OPEN OR MONEY CRAPS [source: John Scarne, "Scarne on Dice"] Open or Money Craps was once the most popular form of Craps played in this country. It is the favorite gambling game of the country's high rollers and big-money gamblers, but it is seldom, if ever, found in any luxury casino. Money Craps, as the name implies, is almost always played with cash rather than chips. Some big-money crap operators, in order to speed up their game, use small denomination chips. ($5 or $ 10), but all the big bets are made with currency. Money Craps in a gambling house uses a dice table similar to a bank crap table, except that the layout has no proposition bets, such as the Field, one roll come-out bets, and the Hard-way bets. The only betting spaces on the layout are the Lose Line, the Win Line, and the box numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10). The Book's maximum betting limit at Money Craps ranges from a low $25 on up to $1,000 and $2,000, with even that limit lifted in special cases. Fortunes are won and lost nightly at Money Craps. Win- nings and losses of $500,000 or more in one dice session are common at Money Craps. Such heavy gambling occurs very rarely at Private Craps and is impossible at Bank Craps, unless the usual betting limits are upped considerably. It is in games operated in New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, etc. that the big-time gamblers, the horse bookies, the numbers operators, the thieves and dice and card hustlers of the private game and the underworld big-shots gamble with industry's business tycoons, millionaire playboys, stock brokers, politicians, and various other legiti- mate businessmen. Again I must say these people prefer Money Craps because it offers them their biggest opportunity to win large sums of money. Money Craps permits players to take and lay odds on the point wagers among themselves, something that is not permitted at Bank Craps. Flat or center bets, one roll come-out bets and Hardway bets must be placed with the Book which pays off these wagers at the same odds the Bank does at Bank Craps. The big action that the Book receives is on the Off Numbers. Players cannot make an off or box number wager with each other and the Book gets this action whenever players cannot get players to take or lay odds on the point. Open Craps has undergone many betting changes over the years. Back in 1945, the Book permitted players to make all types of bets among themselves. As the game is played today, it should really be called Semi-Open Craps. Open Craps is not restricted to gambling houses. Smaller games cover the country--in streets, back lots, hotel and pool rooms. Nearly every city of any size at all (say 125,000 population or more) has at least one game regularly operating. It may not always be in the same spot, but it's there. Open Craps requires no layout, although in the gambling house the numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 are usually painted on the table so that the operator can keep track of the Box Number wagers. When the players take the odds on the box numbers, most dealers place their money on the numbers, and when the players lay it, the dealer puts the money alongside the numbers. Some dealers ask the players to put their bills face up when they bet right, and face down when they bet wrong. Other operators remember that it is win-money by placing it in a hori- zontal position, lose-money by placing it vertically. With these few aids a single man can deal to a full table of about thirty players. The book never covers the player's wager with his own money because it would waste too much time. Instead, without bothering to count or straighten the bills, he sweeps in all bets he has won after each decision and then, while the stickman holds up the dice, pays off on all bets lost. After new bets are placed and while the dice are rolling, the book straightens out his pile. Since the smaller books and those out in the open get less action on the box numbers, they can operate without any visible layout al- though some dealers carry a mental image of it in their heads and place their bets in the same relative position as though a layout were being used. YOU CAN PLAY WITHOUT CHARGE Open Craps is distinguished from Bank Craps on several counts. Because in the smaller open crap games players can fade the shooter, which cannot be done in Bank Craps, the game is also known as Fading Craps. But the main distinguishing feature and what originally gave Open Craps its present popularity is the fact that the players may not only bet either right or wrong, but may also make wagers among themselves. They are not required to place any bets against the house. This, plus the fact that the game is often played outdoors in the open, is what gives it the name of Open Craps. As in the private game, it is open for any player to bet with any other player as much and as often as he likes. In other games under such circumstances, in Chemin de Fer and poker, for instance, the house gets its income by taking a cut out of the pot. Even bridge clubs make a per hour charge for the play. Some of the smaller open crap games also have a charge, a cutter taking twenty-five cents more or less out of the center bet whenever the shooter makes a specified number of passes, usually one or two. He also sometimes charges the wrong bettors whenever they pass the dice and refuse to shoot when it becomes their turn. But in the Open Game center bets are not allowed because they tend to slow the game and because, in any case, the shooter or players who want to fade the shooter can get the same action if they want it by placing flat bets with the house. Since the players can bet among them- selves without being charged, and since center bets are not made and there is no cutter, Open Craps stands alone as the only house game in the world in which the players do not have to take the wrong end of a percentage and can play without paying the house anything at all! You can, in fact, walk into most houses, play Open Craps all evening, make use of all the house's facilities, and, although its operat- ing expenses may be as much as $10 per player, you can leave without ever having paid a thin dime for your entertainment either in Percentage or as a charge. What's more, if you hit it lucky and make a big win, the house will, if you request