Thursday, April 20, 2006
I ended up blowing off the boat today. I'm gonna hit it hard this weekend so I'm taking a daily breather.
So I ended up catching up on some reading, pondering an uber post. Perhaps I'll bang one out tonight
if when I put some Guinness in my belly.
But I found this crazy post from the rec.gambling.craps newsgroup (who knew?) that I thought I should share with my degenerate gambling readers. Now, RGP had a satire thread here about beating roulette and/or craps and other table games awhile back.
But this here is an authentic post from a guy who received a large inheritance and decided to play craps "professionally" for three months. I'm including his second post in the thread, as well, because he answered questions and also for the gem he wrote about "the house advantage".
I'll add to this that although the house has the mathematical edge on the payouts, the player has an even bigger advantage. Namely, he can simply walk away whenever he feels like it. If the house is beating him, he can simply end the game by leaving the table. But if he's beating the house, the house has to stand there and take it. And even if the house recoups some of its losses, the player can leave with the rest at any time. When you're losing, don't get killed. When you're winning, don't give it all back. I suppose that's just a restatement of the loss limit/win goal theory, but if you can master this simple concept, then I say that you, the player, will have the advantage over the house. It worked for me.
Enjoy this craps masterpiece.
About a year and a half ago, my grandmother on my father's side died.
Because my grandfather had died six years earlier, my father, his three
siblings, and we 17 grandchildren inherited the estate. To everyone's
surprise, it turned out that Grandpa and Grandma were the millionaires
next door. After it was all added up, taxed, and divided, my share as a
grandchild came in at just under $130,000.
Having no family and no debts, every dime of that inheritance was mine,
free and clear. Although it was hardly enough to retire on (especially
since I was only 24 at the time), it certainly gave me some options I
might not have had otherwise. One of them was to go to Las Vegas and
take a shot at playing craps fulltime.
I decided to try it for three months. I budgeted $2,500 a month for
living expenses, and $15,000 for gambling, for a total investment of
$22,500. I started on October 4, 2004 and played until December 18,
2004. I played the first 21 days in a row, took a day off, played 27
more days, took a week off for Thanksgiving, then finished up with 20
days straight, for a total of 68 days.
My basic bet was $110 inside. In the beginning, I also played the Don't
Pass/Don't Come once in a while for roughly the same total amount
(i.e., I would lay about $30 on the Don't Pass and another $30 each on
two Don't Comes, including laying double odds), but I gave that up
before long. In any case, my $15,000 stake was enough for 136
individual series of bets at $110 each. My daily win goal was that same
$110, just one series of bets. My daily loss limit was $550, or five
series of bets. My thought was that if you played 25 days per month --
and I knew I wouldn't quite make it because of the holidays -- you
could earn $2,650 per month, which is about what I had budgeted for
living expenses. Taxes were not a factor. I was simply not going to pay
I planned to play at least nine separate sessions per day, three each
after breakfast, lunch, and supper. In fact, I decided to play all nine
no matter what, as long as I hadn't reached my loss limit. As with the
occasional Don't bet, the nine sessions rule didn't last long, either.
I had been to Las Vegas a handful of times before this. Because I
believe in charting tables before I play, I spend most of my time just
watching or moving between casinos, so I guessed that those nine
sessions would take as long as 12 hours to happen. With time out for
meals, I figured on 14-hour days from the time I left the apartment
until I got home.
I played strictly with cash, buying in for $400 and carrying $700 for
gambling purposes. I know that sounds awfully short for the amounts I
was betting, but because I chart before I play, I don't stick around
for long if I don't win right away. In general, if I'm not ahead after
three or four shooters, I split. Likewise, if I get hit with two
point-sevens in a row, I scram.
And if you want to know whether I came out ahead or behind, you'll have
to keep reading.
