With a Roll of the Dice
Some world-class craps players have discovered a way to limit the number of 7s that they hit
From the Print Edition:
Cigar of the Year, Jan/Feb 2005
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Nevertheless, gamblers keep coming to classes like the one that Beau "Dice Coach" Parker holds at home in his Las Vegas living room, where a regulation-size craps table is the centerpiece. Parker, a well-to-do former contractor, has white hair and an effusive personality. His style is such that he couldn't be low-profile if he wanted to be, and the man clearly thrives on the attention he gets from teaching. He plays craps five days a week, averages around 10 sessions per week, and claims to win 70 to 80 percent of the time.
After giving me a quick tutorial on throwing, Parker says, "The object is to have the dice roll off your fingers and land as flat as possible on the felt. You hit the wall with both dice, and they should come to rest in a reasonably tight area. You want to be parallel to the surface and land the dice four to six inches from the back wall. You want to have a nice clear runway so that no chips get in the way of your dice."
While Parker talks, his buddy Pablo, a Webmaster for the Dice Coach's online site, starts rolling. It's a beautiful thing to watch him in action. As with Wong, the dice leave his hand in tandem, fly through the air alongside each other, hit the felt almost simultaneously and enjoy a delicate bounce and roll. It's a little like watching a Major League Baseball pitcher warming up. Pablo manages to hit 21 numbers before throwing a 7. "Do that every time," says Parker, "and you will be in very good financial shape."
After a cup of coffee and a bit more chatting and shooting, it's agreed that we will head downtown, meet Wong at the Las Vegas Club, and play some craps. It's not quite 1 o'clock on a Wednesday afternoon, so the casino is fairly empty when the four of us wander over to a table (trying to look like a quartet of strangers). Pablo takes his favorite position at the head of the table. Parker settles in at the right of the stickman. Wong stands to the stickman's left, the same position that served him well the night before. I stand next to Wong.
Pablo's first to get the dice, and he enjoys a profitable roll. Not quite hitting the 21 mark that he made earlier in the day, but it's perfectly respectable. Two players stand between him and Beau Parker, who heads to the bathroom as one of them gets the dice and promptly sevens out prior to Parker returning to the table. His friend passes up the opportunity to throw, and the dice move on to Wong. Ten minutes into his roll, he's doing very well, helping everyone at the table make money. Twenty minutes after that, Wong is still throwing dice, the pit boss has broken out into a sweat, and a baby-faced croupier gets befuddled by a complex skein of pressed bets and payouts as action around the table becomes increasingly frenetic. After 40 more minutes, a seasoned croupier is brought in and the table roars with the sound of men earning free money. Ultimately, the dice get thrown for some 70 minutes before a 7 is hit.
Wong's hour-plus stretch sets a personal record, earning him a couple thousand, making me $1,000 richer, and doing pretty well by both Pablo and Parker. Parker claims to be tired, happy with the money he's made thus far, and not enthusiastic about continuing to play craps today. I'm disappointed by his decision. Wong views it as a smart move, since it makes Beau Parker look like a lucky guy rather than a skilled dice thrower.
It's the sort of anonymity that Wong himself craves. While he quickly acknowledges that plenty of luck is required for even the most gifted dice tosser to enjoy a 70-minute streak, he's also convinced that the skill component was integral. And he's just as sure that these are the halcyon days for those who can influence the behavior of dice. "I can see there coming a time when casinos will turn increasingly paranoid about skillful shooters," says Wong, who's already preparing for that day by looking anonymous, making less than mathematically perfect wagers, and buying in for only $100 at a time. "I put the entire amount in action and press my bets. But if I were to buy in for $1,000, I would draw attention. I want to be the smallest flea on an elephant. I want to throw dice and be ignored."
Michael Kaplan is Cigar Aficionado's gambling columnist. He is the author of The Best Time to Do Everything (Bloomsbury, 2005).
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