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Mad Professor's Mini-Table Craps Tour with the Vegas Ghost- Part II

In Part I of this article, we took a close look at both the Mini-Tub tables, and the smaller sit-down type of Crapshoot tables.  We looked at why casinos install them, and how Precision-Shooters take advantage of them. We also reviewed how a few casinos use certain counter-measures to nullify the efforts of Precision-Shooting advantage-players.

Okay, so let’s get into the actual tour.

Knowing that it would be a long day, I left my suite at NewYork NewYork, and stopped at the Il Fornaio’s Panetteria to fill up on super-octane rocket-fuel (coffee).  If you have had a chance to have one of their beans-roasted-on-premises hand-pressed La Pavoni Italian coffees; then you know what I mean when I say; rocket fuel.

Il Fornaio Panetteria

I had an 8:00 a.m. hook-up time set with Mel, so I started the short drive over to our meeting spot. 

We had agreed that the best place to start the Vegas Ghost tour of mini-tables should rightfully be at the current Precision-Shooters shrine of mini-table profit:


We first explored this small, but super-vibrant casino in my The Ground Zero of Opportunity article back in April of 2001.  Little has changed here over the past 18 months.

This place is so incredibly easy to get into and out of when compared to any other casino on the Strip.  There is a narrow driveway on the southern edge of the property.  You pull into what starts out as Harrah’s northern entrance, then you veer to the extreme left and follow the narrow lane, which leads into the Casino Royale multi-level garage.  In fact, there is surface parking right behind the casino, so it’s a true drive-up, walk-in casino.   That’s not something very many other casinos on the LV Strip can boast about.  The nearest parking space to the main rear entrance is less than two steps away.   Car-to-craps table distance is a whopping sixteen steps.   No valet; just park, make a few strides, and stake out your place at the table.  Total elapsed time, about fifteen seconds.  No mammoth-mall to navigate through; no 3/8th mile people-mover sidewalk; no monorails or overhead cattle-chutes; just park, walk in, and voila, a crapshooters paradise.


Mel and I confirmed that we would meet each other inside Casino Royale right at the tables.  Whoever was first to arrive was to try to get two seats at the 6-seat Crapshoot table.  I was sufficiently dosed-up on caffeine; I was the first to arrive, and I was looking forward to a profitable day.  I figured that if it wasn’t very profitable, at least it would be interesting having Mel along for the tour.  My confidence about profitability was quite high.  I mentally reviewed my track-record on all of the mini-tables in Las Vegas, and I decided that a day or two, or even three dedicated to the Mini-Tubs and Crapshoot tables should provide significant profit opportunities.

It was a pleasant surprise to find only two other players in action at the small table.  One of their 20-player mega-tables was open with 8 or 9 players.  The two “big” tables are usually set at either $1 or $2 minimums.  On the weekend, they sometimes boost one of the land-barges up to $3.  In any event, the large tables allow 100x Odds, while the sit-down Crapshoot table sports a $1 minimum and 10x Odds. 

One other note about Casino Royale is that they allow “PUT” bets.  If you don’t know what they are, I would invite you to read an excellent article that Heavy, Irishsetter and I assembled a while back.  It is entitled, On Put Bets and Precision Shooting, A Roundtable Discussion with Heavy and The Mad Professor .

Mel walked in through the back-door of the casino, and I saw a number of heads turn in his direction.  Even when he is not working, he has the looks of one of Tony Soprano’s “boys” (namely Pauly Walnuts) from the HBO-series, The Sopranos.  With his trademark highly-tailored ultra-suede jackets, to his $300 hand-crafted Robert Talbott Seven-Fold ties, and his $100 haircut, Mel looks all the part of a stereotypical “old-Vegas” casino “associate”, if you get my drift.  Now remember that Mel is a bit of a gambler, the same way that Tiger Woods is a bit of a golfer.

Here’s a picture of Casino Royale when it is empty.  I think the last time it was this empty was in ’92, when it opened.  You can see the two huge tables, and just beyond, to the extreme left, you will see a dealer standing at the Crapshoot table.  Note the angled mirrors on the ceiling, which enables a floor-supervisor to simultaneously view all of the table games at once.

