Mel and I had two objectives as we headed towards the banks of our Colorado River destination in Laughlin….
Objective #1 was to win a reasonable amount of money from the mini-tub at the Colorado Belle Hotel-Casino.
Objective #2 was to discuss whether a skilled Precision-Shooter could make a decent living by “specializing” in playing almost exclusively at mini-tub tables.
The Idea of a Mini-Tub “Specialist”
He and I had already won a ton of cash by playing at almost a dozen mini-tables in Las Vegas during this tour. Mel wanted to review the skills and discipline that would be necessary for an average player to succeed at making a mini-tub living.
He reasoned that based on our current success on the mini-tub tour, a reasonably-skilled and disciplined player could derive the lions share of their Precision-Shooting income just from the tiny tables. He added that it was quite obvious by now that the short distance on these tables made it much easier to keep the dice on-axis and turn up mostly primary-face (as set) results for the effort.
Though I agreed with his logic, the process for consistent profitability is not as linear as he was making it sound. I followed that up by saying that, although mini-tub Precision-Shooting was somewhat easier than it is on a normal table; it still isn’t an EASY thing to accomplish.
If It was Easy…
Irishsetter captured the essence of Precision-Shooting when he said, “If it was easy…everyone would be doing it”. It was true when he wrote it a number of years ago, and it still holds true today.
That statement was especially apropos to the Mini-Table Specialist question. To further illustrate my point, I asked Mel why his own shooting hadn’t been significantly better on the small layouts than it is on the normal ones. His simple answer was that he hadn’t put any effort into practicing or fine-tuning his toss AT ALL, let alone tailoring it to mini-tables.
As I see it, the first Mini-Table Specialist obstacle that came to mind, was the fact that the small number of available mini-tubs would mean that you would have to show your face at the same old mini-tub places time and time again. That didn’t appeal to me, simply because most of the casinos where mini-tubs are found, are not known for being loss-tolerant.
When a casino has a LOWER “loss-tolerance” than other casinos, it means that it is easier for them to associate the disappearance of THEIR money with YOUR face. When you combine that with the fact that they aren’t in the business to lose money in the first, and that their own bankroll usually isn’t as large as the “big guys”, you have a situation that a savvy player would have to diligently monitor to avoid detection.
While no casino corporation wants to lose money, the bigger ones are obviously more tolerant of the whip-saw wins and losses that individual tables undergo throughout the day. They know that at the end of the month, they will always emerge as a net-winner. At the smaller places, they feel a higher need to come out of each new player-encounter with a net-win from nearly EVERY customer.
As hard as it is for some people to believe, there are a number of casinos out there that are actually losing money. While management inefficiency has a lot to do with it, specifically targeting the weak ones is definitely NOT in anyones best interest.
In case it isn’t obvious, Mel and I had a very spirited discussion during the 90-minute drive from LV, and I knew neither of us were finished with it. With all of those factors in mind, we wheeled into the ‘Belle’s parking lot.
The Colorado Belle
This place is reminiscent of a late 1800’s paddle-wheeler. In fact, the rooms in the Mardi Gras low-rise portion of the hotel look like they haven’t been refurbished since the late 1800’s. The saving grace is that they have balconies that are literally right ON the riverbank. I don’t know about you, but an early morning coffee or a late-evening night-cap out there as the balmy breezes waft off the Colorado’s swiftly moving current, brings a certain relaxed contentment to your mind. It’s little things like that which brings the whole Lifestyles of the Precision-Shooter into proper perspective.
A female Pit Boss recognized Mel (the Vegas Ghost) as we settled into our spot at their mini-table. I was about to say, “Hey Mel, she’s got a fake smile with your name written all over it”, but it was fortunate that I didn’t, or I would have been wrong.
She turned out to be one of his former Table Game Supervisors from when he tended over the flock at Circus Circus, Silver City and Slots ‘o’ Fun at a time when unicorns still happily frolicked about the earth. I smiled at the thought that Mel had worked as a senior executive for every major casino corporation in Las Vegas, and was still highly regarded by all of them. When your competitors and former employers still hold you in the highest regard and esteem, despite long-standing rumors of having “dug a few holes in the desert”, it says a lot about the character and integrity of the man.
The ‘Belle’s Table
I’ll start by telling you that their mini-tub is VERY bouncy. In fact, most people are taken aback by the trampoline-like effect that rebounds the dice into the ionosphere if they hit at the right (or wrong) angle. However, with a carefully adjusted throw, this table cannot only be tamed, but can also be turned into a meek, mild and very generous benefactor. Setting is allowed and even encouraged by their friendly dealers.
Just as you’ll find at the regular table, the mini-tub is set at a $3 minimum and a $500 maximum bet. Don’t feel insulted that they only offer 2x-Odds. If you can make consistent money at a 5x, 10x or 20x-Odds table, then you can still make money on one that only offers double-odds, albeit a little slower (or at least with LESS volatility).
Instead of whining about the stinginess of the place, take what they offer and make some money off of it. When in Rome, it’s best to think like the Romans do, and indulge in the riches of their treasury.
