Today I am going to tackle some casino gaming questions that are frequently asked of me. This is the second of a two-part article.

I will discuss some of the history of the games, how to properly play the games, which games the players might be able to get an edge at. I will cover the basic and most popular games to be found in today’s casinos and online. Usually, the online strategies are the same as the in-house strategies.

CRAPS (Original name: Crabs. After the turn of the 20th century, the name changed to craps.)

QUESTION: So where did this dice game come from?

ANSWER: It is believed that an English game called Hazard may have been the precursor. The dice game that we know today became quite popular in the South and it was called crabs. As the game made its way up the Mississippi toward the Northern states slowly the pronunciation evolved to craps.

QUESTION: Why don’t more women play craps?

ANSWER: World War II saw craps become a favorite game of the military. Military men played the game in every branch of the service. It was not a game played by women (or many women) since women were not as prominent in the armed forces and in the cities women did not hang out in alleys playing craps.

If you watch the early movies that show craps played in the casinos, the men make up almost all the players. Is this true today? It certainly is. 

While more women play the game today, I am guessing they are less than a few percentage points. You can prove this to yourself by walking around casinos where they have steady craps play and you will see men dominate the game – significantly.

If you subtract women who are playing with their male companions, you might find the influence of women to be almost non-existent. Are there many women alone or with women companions playing the game? You can find this out by just looking at the tables.

QUESTION: Is craps a good game to play or a bad game to play? I’ve read different opinions of the game from different writers.

ANSWER: Craps is a great game. Craps is an awful game. Craps can be both of these. The reason is quite simple really; craps has great bets with very low house edges. Make these bets and you have a decent shot of beating the house. You can also apply other techniques that make the game a good one.

However, if you look at a craps layout, you will notice so many bets that have absolutely awful house edges. A good bet at craps can have a house edge of 1.41%, meaning a player’s long-range expectation of losing $1.41 per $100 wagered. Other bets can have a 10, 12, 15 and 17 or more percent house edge. Those high edges are just about impossible to beat in even a relatively short long run.

QUESTION: Why is the game so much fun to play if it has so many poor betting options? What are the players getting out of it?

ANSWER: The game is fun to play, truly fun to play, even for players making poor bets, which is (I’m guessing) the majority of players. The players get to throw the dice to establish and try to hit or miss numbers.  That is active participation. You don’t get that at any other games.

You can hear the cheers coming from the craps tables. You can also hear the moans and groans. The game brings out your emotions in a visceral way. I really don’t know many players who just breeze through a session of craps without some emotional reactions, sometimes big emotional reactions. It’s in the very fabric of the game.

The table itself looks much like an ancient altar where (human) sacrifices were offered up to the gods. These are its primary elements; a call to ancient sensibilities. The ancients wanted help from the gods for various things and craps players want something simpler – money.

Most of the players are betting with the shooter hitting numbers, hopefully their specific numbers that they have wagered, and there is a strong camaraderie among the players at times. 

The few shooters going against the numbers? Well, they are often called darksiders and are generally disliked…or despised. You won’t find many of them at the tables. They are a small, perhaps dying, breed.

QUESTION: So, what bets are the best to make?

ANSWER: If you just go by the house edge on the bets, the answer to this is relatively easy. Bet the Pass Line and back that with odds when it has set up a number as a point. You can become a darksider and bet against the shooter but you have to have the constitution to have most other players dislike you. 

Come bets with odds and that is that.

Casino Dices

QUESTION: But you said there were dozens or more bets you could make at the game? What gives?

ANSWER: Sure, a player could easily have a dozen or more bets working at once. Almost all of those bets would be poor choices if you really want to beat the game over any length of time. Craps bets can be good but most are bad to awful. Go to almost any table and you will see what I mean. Craps players are beaten by the game, yes, but they are just as often beaten by their betting choices if those choices give them very little chance to win.

I would also caution players to make fewer bets, maybe one or two, and that’s it. This is a somewhat controversial decision of mine but I stick by it. The more decisions you face against the house edge, the better the chance the house is going to take the money from you. Most players do make a minimum of three to four bets, certainly when they first put bets out. But the heavy players, known as action players, bet an amazing number of bets.

The definition of action player by the casino is a player who bets often and a lot and is expected to lose a lot.

QUESTION: Can a player get the edge at the game?

ANSWER: Now we come to a big, big question. We know that some players can get a small edge at blackjack by using card counting. The answer is yes, there is a way to get the edge at craps, and that is by controlling to some extent the results of the dice throw. The edge you get is also very small. Millions of dollars will not be coming to you as soon as you learn the technique.