I was already seated when Mel came over.  I handed him a java-filled Styrofoam present from Il Fornaio.   It was still hot when he peeled back the plastic lid.  I bought-in for $200, and he did likewise.

At small casinos that have these smaller tables, you want to camouflage your play as much as possible.  The first step is not to bring unusual attention to yourself.  A large buy-in at a small joint ALWAYS brings attention from the Pit.   Now remember that the dealer on the Crapshoot table also acts as the box-man.  You don’t want him calling out, “Changing one-thousand” to the nearest floor-supervisor for confirmation.  Rather, keep your buy-in as small as most other casual players and tourists do.

I handed in my “Club Royale” Players Card.  Yes, I do want to be rated here.  However, it is important to note that the comps-points are only good for the day you are actually playing.  Comp-value does not accrue, but they do keep you in their computerized data-base.  We’ll talk about their free-offers in a while.

You hand in your “Club Royale” card at the beginning of play.  The Pit Boss or Floor-Supervisor then keeps it at the Pit Clerks desk until you are finished.  When you color-out, you then ask for it back.  It’s a bit of an unusual arrangement, but the granting of food comps is fairly good.   In addition, they have monthly mailers that offer free rooms, free Subway sandwiches, and free TCBY frozen yogurt to even the smallest of carded-players.

Mel commented about the fact that an 8:00 a.m. start finds the tables about as empty as you’re likely to ever find them during daylight hours.  I agreed.  Just as I like frequent shooting opportunities at regular-sized tables, so too do I like them at the smaller tables as well, especially when my Precision-Shooting is really dialed–in.  The early time-slot provided just that kind of opportunity.

I was sitting in the fourth-player position at the table if you count chairs starting at the one on the extreme-left (facing the dealer).  While this is my favorite spot, I am pretty comfortable and successful from almost any spot at this particular table.  From this chair, it is approximately 32-inches of shooting-distance to the far corner wall.  That’s not a great distance in the great scheme of things, but the acute angle does take some getting used to.

The dice were passed to me, and I made a $1 Pass Line bet.   On these types of tables, I forego my usual Come-Out “game-within-a-game” betting-strategy and shooting-sets.  Instead, I look to quickly establish a Point.  The reason will become clear very shortly.

I hadn’t played on a Crapshoot table for about a week or so.  I was a little rusty with my range-finding, but a random-5 was set as the Pass Line point.  I backed it up with full 10x Odds.  I also Put-Bet the 6, 8, & 9, for $1 each with 10x Odds.   Here’s a comparison of the payouts between Put-Bets and Place-Bets:

v      A $12 Place-Bet on 6 or 8 pays $14 = a 16.6% return on investment, but,

v      An $11 Put-Bet ($1 flat with $10 in Odds) on 6 or 8 pays $13= an 18% return on investment.


v      A $10 Place-Bet on 5 or 9 pays $14 = a 40% return on investment, but,

v      An $11 Put-Bet on 5 or 9 pays $16= a 45% return on investment.


v      A $10 Place-Bet on 4 or 10 pays $18 = an 80% return on investment, but,

v      An $11 Put-Bet on 4 or 10 pays $21= a 91% return on investment.

For the Precision-Shooter, those percentages add up to extra dollars in your rack.  It simply gives you more bang for your buck.  Your Signature Numbers are the Place-Bet and/or Put-Bet numbers where you should be focusing your betting attention.  Just remember that your Signature Numbers on the mini-tables may be different than your normal-length table-outcomes.  For me, on the Crapshoot mini-table, my Signature Numbers are customarily more concentrated and consistent than they are on a normal table.  That means that the dominance of my 6, 8, and 9 are sometimes astounding, while the 4, 5, and 10 are not nearly as frequent.

My throwing was still not really reliable enough for my liking at that moment, but I threw a quantity of 8’s and 9’s before my PL Point of 5 was repeated to produce a winner.  As each one of those Put-Bets hit, I replaced them again, and I also bet a single dollar in the Come Box.  As it traveled to the most recent Box Number, I added $10 in Odds.

Since the game is a little slower, even with only four players, you can simply lean the $10 in Odds over-top of the $1 Come bet, and the dealer will move the bet to the relevant Box Number, or does an “Off & On” move with the Come-Bet payoff.

