By The Professor
To a casual observer, the scene at a craps game may appear chaotic. In truth, sometimes it’s not less than a mad scramble of a dog fight with chips thrown to dealers along with barked orders of “give me this and press up that”. Believe it or not, there is a tight order to the game of craps and those who do not follow correct protocol are jamming a spanner into the spokes of the game.
The prevailing energy at a craps table is the combined complexion made up of the players, the casino personnel and the events that occur during a game. Seemingly meaningless, little things can occur during a game, and believe it or not, a subtle shift can affect the outcome of a game. Sometimes the effect is good, sometimes it is not so good, and sometimes it does not make much of a difference. One common example of a shift in energy occurs as a result of a player’s inconsiderate actions due to a lack of knowledge or sometimes it is caused by brazen arrogance which can inevitably kill a good game.
When you think about it, what activity is enhanced when the participants perform with careless abandon? The winning edge is a delicate balance of “positive” energy when meticulously maintained. Ignorance or lack of respect shreds the energy. In the blink of an eye the energy implodes and the game comes crashing down.
Table manners in a craps game is more than your basic social etiquette. It certainly includes "yes sir", "no ma’am", "thank you", "yes please". Good table manners are an outward expression of your energy. The way that you present yourself should project a winner’s persona communicating that you expect to be treated like a winner. Winners are always respected, and they are treated in an honorable way.
Before entering a game, first become aware of the game’s status. Identify what is going on before you act. Is it a come out roll or the middle of a hand? Identify the shooter. If standing next to the shooter is where you wish to play, be patient and wait until the shooter has finished the hand. Crowding the shooter is an invasion of their space. Doing so could take them out of the “zone” by breaking their energy. So, never interrupt the shooter, the shooter is sacred. A player tossing their money in front of the shooter crosses the shooter’s energy. Besides wrecking the game’s energy, it is inconsiderate and it is rude. I have a personal rule; never buy-in during a hand that is already in progress.
Once you have selected your position and you are ready to buy in, do so during the come out roll. (Best to wait for a new shooter) Do not toss in your money and rating card “showy” with a "look at me, I am joining this game". Get the dealers attention by calling them by their name. Politely put your money down in the Come Field, with the rating card, and state how much you are buying in for and if you want action or no action. [“500, cheques only, no action.” “500, cheques, 25 on the line.” “500, cheques, 25 they don’t.”]
If you must buy-in during the middle of a hand, please do so when you know that your buy-in is not going to hold up the game. The dice should be in front of the boxman, and request cheques only. Don’t make bastard bets that befuddle the dealers and require repeated explanation. Don’t call for a marker. Markers cause the game to come to a stand still. You owe it to the other players to get in with a low profile, allowing for the game to continue without incident. Your buy-in, if not handled properly, can be more than an interruption. It can cause the game to break down. There is always plenty of time for you to get into a game. You will not miss anything by being polite and waiting for the next shooter.
Once you are in the game, you need to cooperate with the dealers serving you. There are three dealers at the craps table. The stickman runs the game. He controls the dice and moves them to the shooter. The stickman is in charge of the proposition bets directly in front of the stick position. It is the stickman’s job to determine the winning pay-off, identify who is to be paid, and when they are paid. The stickman first instructs payment of any winning proposition bets from the side of the table opposite the shooter. He begins with the player closest to the paying dealer. Once that side is paid, the stickman will settle any bets on the other side of the table.
There is one dealer for each side of the craps table. The dealers are the money handlers. The dealer exchanges cash for chips, settles winning bets, and picks up losing bets. They have a set routine which dictates how they pay and pick up bets. Watch the game, and you will quickly see that the order is right to left or left to right, depending on which side of the table you are playing. When being paid, you have to pay attention and wait your turn.
The same thing happens when booking a bet. The dealer is like a cocktail waiter, willing to take your order. In the lounge, a table of six people would not shout out the drink order all at once. Unfortunately, it happens at a craps table all the time. Here are just a few suggestions of good table manners.
- Be patient, be alert, and be ready to make your wager when it is your turn to bet.
- Be polite! Learn the dealer’s name and use it when booking your wager. It helps to get their attention, as well as a way of honoring them. Respect commands respect.
- Wait your turn to be paid and before giving the dealer new betting instructions. If you have a winning place bet, wait for the dealer to come to your bet before giving instructions like; "same bet, press up, take down".
- Proposition bets are made with the stickman. Get his attention first before throwing the chips to him. (not at him) Nothing slows the game more than making the stickman chase cheques, followed by him having to ask who made the bet and what do you want. It is rude treatment to the stickman and the other players. Never mind the attitude it can evoke. (Unwanted heat)
- Make your wagers when the dice are in the middle of the table, in front of the box man. There is plenty of time and all you have to do is be ready when it is your turn to bet. You will not be left out. It’s their business to collect every willing bet.
- Don’t try to make late bets after the dice are out. It slows the game.
- Don’t toss your money or chips out in front of the shooter after he has the dice. It “crosses the energy”. If you must make a late bet, get the dealers attention by name and make a call bet with the chips in you hand. After the roll, politely put your action down in the Come Field for the dealer.