I won $490 the first day, but enjoyed only five more winning days in
the next two weeks. Plus, three of those winning days were for less
than my goal of $110, so they hardly counted. After 15 days, I was down
$790 with an actual daily win-loss record of 6-9, and what I call an
adjusted record of 3-9-3. By that I mean I had three days where I won
$110 or more, nine days where I lost $110 or more, and three days where
I either won or lost less than $110. To me, days where the difference
between the house and me was less than one series were effectively
On Day 16, I was ahead around $200 heading into the evening sessions. I
charted the first table I came to and bought in after a couple of
shooters had rolled a few numbers. It looked good.
The new shooter took the dice, established four as the point, and then
ran off 15 straight winning numbers (at least for me), four 5's, four
6's, five 8's, and two 9's (but not in that exact order, of course).
The players were all going nuts, and it was all I could do to keep from
shaking. I knew that between this series and what I had won all day up
to that point, I had probably made up for all my losses to date.
After those 15 inside numbers, the guy threw 2, 3, 11. Now, I have a
rule that says that if a shooter throws three garbage numbers in a row
(i.e., 2,3,4,10,11,12), I take my bets off the board. The idea is that
the shooter isn't throwing numbers anymore, so it's time to stop
betting. Well, sure enough, on that very next roll, he sevened out, so
I got away clean with $560. Unreal.
(I want to take a minute here and say that the
three-garbage-numbers-and-down rule works more often than you'd think.
It doesn't figure in that much, but when it does, it can be a life
saver. Even if the shooter ticks off a winner or two while you're out
of the action, that's still not enough to offset what you would have
lost when the seven showed up. In fact, he'd have to throw four inside
numbers for you to miss a potential profit. Yes, sometimes you stand
there looking like a dummy as six or seven good numbers go for naught,
but those times are the exceptions, believe me. Also believe me when I
say there is nothing more gratifying than taking your bets down, having
the seven come up on the next roll, and having some dealer or player
look at you funny and ask how you knew that seven was next. I've had it
For the next shooter, I went up to 132 inside. He hit eight numbers in
all, and I came away with another $238. For the next shooter, I went up
to 154 inside, but he only hit twice, so I lost $64. I decided that I'd
had my fun, so I took my $734 profit and left.
Because I was still following the nine-sessions-or-bust rule, I played
twice more that night, lost about $200, but still finished the day
ahead $772 and only $18 behind overall after 16 days.
I won four days out of the next five to finish $1,070 ahead after 21
days, or not even half of what I had hoped for. My won-loss record was
11-10 (8-9-4 adjusted), so any profit was a miracle. I also knew that I
had won half that money on one hot shooter, and three-quarters of it in
I made two adjustments. One, I stopped toying with the Don't. I didn't
keep track of every individual session I played, but I didn't have any
memories of any big wins on the Don't, so I decided it was a waste of
Two, I abandoned the nine-sessions-or-bust rule, although time would
show that I probably averaged 7-8 sessions a day, regardless. I decided
to let winning or losing dictate my schedule. As always, reaching my
loss limit meant quitting time, but I also decided that if I was having
a good day (say a $300 profit or more) then I would play until I lost
about a third of it back. You should never quit while you're winning,
but you should always think about quitting while you're ahead. In fact,
I would say that on most of my winning days, I was ahead at some point
for more than I finished with. There were some days, though, that just
kept plugging along, maybe win $65, win $50, lose $40, win $100, lose
$75, win $200, and so on until when I looked up I was ahead a couple or
three hundred after a full day without much fanfare.
There were losing days like that, too.
In the first ten days after the break, I was only 5-5-0, but won $830,
all of it thanks to the big bonanza on Halloween, when I cleared
$1,186, my best day of all. Over the course of the day, I had five
separate sessions where I won $300 or more. I couldn't miss. As the
total mounted, I pressed more aggressively than usual, but always took
a profit on each winning bet. I was ahead about $1,700 by suppertime,
but got clipped in the evening sessions.
I won a couple of hundred the next day, too, but then ran off three
straight losing days for a total of -$916. In fact, in the first seven
days of November, I showed a net LOSS of $54. Yuck!
But after those three big losing days, I won 12 days out of 14. My
adjusted won-loss streaks were 3-0-2, 0-2-0, and a huge 7-0-0, the
latter of which put me over the $110-per-day average for good.
