- Read. It's impossible to live long enough to learn from all of your own mistakes. That's why books offer such a fantastic educational opportunity. Instead of learning from your own mistakes, learn from the mistakes of others. And when it comes to gambling, that means your education will be cheap. In the past six weeks I have been reading constantly. I recently wrote a review on Winning Craps for the Serious Player. Two days ago I finished a book on video poker. Yesterday I started reading another craps book. I have 6 books from the library on my desk waiting to be read. Books will educate you about the rules of a game, proper etiquette, and the good and bad bets to make. Additionally, the exposure to different ideas and strategies will help you formulate your own.
- Practice. There are some pretty sweet Flash programs that simulate casino table games, many of which can be found at Poorman's Casino. These games allow you to practice different techniques, to get a feel for the rhythm of a game, to learn the rules, to understand how to bet odds, and to see if you even enjoy the game. Don't underestimate the value of practice, especially when no money is at risk.
- Live-fire practice. I have been fortunate that I have been able to make a trip to Black Hawk and to Las Vegas in the past 6 weeks, and I have a trip planned to Black Hawk this weekend. Very unusual for me, as I've never really considered myself to be a gambler. These "live-fire" practice sessions help to acclimate your psyche to the stress and excitement of gambling REAL money in a live gambling environment. I remember when I went to Vegas last March. I didn't hit the tables until my third night there. I was nervous. I was intimidated. I had to psych myself up to walk up to that table. Now it's no problem. I feel very comfortable standing at a craps table.
- Reflect. A very important part of learning is to give yourself feedback. Think back over a gambling session and mentally replay the bets you placed, the emotions you felt, and the mistakes you made. This is why I bring a reporter's notebook with me so I can mark down every roll of the dice and what I won or lost. Congratulate yourself on what you did right, and make a mental note of what you can do to improve the next time.
- Repeat. You don't learn everything you need to know after one trip to a casino. You may have taken a beating at the tables, but don't be discouraged. Pick yourself up, brush off the muck, learn what you can from the experience and start the next cycle of learning.
For the past six weeks since I began this blog I have earnestly been trying to become a better gambler. My (modest) goal has been to consistently come away a winner during my gambling forays. While I know I have a ways to go, at the same time I feel like I have improved my game. A big part of learning to be better at anything is constant reflection. I thought I would take a moment and fill in the reader with the things I have been doing, and which I feel have been effective in my journey to becoming an Educated Risk-Taker.
Lent to me by my pal Sal, Winning Craps for the Serious Player claims to be the “bible” for beginning and serious players. That’s a pretty big claim. Could this book live up to its billing? First of all, I like to know the bonafides of the author. Who is J. Edward Allen and what is his reputation? Doing some research I found out J. Edward Allen is actually the penname of Edwin Silberstang, a prolific author of 52 books including Playboy’s Book of Games in 1974, which established him as one of the world’s most widely read authorities on games of skill and chance.
Allen wrote a “basics” series of books designed especially for beginning players, including Basics of Winning Craps, Basics of Winning Blackjack and Basics of Winning Baccarat. As an experienced and talented fiction writer (Snake Eyes is now on my reading list), he developed a reputation of writing very readable gambling books. Even though he died in 2012 at the age of 82, Allen remains “the” authority on gambling. And after reading this book, I wholeheartedly agree.
Unlike many 'how to' gambling books, Allen covers the entire craps experience in this book. Not only does he cover the basics such as line bets, odds, edges and full mathematics of craps probability, he also covers casino personnel, your table image, how to establish credit at a casino (some day!), money management, how to manage your bankroll, and hedging (a very important topic overlooked in many books and websites, denigrated in many others).
This comprehensive book teaches a conservative method of craps. The author vehemently discourages proposition bets, calling them money losers, going so far as to ridicule players who even think of making a prop bet. These and other tips are forcefully repeated until they are ingrained into the reader. While I respect Mr. Allen’s knowledge and experience, I think there is a place for prop bets for hedging purposes in certain circumstances, so I don’t necessarily agree with him on this point.
Mr. Allen also put together betting strategies for various styles of play and aggressiveness, for both right and wrong bettors.
This is a great book on craps and deserves to be in every craps player’s bookshelf. This is indeed the "bible" for both beginning and serious craps players.
