Dice are a mystery. Winning at this mesmerizing gambling game that has captured the passion of millions of people, most of them men, is even more mysterious.
We've all seen those old movies of people hovering around a blanket on a street corner. It's night and the shooter is shaking, rattling and rolling the cubes in his hand while muttering to himself, 'Seven comes eleven...Baby needs a new pair of shoes...come on, dice, let me break even!'
And then, casting his fate to the wind, the shooter throws the dice.
While I have never made craps my cash game -- the outcome of tossing those dice is just too uncertain -- I have a fascination with dice that goes beyond logic.
John Carroll, who published Weekday, a weekly newspaper in Lake Park, FL., just outside fabulous West Palm Beach, considered craps his favorite diversion. He and I made several weekend forays to Paradise Island in Nassau where he would 'buck the tiger,' as he called it, and attack the dice tables while I took the more logical approach to gambling and played poker.
Dice is pure chance with a touch of skill. Poker is pure skill with luck an abiding factor.
A lot of people don't really know the rules of dice. While there is not enough space in this column to explain all the rules, here are a few pointers on the subject.
In a casino setting, the stick man pushes four dice to the shooter. He selects two dice, bets are made (either 'come' or 'don't come' or some other variation that is too complex to get into. I always put my money on the pass line. The shooter rolls the dice.
If he throws a seven or 11, you win the size of your bet. If he throws three or two, also known as craps, you lose. If he throws any other number from four to 10, that is the point the shooter must make before he throws a seven. If he throws a seven after establishing a point, it's all over. You lose and the casino wins.
Many Indian-owned casinos in places like Oklahoma or Arizona do not provide dice games for their customers. Other states like Nevada and West Virginia offer dice. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why State Legislators who authorize casino or horse betting do not include dice games in the process. It must have something to do with the size of the contributions that are made to their campaign funds.
While I do not play dice on a regular basis, I have enjoyed some exciting times at the dice tables. The most profitable night I ever had shooting dice occurred at a Las Vegas casino in the early morning hours.
I awoke from a deep sleep with the numbers 'six and eight' rolling around in my head. I took a quick shower and headed down to the casino which had only a handful of people at 3 a.m.
The stickman and his associates were trying to stay awake. I exchanged $30 for chips, placed $5 on the come line, and started my roll.
Don't ask me how or why it happened, but for the next 55 minutes I could not lose.
I threw many sevens during that incredible session, but they always occurred in my come-out roll. I made so many points that it was becoming embarrassing. And when I finally cashed in after crapping out nearly an hour later, I had more than $1,400 in chips.
The stickman smiled and shook his head. 'That's one of the longest rolls I've ever seen,' he declared. 'Somebody must like you.'
Experts say the odds of throwing a seven are in the neighborhood of five to one. In other words, you are expected to toss a seven once in every five rolls.
Yet I watched two flight attendants from American Airlines -- women who had never thrown dice before in their lives -- hold those cubes for nearly 40 minutes before crapping out. Everybody at the table made money. When the attractive stewardesses left to watch a show, we all applauded.
My advice for anyone who wants to attempt a winning session at dice is this. Wait until a shooter comes into the picture who carefully sets the dice with certain numbers. Then place your bet on the pass line.
When he establishes his point -- that can be any number except seven from four to 10 -- double or triple your bet behind the pass line, and place bets on all the other numbers from five to nine.
If you're in the mood to gamble, press or double your bets each time the shooter wins on a roll. You do this simply by telling the stickman to press your bet. You can pull in your bets any time you wish. But if somebody is on a roll, you would be foolish to quit while that individual is winning.
Good luck. Let the games begin.