In all, I went 18-9 (16-9-2 adjusted) in the 27 days before
Thanksgiving week, winning $4,526. Of the nine losing days, three were
among the ten worst days I had the entire time, and a fourth ranked
eleventh. On the other hand, I had five of my ten best days in this
same time. I had my two best days and two of my three worst days.
My overall record stood at 29-19 (24-18-6 adjusted). I was ahead
$5,596, an average of $117 per day.
It's hard to say how much of a difference the adjustments I made in
October had. I know I saved money by not slavishly playing nine
sessions, but I really can't tell how much. All I know is that there
were days when I won early but then started to lose, and then quit
before playing nine.
By not playing the Don't, I had more money at risk on each roll, so the
daily wins and losses were greater. This chart shows it best.
During the 27 days before Thanksgiving
Days more than $400, plus or minus: 11 (41%)
Days between -$110 and +$110: 2 (7%)
Days between $110 and $200, plus or minus: 5 (18%)
Profit: $4,526 ($167 per day)
During the first 21 days in October
Days more than $400, plus or minus: 5 (23%)
Days between -$110 and +$110: 4 (19%)
Days between $110 and $200, plus or minus: 6 (28%)
Profit: $1,070 ($51 per day)
In the last 20 days before Christmas, I went 12-8 (11-7-2 adjusted) and
won $3,022, or $150 a day on average. December 11-14 was probably the
most interesting run I had. On the 11th, I had my smallest winning day
($12). On the 12th, I had my smallest losing day (-$28). Then, I had my
two best back-to-back days, winning exactly $1,500 on December 13-14
($722 + $778). On December 8, I tied the record for greatest one-day
When it was all over, I stood at 41-27 (35-25-8 adjusted) with a profit
of $8,618, or $127 a day on average. My living expenses came in right
about on target, so I cleared about $1,000 for the whole episode. In
other words, if I had really been trying to live on what I won, I would
have squeezed out a profit of about $15 a day. Not much.
Some observations and statistics, in no particular order
1. I never reached my loss limit.
I was really surprised by this, although I have to add that if I came
within $110 of it (i.e., one series), I quit for the day. This only
happened four times. In all, out of 27 losing days, twelve were for
more than $300, so I was hardly immune to getting whacked. I just
managed to win enough to at least stave off disaster most of the time.
2. Pretend that $550 is not a lot of money.
In other words, set your loss limit at a level you can deal with
psychologically. This is not a new idea, but it bears repeating.
3. I made it all in only 12 days.
If you listed all my daily outcomes from worst (-$452, twice) to best
(+$1,186), you would see that the first 56 outcomes add up to a profit
of only $58. What that means is that 83% of my time basically went for
nothing. I knew it would be something like that. Win or lose, I knew it
would be a case of two steps forward and one step back, or maybe ten
steps forward and nine steps back.
3a. I made about 3.6%.
I don't have exact stats for every session I played, but consider this
Days played: 68
Sessions per day: 8 (an educated guess)
Shooters per session: 4 (an educated guess)
Amount risked per shooter: $110 (or more when I pressed)
Total shooters: 2,176
Total risked: $239,360
Total profit: $8,618
Total profit/total risked: .036
So, I figure I made about a 3.6% profit on all the bets I made. I know
that that's not exactly right because I didn't keep exact count, but
it's close enough. The point is that although whatever I made was
better than nothing, it wasn't much.
4. Wear comfortable shoes.
Not only did I do a lot of walking between casinos, but craps tables
have no chairs, so you're on your feet literally all day, except for
mealtimes. I bought a pair of walking shoes when I got to town. I can't
imagine being without them.
4a. Don't be overweight.
It isn't so much your feet as your back that can kill you. In fact, I'd
say that standing is more stressful than walking. While comfy shoes are
a must, they can only help so much if you're lugging around an extra
5. Adopt a baseball mentality.
The point here is that it's all day, every day, and you can't get too
high or too low emotionally. Let's do some math. I played on 68
different days. Let's just say that I averaged 8 sessions per day (I
didn't keep track that closely). That's 544 sessions. If you further
figure that at 41-27, I won on 60% of the days I played, then you could
extrapolate that I had 328 winning sessions and 216 losing ones. I'd be
lying if I said I took them all in stride, good or bad, but I tried to
keep it all in perspective. Tomorrow was always another day.
