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[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


      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

      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.


      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

      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 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%."


      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

      * 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!


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