I took another trip to Fremont Street on Sunday, losing most of my bankroll (being the equal opportunity kind of guy that I am) between the Fremont and The Four Queens playing craps. Fremont didn’t have much action at the table I was at and I quickly left after dropping $48. I moved to a table at The Four Queens where there were a couple of good rollers and one novice player, a real Dork. I thought I could ride the 2 good shooters and make a profit but at one point I was a little bit too aggressive and made a $36 Place bet on the 6 which promptly lost when the Dork was shooting, along with my other Place bets. That was when the tide turned. I didn’t have much luck throwing so I would pass, waiting for the dice to reach the two hot rollers. Then the Dork starts calling the hot shooter “Peter” which bothered the shooter and throws him off his stride. He promptly seven-outs, after I covered all the Place bets. The two hot shooters colored-up and were gone. Soon I was down to my last $15, all on the Pass line, with the Dork shooting. Fortunately he hit his point. I left soon after with $26 in my pocket.
Play Analysis: At the Fremont, the table I played at was dead, both from the standpoint of lucky shooters and no one else playing. I don’t like playing at a table by myself so it wasn’t a hard decision to leave. At The Four Queens I was both too passive and too aggressive. I didn’t cover the numbers like I should have when the good shooters had the dice. The hot female shooter rolled 19 times before she seven-outs, and I only won $21 because I was covering only the 6 and 8 Place bets. In that sequence she hit the 5 five times and the 10 three times.
I was too aggressive with the $36 Place bet when the Dork was shooting. He had a couple of good runs earlier but I don't like novice players generally so I shouldn’t have trusted his run of good luck.
There was a $3 minimum table at the Fremont that had a lot of people playing, but there wasn’t any room. I think I should have waited for a spot to open up. There is always better energy with a lot of players.
Tally for the day: -$122
Mrs. Poorman and I flew home the next day without visiting another casino. Although the trip was a net negative total (-$195), I didn't lose my whole budgeted bankroll, so in a twisted logic sort of way I left Vegas a winner. A little lighter in the wallet, perhaps, but it was a cheap price to pay compared to what I learned.
When I used to ski, I remember my friends and I would rent Warren Miller movies to get us jazzed about hitting the slops. Movies about gambling act the same way for me now. In case you haven't noticed, craps is my favorite game and there's nothing like watching these movie craps scenes to get me excited about hitting the tables. Which one is your favorite? Watch 'em all then vote for your favorite scene.
A Bronx Tale
From 1993. Directed by and starring Robert De Niro. A father becomes worried when a local gangster befriends his son in the Bronx in the 1960s.
2003. In an old school Las Vegas casino, its top gambling jinx Bernie Lootz, played by William H. Macy, breaks his curse when he falls in love, much to his boss' consternation.
Diamonds Are Forever
1971. A diamond smuggling investigation leads James Bond to Las Vegas, where he uncovers an extortion plot headed by his nemesis, Ernst Stavro Blofeld.
1996. John has lost all his money. He sits outside a diner in the desert when Sydney happens along, buys him coffee, then takes him to Reno and shows him how to get a free room without losing much money. Under Sydney's fatherly tutelage, John becomes a successful small-time professional gambler, and all is well, until he falls for Clementine, a cocktail waitress and sometimes hooker. In this scene Philip Seymour Hoffman is the young craps player.
1989. "Sugar" Ray is the owner of an illegal casino, who contend with the pressures of vicious gangster and corrupt policemen who want to see him go out of business. In the world of organized crime and police corruption in the 1920s, any dastardly trick is fair!
Rush Hour 2
2001. Carter and Lee head to Hong Kong for vacation, but become embroiled in a counterfeit money scam.
Other than the craps session I played in Vegas back in March, it had been multiple years since I last played. If you are in a similar scenario, there is a way to brush away the cobwebs and bone up on the basics without putting your money at risk.
Computer Games Are Not Just For Kids Anymore
I remember when I bought my first computer. It was an Apple IIe. The thing I wanted to do most with it was to play games. That was 30 years ago and computer games have come a long way since then. You can even play games on your smart phone.
Apps for Your Phone
Searching briefly on the App Store, I downloaded a couple of free craps games. I wasn't too pleased with the experience. The ads were bothersome, limited ways to play (on one you couldn't lay odds!), and the screen on my iPhone 4 was just too small to really enjoy the game. I also have an iPad but haven't taken the time to search extensively. If you have any recommendations, please post them to the comments.
Free Online Games
That's when I came across the Bovada online gambling site and their free, online craps game. It's a winner! Here is a list of things I like about the site:
A special thanks to Bovada Casinos for giving me a copy of their Flash code so that I can offer their FREE Craps simulator on my site. Check out the game here.