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Beginner's Dice: Ten Easy Steps to Learning the Game, Part One15 November 2007
The oldest known form of gambling saw primitive man carving symbols into the ankle bones of various deceased animals, usually sheep, sometimes wild animals that were respected as a source of food or strength, and even into the ankle or knee bones of deceased humans, usually relatives, but sometimes respected warriors from other tribes. These "bones" were then shaken, rattled and rolled to discover the will of the gods, and thus, the current craps expression, "roll them bones" has a long lineage stretching back to the dawn of consciousness itself.
The earliest craps players were serious-minded folk who shook, rattled and rolled them bones to discover whether to plant in this or that field, raid this or that neighboring village, or marry this or that tribal member or look outside the tribe for a suitable mate, preferably one with comely ankles that would be useful should said spouse pass on. No one really knows if primitive man ever played the game of craps as we know it, strictly as a leisure time activity to get the adrenaline pumping, the vocal cords tuned, and the money flowing. So the biggest question of all can't be answered: Did primitive man have to hit the back wall?
But modern craps players must hit the back wall when they roll the dice, which are no longer made of bone but of cellulose acetate, a plastic, and today's players not only have to wonder about the will of the gods, such as Lady Luck, but they must obey countless human rules, some etched in stone by the casinos and some written in the wind of superstitious craps players' minds. These I'll handle in the last section of this article.
And what of the name "craps," where did that come from - a constipated gambler? No. The name "craps" is actually a bastardization of the name "crabs" which is what the game was originally called by the folks along the Southern Mississippi who invented it. Actually, they didn't "invent it" but they did borrow the British game called Hazard which they revolutionized into the American game, crabs. But their thick back-woods accents were such that when they said "crabs," it sounded to other folks who didn't quite understand the dialect as "craps," and thus as the game made its way to the Northern cities, craps became its official name and, as such, could be said in polite society, while crabs became an unmentionable physical condition that was best left, well, unmentioned.
HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED
With such a long and glorious history behind it, craps is the quintessential casino game. It's communal; one player's roll can affect all the players' wagers; exciting, as amazing pulse-pounding streaks are the norm; and challenging, especially to the newcomer, who looks at the craps layout and thinks to himself: "This thing looks like Sanskrit, let me get back to the slots!"
The layout, created in 1907 by John H. Winn, and tinkered with by him for many years, is a conglomeration of various single and combined bets, some placed directly by the players, some placed for the payers exclusively by the dealers, and some placed by either. This can give any newcomer the jitters as he watches what at first appears to be a bunch of primitives screaming and yelling out strange-sounding names, while throwing chips this way and that. "Give me a yo-eelev!" "Five dollars on big red." "A dollar box cars!" "How about a $15 whirl?" "C & E for me!" The names of the bets seem obscure and also endless: any craps, snake eyes, hard 6, hard 8, hard 4, hard 10, pass line, don't pass, come, don't come, odds, full odds, true odds, hop, hopping hard way and on and on it goes.
But hear this dear reader, craps is actually an easy game to understand, if you take it step by step and bet by bet. And that's just what we're going to do. By the time you finish reading this article you'll be able to step up to the craps table confident that you know how to play the "essential" game and also confident that Casino Player guarantees that you'll win a million or they'll give you a million. Okay, okay that last isn't true, I just threw it in to make sure you were concentrating because here we go:
Step One: Who's Who
Check out the personnel at the table. You have a person seated in a chair in the middle of the table who is called the boxman. His or her job is to oversee the entire game and make sure it runs properly. Then to the right and left of him (or her) you have a dealer. Across from the boxman, you have the stickperson so named because he or she has a long, thin stick with which to push the dice around and also hit any unruly players (just kidding).
Step Two: The Basic Game
See that ring around the layout with the words Pass Line on it? Just above that is another ring called Don't Pass. These are the two basic bets of the game. Since 95 percent of the players bet the Pass Line, let's take a look at the game from this perspective first.
The shooter places a Pass Line bet. The stickperson now empties a bowl of five or six dice on the table and pushes them to the shooter. The shooter selects two dice, the stickperson takes back the rest and, as Sherlock Holmes was won't to say, "The game is afoot." This is called the Come-Out roll. The shooter now rolls the dice to the back wall.
On the Come-Out roll if the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, he wins even money ($10 wagered, $10 won); if he rolls a 2, 3 or 12, he loses his bet. There are 36 possible combinations of two six-sided dice (6 X 6 = 36), and there are eight possible ways to win on the 7 (six ways) and an 11 (two ways) as opposed to only four possible ways to win on the 2 (one way), the 3 (two ways) and the 12 (one way). On the Pass Line then, there are 12 possible decisions that can win or lose and the player is favored to win them by a margin of two to one (eight to four).
However, there are 24 combinations of other the numbers: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10. These are called "point numbers." On the Come-Out roll should the shooter roll one of these numbers, it then becomes his "point." That means he must make the number before rolling a 7 in order to win even money on his Pass Line bet. If he rolls a 7 before he repeats his "point," he loses. This is called "sevening-out" and it's a very bad thing for all "right players," that is, players who are betting with the point and against the 7.
The other bet that can be made on the Come-Out roll is called the Don't Pass bet. It is almost a mirror image of the Pass Line bet. On the shooter's Come-Out roll if the 7 or 11 appears, the Don't Pass bettor loses; if the 2 or 3 appears, the Don't Pass bettor wins and if the 12 appears, the Don't Pass bettor has no action on his bet - it's a push.
So, on the Come-Out roll, the Don't Pass bettor is in the "action" 11 times, with three wins (the 2 and 3) and eight losses (the 7 and 11). Now, should the shooter establish a point, the Don't Pass bettor wins even money if a 7 is rolled before the shooter can repeat his number, but he loses should the shooter hit the "point."
And that is the game, pure and simple.
There's the Come-Out game, sometimes called the "Come-Out Cycle" (COC) and the point game, sometimes called the Point Cycle (PC).
What is the casino edge playing this basic game? It's a small approximately 1.4 percent, which means that for every $100 you bet on the Pass Line or the Don't Pass line you'll lose about $1.40 in the long run.
If you knew nothing more about craps than Step Two, you could go to a casino tonight and play the game. However, with a few more wrinkles, you can go to the casino tonight and actually play the game well.
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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