Our First CB Session
While each Vegas mega-resort is like an ocean-liner on land, but without the sea-sickness, the Colorado Belle is more like a wharfed paddle-wheeler that is trying just a little too hard to be a “party boat”. Although all of the party atmosphere accoutrements are there, most of the players just don’t seem to have the enthusiasm and energy to party 24/7. That’s where the concept falls a little short. Since you don’t have the energetic, and never-ending foot-traffic that you’ll find on the Strip, a Harrah’s-type Party Pit just doesn’t work very well.
The players that are attracted to this place tend to be low-rollers on a limited gaming budget. That’s a segment of the market that the Colorado Belle caters to perfectly, and the party atmosphere attempts to give them more “entertainment” for their gambling dollar. On the other hand, the speed at which their money erodes does not slow down, so the good-times only lasts as long as their modest bankrolls do.
Several players shooting at this table were nothing short of spectacular during our first session. As I mentioned above, the distance to the far side of the table is so short that it seems that you can reach out and almost place the dice in the desired landing spot. The benefit of course, is that they tend to stay on-axis for a much higher-percentage of the time.
I’ll give you an example...
There was a young lady to my right side. The first time I saw her throw, she was as random as anyone could be. After I threw a hand that was good enough to fuel some newfound-riches-giddiness from her and a few of our tablemates, she leaned over and said, “I’m going to try doing that thing that you do with the dice the next time that I shoot”. I thought that she’d forget the idea by the time the dice came around again, but she set them and gently reached out and released them with a super-slow backspin just as I had done during my previous roll. The dice plunked down with that distinctive solid, clunking sound that marks a low-energy landing that isn’t going to stray too far from its initial touchdown spot.
She turned to me and asked if that was the way they were supposed to land.
I told her that she was doing fine, and to just to keep throwing the same way. When the very next roll produced a Pass-Line winning repeater, everyone at the table, including our dealer, looked at me as though I was the one who threw the dice instead of her. I just shrugged innocently and said, “That’s the luckiest roll I’ve ever seen”.
The point is, even rudimentary setting by a total novice who takes the time to send out a nice relaxed throw can catch on pretty fast. She went on to make another PL-winner, which thankfully for my Place-bets, took many more tosses than her first win.
Someone said, “She’s a natural dice shooter”, while I added, “She’s just a natural winner”. I wanted to deflect any notion of dicesetting AWAY from the other players (and dealer), and in its stead, replace it with an “Isn’t she the LUCKIEST?!” sort of consensus.
Now in fact, she probably was luckier than she was skilled, but you have to put all of that into perspective. The throwing distance from where she was reaching out from, to the table sidewall/corner where she was aiming for, was about 40-inches away. We’re only talking about three-and-a-half feet, NOT the eight or ten or twelve feet that most players have to overcome on a normal table. That small snap-shot of a beginners luck (or skill) really brought the entire Mini-Table Specialist subject into clear focus.
I reasoned, if someone with virtually no training at all can unleash a string of great on-axis tosses from a very short distance like she did, could someone with practiced-skill do at least as good, if not considerably better, and then continue to do it consistently. Further, could they do it on the variety of mini-tables that are scattered around Clark County, Nevada.
The idea of specializing in Precision-Shooting specifically at mini-tables remained intriguing. While there are less choices on which to play, there are also many fewer variables between those small tables which a professional player has to adapt to. Therefore, it is much easier to shoot consistently as you move from mini-table to mini-table in your pursuit of consistent profit.
Could You Play Mini-Tubs Full-Time ?
A number of readers have asked whether a semi-skilled Precision-Shooter could dedicate themselves to mastering those small tables, and make enough money to sustain themselves financially. They reason that the short-length and relative numbers make it a likely combination for sustainable advantage play. They further reason that if shorter throwing distances make it easier to keep the dice on-axis AND end up on one of the same four primary faces in which they were first set, then you could make more profit, more consistently.
While that is true, it’s tempered by the fact that some of the mini-tubs are in mini-casinos, and a few of them are much less setting-tolerant.
Colorado Belle- Session #2
We had a light lunch at the Mississippi Lounge. I made a meal out of several appetizers that populate their menu. I knew we were penciled in to the Boiler Room Brew-Pub later in the evening, so I didn’t want to carry extra baggage into my afternoon sessions.
Upon our return to the table, there only remained one lone holdout from the previous group of players. The sole survivor said that the dice turned cold almost immediately after we left. I inquired as to how our little “sweetie” did. He replied that she continued to hold her own during her shooting, but lost it all back on everyone else’s random tosses.
With a practically empty table, it was definitely a lot more comfortable now that there was room to really stretch out when tossing the dice. In fact, my non-planted foot extended far back in the air to allow an even greater extension on my dice release. I made sure that there weren’t any errant pedestrians behind me; otherwise they’d get a permanent imprint of my Size 11’s that they could carry around for the rest of their lives.
With the amount of bounce that this table imparts, I find that the less backspin and the lower the speed of the toss, the easier the dice will settle and stop immediately upon their touchdown. By combining the long reach, together with a super-slow toss, and about one full rotation of backspin, the dice just stick wherever you throw them.
