CRAPS TOURNAMENT STRATEGIES FOR BEGINNERS
Walker lives in the Southeast and began playing blackjack and other advantage games in 1999. He frequently plays in Online blackjack tournaments (especially www.Bet21.com), and in land-based casinos throughout the US. He is considered one of the premier tournament players in the country. Walker also recently won a craps tournament using the techniques outlined in this article.
Dice tournaments are a lot of fun to play and can offer the skilled player a nice edge over the average opponent. Some of the reasons are:
- Frequently there are 12-16 players per table and most of them simply can�t keep up with the bankrolls.
- Generally the participants are "craps" players and play tournaments as if they are at a gaming table.
- And more importantly, the result of each roll in craps is the same for everyone at the table.
As you will see shortly, point 3 above is an important aspect of the game. For the purpose of the information that follows, I�ll assume that you know the basics of how the game is played and the payoffs for each bet.
There are two primary tournament formats with some variations: accumulation and elimination.
As the name implies, in this format you are competing against all the tournament players and your goal is simply to try to win as many chips as necessary in order to advance. For example, let�s assume 72 players are entered into the event, with six tables of twelve players, and the best 14 scores advance to the final. Your goal is obvious - to end up with at least the fourteenth greatest bankroll compared to all the other tournament players. The issue is how to become one of the 14.
Your first goal is to determine how many chips you will need to win to get you in the top 14 (i.e., what should be your bankroll target). Since making this determination is not an exact science, I�d suggest that you try to play in the latest round possible so that you will know the player scores from the early rounds. This will give you a good idea of what you will need to win to advance. For our example, let�s assume that each participant begins with $1,000 bankroll and $2,500 is the most likely bankroll target that will get you in the top 14. Now you have a target and simply need a strategy to achieve it.
The strategy to increase your bankroll from $1,000 to $2,500 comes down to a personal preference although I�ll summarize some playing and betting techniques that I use. The key, however, is to risk your entire bankroll until you reach your target bankroll.
In the accumulation format, I generally choose one of two methods to achieve a benchmark target. One way is to wager on pass line and all of the point numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10) in a manner that will give you a similar amount won when each number hits (example to follow). If you choose this strategy you can determine ahead of time the amount to wager on each number. Initially, your bets don�t have to be precise because you can make adjustments as you collect your winnings. However, some casinos insist on the bets being "proper," meaning a place bet on the 6 and 8 has to be in increments of $6. If that�s the case, you may want to structure your initial bet from your $1,000 bankroll in the following way:
$20 on pass line with odds
$240 on the 6 and 8
$150 on the 5 and 9 and
$100 on the 4 and 10.
Note: Do not place the point number since it is covered by your pass line bet.
The bets on the six and eight are over-weighted at this point (meaning you are winning slightly more when these bets win compared to what you win on the other point numbers), but this can be corrected after your first collection by adding more chips to the other four numbers. Bet the odds on the pass line with an amount equal to what the place bet would have been. For example, the point is 9. Take $150 initial odds and adjust as money is collected on the place bets. In other words, just treat the odds bet as one of the place bets. Always remember that after each collection, add to your bets until you achieve your $2,500 target, or you bust out trying.
While I have used the above strategy with success, I generally prefer to use the following strategy because most of your opponents will be "craps players" and making similar bets as above (i.e., while you are collecting your winning bets, they are as well). So my preferred method of betting is to wager the don�t pass laying maximum odds.
Once the point is established, you are the favorite to win your don�t bet plus odds since the 7 can be rolled more ways than any point number. When you win, most of your opponents betting the opposite pass line will lose, resulting in a favorable swing. With this method of betting you must be "all in" and win two decisions since you will be collecting less money than you are risking (i.e., when you lay odds, you bet more to win less because you have the edge). Notice that if both consecutive points are four or ten, you will still be shy of your goal. If both points are 5, 6, 8, or 9, you will have surpassed your goal. Also, the maximum bet may prohibit you from making the second all-in bet on the don�t pass line. Use your imagination here to get the rest of your money working for you. A combination of these two methods may also be used if desired. An example would be that you�ve successfully won both don�t bets, but are a little shy of your target number because both points were either 4 or 10 (see example below). It makes little sense at this point to risk the whole bankroll. You may now use a few of your chips for place bets to make up the deficit.
For example, suppose the rules allow up to 10X odds (though the exact amount doesn't matter). From our $1,000 bankroll, we bet $100 on the Don't Pass line and lay $900. We win the bet. Now our new bankroll is $1000 + $100 (flat) + $450 (odds) = $1,550. For the next point, we again bet $100 on the Don't Pass line, then lay the remaining $1450. Assume we win again, therefore, our new bankroll is $1550 + $100 (flat) + $725 (odds) = $2375. This is slightly shy of our target number. This problem shouldn't occur often, but if it does and time allows, a small don't bet will make up the difference. If not, make some place bets.
