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You Must’ve Got a Phone Call

By heavy

Fact is, some of us hear that line all the time.  It’s part of a conversation that goes something like this:

            Shooter:  “Hopping the nines for five each.”

            Stick:  “Two way nines on the hop - five each my first. Dice are out.”

            Dice roll 

Stick:  “Nine, winner.  Front line winner.   Take the don’ts.  Pay the line.  Nine came five-four.”

            Shooter:  “Eighty and down on the hop bet.” 

            Player next to shooter:  “Jeeze.  You must’ve got a phone call.”

The fat boy got his phone call long distance - I came a long way figuring this one out.  It started back in the late eighties when I noticed an interesting trend.  More and more players were setting the dice to the hard six - in what we now know as the “flying V” set.  And many of these players were having incredible rolls.  I was still puzzling over the permutations of this when Frank Scoblete’s “Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos” came out in 1991.  Scoblete, too, was using the “flying V” set, reportedly with good success.   Finally, unable to stand it any longer, I had to give it a try on my own. 

And try I did.  With mixed results.   The set did seem to generate longer rolls for me.  I noticed an increase in the number of sixes and eights I threw, but the fives and nines seldom appeared.   The four and ten - numbers Scoblete advocates buying at the $30 - $39 level when you can do it for a $1 vig - seemed to roll more than one would expect.  Unfortunately, for me, the one number that seemed to come up most often was the three-craps.  A typical series might consist of two or three ace-deuces on the come out, followed by an eight, a four, a three, another three, an eleven, a ten, a three, the six, then the seven.  Sure, I rolled a lot of numbers, but since I was still primarily a pass line/come bettor I was still losing.   A lot.  It simply never dawned on me to bet the ace-deuce straight up, as I had been conditioned by every craps book I’d ever read to stay away from the high-vig call bets.

I was on a cruise ship heading toward Paradise Island when it finally started to come together for me.  I threw six ace-deuces back-to-back.  I recall one of the dealers, in a very proper British accent, say something to the effect of, “If you aren’t betting the three-craps you aren’t winning.”  Duh.  What would a $1 ace-deuce bet parlay pay over six hits?  Well, you couldn’t get there because the max call bet was $500 in this game.  On the third hit you’d collect $3375.  If they allowed you to parlay that the fourth hit would pay $50,625.  The fifth - $759,375.  Need I go on?   Try $11 million and down … oh, and here’s a $390,625 hard eight for the boys.

Along about this same time I was delving into the game of roulette.  The more I studied the game the more I became convinced that certain roulette dealers had definite signatures.  By that I mean that - consciously or unconsciously,  many dealers were able to exercise some control over where that little round ball landed.  It was the dealer who kicked up the rotor speed.  It was the dealer who released the ball into the track.  And if the dealer paid attention to the wheel it was quite simple to release the ball at the same point and speed every time.  Golfer’s call it muscle memory.  I called it cheating.  Because a dealer who knew the layout well could glance at the areas with the most bets, then send the ball to a sector with less action.  Likewise, a dealer who - for whatever reason - liked a particular player could send the ball to the sector of the wheel that player was playing.  I saw this first hand one session in Bossier City.  There were only three players at the table, myself and an Asian couple.  For some reason the dealer took an immediate dislike to the Asians, and set about demolishing them.  Meanwhile, I started racking up small wins on one and two dollar straight-up bets, and toked the dealer with every win.  Finally, cashing out several hundred ahead, I put a $5 chip on the table and told the dealer he could either drop it in the box or bet it.  “I can hit a 17,” he said.  I bet if for him and he did.

It was after a losing craps session at the Horseshoe in Bossier City that the concept of Signature Numbers for crap shooters came to mind.  On those long drives back to Dallas I would replay every game in my mind, throwing in a “what-if” scenario at every turn.  Suddenly it dawned on me.  If I could successfully play the dealer’s signature numbers in roulette - a game that’s even tougher to beat than craps - then I should be able to win by betting my own signature numbers - or those of another player - at the craps table.

First, I had to unlearn my prejudice against place betting.  Place bettors have control over their bets that come bettors don't have.  They get to pick and choose their numbers, vary the size of their bets and take them down at will.  They only have to score one “hit” on a number to lock up a win.  Then I learned the power of the regression move - locking up a win early and making each bet pay it’s freight before pressing. 

I bet what I perceived to be my signature numbers.  We all have favorites that we bet all of the time.  And I did notice an improvement in my results.  Still, I felt I was throwing too many trash numbers.  I wanted to change my signature numbers to increase the percentage point numbers.  That way I would not have to keep throwing dollars out for call bets.  I could simply bet the point numbers and collect my winnings.  And so, I began a serious study of the various dice sets.   I read everything I could find on the subject, talked with other players and compared notes.  I was starting down the path to becoming a qualified shooter. 

A favorite on the come-out roll quickly became the hard-four set into the flying V.  This set yielded a good mix of sevens and elevens on the come out, and often established the point as a six or eight.  I noticed other shooters setting the dice to the same axis, only with the hard ten or the Yo facing up.   I bet accordingly.  Then I noticed a guy using a snake-eyes set - with the five-three facing down table and the four-two facing the back wall.  It was, in fact, the crossed-sixes set we are all so familiar with, and the shooter was getting fantastic results.  Then there was the guy with the five-four set with the crossed sixes facing down table.  The three-two set which is the five-four standing on its head.  And all of these players were winning.  And that’s when I took it home and tried it out. 

I tried it on the desk top first, then on the carpet.  Finally, I invested in a craps layout, a sheet of plywood and a knock-down 1X12 backboard.  I experimented with different sets, eventually settling on the crossed sixes with the five-four up, and practiced throwing from different vantage points.  I found the optimum distance, loft, and strike-zone for this particular set.  I recorded every roll.  Then I took it to the casino. 

“Hopping the nines for five each.”

But we’ve been down that road before. 

So what does it all mean?  Well, I don’t track every roll in the casino - though I do try to maintain a healthy sense of what numbers I’m throwing.  But years after the fact, thousands of recorded rolls on the home layout have gotten me to the following point.  Based on expected outcome versus actual outcome I step up to the game with a 13% advantage over the house on the eight, 14% on both the four and ten, 15% on the twelve, 22% on the nine, and a whopping 23% edge on the eleven.  I also generate a high percentage of hardway hits on the eight and ten, providing some huge parlay opportunities.  The remaining numbers come in pretty much where you’d expect them to. 

The cost of the one-roll bets - the eleven and twelve in this case - still intimidates me.  As a result, I only bet those numbers in specific situations.  On the come out roll or - hoping for a repeater - after one of them rolls.  But I always press hits on these numbers one unit and go for the bigger score.  Results have been very gratifying. 

As for the place bets - come betting has become a thing of the past for me - I find myself betting more aggressively when I’m the shooter.  I no longer dread touching the dice.  I look forward to it.  The four, eight, nine and ten are mine.  My name is written all over them. 

I got a phone call

-heavy                

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