Most people who have tried this sink into losses, sometimes big losses. Many of them fail because they don’t change their betting styles; they are gamblers and listen to the voices of other gamblers who pretend to be able to influence the dice but brag about wins they have had when betting the worst bets on the table. If they bet the worst bets, what do you think? Are they really astute players? I think not.

It can be done but it takes a huge amount of practice and proper betting. Low house-edge bets, period. I do not think someone can pick this up in a few practice sessions. Months would be more like it; many months in fact.

So, there is a possible chance that a player could learn to do this. However, most will fail miserably. And that’s a sad fact.

QUESTION: Give us your playing strategy at the game. I know you play the game all over the country.

ANSWER: My play is very simple really. The man who taught me everything I know was the late Captain, a legend in Atlantic City, at least way back when. 

He had a concept called the 5-Count, a way to pick which shooters on whom you would bet. He did not claim these chosen shooters would have good rolls, it just saved you from betting all the shooters. It eliminated slightly more than half of the shooters.

QUESTION: What about just betting every other shooter or half the shooters, you know?

ANSWER: Well, the hot shooters could be in the half you are not betting on if you just arbitrarily pick them that way.

Okay, I use the 5-Count and then I make one bet, that’s right just one bet, if the shooter makes it past the 5-Count. Unless a shooter gets unusually hot, I stick with one bet and one bet only.

QUESTION: And that’s it? Just one bet for one shooter who makes it past the 5-Count. That sounds like a really boring way to play.

ANSWER: Not to me. I will however go up on three bets on me and on one or two other players with whom I’ve played for years. But the average player? Nope, sorry, no dice…so to speak.

However, do not let me discourage you from playing the game. Even with one bet, it’s a hoot and a howl.

I’ll say it again: craps is the most exciting game in the casino.

SLOTS (Slang: the one-armed bandits)

QUESTION: Okay, so tell me something about slots that I didn’t know.

ANSWER: I might not have any information that you don’t know about already. But I’ll tell you what I know in a general way. 

Slots rule the casino industry. They make up easily 60 to 90 percent of a casino’s revenue. Without slots the huge casino industry would probably have remained in a couple of places in the whole-wide world. Go into just about any casino now and you’ll see the unbelievable impact of the machines.

In 1984 slots became the number-one games in both Las Vegas and Atlantic City. That year turned the tide in the casino world. It became the slot world. As more and more casinos were built in locations across the country and across the world, the slot machines became the winning method for getting people to risk their money against Lady Luck.


QUESTION: How do today’s slot machines work? Are they just mechanical machines?

ANSWER: Not really. Although they are machines, in a sense. They are machines run by computer and a program called the RNG, which is the Random Number Generator. The real name is the Pseudo Random Number Generator because we can’t really create true random numbers.

QUESTION: So that means we can really beat these one-armed bandits?

ANSWER: No, not really. The slot machine is picking winning numbers, which translate into winning symbols and the like when a player asks for a decision but those decisions are going on even when the machine is not being played. That’s part of the genius of the slot machines. It plays even if no player is playing.

You will even see casinos now that have few or no table games as the machines can offer blackjack, craps, roulette and so forth. Even video poker games are really slot games.

QUESTION: Okay, if you know the answers to this. Tell me what machines to play then that make it a closer game between me and the machines. Can you do that?

ANSWER: Yes, I can, to a degree. Avoid all progressive machines. That’s right, the machines that are offering wins of extraordinary amounts have the highest house edges. This means they can be 25-cent machines or five-dollar machines. Don’t play them as they take more money from the players.

Play one coin in machines that do not offer more for full coin (or full credit per decision). You are not being given anything of any worth on such machines. One coin.

In fact, I believe in the one-coin approach to all machines because putting in the maximum credits per decision doesn’t really give you very much. You can play three times longer without much damage. Four hours of one credit will save you a lot of money and/or give you more times at the machines.

Play in slot tournaments. These machines are programmed to be exciting and offer the chance to win without much in the way of expense. Perhaps, no expense.

All the best in and out of the casinos.

Frank Scoblete grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He spent the ‘60s getting an education; the ‘70s in editing, writing and publishing; the ‘80s in theatre, and the ‘90s and the 2000s in casino gambling.

Along the way he taught English for 33 years. He has authored 35 books; his most recent publisher is Triumph Books, a division of Random House. He lives in Long Island. Frank wrote the Ultimate Roulette Strategy Guide and he's a well known casino specialist.