My confidence increased around the seventh or eighth hit on the 6 & 8.  Once I re-established the “9” as my new PL Point number, I decided to increase my flat Come-bets to $3.  As I was contemplating whether the $30 that I had used to take full advantage of the 10x-Odds was a good move, or whether I should ratchet up my Odds a little more gradually, my thought-process was interrupted as I rolled the winner-9.   I still hadn’t been centering my full attention to the task of precisely shooting the dice.  Normally my mind doesn’t wander while I have the dice, and I knew I had to calm my attentiveness.

Mel leaned in closer and said, “’atta boy”, as the dealer paid the four of us off.  I sent in a “nickel for Rob” our dealer, as a locked-in toke.  He certainly didn’t seem to be expecting it, and he said his thanks.

The damn “9” came right back again as the PL Point.   I decided to add  two bucks to the Pass Line, so that I could increase my Odds to $30.   No, the “9” didn’t come right back.  In fact, it went on an extended holiday, and a rash of 6’s and 8’s showed up in substantial clumps.  They were interspersed with all of the other Box Numbers except for the “9”.  I wasn’t frustrated, but it was interesting that even the Outside numbers of 4 and 10 were appearing with much greater regularity and intensity than they usually do.  Both Mel and I were riding the wave of repeating numbers, but along about the thirtieth roll or so, Mel asked with a puzzled look, “Are you sure there’s still a “9” anywhere on those dice?”  I was pretty much thinking the same thing.

I continued to roll, and had put ‘Rob’ the dealer on a couple of numbers as well.  I told him, “I’ve got you ‘On’ as part of my Odds for the 4 and 10.”  He had no problem understanding what I meant when I would throw a nickel his way when the 4 or 10 came in several more times. 

By this juncture, my flat Come-bets were $5, with full 10x-Odds of $50 to back them up.  We managed another nineteen paying-numbers before I 7’d-Out.  I won’t tell you what the profit figure was for that hand because the “infidels”, the non-believers who don’t believe that anyone can make a good living off of this game will have their tight little frilly cotton panties in a lathery bunch, but I will tell you that I KNEW at that point that it would be a profitable day no matter what else transpired in any other session during our tour.

The dice were passed to Mel, who unceremoniously had a real “honeymoon” type hand.  I’ll just tell you that it didn’t last very long, as in, “This won’t take long…did it.”

After his 7-Out, Mel said that he felt like he had to contort his arm, wrist and shoulder to shoot for the (now right-side) opposite corner of the table.  I agreed that chair #3 (counting from the left) was the most acute shooting angle for a right-handed shooter.  I suggested a back-hand kind of toss instead of trying to “turn your hand over”.  He shrugged and said that he’d give it a try on the next go round.  The next two players had quick and painful hands.  Well, they were painful for them and their bets.  I personally left my chips exactly where they should be for every random-roller, except the luckiest or hottest of them; and that is safely in my chip-rack.

The dice came back around to me in less than five minutes.   My favorite waitress was on duty, and just a quick nod to her automatically brought orange juice and a bottle of water to the table.   Their cocktail waitresses are very efficient, and highly professional.  Once they get to know you, it isn’t unusual for them to bring you your normal drink order as soon as you sit down to play. 

I used the recessed drink-holders on either side of my table-spot.  I quickly dried off my hand from the bottle condensation.  I normally don’t handle my drinks with my “shooting-hand” for just that reason, but with a full tray, and no drink-rail, I relented.  I am always sure to wash my hands frequently.  It is not only a good hygienic habit to get into, but it sure eliminates a lot of dice-sticking-to-fingers problems.  I think you can trace a lot of off-axis release problems to precisely that particular cause.

I set the “9” as my Point AGAIN!  I managed to string together a decent 34-roll hand, that saw a pretty even distribution of all the Box Numbers EXCEPT the bloody “9”.   I never did repeat the “9” at all in that hand, although there were only three non-paying trash numbers that showed up.

Mel repositioned himself on the Crapshoot chair to get a better angle on the opposing back-wall.  It was to no avail as he managed to actually under-perform his last effort.  He grumbled like a grizzly-bear with a bumble-bee lodged deeply in the shaft of his manhood.  I told him to change table positions, but he was in the middle of mid-bitch when another two players joined in to the right side of me.

