goes beyond that, as well. It requires you to set specific win objectives and loss limits based on your total bankroll. It means knowing exactly how much you will bet in every conceivable win/loss situation you encounter. And it means having the self-discipline to execute those bets flawlessly. In fact, I believe money management and self-discipline are the heart and lungs of winning.
As far as discipline is concerned, most gamblers just don't have it. Simply put, self-discipline is how you control your emotions while gambling. A few months back I bought in at a table and -- by using good money management and discipline -- doubled my money in about forty-five minutes. At the same time, the player next to me lost a little over $14,000. He was drinking heavily and sweating the losses. The more he lost the more he relied on crazy, scared-money wagers - $100 hop bets on two or three numbers every roll, and placing the hardways for $500 each. As his losses mounted he became loud and abusive. In the end, I colored up a $500 win and moved on. At the same time, he was signing a marker for another $20,000. He was pitting his bankroll bullets against the casinos. The house had him out-manned and out-gunned. Everyone at the table could see he was destined to lose it all -- everyone except him. As the old saying goes, you gotta know when to walk away -- and know when to run.
Of course, no trip to the buffet would be complete without a bread selection. Corn bread, muffins, dinner rolls, biscuits - they're what we old Southern boys use to "sop up the gravy." In craps - the bread of the game is the Streak. Craps is a game of streaks. Streaks of Point - Seven Out. Streaks of Point - Pass. And, most often, choppy streaks where there is no dominant trend. Since craps is a game of independent trials - unless the shooter is a executing a precision toss, what happened on the last roll of the dice has no influence on what happens the next roll. While you cannot predict how long a roll will last based on what went before, every forty-five minute monster starts out with a dozen tosses of the dice. It moves on to the five-minute mark, then ten, fifteen, and twenty. At some point, virtually every player at the table recognizes what is happening and the layout fills up with chips. They have spotted the streak. You must train yourself to recognize one as well.
The dessert that tops off the crapshooter's buffet is sweet. It's a Winning Attitude. Let's face it. The only one who likes a loser is the casino. Yet, you hear people reinforcing a losing attitude at every turn. The science of neuro-linguist-programming - NLP for short - teaches that you can actually program your mind for success through positive affirmations. Yet, so often we program ourselves for failure instead.
On a recent Vegas outing, I walked into the casino and turned a quick $360 profit at the craps table. Recognizing that the streak at that table was over, I colored up and strolled over to the Wheel-of-Fortune carousel to see if my companion was ready to go to dinner. "Just a minute," she said, shaking her coin cup. "I just want to lose these last few dollars, then we can go."
Think about that. How many times have you stood in the casino and heard someone say something similar? They don't expect to win - so they don't. They just stand there until they throw their last chip in.
Why do you eat? Doctors will tell you that you must eat to live. But eating goes beyond getting sufficient caloric intake to keep the engine of our bodies running. We eat because we enjoy savoring different tastes and textures. We enjoy socializing across the table. We relish the feeling of a full stomach. Playing craps is not very different from dining out. And on the crapshooter's buffet - there's something for everyone.
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