it, furnish you with a car and chauffeur to make sure that you get safely home with the cash! It is obvious, of course, there's a joker in all this somewhere. The situation as described would, from the house's standpoint, be economic suicide. But you know as well as I do that gambling houses are not philanthropic institutions; they are in business like anybody else to make money. If under these circumstances, you suspect that their only hope of showing a profit is to cheat, then you have another guess coming. HOW THE HOUSE GETS ITS MONEY The answer is that there is one man present whom we haven't yet described--a very obliging gentleman who saves the whole situation. He stands at the center of the table behind the box numbers on the layout with crisp, crackling new bills of all denominations stacked high before him--enough folding money to make even a busy army pay- master blink and rub his eyes. You will have to go a long way and do a lot of hunting before you meet a more agreeable gentleman. Practically anyone can get along with him. He never gets angry and gives no one (except for the few guys who get sore when they lose) any reason to feel unfriendly toward him. He is not superstitious about the bets he makes: he won't pack up if he wins; he'll bet right or wrong just as you say; he'll cover bets of any amount (within the limit) at any time. It doesn't seem to make the slightest difference to him whether you are winning or losing or whether you walk off with your profits. He just rolls right along like Old Man River, giving any player action win or lose at any time. He is the house man or the book. Whenever the players can't get their money down on the outside, the book will oblige. When they are losing, they go to the book to recoup. When they are winning and crave a killing, the sight of the book's tall stacks of crisp new bills is more temptation than they can withstand and they go in for a stab. "Money goes where money is." The smart gambler rarely goes to the Big Game intending to buck the book with his own dough. But the moment he gets ahead of the game and has some of the other Players' money in hand, he figures that if he sends it in to the book he may hit that lucky streak he thinks he has coming. He goes to the book for the big kill hoping, if his luck holds out long enough, that he may win $100,000 with which he can quit and never return. He knows that few players who make such wins ever do quit but he is always sure that he will be the exception that disproves the rule. The only man who almost never goes to the book, but makes all his bets on the outside is the hustler who is trying to grind out a day's pay and who, because he looks at the game from that angle, is satisfied with slow action and willing to play a waiting game. He doesn't like to gamble by taking the worst of it and he waits patiently until he can get a point lose bet at correct odds on the side. He also has a sharp eye for sleepers-bets left on the table by the busy player who has made more bets than he can keep track of. And he stands next to the greenie and tries to short him, apologiz- ing, when caught at it, for his carelessness. But the hustler's lot at Open Craps is a mean one and the management often tells him to take his business elsewhere. Among gamblers the term hustler is too polite for the guy who hustles the Open Game; they simply call him a chiseler. So, although the players do not have to bet against the book, sooner or later, nearly all of them find themselves doing exactly that. It is then that the house earns the money that pays the overhead and turns in a profit. And here's how it's done. The two most common bets at Open Craps are the Flat Bets and the Point Bets. When the player throws his money down near the book and says "They win" he is bucking the same Percentage as when he puts his money on the Pass Line in Bank Craps and the book has the same favorable advantage of 1.414%. When the player bets they lose, the book, like the bank, bars either two-sixes or two-aces and still has an edge of 1.402%. But point and box or off-number bets get most of the action, and here the book pays off at the correct odds and has no percentage at all in its favor. Its willingness to accept these bets is not given away for free, however. There is a slight service charge. THE HISTORY OF THE SERVICE CHARGE The history of this charge and the way it came about explains why the game of Open Craps is played today. The man who invented that charge made Open Craps possible. Before 1907 bank crap layouts car- ried only five win bets and no lose bets. Because of this one-way and slow action, the houses that tried to popularize it as a banking game were unsuccessful. The Indian or Take-Off crap games got the play because, like the private game of today, the players could bet both ways-right or wrong. The Indian game was called that because the stooping position of the players, crouched above the rolling bones, was reminiscent of a gathering of redskins hunched about a council fire. When a cutter was present who took off five or ten cents on each pass it was called a Take- Off game. Then John Winn went to work on the game. He knew that most of the gamblers of that day had only a vague idea of the correct odds even on the most common bets. They knew the odds on 5 and 9 and on 4 and 10, but most of them thought that 6s and 8s were even-money bets. Even the smarter boys who had a hunch that this was wrong but couldn't figure it guessed that it might be 5 to 4. And, although most players thought, as the inexperienced players do today, that the center and flat bets were even-up wagers, a few began to suspect that the wrong bettor had an edge. They didn't know how much and they over- estimated badly. They guessed that the advantage, which we now know to be 1.414%, was as high as seven or eight percent. Winn was well aware that the gambler who thinks he has the best of it is the player who bets the big money. He knew, if he could only find a way to allow these wrong bettors to bet against him and still retain an edge in his favor that he would do all right for himself. In New York City in the latter part of 1907 Winn solved the problem with a solution that resulted eventually in the Big Game. He invented his quarter charge." He told the boys, "You can bet any way you want, either right or wrong, taking