Welcome to the latest installment in the Walking with a Vegas Ghost series of articles. Today we are not dusting off the old gambling scrapbook like we have in past articles. Rather, we are going on a (hopefully) profit-making excursion of all the mini-tables in Las Vegas.
The Vegas Ghost is a friend of mine who is currently employed as a senior executive with a major casino corporation in Las Vegas. He has been in the gaming industry…forever… or at least it seems that way to most of his contemporaries. Actually, he got into the gaming business before John F. Kennedy became President of the United States. That is almost forever in the modern gaming industry that we know today.
This is a bit of a departure for the Vegas Ghost and I. I call him that because his casino-management background over the last forty-something years has seen him employed by just about every casino on the Strip. He knows where the skeletons are buried, and exactly who put them there. Some of the places he’s worked are the huge mega-toilet resorts with nine-kabillion rooms, while some of them are long forgotten victims of the favorite LV-casino-corp pastime; the implosion de-jour.
I call him “Mel” in these articles because that isn’t his real name, and that is the way it has to stay for his continued sheriffs-card-carrying employment in the gaming-biz.
Heavy came up with the idea of doing a sort of “tub-tour” while he was pre-planning his mid-September mega-seminar jaunt. It sounded like an excellent concept, and I thought that I too would give it a whirl…so Heavy, thanks for the inspiration.
Before we begin, let’s define what a mini-table is. There are really two kinds of small tables:
Crapshoot tables are semi-circular, in the shape of an enlarged Blackjack table. There are several sizes, with various table lengths to accommodate either 6, 7, or 8 players. The most common ones are of the 6-player variety. Each player is seated at permanently-installed chairs, which are highly-padded and backed. They swivel, and are extremely comfortable.
Here’s a picture of the biggest 8-player table that they make:
The “large” eight-seater is a true rarity. The usual size is the MUCH smaller 6-seater tables that are found at Casino Royale, Imperial Palace and CircusCircus, just to name a few.
Your chip-rail is built into the padded rail of the table, as is a recessed drink-holder. Some tables have built-in ashtrays with a removable glass-liner. The underside of the table is just above your legs, and the top of the rail is about lower-stomach-to-mid-chest height, depending on your torso and body configuration.
If you are sitting at “first base” or “third base”, which is the right-most and left-most seating positions; then the throwing distance to the far corner of the opposite side is approximately 48-inches (66-inches on the larger 8-player tables). If you are in the center seat at “second base”, the toss to the “far side” of the table is approximately 28-inches (39-inches on the larger 8-player tables). You must remain seated during your dice-throw.
There is only one dealer who serves the Crapshoot table. He changes any cash that comes into the game, he books each bet, and he pays-off all winning bets. He is the stick-man, the base dealer, and the box-man all in one.
The stick (“rake” or “mop”) that the dealer uses is significantly shorter than a conventional stick found on regular tables. At some Crapshoot tables, they use smaller 5/8th or 11/16th inch dice instead of the usual 3/4–inch variety. The back-wall pyramid-shaped “alligator” material may be of a smaller size than you are used to, while some tables use standard-sized “egg-crate” rubber.
All of the normal craps rules apply to the Crapshoot table. They tend to put their higher-skilled dealers onto these types of games, and they tend to use the more personable ones as well. These tables lend themselves to having a party atmosphere, and that is actively encouraged by most casinos that have installed this type of table.
This table can draw a lot of attention from other passing casino patrons, but only seated players can wager on the layout. If you are standing nearby, you cannot reach in to make a wager. In addition, there is a “No Money Plays” rule that is always strictly enforced. That means that ALL bets have to first be converted into casino chips (cheques) prior to betting.
As we’ll see shortly, there is sometimes a line-up of players who are eager to join in the betting-frenzy, as they wait for an available table-position to open up.
The other mini-table that we are interested in covering on this tour is called:
THE TUB or MINI-TUB
This is a VERY small-sized craps table that accommodates eight and sometimes ten players at a time. In actual length, they range from five-feet long, all the way up to (rarely) eight-feet long. The table itself looks normal in all other respects. The height of the rail, and the deck-height are the same as a conventional craps table. And just like a conventional table, all the players stand around it while they play.
Two dealers man this game, and there is no boxman. The stickman does his usual stick duties like booking the Prop bets and moving the dice and calling the game. In addition, on the tub-table, he will also Place some players bets on the Box Numbers. The other dealer serves as box-man and paymaster for the winning bets. The two dealers work in tandem to cover the entire layout.
Just as we find on the Crapshoot table, the stick that the dealer uses on the tub-table is significantly shorter than a conventional stick found on regular tables. In some casinos, they use smaller 5/8th or 11/16th inch dice instead of the usual 3/4–inch variety. The back-wall pyramid-shaped “alligator” material may also be of a smaller dimension than you are used to.
All of the normal craps rules apply to the Tub or Mini-Tub tables. Contrary to what we usually find on the Crapshoot tables, the casinos that have the mini-tub tables usually have less-experienced dealers, so the Pit Supervisors tend to watch the game more closely.