- Keep your hands up and out of the table at all times, except when making a bet at the appropriate time.
- Too often a zealous player, pointing out their bets to a friend, “crosses” the shooter’s throwing lane. This blocks their line of sight, or worse, the dice hit the hand. This may sound as a hooky superstition, but it usually results as a seven out. The pointing crosses the energy of the shooting zone.
- Keep your movements to a minimum when the shooter has the dice.
- Limit your conversation. Focus on the game. If you want to talk about last night’s ballgame, take it to the lounge.
- Camaraderie, “high five and way to go shooter" is fun and usually okay. However, many shooters are "head down, blinkers on" kind of players and all the yahoo stuff is a big distraction from their game. Be conscious of what kind of celebrating is appropriate. We want the shooter in the “zone”.
- Never ever get into an argument with other players or the crew. If a referee is required, then that becomes the boxman’s job. You keep your lip buttoned down. Mind your own business.
- You may politely point out a mistake, but it is important to remember that craps is the casinos’ game and played by their rules. Your emotional control is crucial. Emotional out bursts kill a game quicker then anything I know. It is pointless to argue your interpretation of the rules with the crew or boxman.
- Be aware and conscious of your involvement in the game making sure that you are contributing to the flow of the game and not holding it up. This means not making oddball bets in weird amounts or causing the dealer unnecessary work, for example.
- Losing is part of the game. Be a gracious loser when you leave the game. It is an expression of who you are and a courtesy of respect to those remaining in the game.
- After you color-up, always thank the dealer for the game. “Thanks for the game mate.”
- Just because it is called a craps game does not mean you get to talk crap. Profanity really is not acceptable language in the game.
A separate issue is player interaction. This covers free advice to disagreements between players. Though I am well aquatinted with the game, I will not offer help or advice unless asked directly for my input, and then sparingly with caution. When it comes to money, the emotional charge is great, and I feel the responsibility of knowing how to play the game rests upon the player. On occasion, if I am next to a novice that is really struggling, I may politely offer some encouragement. However, I do this only as a motivation to keep the game flowing. Okay, there is a bit of kindness in me too.
Disagreements or arguments at the table are the kiss of death. Anytime you are at a table and there is any kind of aggravation, "argy-bargy", the negative emotion swoops in, and kills the game. A particular example is a disagreement with a player’s opinion about a bet. Everyone is entitled to his or her own approach to the game. Craps is not a team sport where everyone benefits from a particular hand. It is best to keep your opinions and comments to yourself. If you really don’t like another player’s energy it is your choice to leave the game.
When I speak of discipline and detachment, this is a perfect example of what I mean, having the self-control to keep quiet or having the good sense to leave the game.
When your session is over and it is time to color up, you exit the game in a manner similar to the way that you entered the game, politely. Put you chips in order and count them. Prepare your color-up so that it can be paid back in multiples of $25. There is no sense in handing in fives and ones that will just have to be counted and then given back. The idea is for you to know how much you are coloring-up and confirm the total with the box man. Being prepared makes the count up easy and quick for the box man. All of this is designed with the intention of not holding up the game.
When you have your chips sorted, wait for the seven out, and wait for the dealer to clear the table and get his business complete. Get the dealer’s attention, and ask for the color-up. “Max, color coming in?” Max will check with the box man and will either tell you yes, set it down or wait. The box man can only color-up one player at a time so you may have to wait your turn.
If you have to color-up in the middle of a hand, not recommended, do so in this way. Check that the box man is not busy. Have your chips in the most reduced stack to make the transaction as quick as possible. Best if stacked in multiples of 100. Color-up when the dice are in front of the box man and not while the dealer is trying to settle bets. It is not a good time to color-up if a hard-way bet rolled with the point. There will be too much action and movement of chips at this time. Also, the table could be heating up. Don’t break the energy with your need to leave, wait for the right time. When you do ask for the color-up, hold the stack in front of you. This will signal the dealer, non-verbally, and at the same time you will ask to color-up in a loud voice and with eye contact with the boxman. The boxman usually will nod “okay” to bring it in. Now, you know that you have permission to color-up from the “boss” and the dealer also has confirmation. This move speeds up the process. You will still pass the stack of chips to the dealer and wait until the next pause in the game to get your color.
These are just a few suggestions for table manners. It goes beyond being an expression of your energy. Using good table manners demonstrates to others the correct protocol for play. If enough dice player used consistent table manners, perhaps it could be like Ken Keys’ “Hundredth Monkey”.
If more players played this way it would be a better game for us all. The game would move along faster and at smoother pace, plus it would develop rhythm. Rhythm in a game is very important. Rhythm helps with the momentum. Momentum is necessary for an airplane to take off. Momentum has to do with what I refer to as a table’s personality or table support. Rhythm helps to support predictability and what you may expect from the game.
In closing, think of the "gambler" that we see in the movies. Recall their mystique and chivalrous nature, well dressed and distinguished by their presents and command of the situation. A class act is the virtue that sets the winner apart from the everyday losers. When it comes to energy, what you express is exponentially returned. Leave your guns at home boy, take you table manners to the game son.
P4K, you can win them all!
Copyright © 2003 Michael Vernon