#93: Learn to play craps

I was supposed to go kayaking today.  (See #11 on my 101 list).  However, Ma Nature had other ideas.  By noon the outdoor temperature was a mere 63 degrees (F), the air was windy, and the ground was wet from persistent rain – hardly ideal conditions for an afternoon in a boat.  When I called the kayaking enthusiast shop at noon to see if my 1:30 pm lesson was still a go, the owner said it was up to me: he was very willing to take me out on the water, but he commented that if the roles were reversed and he was the one taking the lesson, he would choose to reschedule.  Fair enough.  I pushed the lesson out two weeks.

With my afternoon unexpectedly open, I perused my 101 list to see what indoor activity I might want to complete today.  With over 70% of the items now done, my choice of tasks to address was slim – and my options for an indoor activity were even more limited.  I didn’t want to fight both the weather and the copious amounts of road construction occurring all over the city to attempt an activity across town, so I decided to try a task close to home – which is how I landed on learning to play craps in July.

People who don’t know me very well are surprised to learn that I’m a fairly decent gambler.  I went to Las Vegas for the first time when I was 24 years old (with my parents and my sister [who had just turned 21]), and shortly after arriving in “Sin City” I realized that blackjack was the game for me.  Apart from poker, blackjack has some of the best odds of all casino games.  I also liked that I could be somewhat ‘in control’ of my destiny when playing the game (as compared to blindly feeding money into slot machines), and that other players around the table were usually willing to engage in friendly conversation (if that was desired).  I appreciated that the casino waitresses visited the blackjack table more frequently than other areas of the floor, and I really enjoyed being able to sit next to my dad and spend time in his company: the two of us whiling away hours together, playing and drinking (more soda than alcohol), chatting and just being together.

My family and I spent five days in Las Vegas on that first trip; and while we spent much of our time together, we all also spent some time alone.  (Which is healthy, in my opinion.  We all were adults, after all, and while I love my family dearly [and they adore me, I’m certain {wink}], we each need our individual time and space, too.)  Anyway, during one of my solo strolls down the strip, I walked past a table game occurring just inside the entry way of an older casino on the north end of Las Vegas Blvd.  A sizeable crowd gathered around the table, and both the players and the observers of the game were lively.  People were cheering and jeering, laughing and dancing, clapping and jumping – this game felt like a party.  My curiosity pulled me closer to the action, and soon I found myself standing at the end of a craps table.

I watched as people rolled dice, placed bets, collected piles of chips…. I observed some people roll the pair of dice just once or twice, while others seemed to roll nearly a dozen times on their turn…I saw some people pass on rolling the dice but still place bets, while other people passed on the betting but took turns rolling the dice…I felt the emotions of the crowd shift from elated to crestfallen, then back to elated once more…I didn’t understand most of the action that was occurring in front of me, but I did see that this was a game where people could make a lot of money very quickly (as well as lose a lot of money incredibly fast), and that this was a gambling venture designed for extroverts.  If blackjack was a game intended for math nerds, craps was a game created for cool kids.

Alas, I am not a cool kid (never have been), so after standing at the table for 20 minutes, watching and taking everything in, I left – intrigued, but confused.  I decided that I should learn how to play the game (really play the game), then return to the table later and see how I might fare…

But then I got busy.  Between playing blackjack with my dad, shopping with my mom, walking around with my sister, and just generally enjoying the comfortable familiarity of my family, I didn’t watch the hotel’s gambling TV channel, nor did I seek out any books on “How To Win At Craps”; so I ended up leaving Las Vegas with cash in my pocket, but no craps experience under my belt.

Then the busyness of adulthood began to enter my life, and I focused on work, then dating, then marriage, then grad school, then planning for my financial future, then pondering starting a family, then my career…and ‘learning to play craps’ took a backseat to all of that.

Still, every so often I wondered what it would be like to be able to go to Vegas, sidle up to a craps table, and readily speak the lingo of the game and make bets like a pro.  I imagined that it would feel pretty cool… so I added “Learn how to play craps” to my 101 list.  And today, I did exactly that.

From the comfort of my dining room table I opened Google, searched for “how to play craps”, and clicked on the very first link in the search results. I spent twenty minutes reading the introductory information on the page, writing down notes from the most salient items (I’m a geek, what can I say?).  But after getting through just the first page, I had to take a break and let my mind soak up some of the lingo and logistics – there was a lot of it!

Three hours later, I came back to the web page, continued reading and taking notes – and another twenty minutes later, had to stop once more and allow my brain to process the info.  Yikes.  I didn’t realize that learning craps was going to be such a procedure….

Feeling a little overwhelmed with all of the new knowledge rattling around in my head, I decided to give my brain a rest and allow the process of sleep to assist in solidifying the content I had consumed.

The following morning after breakfast, I checked in with the website once more, and finished reading the information provided.  By the end of my final “study session”, I had taken four full pages of notes; and through the process of reading, writing, and synthesizing the information provided, I had learned the basics of game play and strategy – as well as the best bets a player can make, and the bets that should be avoided.  (Interestingly, I learned that the “simplest-to-understand” bets [like betting the hard ways, or betting one-roll proposition bets] are also the bets that have the biggest house advantage.)  In craps (as in so many other things in life), it really does pay to understand both the rules of the game and the risks involved for each action, so that one doesn’t inadvertently or unknowingly get oneself into a mess of trouble.  Noted.

After I felt like I understood what I needed to know to be effective at the game, I returned to Google and searched for a risk-free venue where I could practice applying my newly-acquired knowledge and put my novice skills to the test.  Google served up an effective site (search result #1!), and I spent 20 minutes playing craps against the computer.  And it was a good thing I completed that practice session – I absolutely needed it.  As the teaching article explained, “Craps is a fast-moving table game. The dice roll constantly, and players need to know the ins and outs of the various types of bets so they can place them within seconds without second guessing themselves.”

I have now read enough and “practiced” enough that I feel like I can claim #93 is ‘done’.  However, in order to really learn craps, I know that I need to go to a casino and play with other humans, with real money.  Repetition is the key to truly acquiring any skill – so who’s up for a trip to Vegas?  Meet me at the craps table.  🙂

Back Camera


About Stef

A "serious" gal who is trying to remember to lighten up and smile.
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7 Responses to #93: Learn to play craps

  1. Ruth says:

    Well that was a fun read. Can’t wait to read the story about your winning from playing real Craps


  2. Jennie Saia says:

    I adore craps! In general, I am a terrible gambler and spend the entire time nervous, but craps is such a social game, as you say. Since almost everyone bets with the person playing, the crowd encouragement makes it so much more enjoyable for me!

    Also, if you know it well enough (like my husband does), you can sketch the board on a few taped-together sheets of paper, put up books as “walls,” and play with nothing but some dice and chips.


    • Stef says:

      Oooh, playing the game on a mock board is a good idea! That would be a fun way to learn how to play with others in a low/no-risk setting.

      Apps are good for learning the basics and practicing entry-level competence; but the social aspect of the game is what makes it more fun. (Of course, winning cash increases the enjoyment factor, too.) 😉


  3. Pingback: #11: Try kayaking | Smile, kiddo.

  4. Touch2Touch says:

    Educational AND fun post!
    I won’t play it myself, could never learn it — but it would probably be exciting to watch you at it!


    • Stef says:

      Aw, Judith, I bet you could learn it if you wanted to. But if you don’t want to learn, that’s another story. Observing can definitely be enjoyable! (And safer.) 🙂


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