or laying the odds, and I'll cover your bets, but if you want to bet $5 you throw me a quarter; if you want to bet $10 you throw me fifty cents." Since Winn was, in effect, furnishing the same sort of service the racetrack bookmaker does, he was called a book. Because Winn laid 6 to 5 on sixes and eights, the right bettor who only received even money at the Indian game made no objection to the charge. Quite the opposite; some of them even thought that Winn didn't know what he was doing and that this was their big chance to win some real money. But the wrong bettors who had to lay the odds and risk larger amounts than they won naturally didn't go for Winn's idea with the same enthusiasm. As Winn says, "I knew I was going to have to educate those boys to get them to like it. Besides you can't let a player out-talk you and when they beefed I told them 'if you pay a nickel carfare to ride up- town, how much does it cost to ride downtown? Well, it's the same here. You pay both ways.' "With the quarter charge I could take any and all bets any time. And because I showed a lot of money, whenever the gamblers got stuck, they came for a stab at my book. That was exactly what I wanted. I didn't care how often they tried to best me. I knew that my quarter charge gave me enough edge that getting the money was only a matter of time. "I saw another thing too. Most of the houses had been using six- ace flats to protect their take, but with the players betting both ways, right and wrong, that was out. I not only had to be sure that the dice weren't crooked but also that they were perfects. The dicemakers hadn't bothered to turn out absolutely perfect cubes--anything that was ap- proximately square had been good enough up until then. But if I was going to depend on P. C. to get the money, I had to have something better. The dice had to be perfect. My insistence on square cubes made the manufacturers pay some attention to turning out dice that, for the first time, really calipered square. "The players had always stuck pretty much to $5 and $10 bets because there was too much cheating and the inside was always afraid the outside was beating them and vice versa. But now they began to increase their bets. They discovered that when they could bet both ways, percentage dice were of little use either to themselves or the house. "Consequently, when the size of the bets went up, my quarter charge was applied to the bigger bets in the same ratio of 25 cents to $5, or 5%." THE VIGORISH John Winn, therefore, invented the book, the quarter charge that developed into the 5% charge, and is responsible for the game of Open Craps. Eventually, because the 5% charge brought in the money so dependably and was so strong gamblers took the word vigor, added a syllable of jargon as they have a habit of doing when they would rather the laymen couldn't follow their conversation, and called it The Vigorish. Today most books charge 5% of the amount of the right money wagered. If you take odds of 2 to 1 on the 4 and put down $20 against the book's $40, you lay down the $20 and throw the book an extra 5%, or $1. If you lose, you are out $21. If you win, you take down $60 (your twenty plus the book's wager of forty) and the book keeps the $1 vigorish. A bet of $50 against the book's $100 costs you $2.50, etc. Winn's crack, however, about paying the carfare both ways never completely quieted the objections of the wrong bettors. Many of them still beefed and something eventually had to be done. The house fixed it this way. In the wrong bettor's case the vigorish is still figured as 5% of the right money wagered (in this case the book's wager) but it rides with the player's bet and is picked up by the book only when the wrong bettor loses. * The wrong player who lays $20 to the book's $10 must put down $20.50. If the player loses, he is out $20.50, but if he wins, he takes down $30.50 (the twenty he bet, and the ten wagered by the book and the 500 vigorish). The right bettor has to pay the vigorish before the dice start roll- ing, but the wrong bettor's vigorish rides with the bet and the house picks it up only when the wrong bettor loses the decision. You may wonder, under these circumstances not only why two-thirds of all bet- tors are right bettors but why there are any right bettors at all. The answer is that the average player thinks he stands to win more by taking the odds than by laying them. He wants to risk a little and win a lot; he forgets or doesn't know that one of the basic rules of chance states that in the long run the expectation of winning is in direct proportion to the amount of risk taken. Even if he does realize this fact, be still knows that he is putting up less money and that if he can make five or six passes in a row-which is not unusual-he stands to take down more than the wrong bettor, bet- ting the same amounts, can win in Six or SEVEN successive missouts. Right bettors have broken plenty of wrong bettors in one lucky shot because they stand to win and do win larger amounts. When he is lucky, the right bettor wins larger amounts than the wrong bettor, and when he is unlucky his bankroll doesn't melt away as fast. But his big wins come less frequently and the wrong bettor wins his smaller amounts more often. * Point or Off-Number bets may be removed by the players at any time before a decision is effected, and when the shooter makes his point some right bettors want to take their Off-Number wagers down because they believe that sevens are thrown more often on the come-out roll. No gambler can prove that any such thing happens because seven is no more likely to be thrown then than at any other time, but many gamblers believe that it happens just the same. When the right bettor wants to take his bet down the book lets him do so but retains the 5% vigorisb he has paid. Or he may leave his bet stand and ask to have the first roll barred. The book says yes to this too but charges another 5% for the privilege. These maneuvers gain the player exactly nothing. When he takes the bet down he has paid a 5% charge for no action and when the first roll is barred he pays the 5% charge twice. This is not a system; it's a gift toward the care and feeding of able-bodied gambling house operators, given so freely that it could be deducted by the player from his income tax returns as a charitable donation!