The casino was filling up as the tourist-crowd population swelled.  There aren’t too many Vegas-locals who play here.  If not for the great Crapshoot table, I couldn’t blame them.  Casino Royale is definitely not a palace, except perhaps to the residents of lovely downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, but the profit sure tumbles forth when my Precision-Shooting is dialed-in. 

As the random-rollers took their turn with the cubes, Mel and I talked about the history of CR. 

He said, “When I first got to town in the ‘50’s, Frank Musso had a great restaurant on this property.  Frank was “connected”, and he ran some stuff out back, but it was never anything really serious.  I’ll tell ya though, sonofabitch brought in some great-tasting Midwest beef from Kansas and Nebraska, and the joint was filled four nights a week.  When the “boys” came in from back-East, they’d come here for a good dinner.   Ya gotta remember that places like Tony ‘The Ant’ Spillatro’s (Joe Pesci’s “Nicky Santoro” real-life character in “Casino”) Leaning Tower restaurant (where the current Monte Carlo Hotel is) didn’t open till much later.  So if the boys wanted a good steak and pasta dinner like back home; then they came to Musso’s.”

I asked Mel about this part of the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip at that time.

“Well, you had the Sands in the early ‘60’s, and Frank (Sinatra) and his posse (Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop) had made it famous with their Summit meetings which were among the biggest whore-fests going.  When they made “Oceans 11”, people flocked to town to be a part of what the hip-cats knew was a very special, once-in-a-lifetime sort of era.  I mean there was electricity in the air when Frank was in town.  It’s not like today where we have easy access to movies, and DVD’s, and three-million satellite stations, and digital no-commercial customizable radio stations and MP-3’s and such.  The star-maker machinery was subtler.  The glitz and glamour was real, not contrived like a Ricky Martin or Madonna video.”

Mel went on to say, “The actual casinos on The Strip were pretty far apart.  Like, you had the Flamingo, but they had something like 200 rooms instead of the 3,600 that they have now.   Then you had a few restaurants and motels and stuff; and of course, The Sands.  Across the street you had the Castaways Casino where the Mirage driveway-arch is now, but that was it.  There was no Caesars, or Harrah’s or Imperial Palace or such back then.”

Mel added that, “Musso’s kid, Joey, took over from the old man in the early ‘70’s, and renovated the place pretty nice.  Frankie retired to Islamorada in the Florida Keys, but I lost track of him after his kid sold the place.  This property pretty much stayed the same until around ’79 or so when the Nob Hill Casino opened.  That was on the southern end of the property and a number of different restaurants operated in Musso’s original place.  The property that was right beside it was always a motel of some kind.  Usually, it was one of those “no-tell”-motel kind of places.  Then a TraveLodge franchisee spruced it up a bit, and the Denny’s chain took over the restaurant.

I asked him to elaborate on the Nob Hill Casino that preceded Casino Royales current operation.  He replied:

“The Nob Hill was a small casino.  Even smaller than Casino Royale is right now.  It was designed to look like a turn of the century Victorian-style casino like they had in San Francisco in the late 1800’s.  They had this open wrought-iron fretwork, and a lot of Americanized English-looking gewgaws.  It actually looked pretty neat.  If you think back to how Main Street Station looked when Bob Snow (of Church Street Station fame in Orlando) opened MSS; well, Nob Hill was kinda similar with architectural antiques.  It was a pretty classy looking place from the outside.   In fact, the crenulated-turrets and peaked roofs that you see on the Casino Royale exterior were pretty much there when Nob Hill was open.  They had this open-court style terraced balcony that over-looked the casino floor.  It was reminiscent of an early 1900’s San-Fran brothel, where the ladies could promenade and promote their finer points without disturbing the poker playing gold-miners below. I’m pretty sure that the Nob Hill here in Vegas never attracted any gold-miners, but we still have our share of gold-diggers in pretty much every casino now.  Anyway, I think they closed-in the ceiling and the terrace around late ’91 or so.”

Mel went on to say, “If you look up now, you’ll see the reflective two-way surveillance glass and the angled-mirrors where the balcony used to be.  If you notice, the angled-ceiling mirrors are set perfectly so that a floor-supervisor or Pit Boss can watch up to twelve full games at a time.”