5a. My streaks.
I had one 7-day winning streak and one 5-day winning streak. I also had
two 4-day losing streaks. Other than that, I never went more than three
days in a row either way. All that comes in hindsight, of course. When
you're living them, all streaks look like they'll last forever, despite
what I just said about trying to take each session in stride.
6. I'd bet double (or more) next time.
Put another way, how many times do you have to lose before you get the
hint? At 136 times my minimum bet, my bankroll was way more than I was
ever going to risk. At the worst, I was down $790 overall at one point,
or about seven times my minimum bet. I don't think I would have had to
lose another 129 times the minimum before I realized that I was barking
up the wrong tree. Then again, it's good psychologically to have a
cushion. Looking back, 60-70 times the minimum would have been more
like right, although I wouldn't want to go with less than the $15,000 I
had, no matter what. So, $220 inside (at least) would be my bet if I
ever did this again.
Think about it. Even risking $110 at a time, and winning on 60% of the
days I played, I still barely broke even after living expenses but
before taxes (if I were paying any, that is). In other words, I
probably lost money. Maybe not a lot, but still.
7. The life.
Living expenses are a variable, of course. Maybe you could get by for
less than $2,500 a month, and maybe you couldn't. I had a decent
apartment in a generally quiet neighborhood. After tramping around the
casinos for 12-plus hours a day, it's important to have something
stable to come home to, even if it is kind of empty. I guess I could
have done without the super deluxe cable that I had no time to watch,
as well as the super fast Internet connection that I had no time to
surf, but it was nice to know they were there if I needed them (and
sometimes I did).
I didn't scrimp on food. I ate what I wanted and the cost be damned. As
it turned out, food was just about the only real pleasure I had. I know
that sounds sad and lonely, but it's true. Gambling is not a team
sport, and since I was at it 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week, I
never really made any friends. I got to know some bartenders and
waitresses and dealers here and there, so I wasn't totally without
conversation, but it's not the same.
By necessity, I played a swing shift between about 2 p.m. and 2 a.m.
This means that I was usually up at noon and in bed around 4 a.m. I say
this was by necessity because of the way I bet. I never bet the line,
so I can never shoot, so I can never play unless there are other
players to do the shooting, and there tends to be more players between
2-2 than the rest of the day, or so it seemed to me. I guess I could
make a token pass line bet just for the sake of shooting, but I don't
want to pay what amounts to a tax to make the bets I want to make. That
and the fact that because I believe in charting, I would never just
walk up to an empty table and start playing, no matter what.
8. Final thoughts.
Overall, it mostly sucked because it was a pretty lonely existence. I
called home four or five times a week, and I even had a couple of
friends come out and visit me, but even then I didn't have much fun
because I had to keep playing all the time (or thought I did at the
If I did this again, I'd definitely play fewer hours per week. I said
before that I guessed you'd have to play 25 days a month to make a go
of it. Now, I'd say you wouldn't want to play more than 20, or no more
than the five days a week everyone else works. Of course, this means
you'd have to make bigger bets because you'd be making fewer of them,
but you'd at least get to have some semblance of a life in return.
I don't recommend it to you, even if you have the money. I cannot
imagine you could do it if you had a family to support. Craps is also
not very intellectually stimulating (read "boring" 12 hours a day for
weeks at a time), although your mental math skills will definitely
No, I wouldn't want to do it again. It sounds romantic, going to Las
Vegas and making a living at the tables, but it's a grind. I knew going
in that it probably would be, but it was even worse than I thought,
even though I won more than I expected. What it would have been like if
I had won less, or even lost, I don't want to know.