The more common format is the elimination tournament, which has two versions. One has a defined number of rolls and the round is over, and the other ends on a decision (point made or seven out). In the latter, after a specified time frame, a "last decision" is announced. In both formats, a pre-determined number of players advance from the table.
It should be apparent that the elimination format offers the skilled player a larger advantage than the accumulation format. My recommendation for how to play and bet in elimination tournaments is as follows.
Your betting should be conservative in the early part of the round while you monitor your opponent bankrolls. If you need to make "catch up" bets, the number of rolls remaining will determine when you need to risk your bankroll to do so. However, with only 25 or fewer rolls of the dice per round, you can�t afford to wait too long before making your move. In the case of a decision tournament, you can be much more patient and often not make a move until the last decision is announced.
Tournaments Decided by a Specific Number of Rolls
Once you�ve decided you must risk part, or all, of your bankroll, the number of rolls remaining will dictate your choice of bets. With 15 or more rolls remaining, you may choose to make the necessary wager on, or against, the point. However, with only a few rolls remaining, the above is not a viable option since there may not be a decision before the round is over. In this case, you must make wagers that allow you to collect money on the majority of dice combinations, or as many as possible that will benefit you and not your opponents.
As an example, if the player(s) you are trying to catch have place bets on the 6 and 8, betting on these numbers may do you little good. In this case take the outside numbers (4, 5, 9, 10). The best component of dice tournaments is that there is nearly always a way for you to advance on the last roll. Your goal is to find the bets that will give you the most opportunity.
Tournaments Decided by a Final Decision
Tournaments that end with a decision are played much the same way except that you generally do not have to risk your bankroll until much later. This works in your favor as some of your opponents may bust out and be eliminated before the last decision is announced which makes your task less complicated.
Generally, a countdown of bankrolls will be made just before the final "come out" roll. Now you know exactly where you stand and can act accordingly. If you already have enough money to advance, simply make the same bets as your opponents (i.e., correlate with the opponents that are trying to catch you). As I mentioned earlier, because of the common outcome in craps, it will be difficult or impossible for your opponents to catch you when employing this strategy. If you do not have enough bankroll to advance, don�t panic. You will probably still be the mathematical favorite to advance if your opponents are pass line bettors, and no worse than a 2:1 underdog if they are don�t pass bettors.
To illustrate, let us assume that your opponents are betting on the pass line. Your max bet on the don�t pass line will make you the favorite to advance even if you are a max bet behind (the exact ratio will depend on the point to be made and how much your opponent bets). Let�s say you have $950 left from your original starting bank of $1,000. The leader has $1,700 and the come out roll is a four. Your opponent bets his lead on the point, keeping $1000 plus a chip in the rack. You will make a don�t pass line bet and "lay" your remaining bankroll as odds. You are now a two to one favorite to advance (6 ways to make a seven versus 3 ways to make a four). In this example, a "seven out" will leave you with approximately $1,450 and your opponent with just over $1,000. You may ask why the leader would give you such an opportunity? The answer is that if several players are advancing, he is making approximately the correct bet. That is, he is the leader and correlating with his opponents. If the point is made, he advances. If the point is lost, he still advances.
This last sentence reminds me to reiterate what advantage craps tournaments offer the skilled player. In the previous example, the leader was a lock to advance regardless of the decision. This is a relatively common situation if attrition has damaged the other bankrolls. You need only copy their bets to advance. If you are behind, be creative. In the previous example, there is a better way to use some of your chips. Since the seven out will give you more than enough chips, use the excess chips for place bets. If you can collect enough from these bets, you may actually overcome your deficit and be able to switch to the pass line (correlating with the competition) and advance regardless of the outcome.
To conclude, simply give yourself the best chance by finding bets that gives you the most possibilities. The "field" has 16 winning combinations and is a one-roll bet. Placing all of the numbers will give you 24 winning combinations and remains in action until called off, or seven rolls. Given a choice, use the place bets. And finally, you will sometimes be overwhelmed on the last roll and simply not be sure of your standing or what action to take. In this case, it is better to have your money in action. When faced with this dilemma, make place bets on all of the numbers if collecting money on the final roll will advance you to the next table. If this is in doubt, condense to the "inside" numbers. If that isn�t sufficient, condense further, making bets on the 5, 6, and 8 (non-field numbers).
Finally, keep this in mind. You have probably made a mistake if you do not have your money in action on the final roll. So don�t be shy and if need be risk your entire bankroll until you reach your target bankroll.