When I’m gambling, I sometimes will invoke little known rules that benefit the player. These rules usually exist out of custom, legality, or practicality.
Not surprisingly, quite a few gamblers do not know these beneficial rules. If you invoke the rules request properly, you’ll seem like a veteran of the game, even if you only started last week. Sure, you might seem a bit bossy or demanding, but it’s your money at stake.
Let’s discuss these rules, so that you, too, can walk and talk like you’re an expert.
RULE #1. CRAPS: BREAKAGE
Look closely at this pic of my odds bet on the 9. This was at the Santa Ana Star Casino, where the max odds are 5x. Why is there a 6x odds bet on the 9? The answer is ‘breakage’.
When the points are 5 or 9, my odds are $30, instead of $25. The extra odds over 5x is known as breakage.
Breakage applies when the point is 5 or 9, and the amount of full odds would result in a payment that would require the casino to round down.
For example, on a 5x game, if the player bet $5 on the pass or come, then full odds of $25 would result in a payment of $37.50. Most casinos do not allow 50 cent chips at a craps game, so the casino would either have to round up or round down.
Both options – of rounding up or down – has its’ pitfalls for the casino. If the house rounds up and pays the player $38, the casino would be losing 50 cents per qualified payout. All those half dollar payments add up, especially when you’re talking about hundreds of thousands and millions of hands.
If the casino rounds down, then the casino is not really offering true odds. Also, on a 5x odds game, where players are betting the $5 minimum, rounding down on a $5 minimum table doesn’t comport to the rules displayed on the table because it’s no longer 5x.
The same problem applies if the house tells the player to bet $24 on the odds. $24 pays $36. Easy and clean, except…it’s not easy and clean because now the house is no longer offering 5x odds, rather, it’s only offering 4.8x odds. See Rule 4 below as to why this can be a big headache for the casino.
Betting $24 will also slow down the casino. It is in the casino’s interest to play as quickly as possible.
The casino’s solution to all these problems is to allow the player to bet an amount that exceeds the posted odds.
That extra $5 breakage has no house edge.
If you are playing craps at a 5x table, and the point is 5 or 9, ask the dealer if the casino allows breakage. If the dealer doesn’t understand the term, ask if you are allowed to bet $30 on your 5 and 9. I’ve met quite a few dealers who have never heard of the term, ‘breakage’.
Most casinos that allow breakage will allow a full 6x. I was at one casino that was a stickler and allowed only $1 over the max odds. So be sure to ask. If you don’t ask, then some casinos will treat the amount over the max odds as a place bet.
If you make the mistake of betting $25 odds on the point of 5 or 9, you will not be paid true odds. You will be shorted 50 cents for your $25 bet. Either reduce your bet to an even number or exercise the breakage option.
RULE #2. CRAPS: THE NATURAL FALL AND YOUR RIGHT TO PROTEST A DECISION
Coincidentally, in the same video, I mentioned above, there is an example of a rule known as ‘the natural fall’ at 22:39.
If you listen closely, the dealer even calls it the natural fall.
The natural fall addresses the times when something on the playing field is preventing the dice from laying flat on the playing surface. Sometimes, the dice will be prevented from laying flat on it’s back by a player’s chips, the other dice, or a part of the table. In the case of the RoadGambler video, at 22:39, the one die is leaning against the back wall in a diagonal position.
The rule states that if the object that is propping up the dice is removed, however, the dice would naturally fall if the item was not present, is considered the roll of the dice.
At most casinos, the items that do not count towards the natural fall rule are the bank of house chips that are in front of the boxman, the dealer’s bowl that contains the other dice, and anything that naturally moves, such as another person.
You should be aware of the natural fall rule because if your bet is large enough, it may be worth your while to protest the natural fall. In the case of the video, I did not protest the natural fall beyond a few words because the stakes were not high enough to protest with any serious vigor.
Several years ago, I was involved in a hand where a die was propped up against two stacks of chips almost perfectly. Usually, it’s easy to determine how the dice would naturally fall. Sometimes, the dealer or box will gently remove the propping item to show how the dice would naturally fall, but in this case, since there were two stacks, and the dealer was unable to determine which object to remove. The box made a determination that I did not agree with, so I asked for the casino manager – who I knew was nearby – to be called.
After the casino manager was called, the casino paid out the point, which was worth $1005 to me. That was a hand worth protesting over. It was a really close hand because the die could have very likely fallen differently depending on which stack was removed first.
On a side note, in that instance, I had enough money where I took a picture and would have asked for a ruling from the casino control commission if the ruling was against me. However, knowing what I know now, I would not have asked for a casino control investigation. Casinos win those disputes at a rate of over 95% when disputes reach a hearing (at least in Nevada).