If you think you want to give it a try, then I wish you luck. I believe
that you can make a living at it, but only if you have enough money to
make big enough bets so that your winnings will add up quickly. It's
not how much you lose, but how much you win that counts. You can't
stand there and try to grind it out $7 at a time. That's just what the
house wants, to keep you playing. Think about how junkets work. To be a
"player" in the eyes of the house, you have to play and play and play.
They know they'll get you sooner or later.
You have to bet it to win it, and you have to have it to bet it. In
other words, to become rich at the tables in Las Vegas, the first thing
you have to do is find some other way of getting rich before you hit
Hello, group. I want to respond to some of your comments, as well as
add a few new thoughts.
1) Some of you wondered about comps. They're not a big deal to me. All
I want is the money. But at the $110 level, you can't help but get the
occasional freebie, which I did.
I ate for free downtown quite a bit, which was nice, but that was about
it. The thing is, I didn't actually PLAY that much. I hung around a lot
just watching and charting, moved from place to place a lot, took time
out to eat (often at home, so there was extra time commuting), and so
on, but I probably wasn't actually in action more than 3-4 hours per
day, and that was spread out over several casinos, so it never added up
to much in any one place. I also never got any players cards, so it was
hard for the casinos to track me over time.
Toward the end, around Thanksgiving, I started getting free eats here
and there on the Strip. Even if they don't specifically track you, they
tend to remember the $110 player who comes in several times a week for
two months, even if he only plays a little bit. Think of it as a
lifetime achievement award.
2) Reader Tom put it well when he wrote, "Wagering in a game where one
is never favored to win doesn't mean one can't win. Some do and some
don't ...." I'll add to this that although the house has the
mathematical edge on the payouts, the player has an even bigger
advantage. Namely, he can simply walk away whenever he feels like it.
If the house is beating him, he can simply end the game by leaving the
table. But if he's beating the house, the house has to stand there and
take it. And even if the house recoups some of its losses, the player
can leave with the rest at any time. When you're losing, don't get
killed. When you're winning, don't give it all back. I suppose that's
just a restatement of the loss limit/win goal theory, but if you can
master this simple concept, then I say that you, the player, will have
the advantage over the house. It worked for me.
3) Reader Midnight Skulker wrote, "I did not get the impression that
the author was seriously considering becoming a professional craps
player. Rather he was conducting an experiment IMHO to determine what
it would be like to play craps full time." That about says it. If it
hadn't turned out to be such a grind psychologically, I might have kept
going, though. As I said in my original post, I did turn a small profit
after expenses, and I would have been comfortable making bigger bets
with the same bankroll, so I would have been basically starting over, a
hair richer, but many times wiser.
4) Reader Alan asked about my job situation and my playing strategy. As
to the first, I was a brand new substitute school teacher (read
"effectively unemployed") at the time of the inheritance, so it was
easy to get away for three months.
In terms of strategy, I started at $110 inside, as I mentioned. The
first two times a number hit, I took my profit. The third and fourth
times, I pressed one unit. The fifth time, I went back down to the
basic five units. From there, I pressed one unit every hit. For every
$300 I was ahead for the day at the start of a series, I'd raise my
starting bet one unit across (i.e., $132, $154, $176).
To keep track of the hits in my head, I used a system that I call
simply "The Count" (I used to call it "Cookie Monster," but that didn't
make any sense, ha, ha). Picture the place bet area on the layout.
Picture the numbers 5, 6, 8, 9. If the first number to hit is 5, the
"count" is "a thousand" (i.e., 1,0,0,0). If the first number is 6, the
count is "a hundred" (i.e., 0,1,0,0), and so on. A series of, say,
3,8,5,8,12,6,5,11,2,7 would produce a count of "twenty-one twenty"
(i.e., 2,1,2,0). It keeps you focused, I'll say that much.
As I mentioned in my original post, I had $7,500 set aside for three
months of living expenses. I would say such a cushion is essential and
that you should strive to maintain it. It's OK to play to win the rent,
just not next month's rent.
But one thing that I never figured out was how to distribute the
winnings between living expenses and bankroll. As it turned out, it
mostly went to living expenses by default. I was never very far ahead
of my monthly goal of $2,500, so there wasn't anything to add to the
bankroll. I made $2,584 in October, $3,858 in an abbreviated November,
and $2,176 in an equally abbreviated December.
