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Maddog's Journey - Part V

(This article originally appeared in the Precision Shooter Newsletter. 

 To subscribe (it's free), send an email to dicesetter@aweber.com with "subscribe" as the subject.)

Part 5: Learning the Game of Craps

Can you beat the game, if you don’t know the game?

Fresh off that real butt-whipping that I received in my first stab at Dice Influencer-based craps shooting; I began doing some real serious thinking about what I had done wrong.  Even taking into account that I did not have the dice influencing skills I thought I had, I had never done so poorly at a craps table.  What was so different about that last outing?

One thing that struck me was the realization that I had not been betting how I would normally make bets at the craps table.  I started out by chasing the 6 and 8 like a puppy that first discovers it has a tail.  Then when it seemed like I couldn’t get those numbers to hit how I wanted, started tossing bets here and there, hoping that something would go right.  Instead of having a basic betting pattern and watching for a trend which was my standard table play, I was thinking, “hey, this set is supposed to result in more 6’s.   I’m gonna bet the 6 and 8 and use this set.” and when they didn’t show, I’d think “ok, this set is supposed to also show some 5’s and 9’s, lets bet those instead”.  Yes, I correctly knew the numbers associated with a given axial-set, but I’m sure you can all see what I had failed to catch.  The sets will produce the numbers, if I can produce the toss.

Thinking back critically at that performance I began to realize that I really didn’t know what I was doing as a DI.  Oh, sure, I understood the basics of the toss and was doing my best to execute.   But when it came to making bets, smart bets, there was a gap the size of the Grand Canyon between my craps knowledge and what I should have known about craps before I put my money on the felt.  I had no strong understanding of how the bets broke down by House Advantage (HA), or Expected Value (EV).  Didn’t understand how to correctly apply the DI skill (that I didn’t have) as leverage against the HA and to improve the EV.  I don’t think I even knew correct payoffs on anything but the most basic of bets.

I realized I had skipped an important if not crucial step in becoming a DI.  I had jumped straight into controlled shooting, without knowing the game, the bets, the payoffs, etc.   I suppose I was acting like most people.   I wanted quick results and effortless success.  Let’s face it, most citizens are lazy. They don't want to put in any real effort to get what they are after. They don't want to do the hard work of studying and practicing and experimenting.   Most folks want shortcuts.

We see it all the time, even on the craps boards, people looking for quick answers to difficult problems. Some people read craps books or message posts to be told "the answer." They want charts, they want systems, and they want iron-clad rules. They are looking for anything that gives them a fool-proof path to results. Some people do study to really learn.  I like to think that all of us folks who hang around Dicesetter.com are a notch above and are in the “work to learn” camp.  But all around are folks that simply want to be told. If you don't understand the "why" of a situation, the "what" of what you do, even if you happen to do it correctly, you’re on the road to limited results at best.

Oh sure, reading a book, using crib-notes, and taking shortcuts, where somebody else has done the thinking for you, can often bring results, particularly if that "somebody else" is a top player.  Mimicking the actions of a pro, like a big blue macaw in a cage, will be a big step up from the unknowledgeable players.  However, parrots/clones are many steps down from people who try to understand the reasons for doing the right things. Learning to really advance and improve as a DI is about coming to understand the reasons things work the way they do and in doing experimentation to find out how to apply that understanding into what works for them.  It’s not so much the actual playing (although the playing IS the end result and is the reason for the study/work.  See what I’m getting at?).

It’s a bit like cheating on a collage aptitude test.  Reading the answers off the smart nerd kid’s paper might be temporarily convenient but it won’t help you much when your back is up against it and you need to remember how to answer the question.

***

I knew I needed to get back to the basics.  I had to study the game and understand what was up and how it all tied together with the DI thing.  So what are some good resources to understanding the craps table?

There are several good books on the topic and I purchased a few.   Studying these was helpful and brought some insight into the nature of game and how the probabilities applied to making craps a negative expectation game.

I tried searching the internet for more information, but most of what I found there was lackluster and tended to be fairly superficial in content.

After working around these various avenues of information, I found that the best resource of information was back at good ‘ole Dicesetter.com.  I went back to reading the material that is available there.  There are several sections dedicated to articles written by past and present DI dignitaries.  And of course we all know about the boat load of ideas and advice written in the Mad Professor articles.   I made a pact with myself to read every article.  Not just the ones with interesting titles or picking one or two out here and there to read.  No, I was determined to start at the first article in the list and read on until I’d read through everything there was to read.

Once I’d gotten my way through the reams of information contained in the literal instruction manual that is Dicesetter.com, I then started into the archives and read through everything I could find there.  Man there is some interesting stuff in the old posts.  Seems like almost any subject about craps and dice influencing you can think of has been discussed in one form or another in the old posts.  You can get a lot of insight by going back through some of the old threads.  There are hundreds and hundreds of posts in the archives.  You’re bound to read something that sparks an idea or gives you a new perspective.

Of course, purely reading reams of material is simply not enough.  I felt that it was important to try and find ways to really absorb the information and make it part of my knowledge pool.  To do this I began to really study the craps layout.  I came up with drills to memorize various bets.  I didn’t go so far as to create flash-cards, but it was fairly close to that.   What is the correct odds and payout for various levels of place bets?  What are the correct dollar amounts of a 3 unit 6 place bet, a 4 unit, a 5 unit. (Easy right, just multiply by 6, but if your not used to thinking about levels and regression points, it can be a distraction).  Do the same thing for the 5&9 and 4&10 place bets.  What is the payout for a $5 horn high yo?. How about a $10 horn high midnight?  What is the vig for these bets?  Etc. etc.  You get the idea and have probably done much the same yourself.

I’ve always felt that knowledge is power.  I guess this was instilled in me at an early age.  My folks started talking to me about how important an education was for getting ahead in life.  Even before I was in high school, my dad was telling me to set my sites on college, “That sheepskin is the only way that you’ll get ahead.  It’ll open the doors so you can be better than me.”  Maybe you’ve heard that same speech from your Pop?  Well I’ve come to believe it is true. 

Knowledge is power.  Knowledge provides leverage over a given situation.  It is one thing to bet a Hard 8 because you like the idea of a 10 for 1 payoff.   But it is more powerful to understand that the Expected Value (EV) of the Hard 8 is -9.09% and the cut that the House takes from your winning (the House Advantage or HA) of the hard 8 bet is about a dollar for every $10 bet.  Or another way to look at this is that the winning hard 8 is paid $10 for $1 bet.  The true odds are 11 for one.  You really won $11, but the house kept $1, thanks for playing. 

Armed with this knowledge, you’re now going to bet the hard 8 and (a) understand what you’re paying for the payoff, (b) you have a skill to toss the hard 8 which changes the baseline EV or (c) you wish to hedge or enhance a current bet.   Anyway, the point being your not just tossing a buck on the hard 8 with your fingers crossed.  You’re tossing that buck out knowing the consequences of your action with sound reasoning behind it, (and your fingers crossed).

In the midst of all this studying, I kept up my practice routine, to the point of putting in more hours then the spouse cared for or the kids deserved.   I had come to understand that becoming a DI was hard work (at least for me).  Success wasn’t going to just happen without some dedication on my part.  Dedication applied to practice and training, as well as dedication in study and understanding.

Next time well delve into the practice schedule, results tracking, and why the Maddog believes that probability math and the DI are like alcohol and firearms, the two just don’t mix.

Until next time, keep your toss straight and your rack full.

Maddog

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