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Rolling Las Vegas

Michael Konik
From the Print Edition:
Winston Churchill, Autumn 93

(continued from page 3)

Schwartz, who runs Gambler's Book Club, says, "As the years go on and long stories grow longer, the money won and the number of passes the shooter made seem to grow as memories fade." Indeed, nobody is sure of the longest string of passes--Binion seems to remember someone rolling 37 winners in a row at his casino--but, according to Frank Scoblete, author of Beat the Craps Out of the Casinos, a Hawaiian man, Stanley Fujitake, known as the Golden Arm, made close to 50 passes at the California Casino in Las Vegas. "He held the dice for over three-and-a-quarter hours. It was a magnificent, epic roll."

Scoblete also recalls a woman in Atlantic City who would regularly hold the dice for 40 minutes. A gang of high rollers called the Crew would hire her to shoot the numbers. "I believe some people, whether consciously or unconsciously, can control the dice," Scoblete says. "They develop a certain rhythm, a feel." Find someone with the "feel," and you'll find a crowd of cheering people around the table.

While there's no substitute for dumb luck, some eccentric crap shooters believe in "PK," or psychokinesis, mind over matter. Of course, the surest way to roll a predetermined number is to use "loaded" or doctored dice. Working with a confederate dealer, gangs of cheaters used to introduce phony dice into the game, dice that, for instance, would consistently turn up the number twelve, a 30-to-1 payoff. Modern surveillance and security techniques, though, have made the game of craps impeccably clean. Beating the house requires something more than chicanery.

Regular players employ a wide range of betting "systems," all of which, thanks to the immutable laws of nature, fail to overcome the house advantage. Played long enough, craps will gobble up all the money. Even "professional gamblers"--an oxymoron if there ever was one--cannot beat the game. After winning a six-figure payoff in a preliminary event at the World Series of poker, "Cowboy" Roy Dudley, a full-time card player, said, "All the money I win at poker I lose at the dice table. I just love to gamble." Even games of chance, though, can be approached analytically or superstitiously. While both methods will likely leave the player a loser, the latter is sure to encourage the dice shooter's demise a lot faster.

For instance, many players call off their bets when one of the dice bounces off the table. They imagine that somehow the cubes have "cooled off." Others increase their wager when a woman is rolling the bones, luck being a lady and all. And then there are the utter fools.

There was an Arab gentleman at the Riviera on the strip. He was betting $1,000 at a time on the "Big Six," a proposition bet that pays even money on a 6-to-5 shot. In effect, on every roll of the dice this fellow was handing the casino $166. (If he was absolutely committed to betting the number six, he could have "placed" the bet with the croupier, who would have charged him the standard 5 percent commission, $50 per $1,000.) Anyone who has played craps for more than ten minutes knows that of all the things you mustn't do, playing the Big Six is foremost. You never play the Big Six; it's the classic sucker bet.

Anyone who has played craps for more than ten minutes also knows that you never tell another person how to spend his money. But the hard-bitten dice players gathered around the Arab's table simply couldn't stand to watch. "I can't take it," said a seasoned crap player named Bob. "It's your money and all, and you can do what you want with it. But do you know you could be saving yourself 11 percent a roll by having the house place the six for you?" he asked the Arab.

Replied the Arab, "Of course, I am perfectly aware of this. But I would rather take the disadvantage than have someone else touch my chips."

This is the kind of gambler who keeps the casino's electric bill paid. And the kind of gambler who ensures the casino can endure the gargantuan swings of fortune.

The odds and the table aren't everything to some gamblers. There are some gamblers who simply crave atmosphere over value. They often end up at some of Las Vegas's "classier" casinos, like the Mirage, famed for its faux volcano. Here, and at many other casinos along the strip, players don't get the full odds, the amount of money you can increase your initial wager behind the line, which is available at other gambling establishments. The Frontier on the strip, and Binion's, Union Plaza, and the Lady Luck downtown offer full, or ten times' odds. But most others give two to three times' odds or, on special promotion days, up to five times' odds.

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