Even from my seated position on the Crapshooter table, I could easily watch the card-action on the blackjack table that was across from me.  I’ll quickly add that if you are more interested in keeping an eye on one of the attractive female players at another table, the ceiling mirrors accomplish the same feat…or at least I heard that you could do that…The Mad Professor would never do anything so lewd and chauvinistic…oh, wait a minute…yes, I would!

By this time, the dice had circulated their way around to me again. I had another decent hand, and lo and behold, the “9” finally decided to show up with a lot more regularity than on my previous hands.  I made six Pass-Line Points over about 34-rolls.  It was a good hand, but with a full 6-player table, the bet payout sequence is fairly slow. 

I find that the level of focus and concentration to stay dialed-in is not as high as it is on a longer table.  I would think that the shorter throwing distances account for that.  On the other hand, it is easier to become complacent and perhaps smug about your shooting because the far wall appears to be SO close…you figure that it’s just GOT to be easy money.  But as Mel’s shooting emphatically proved, it’s not as easy as it looks.

One thing that doesn’t work well for me on this table is a high-trajectory throw.  With a very short shooting range, there is a lot of full parabolic-trajectory mechanics for the dice to go through in a very short distance.  Simply stated, if you throw with a 45-degree upward release, and aim for a target with a 45-degree landing angle; then the dice have to go through their apogee (peak of their arc) in a very short distance.  That being the case, your throwing energy has to be dissipated over a much shorter distance.  It’s surprising how little energy is required to propel the dice to the other side of the table, so consistent shooting can be tricky even from ultra-short throwing distances.

Mel took another turn with the dice.  “Hey”, I said after he 7’d-Out yet again, “You got two tosses of the dice…one to set the Point, and one to lose the Point.  Are you convinced that Precision-Shooting doesn’t work yet?  He then suggested that I perform an illegal act with a certain type of barnyard animal.  At least I HOPE it’s illegal!

We each shot a few more times, and the outcomes were pretty much a carbon-copy of our previous attempts.  I would cooper up a respectable hand, and Mel would immediately 7-Out with his tries.  He was surprisingly calm about his lack of success.  “Listen”, he said, “As long as you continue to shoot like you’re doin’, I don’t care if I make a single number all day long.  I don’t give a shit HOW I win, the important thing is that I DO win.”

I was getting hungry, so he asked his Casino Manager friend who is ALWAYS patrolling the casino floor, for a double-comp to Café Trilussa.  As he handed the comp to Mel, he said with a smile, “I should make you guys pay for your lunch with the way you cleaned us out this morning.”   Mel replied, “Yeah, my buddy got lucky, but I couldn’t throw a thing all morning.”  My Players Card was returned to me, and we shook hands as he bade us an enjoyable lunch.

As we were walking upstairs to the restaurant, I told Mel that I used to ask for and receive a comped Denny’s Grand Slam breakfast when I regularly played the Casino Royale Crapshoot table during the 4:00 a.m to 8:00 a.m. graveyard shift.  Just as I like frequent shooting opportunities at regular-sized tables, so too do I like them at the smaller tables as well, especially when my Precision-Shooting is really dialed–in.  The earlier you show up on a weekday morning, the better your chances for uncrowded playing conditions.  Otherwise, be prepared to camp out and wait for a seat to become vacant at the mini-table.   I have even seen anxious players bribe or pay a seated player to give up their spot.  THAT is how busy it can get!

We had an unhurried lunch at Casino Royale’s Café Trilussa.  The entire west side window of the restaurant overlooks the Mirage Volcano/fountain.  It’s a nice distraction, even during the non-erupting daylight hours.

Mel and I reviewed the list of casinos that were on our Mini-Tub Tour.  They included CircusCircus, Imperial Palace, Barleys Casino & Brew-Pub out in Henderson, Nevada Palace out on Boulder Highway, The Speedway Casino up near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Wild Wild West on Tropicana Blvd. near The Orleans Hotel, The Boardwalk Casino beside the Monte Carlo Resort, and maybe even the old Ernie’s Casino up on Rancho Drive.

I’ll let you know what we did next, in Part Three of this article.

Until then, Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.

The Mad Professor

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