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Craps player's dilemma: Lessons lost at bet time
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Craps player's dilemma: Lessons lost at bet time

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In everything we do, there’s a first time. For casino players, that includes the first time you play each game.

Scott is a Midwestern player who has played craps more than once, but every time seems like the first time. He’s done his prep work, reading books, following online tutorials, practicing at home. But when comes time to play for money, the brain freezes.

“ I’m sure you hear this a lot, but craps doesn’t do it for me,” he said at the start of a series of emails — the conversation here has been condensed from several exchanges. “I’ve never really understood the game and I guess I never will.

“On a surface level, I get it. I’ve read the articles and practiced with friends who are craps players. One dude even has a felt layout to practice on.”

I told him that’s more prep work than most players put in. I highly recommend learning games before you play for money. That’s a big part of why I’ve been writing about casino games since the early 1990s, to help people be prepared for the ins and outs of the games they’ll play.

Sometimes a new game is going to catch your eye and you’re going to wing it and learn as you play. When that happens, keep your wagers low. If you like the game enough to return, look up strategies before your next casino visit.

Unfortunately for Scott, the preparation for craps doesn’t stick.

“I always come away from reading or practice knowing exactly how everything works. I know how the pass line works, I know how don’t pass works, I know how to place and buy, I know how to take and lay odds.

“Then I get into a casino, and it all leaves me. There’s something about the other players, the dealers, all the other things going on around the table and through the aisles that I just totally lose concentration. Maybe even though I know all that stuff, I just haven’t internalized it.

“Whatever, the moment it’s time to bet, it’s all gone. Last time I tried, I bought in for $200, put chips in my rack and just totally went blank. Like ‘WHAT DO I DO NOW? HOW DO I BET?’”

Scott’s case is extreme, but many players have had similar experiences. Playing in a casino is different than playing at home, regardless of whether you’re dealing cards, rolling dice or practicing online.

At home, it’s easy to narrow your focus on games bets and strategies. In a casino, there’s hustle and bustle, sights and sounds to distract you. Dealers urging you to get bets down, cocktail servers hustling drinks, shrieks from slot jackpot winners and much more command your attention.

A craps newbie might find it difficult to fumble through the game. A blackjack player who has learned to count cards at home might find it impossible to keep the numbers in his head in a live casino setting.

I asked Scott if he’s tried playing at a quieter time. Playing on a weekday morning when only a few players are around might help him keep focus. Then, when he’s had one successful session, he might be more confident trying busier times.

“I haven’t tried that,” he replied. “It’s easiest for me to go on weekends. I suppose that doesn’t help. But I’m giving up.

“That doesn’t happen to me with any other game. I play quite a lot of blackjack, a little Three Card Poker and am perfectly comfortable at other games. But I’ve decided it’s time to put craps on my permanent do not play list.”

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