WHY DO CASINOS HAVE THEM?
The primary reason is staffing cost and game-utility. The smaller tables require less staffing. In the case of the Crapshoot operation, it only requires one dealer at a time. They will use a “floating relief” dealer to give the regular dealer a break every forty minutes. When a Mini-Tub is utilized, one less dealer and no boxman equates to significant labor savings.
The second reason is utility. Simply, some of the casinos that install either type of these tables, do not have a high proportion of craps-players in it’s gaming-demographic. If the demand isn’t high enough, it doesn’t make sense to have a fully-staffed full-length craps table. On the other hand, most casino operators realize that as you eliminate table games from the casino-floor mix, they risk losing some of the “real-casino-feel” that even non-craps-playing casino patrons understand and want, for the complete casino-gaming “experience”. Unless a casino wants to be saddled with a “slots-only-grind-joint” reputation, they continue to offer craps, albeit on a smaller scale.
Thirdly, the smaller tables are definitely less intimidating for new or lightly-experienced players. Most people hate to approach and play at an empty table. I personally love it, but I’m not your usual casino patron. Most people don’t want to be the only player at a table. With the mini-tables, they seem more approachable, and therefore less intimidating. If a player is less uptight, then he will be a little looser in his betting activity. Women (virgin players) seem to love the Crapshoot game a lot more than a larger male-only table. Once they find how easy and enjoyable the game can be, they usually discard slot-machine play, and take up “our” game. I encourage that as much as possible.
In addition, the Crapshoot table (and the Mini-Tub to a lesser degree), engenders a camaraderie and party-atmosphere that you usually only find at either a “hot” table, or in dedicated “party pits”. In this case, the ambiance isn’t contrived; it’s a result of the more relaxed tone and atmosphere of a smaller table.
Finally, the small tables take up much less real-estate. The casino measures profit by many different yardsticks. One of them is “profit-per-gaming-position”. That is, the amount of profit a gaming “device” like a craps table generates on a per-player-position basis. Craps tables “hold” a good percentage of the money that is wagered at them.
While you know that the house-edge on a 2x-Odds Pass Line bet is about 0.8%; you should also know that the casinos “hold” (the total amount of profit “won” by the house compared to the total amount of money that is changed into chips) on a normal craps game is in the range of 15% to 28%. The fewer the actual spots at the table; the higher the “profit-per-gaming-position” will be. That is how some casino-managers justify keeping a craps table in operation instead of yielding the space to more and more slot and video-poker machines. Since the mini-tables have a smaller “foot-print”, a strong argument can be made for the continued offering of the game, but on a smaller but more profitable basis.
Well, I probably don’t have to spell it out for you but I will. The shorter throwing distances make both the Crapshoot and Mini-Tub tables a Precision-Shooters paradise.
If you choose your table position wisely, and extend your shooting-arm carefully, the far-wall distance can sometimes be as close as two-feet away. That is accomplished WITHOUT leaning over the table. If you introduce a subtle “lean” into your throw, the distance becomes downright miniscule. During the actual tour, I will show you some “tricks” that make short-distance and accuracy a truly amazing sight.
Well, let’s start with the fact that a lot of these mini-table casinos will not permit any dice-setting by the player. That’s a BIG counter-measure. Further, they generally discourage any leaning or reaching when you throw.
Almost all of these counter-measures are somewhat flexible. It all depends on the casino, the shift, the Floor personnel, and in particular; the dealers.
It also depends a lot on the actual players who are at the table, and how they are acting. I’ll tell you right now that it isn’t ONLY about tipping that will get the crew on your side, although that is a big, and very important part of it. Tipping isn’t the be all and end all of overcoming the counter-measures that the casinos have put into place. During our tour, we will cover all of that and so much more.
OUR GAME PLAN
It took several days before Mel (the Vegas Ghost) was available to partake in this excursion. Getting away from his normal gig is not always easy, especially as we neared the busy Fall convention-season. So I had a bit of time to plan out a route that would get us to all the various mini-table casinos, and with the lowest amount of hassle and the shortest amount of travel time. Of course, Mel had his own ideas and we ended up tossing the plans out the window pretty much right from the beginning.
In the original Walking with a Vegas Ghost series of articles, we did a lot of reminiscing as we walked from casino to casino on the Las Vegas Boulevard Strip to make (usually) one series of bets in each place. That is not the ideal approach for these types of tables, so I devised a better way.
We decided that the specific playing-conditions at each casino would dictate HOW we played and bet; how LONG we stayed and played, and WHERE and how we would play at the next casino on our “hit” list.
In Part Two of this series, the actual mini-table craps tour with the Vegas Ghost shall begin. The best place to start should rightfully be at the current Precision-Shooters shrine of mini-table profit: CASINO ROYALE.
Good Luck & Good Skill at the Tables…and in Life.
The Mad Professor
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