You Must Have Gotten a Phone Call

How many times have you heard the phrase, “You must’ve got a phone call” while standing at the craps table? Seems like I’ve heard it a million times. These days, more often than not it’s part of a dialog that goes something like this:

Shooter: “Hopping the nines for five each.”
Stick: “Two way nines on the hop – five each my first. Dice are out.”
Dice roll
Stick: “Nine, winner. Front line winner. Take the don’ts. Pay the line. Nine came five-four.”
Shooter: “Eighty and down on the hop bet.”
Player next to shooter: “Jeeze. You must’ve got a phone call.”

For some of us, the phone call is a long time coming. For me, it started back in the eighties. I had just started taking a serious approach to craps when I noticed an interesting trend. More and more players were setting the dice to the hard six – in what we now know as the “V-3” set. And many of these players were having incredible rolls. I was unconvinced as to the effectiveness of pre-setting the dice at that point. I still did not understand the mechanics of dice control. Nevertheless, I decided to take the chicken-soup approach. What could it hurt?

The results were mixed. The set did seem to generate longer rolls. I noticed an increase in the number of sixes and eights I threw, but the fives and nines seldom appeared. The four and ten – numbers Scoblete advocated buying at the $30 to $39 level – also seemed to roll more than one would expect. Unfortunately for me, the one number that seemed to come up most often was the three-craps. A typical series might consist of two or three ace-deuces on the come out, followed by an eight, a four, a three, a six, another three, an eleven, a ten, another three, a repeater on the six, then the seven. Sure, I rolled a lot of numbers, but since I was (at that time) primarily a pass line/come bettor I was still losing. A lot. It simply never dawned on me to bet the ace-deuce straight up, as I had been conditioned by every craps book I’d ever read to stay away from the high-vig prop bets and center action.

I was on a cruise ship heading toward Paradise Island in the Bahamas when it finally started to come together for me. I threw six ace-deuces back-to-back. I recall one of the dealers, in a very proper British accent, saying something to the effect of, “If you aren’t betting the three-craps you aren’t winning.” What would a $1 ace-deuce bet parlayed over six hits pay? Try $11 million and down … oh, and here’s a $390,625 hand-in for the boys.

Along about this same time I was delving into the game of roulette. The more I studied the game the more I became convinced that certain roulette dealers had definite signatures. By that I mean that consciously or unconsciously, many dealers were able to exercise some control over where that little round ball landed. It was the dealer who kicked up the rotor speed. It was the dealer who released the ball into the track. And if the dealer paid attention to the wheel it was quite simple to release the ball at the same point and speed every time. Golfer’s call it muscle memory. I called it cheating. Because a dealer who knew the layout well could glance at the areas with the most bets, then send the ball to a sector with less action. Likewise, a dealer who – for whatever reason – liked a particular player could send the ball to the sector of the wheel that player was playing.

I saw this first hand one session back in 1994. There were only three players at the table, myself and an Asian couple. For some reason the dealer took an immediate dislike to the Asians, and set about demolishing them. Keying on their action, I began betting the opposite side of the wheel from their numbers. I started racking up small wins on one and two dollar straight-up bets, and toked the dealer with every win. Eventually the Asians got wise and waited until the ball was spinning before placing their bets. Yet they still got hammered. Why? Because regardless of when they placed their bets, they continued to pick the same numbers over and over. Eventually they gave up and headed for the cage. When they had gone I cashed out several hundred ahead, then put a $5 chip on the table and told the dealer he could either drop it in the box or bet it. “I can hit a 17,” he said (actually, I don’t recall which number he chose, but use the 17 as an example). I bet the 17 straight up for him and surrounded it with a couple of bets of my own. Sure enough, the 17 was what hit.

It was after a particularly grueling craps session that the concept of Signature Numbers for crap shooters came to mind. On those long drives home I would replay every game in my mind, throwing in a “what-if” scenario at every turn. Suddenly it dawned on me. If I could successfully play the dealer’s signature numbers in roulette – a game that’s even tougher to beat than craps – then I should be able to win by betting my own signature numbers – or those of another player – at the craps table.

First, I had to unlearn my prejudice against place betting and prop bets. Place bettors are exposed to a higher vig than pass line/come bettors, but they also have more control over their bets. They get to pick and choose their numbers, vary the size of their bets and take them down at will. Likewise, they only have to score one “hit” on a number to lock up a win. Next I learned the power of the regression move – locking up a win early and making each bet pay it’s freight before pressing. Finally, I had learn how to chart my results.

When I stepped up to the tables I bet what I perceived to be my signature numbers. We all have favorites that we bet all of the time, and I did notice an improvement in my results. Still, I felt I was throwing too many trash numbers. I wanted to change my signature numbers to increase the percentage of point numbers. That way I would not have to keep throwing dollars out for prop bets. I could simply bet the point numbers and collect my winnings. I began a serious study of the various dice sets, reading everything I could find on the subject. I struck up conversations with other setters in the casino and compared notes. I was starting down the path to becoming a qualified shooter.

A favorite on the come-out roll quickly became the hard-four/flying mini-V set. This set yielded a good mix of sevens and elevens on the come out, and often established the point as a six or eight. I noticed other shooters setting the dice to the same axis, only with the hard ten or the Yo facing up. I bet accordingly. Then I noticed a guy using a snake-eyes set – with the five-three facing down table and the four-two facing the back wall. It was, in fact, the crossed-sixes set, and the shooter was getting fantastic results. Then there was the guy with the five-four set with the crossed sixes facing down table. The three-two set which is the five-four standing on its head. And all of these players were winning. That’s when I took the next step – trying it out at home.

I tossed the dice on my desk top first, then on the carpet or the bed. Finally, I invested in a craps layout, a sheet of plywood and a knock-down 1X12 backboard. I experimented with different sets, eventually settling on the crossed sixes with the five-four up, and practiced throwing from different vantage points. I found the optimum distance, loft, and strike-zone for this particular set. I recorded every roll. Then I took it to the casino.

That was eighteen years ago. Since then I have recorded hundreds of thousands of rolls on my home table. While I don’t track every toss in the casino, I do maintain a healthy sense of what numbers I’m throwing. Although some of the guys who play with me regularly might tell you differently, the cost of the one-roll bets – the eleven and twelve in this case – still intimidates me to a degree. If they’re not hitting I get off of them quickly. And when I do bet them it is only in specific situations – on the come out roll or, hoping for a repeater, after one of them rolls. But I always press hits on these numbers one unit and go for the bigger score. In the case of my signataure hardways – the eight and the ten – I always parlay the first hit. Results have been very gratifying.

As for the place bets – come betting has pretty much become a thing of the past for me. Likewise, I find myself betting more aggressively when I’m the shooter. I no longer dread touching the dice. In fact, I look forward to it. The eight, nine and ten are mine. My name is written all over them.

I must’ve got a phone call.