To your minds-eye, it seems like your target is only about 18-inches away from your release-point. While it is somewhat farther away (about 38+ inches), the close proximity of the backwall instills confidence. A side benefit of adaptive Precision-Shooting is that your confidence level tends to build much more quickly on the shorter tables than on their longer brethren.
On these mini-tables, you CONFIDENTLY FEEL IN CONTROL. Surprisingly, your mind-set quickly changes from “I HOPE this continues”, to “I KNOW this WILL continue”.
Good Results Tempered by Common-Sense
During that second session, Mel and I collected on a profusion of Place-bets that we worked up to some lofty proportions. I became conscious of just how lofty, when during my last hand, there was a break in the action as two new players bought into the game. That interruption permitted me to actually look at the stack of chips on all of my box-numbers.
Although the Table-Game Supervisor didn’t have a look of concern on his face, I didn’t want to find out whether he was just naturally unconcerned or whether he had learned to put on a studied, tell-no-tales poker-face.
Based on the amount of my chips on the table, and the fact that I was even thinking those thoughts in the middle of my hand, it was enough for me to reduce those bets back down to more normal levels. When the dice were reactivated, I continued to toss for another half-dozen Place-bet hits. I can honestly admit that there wasn’t one twinge of regret about regressing my bets. I wasn’t irked about the money that I was “losing” on each winning hit. Rather, I was satisfied that I was still collecting money without any amount of consternation or concern from the pit.
I figure that I’m mature enough at this point in my life that I don’t need the ego-gratification of biting the hand that feeds me. I derive my living from the tables, so why would I piss them off to the point where they want to curtail my activities, or even make them uncomfortable enough to keep a contunued eye on my shooting activities.
At the end of that hand, I decided that it was a good time to take another break from the action. There was a shift-change coming up shortly, and I didn’t want the current Pit-meister to point out my purdy face to the incoming suit. I also didn’t want my Rating Card to be carried over to the next shift. I had been hiving off some of the green chips to shield a healthy portion of my winnings. See Profit Skimming - 101 for more details about this concept.
Colorado Belle- Session #3
I waited until after a new herd of dealers and suits came in and replaced the A-team from the prior shift. Mel lagged behind as he pursued some pretty young things that were playing at a nearby Let it Ride game.
When he finally got to our table, he looked surprised at the amount of chips in my rail-space, and asked how much I had bought in for. When I replied that I had used my normal amount, he was even more astounded. I shrugged and said that the table had been going fairly well with everyone making at least one, if not two points. I asked him if he had made any headway with the two lovely girls at the L.i.R. table. He replied with a slight negative shake of the head.
My shooting for that session was passable, but not overly impressive. I fared about as well as everyone else. I’d make one, two or sometimes three PL-Points before sevening-out. The money was steady, but there was no single hand that was outstanding, and we never got to the point where our bets were pressed-up anywhere close to where they had been in our first or second session.
Another Word About the Dealers
Normally I just mention if the dealers are good, bad or indifferent. In this case, I have to add that they are not just friendly at the Colorado Belle, but some well-timed tokes on the Pass-Line with Odds, will bring about a level of accommodation that you won’t see very often in any other gaming jurisdiction.
Let me put that into perspective. If you’ve read my TIPPING: Is There Two Sets Of Rules? article, you already know the fifty or so great reasons to get the dealers into action when you are shooting. I now have one more to add to that list.
At the Colorado Belle, the dealers will almost permit you to "place" the dice at the other end of the table. I was stretching almost three feet over the table towards the opposite end, and not one dealer on any of the shifts I have played there on, have EVER said anything about it. I will sometimes reach out so far, that I just have to virtually drop the dice onto their target, and they still haven’t said a word. Now THAT is what I call accommodating.
For more information about the CB and its tables, you could have a look at my Laughlin Table Report.
Colorado Belle - Session #4
Dinner at the Boiler Room Brew-Pub ran significantly longer than I anticipated. Mel still wanted to throw the dice, but my heart wasn’t really in it. I should have listened to my heart!
To say that the fourth session was a losing one would be an understatement. For Mel, it was a total disaster. For me, it was an irritating punch that I could have, and should have avoided. Playing when I don’t feel like playing, is the kiss of death when it comes to winning. I had consumed a few drinks at dinner, all with the understanding that we were NOT going to be playing any further that night.
The group that we dined with wanted to do a full-table take-over at the mini-tub. I was a reluctant participant, but no one held a gun to my head to either bet or to throw the dice, so I only have myself to blame.
When I’m annoyed to begin with, a loss at the craps table only compounds it. Fortunately it also INCREASES my INTOLERANCE for losing. That annoyance forces me to cut back on my always-low loss-limit even further. I figure, why in the world would I continue to let myself lose, especially when I’m not having fun, and I didn’t want to play in the first place.
For Mel, it was a total meltdown. He was trying to recapture the good times that we had enjoyed at the previous sessions, and he was prepared to lose his entire session bankroll in pursuit of regaining that magic. Alas, it was not to be. Although he ended the day with a net-win, that last session cost him about 80% of his profits.
Until next time,
Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.
The Mad Professor