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A Tale of Two Craps Crews22 October 2004
With apologies to Charles Dickens, it was the best of crews; it was the worst of crews. On a recent trip to Las Vegas, the best of crews was found at Harrah's, during all shifts, and the worst of crews was found at Treasure Island during the day shift.
Let's look at the worst first:
For years Treasure Island was the best place to play craps in Las Vegas. But something happened at TI between September of 2002 and April of 2003. The attitude of many of the crewmembers and especially of the boxmen and floorpeople, most especially during the afternoon shift, changed. Those of us who took care with our rolls and shot softly now found we were the recipients of subtle jibs and not-so-subtle tongue lashings to "hit the back wall, you understand, or we're taking the dice away from you!" These tongue-lashings were delivered the very first time one or both dice missed the back wall regardless of whether the shooter had rolled for one minute or twenty minutes.
Crews talked over your throws about their picnics and personal life, they made sarcastic sotto voce comments about some players, and they made remarks about how you set the dice and where you might have learned to shoot that way. Stickmen and women leaned their bodies and their sticks way out over the layout to obscure your view. No one thanked you for making and winning bets for the dealers.
The attitude that some of these individuals at the table displayed was an "us against them" one. It was as if the crewmembers had their own money on the line when players rolled.
Now let's take a look at the best, my recent trip to Harrah's.
When you cashed in and gave in your player's card, each crewmember was told your name. "This is Frank," the boxman or woman would say. "Welcome to the table, Frank," your dealer said to you as he counted out your chips. "Good luck," he'd say as he pushed the chips over to you.
When you were rolling, the stickman would offer you encouragement. "Okay, shooter, you can make this number!" If you happened to take care with your roll, they would often compliment you, "You have a nice looking shot, sir."
And what happened should you miss the back wall? The first time, nothing. The second time, the boxman gently reminded you, "Try to get them all the way down." One stickman said to a player who had just missed for the second time, "Yeah, get em down, but keep em soft, you have a great roll going here!"
At Harrah's it was not one dealer or one crew who was superb, it was everyone involved in the games. The atmosphere was friendly, and no one in a suit was sweating the action. The dealers seemed to want the players to win and with each and every bet for the dealers, win or lose, the dealers thanked the player for making it.
Now, what has either crew got to do with winning and losing?
If you were playing a random game of craps, that is, you picked up the dice, shook the dice, prayed to the dice, kissed the dice and flung the dice, the impact of a surly crew on your toss would be non-existent; although the impact of such nastiness on your emotional well-being might make you inclined to seek out a friendlier casino.
However, if you were trying to exercise some control over the dice, control that requires concentration, relaxation, and fine body movements, then cantankerous and nasty crew members make it rough indeed to perform at your best (that's why they do it, obviously). When you have reached a certain level of expertise in dice control, the difference between a good or bad performance can be all in your head. If a crew distracts you, annoys you, harasses you, it will be hard enough to control your temper, much less your dice.
So what do I do in such situations? I just put myself in a state of "non-hearing," I ignore everyone and everything around me. I just concentrate on what I am doing: looking at the dice in the middle of the table, watching them be brought over to me by the stick; I set them, grip them, pick them up, aim, and release. I watch them as the head down the table and bounce and die at the back wall.
There was only one time when I was not able to ignore a particularly irritating stickwoman, a harridan who was almost foaming at the mouth, the very first time I supposedly missed the back wall. When the boxman jumped on me and said, "You better hit the back wall," and after I said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I thought they had hit the back wall," [note: they had, softly], this stickwoman just kept going, "Those are rules. You hear me." She kept it up even as I ignored her. But she refused to pass me the dice until I acknowledged her. When I did acknowledge her, she passed them and I was not where I should have been (in my head, that is) and I sevened out. Then I left the casino and went elsewhere.
An interesting closing note: While blackjack profits are decidedly down in Las Vegas (nearly 10 percent in two years) ironically due to the casinos' attempts to extract more money from their players by using continuous shuffle machines, 6/5 payouts on naturals, and hitting on soft 17, craps profits have zoomed up 6 percent in a single year!
I attribute that increase to many players now thinking they have a way to beat the game through dice control when they actually can't beat the game at all. The same thing happened when Thorp publicized card counting in blackjack in the early 1960s. The casino profits zoomed because now everyone thought they could beat blackjack, when only a few actually could.
The same will hold true of craps. We are about to see an explosion of craps play in this country due to the perception that it can be beaten. And the casinos, and, yes, a small group of skilled controlled shooters, will profit. The casinos will profit if they relax, sit back, and let people set the dice and toss softly without harassing them. If, in short, their crews behave as the Harrah's crews do. But if they behave as the TI crews did, then their craps play will diminish, as will their profits from craps, and first they'll lose a table here and there, then the boxmen will be fired, then the game itself will die.
We are about to see the best of times and the worst of times…in the world of craps.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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