It’s better to appeal to someone as high up as possible who will look and make a determination.
Be aware of the natural fall rule as protection for yourself. In the vast majority of cases, it’s easy to tell how dice would naturally fall. If you’re not aware of how the die would naturally fall, ask the box to remove the item propping up the die.
In cases where you do not agree with the determination, ask the box to freeze the game for a moment while you examine the situation. If you feel that it is necessary, consider protesting to someone higher up at the casino.
It’s your right to file a protest with the casino regulatory agency of the relevant jurisdiction, although, to be frank, it’ll be a waste of your time because of the low success rate for patron disputes that reach a hearing. The cost-to-benefit analysis in most cases dictates that you should appeal to someone who would look at your dispute from a business perspective, rather than a regulatory perspective. That’s not legal advice. That’s just what I would do, knowing what I know now. Having said that, if there is enough at stake, definitely file a dispute.
RULE #3. POKER: THE STRING BET
During college, I dated a girl named either Melanie or Melody. It’s been so long, I forgot her name. What I do remember is that she made the best pasta I have ever had in my life. I still haven’t forgotten about the lasagna and the spaghetti. Her mom was first generation Italian, and her cooking was phenomenal.
Fast forward about six months, I dated a German girl who was a really good cook. My then-girlfriend decided one day to surprise me with my favorite dish, lasagna. She looked up the recipe online, did extensive research and put her heart and soul into it all. I ate it with a smile and reassured her it was the best lasagna I’ve ever had. She didn’t buy the compliment.
When it comes to most activities and pursuits around which a culture or an advanced body of knowledge exists, it’s easy to emulate the activity, but it’s hard to actually do the activity without betraying the fact that the person is an outsider.
See this placard below? Somebody made this cool looking thing probably as a design to sell in a Las Vegas gift shop. The designer probably doesn’t play craps. In my 30+ years of playing craps, I never heard the term ‘crapped out’ used at the table. That’s something they say in the movies.
See this person shooting this shotgun? This person obviously was given the shotgun and told to pull the trigger as a photo-op. I’m not going to explain the myriad list of things wrong with the pic below.
All three of the above lack something called nuance, which is the difference between really knowing something versus marshaling some superficial information and attempting to bake lasagna.
So this brings me to the issue of string betting in poker. The vast majority of gamblers and poker players know about string bets. Simply stated, string betting is when a player makes more than one bet per allowed betting turn. String betting is prohibited in any poker game that follows generally accepted rules of poker, which includes practically every poker game played in a casino.
I included string betting into this list because I see it in movies and TV shows all the time. It’s distracting and pulls me out of the moment of the scene.
String betting in a scene is what happens when a non-gambler or non-poker player scripts a poker scene for a movie or TV show and the production didn’t consider hiring an expert or advisor.
Please stop with the string bets!
And while you’re at it, please stop splashing the pots.
RULE #4. IN ATLANTIC CITY, THE CASINO MAY NOT ROUND DOWN
Remember what I said about breakage? In addition to the reasons I stated as to why most casinos allow breakage if the max odds are 5x, in New Jersey, the casinos are compelled by law to pay out specific amounts. In states like Nevada, the casinos may set their pay schedules, but in New Jersey, especially on craps, the payouts are dictated by law.
Here is New Jersey Administrative Code § 13:69F-1.5, which dictates that the casino must pay true odds on the odds bet:
If the casino does not pay true odds, the casino is in violation of New Jersey gaming statutes.
This rule applies to other bets on the craps table also. New Jersey is very specific about the odds offering. New Jersey Adminstrative Code § 13:69F-1.4 states that the casinos must pay the exact odds listed in that statute.
In most other gaming jurisdictions, the casino would round down. In New Jersey, the casino rounds…UP!
Remember all that advice I gave you about making sure that you make proper bets or else the casino will short you? Like I mentioned in this article? https://roadgambler.com/craps/dealers-correct-players/
All my advice about making proper bets goes right out the window in New Jersey. Of course, the dealers will correct you, but the worst that will happen is that you are paid extra for your short and improper bet.
Note: thanks to John Koryto for pointing out the New Jersey rule. With his permission, I can tell you that John is a dealer at Hard Rock Atlantic City. Be sure to tip him well, if you should ever grace his table. He’s a good guy and a gentleman, all the way around.
These are just some of the rules involved. There are quite a few more, but I wanted to start with theses rules. Sometimes, knowing the rules can really make a difference to your bottom line. At the very least, knowing the rules will make you seem like you’re a seasoned vet.
Try going up to a craps table and ask if they allow breakage. They’ll think you’ve been playing for years.
Just make sure it’s a 5x table and not a 3,4,5x or 10x table because then you’ll give yourself away. Remember what I said about nuance?