“Yo eleven! Pay the line!”
“Eight! Easy eight!
When it comes to gambling action, a craps table is usually the rockin’est, rowdiest, most exciting place to be. Unfortunately, for the longest time, craps tables weren’t permitted in any of California’s legal casino gambling establishments—namely, the Indian casinos. But thanks to some clever Tribal gaming executives, all that changed.
Well, sort of.
As everyone knows, the game of craps involves throwing a pair of six-sided dice, yielding a roll with a numerical value between 2 and 12. There are 36 possible combinations on every roll and, because dice have no memory, every roll’s outcome is unique and not predicated on anything that happened prior. Thus, the odds associated with every roll are fixed and
easily computable, resulting in specific payouts for every wager that a player can make. Generally speaking, the lower the payout odds, the
more likely the roll and, conversely, the higher the payout odds, the more unlikely the roll.
For example, a 7 is the most common number a “shooter” (the person rolling the dice) can throw, with six different combinations (1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 6-1). That means there’s a 16.67% chance of rolling a 7, which amounts to true odds of 5:1. However, payout odds are only 4:1, and that’s where the house gets its edge.
At the other end of the odds spectrum, rolling a 2 or a 12 (aka aces or boxcars) has only a 2.78 % likelihood, with true odds of 35:1 and payout odds of 30:1. Talk about a gamble!
Now that you understand the odds, let’s take a look at the law. In California, the use of a ball (or dice by themselves) to determine the outcome of a game is strictly prohibited. Sounds crazy, but the powers-that-be felt it necessary to impose certain restrictions when the tribal gaming compacts were negotiated and that ball-and-dice stipulation was one of them.
But anyone with even the most rudimentary knowledge of math knows that a deck of cards is chock full of statistical likelihoods; for example, there’s an X% of chance that you’ll draw a king from a standard 52-card deck. And that’s where their gambling genius kicked in. By removing all cards 7 and higher and keeping just the aces through sixes (numerically 1 through 6), by using two “shoes” (card holding-and-dealing devices), the house could effectively mimic craps dice rolls.
Shoes were then packed with 6 or 8 (or more) appropriately trimmed decks and connected to auto-shufflers, keeping the number of cards in the queue constant and equal (otherwise, removing cards of a specific denomination would alter the odds). The end result is a diceless craps game.
Simple but brilliant.
To deliver a more realistic craps experience, some Tribal casinos use a combination of cards and dice—the roll of the dice translates to which pair of cards are turned up, revealing the final number. And some go so far as to use a color-coded dice/cards system: shooters throw a pair of dice (one red, one blue) and the corresponding numbers determine which cards (from red and blue decks) will be turned over.
Just like in all aspects of life, there will always be haters, and that certainly spilled over into the gambling realm. For no sooner did craps tables hit the California casinos did the egg-headed math whiz naysayers point out that, while the new games’ odds were close—very close—they weren’t (and would never be!) dead-ringer mimics of the dice.
I guess it all boils down to what you do when life gives you lemons. Do you suck on ‘em and deal with the displeasure or do you make lemonade and enjoy every sip?
Me, I’m a gambler and a craps player to the core. Given the choice between not playing craps at all or giving a new variation a shot, I’ll put my money on the pass line every time.
So get your bets up. There’s a new shooter comin’ out!
Here’s a list of where you can play no-dice craps: