My First Crap Tournament
Copyright © 1998-2021
By Michael Dalton All Rights Reserved
When I first received an invitation to enter the Las Vegas Stardust Casino $65,000 crap tournament I was intrigued from the start. I had read Stanford Wong’s Casino Tournament Strategy book and I had even used Wong’s strategies to beat several blackjack tournaments in the past. But crap tournaments were new to me and I wasn’t sure about my chances of coming in the money. After reading about the event, however, it didn’t take me long to call the casino and reserve my spot.
What got me excited was the overall format of the tournament and the value I would receive for my money. It would cost me $600 (early bird / $650 normally) to enter the tournament and only 100 players could enter. A single re-entry was possible (although not guaranteed) at $250 if you lost in the first round. This was an invitational tournament from casino rated players so I assumed there would be little chance that I would be up against a team of professional tournament players. Also, about $65,000 in prize money was at stake. The prize structure was as follows:
1st place winner $30,000 and a trophy
2nd place winner $10,000 and a trophy
3rd place winner $7,500 and a trophy
4th – 12th place winners $750
All players who make it to the semi-finals receive $250
In addition to the tournament itself, the entry fee would cover 3 free nights in a deluxe Stardust tower hotel room (worth over $40/night at the casino rate or approximately $70/night otherwise) and free buffets (or $8 credit in any other casino restaurant) for me and a guest over the 4 days. A lavish banquet would also be given on the first night and I would be allowed free drinks in any casino bar during my stay. And to top it off they would even throw in a stylish casino logo sweatshirt!
I was hooked on the deal. I called the casino tournament office 800 number and made my early bird reservation for a late first round session. A week later I booked my flight to Las Vegas. I made my reservation for a late session in order to give me a chance to watch one of the early sessions and to give me a feel for what a real crap tournament was about. This late session also would give me a chance to measure up my opponents. Over the next two months I would study up on crap tournament strategy and attempt to learn more about craps in general. Yes, I knew that the game of craps couldn’t be beaten but crap tournaments were an entirely different matter.
When I arrived in Las Vegas I had no idea what the rules of this particular tournament would be. Several modifications in strategy would be necessary depending on the particular rules of the tournament and I would only know what those rules were after I registered and after the banquet the night before the event.
While I studied Wong’s crap tournament strategy I put together a list of questions I needed to have answered before my session. Many of these questions were answered in the rules handout or at the rules banquet but some were not. In particular, I needed to know the answers to the following questions:
|QUESTIONS I NEEDED ANSWERS TO||THE ANSWERS I FOUND|
|1) Is the tournament based on a fixed number of rounds?||1) Yes – 50 rounds fixed. The first shooter (position #1) would be to the stickman’s left.|
|2) Is the tournament based on time?||2) No|
|3) Is the final roll known or does the game continue until a shooter sevens out?||3) Final roll known|
|4) How many players advance to the next round in each session?||4) 1st round 4 winners/table, 2nd round 6 winners/table, 3rd round 4 winners/table, final table 12 winners.|
|5) Are there any changes in how “regular” craps are played?||5) Somewhat yes — Betting must be in order during last 10 rolls. If dice leave the table you can’t change your bet, and dealers can not help you with your bets like in a regular game. All bets must be made while the dice are in the center of the table. No world bets or horn bets (however, each number may be bet individually).|
|6) Can I buy “behind” the numbers to lose. In otherwords, can I bet on a number that a 7 will roll before the number?||6) Yes — with a 5% commission paid to the casino.|
|7) Can I make one roll “hop” bets? (e.g., 1-3, 2-4, etc)||7) Yes — but I was hoping I wouldn’t have to make these bets.|
|8) When is a countdown of all chips performed?||8) Countdown of all chips occurs after the 39th roll.|
|9) How is the end game betting order set up?||9) Button used – shooter must make betting decision first. The end game order picks up with the last shooter.|
|10) What are the maximum bets allowed for each type of bet?||10) All maximum bets were described in the rules handout – basically $1,000 ($1,200 for placing the 6 and 8) was the maximum on line and place bets. Maximum bets on center bets ranged from $100 to $500. A minimum $10 must be in action at all times either on the pass line or don’t pass line, but not both.|
The answers to the first three questions would make a big difference in the strategy I used and I wanted to know the answers to all the questions early enough to give me some study time in my room. All of the above questions were answered in the rules handout except I had to explicitly ask about question 6 and 7.
On the evening before the event I spent time in my room studying the rules and going over strategy in my head. I knew that we would all be given $2,000 in non-negotiable play chips. I also knew that I had to use the “End Game: Final Roll Known” strategy chapter from Wong’s book.
Making bets at craps can be complicated. I made sure that I could make bets quickly without having to think too much about whether or not the bet was optimal. In other words, I learned that to make an optimal place bet on the 6 and 8 you had to be sure that the bet was a multiple of 6 (e.g., a $6 bet pays $7). Place bets on the 5 and 9 require bets in multiples of 5 (e.g., a $5 bet pays $7). Lay bets behind the 6 and 8 require bets in multiples of 24 (e.g., a $24 bet pays $20 after $1 commission) and lay bets behind the 5 and 9 require bets in multiples of 30 (e.g., a $30 bet pays $20 after $1 commission). For buy and lay bets on the 4 and 10 a $20 (buy) or $40 (lay) multiple was necessary. All buy bets, whether for or against the numbers, require a 5% commission paid to the casino so you had to take this into consideration. To make this a little clearer I created a chart similar to the following one. The chart illustrates that, starting with $120, there are a number of bets that will work optimally with any number, whether in front of or behind. If I were to make bets on the 4 and 10 or for any bets behind the numbers I needed to be sure I had a few dollars left to cover the commission. (The commission is indicated by XXCOM in the chart, where “COM” is the commission)
SIDE-NOTE: The following chart is not inclusive of all possible optimal bets. The reason for making place, buy and/or lay bets in a tournament is flexibility. Pass line and come bets do not have flexibility, in that you can not remove these bets from the layout once they are made.
Round 1: Perfect Position
My first session in the tournament could not have gone any better. It began at noon and I had already witnessed one full session earlier in the morning. There were 10 players at my table and I knew that 4 of us would advance to the next round after 50 rolls of the dice. We all started with $2,000 in chips. I started out betting $10 on the pass line. I bet conservatively for most of the session. I was the first shooter to roll the dice and actually held the dice for the first 10 rolls. If I was playing regular craps I probably would have pressed my bets a bit but instead I bet the same way as most of the other players at the table but for slightly less amounts. Most everyone was winning at the table and I was winning but not as much. By the 20th roll, a few players had switched to the don’t side and a few players were making bets of $200 or more. I was now placing the 6 and 8 for small amounts because several other players were betting these numbers as well. On roll 34 I decided to make a move since I had fallen seriously behind BR*4. BR*4 is the terminology that Stanford Wong uses in his book and it refers to the 4th bankroll position. I wanted to be, as a minimum, BR*3 before the end game began. Just before the diceman announced “no more bets” I pushed all my money on the table and placed all the numbers. I bought the 4 and 10 for $500 each (plus $50 commission), placed the 5 and 9 for $300 each, and placed the 6 and 8 for $120 each. I had less than $100 left so I put them on the hard 4 and hard 10. Boy, I wanted a 4 or 10 to roll. A 7 would have wiped me out!
The next 3 rolls of the dice came up 6, 6, 8 which increased my bankroll by $420. After each roll I pressed some of my numbers and hard way numbers in order not to leave any chips in my rack — as these chips would do me no good there! At that time I reevaluated my standing and decided to call “off” all my bets. Calling off your bets means that the bets remain on the table but have no action until you turn them back on again. The dealer placed an “off” button on my number 4 bet (with the understanding that “all” my numbers were off) and on my hard 4/10 combination bet. I was lucky! On roll 38 a 7 came and wiped out all the pass betters bets. I would later find out that my betting confused some of the players at the table who thought that I had lost all my bets.