But suppose you wanted to win that $2,500 in 20 days. That's $125 per
day. Suppose on the first day, you win $300. Do you apply that whole
amount toward living expenses, or do you apply only $125 of it to
living expenses and put the rest into your bankroll?
The method you choose will have an impact on where to charge your
losses. If you play for the whole $2,500, then it's all bankroll, I
suppose, and you just skim the $2,500 off the top.
If you play day to day, then your losses until you reached $2,500 for
your household fund would be charged to your bankroll and you'd have to
make a note that you owe the household fund an extra $125 the next day,
if you win. Similarly, winning days of less than $125 all go to the
household fund with a note to make up the shortfall later.
Then again, you could say that if at any point in a given day, you're
ahead $125, you put it in your pocket and forget about it. That way,
you could still salt money away for living expenses on days that you
wound up a net loser.
Try this chart on for size:
Today is January 1
Starting bankroll: $15,000 (which is what I had)
Household fund for January: $2,500
Household fund for February: $2,500
Household fund for March: $2,500
Household fund for April: $0
Day 1: +$300
Day 2: +$100
Day 3: -$400
Day 4: -$150
Day 5: +$600
Day 6: -$100
Day 7: -$250
Total winnings: $100
If you played to win the whole $2,500, your household fund for April
would be $100, and your bankroll would be $15,000. But like I said
before, it's really all one piece. You're basically playing until your
bankroll increases by $2,500, and then you'll skim that amount off the
top. From there, everything you win or lose the rest of the month
applies to your bankroll.
If you played day to day and took each day as a whole, your household
fund for April would be $625 ($125 + $100 + $0 + $0 + $400 + $0 + $0)
and you would owe it $250 more because you ended with two losing days.
But if you always took the first $125 of winnings each day, your April
fund would be as much as $850 with nothing owing, assuming you were
ahead $125 at some point on Day 6 and Day 7. Either way, your bankroll
would be $14,475 ($15,000 + $175 + $0 - $400 - $150 + $200 - $100 -
Your household funds for January, February, and March remain untouched.
If you don't make the $2,500 for April before the end of January, you
can either take the difference out of your bankroll and start over and
play for May, or you can keep plugging along until you reach your goal
Me, I'd play day to day and pocket that first $125 if it ever showed
up. Winning is hard. Eat when you can. (As an aside, I recently saw the
movie "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance." What an excellent movie.
Anyway, as I think of that daily $125, I think of John Wayne in that
movie when he says at one point, "Meat and potatoes!" Also the Swedish
woman saying "deep dish apple pie." Go rent it, and you'll see what I
All of this leads to yet another topic that never had a chance to
apply, and that is when to increase your basic bet. I don't mean
pressing when you're winning. I mean, in my case, when to start every
series at more than $110 inside and try to stay at that level.
Start with what I call your "multiplier." It's simply your bankroll
divided by your basic bet. In my case, 15,000 divided by 110, or 136.
Then figure out your progression.
The next level from $110 inside would be a one-unit increase on the 6
and 8 for the always popular $122 inside. That $12 increase times 136
bets would require a $1,632 increase in your bankroll.
But I wouldn't go up then. Instead, I'd look at the next increase,
which would be a one-unit bump on the 5 and 9 for the equally popular
$132 inside. A $22 increase in your basic bet times 136 bets would
require a $2,992 increase in your bankroll. At that point, I'd make the
first progression to $122 inside and stay there until I either fell
back to that $1,632 I mentioned earlier (and then reduce my bets to
$110), or until I had enough for another one-unit raise on the 6 and 8,
or $144 inside. At that point, I'd go up to $132 inside and stay there
until I fell back to the $2,992 level or had enough for $154 inside,
and so on.
Of course, I said in my original post that $110 was probably too low to
start with, but you get the idea.
Yeah, you know, writing all this down, trying to figure it all out,
almost makes me want to go back and try again.
Almost, that is.
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