SIDE NOTE: I almost forgot to tell the dealer that my “hardway” bets were off on the come out. Although my place bets were off my hardway bets automatically were turned back on. Although not allowed for in the rules, a supervisor did mention out aloud that hardway bets were on on the comeout. This announcement alerted me and I turned my hardways back off. What I learned was that if you have hardway bets that are “off” you can’t assume that they will remain off after someone sevens out. You need to constantly monitor your bets — even bets that you previously turned off.
After roll 39 a countdown of all chips was performed and I ended up as BR*3. At this time I knew I would probably still have to bet all my money again just to remain in the top 4 position – but I had something else going for me. I was in perfect position! I calculated that I would be the very last (or close to it) person to have to act on the last roll. With this information and the fact that no one was a serious threat I decided to keep all my bets “off” until the last roll. On the last roll I knew I had to make a bet. “All bets on!“, I announced to the dealer when it was my turn to act. Any of the place bet numbers would keep me in the top four. A 7 would have wiped me out.
Well, luck was on my side this afternoon. A 5 was rolled and I won about $600 to keep me in the BR*3 position, thus allowing me to advance to the next round.
Round 2: If only I had bet
Round 2 of the tournament took place at 9:00 AM on the following day. There were 8 players at my table and we were told that 6 of us would advance to the next round. Thinking back on the event, I wish they had not told us that! I would have prefered if they told us only 2 or 4 out of 8 would advance.
Having 6 out of 8 players advance forced most everyone to play very conservatively. I stuck with playing the pass line and a few numbers for small amounts, as did many of the players. One player, to my left, was betting the don’t pass for small amounts. The dice were hot and I was winning — unfortunately, not as much as everyone else at the table.
I would find out soon enough that I was also in bad position at this table. I would also find out that the player to my left was a decent tournament player. Approximately mid-way into the round the player on my left made his move. He was seriously behind from playing the don’t side and decided to take all the numbers and go all in. A few numbers rolled and after he had gained the position he wanted he took down all his bets. I was still trying to figure out what position I was in.
After roll 39 a countdown was performed and I found myself in position 4. “Not bad…”, I thought to myself as 6 of us would advance to the next round. I decided to hold on to my chips and attempt to match the majority of the bets made on the pass line and the numbers.
As the last roll came it was obvious that this would be a very close contest. There were at least 2 players who had a significant lead, however, I knew that 6 of us would advance. When it came time for me to make a decision on my last bet I attempted to judge what the players on my left would do and finally decided to sit on my chips. As the dice were being picked up for the last roll I knew I had made a big mistake. I should have bet all the numbers and taken my chances that a 7 would not roll.
As fate would have it, a 7 did not roll and several player’s bankrolls were increased. Mine wasn’t!
I lost by $124 as I came in 7th place.
Moral of the story
If there is a moral to this story it is that to be successful in a crap tournament (or any tournament for that matter) you need to be willing to bet all of your money if called for. I played perfectly (well, almost) in round 1 only to blow it in round 2. If I was told that only 4 players (out of 8) would advance in round 2 I would have easily bet all my money on the last roll. I thought I had a chance of sneaking into one of the 6 out of 8 spots available. I was wrong! You can be assured that the next time I am in this position I will not make the same mistake twice.
Playing in a crap tournament can be a lot of fun. The prize money can be good and the value returned to you in the form of room, food, and drink can often make playing very profitable in the long run — assuming you understand tournament strategy and the competition is not too tough.
If you are interested in reading more about casino tournaments I highly recommend you read Stanford Wong’s book and you may want to check out some of the Internet Web sites below.
The books mentioned above may be available from Spur of the Moment Publishing and the Blackjack Review online catalog.