Once upon a time, in a column long, long ago, I told you of my relative ignorance concerning the fine points of table games.
Sure, I can disassemble a slot machine and reassemble it in 15 minutes. (Of course, it would then look like a Salvador Dali painting.) I know all about those confounded one-armed bandits, but, as I said in that long-ago column (I think it was in 1926), when it comes to table games, I’m pretty much a nincompoop.
This has particularly been the case with the game of craps. I never really gave this game a shot, even though experts like Henry Tamburin had tried in the past to teach me the “controlled roll” that can give the player an edge. Every time I tried it, the dice would end up in the next county.
I could always manage to play blackjack with relative ease, at least until I realized that my very presence at the table seemed to make the dealer draw a 21. But the very layout of a craps table was a formidable obstacle. Every spot on that layout indicates a special bet, but to me, the complete layout always looked like a blueprint for a new power plant, or a Twister game board gone horribly awry.
That was until my most recent trip to Vegas, when my nephew convinced me to play craps with him. If I concentrated on just the Pass Line bet, he advised, placing at least a double-odds bet behind it after each point, I could basically ignore the rest of the Twister board. I did that, I won money, and I had a blast. Aside from the money, the camaraderie and high-fiving that go along with making a point were contagious.
Of course, there’s always the stray idiot interrupting the flow of any table game. I remember one guy thought his injection of a line from a TV commercial into the cheering was as hilarious to others as it obviously was to him. With every point, he would shout, “Hump daaaaay…Hump DAAAY!” It was sort of funny, in an annoying kind of way, the first time he did it. But by the guy’s 3,445th imitation of the camel from the GEICO commercial, we were all ready to stomp him to death (or alternatively, to stop playing craps so we could spend 15 minutes to save 15 percent on our car insurance).
Anyway, as I continued my first real session at a craps table, I noticed that many players lay all those side bets on areas of the Twister board that remain a mystery to me. Some of them are easy enough to understand, like hard-way bets that pay big because they rarely happen, or “field” bets that let you benefit from one of several outcomes of the dice. Others, I’m still learning.
But what was intriguing was the variety of ways players call out those bets as they throw chips across the table in quite chaotic fashion. “Field, yo and hard eight!’ “Horn high and yo!” “Eighter from Decatur!” “Two-way skeezits, with a frap up the back!”
OK, I made the last one up, but for all I know, someone said it during the pre-roll chaos. I have new respect for the boxman, the stickman, the gingerbread man, or whoever it is that is responsible for keeping track of all these cleverly shouted bets.
One bit of lingo I kept hearing was “Hi, lo, yo!” You craps aficionados know that this is a wager that the dice will land on a 12 (high), a 2 (low) or an 11 (yo). But it just wouldn’t be the same if players shouted, “I’ll bet $5 that the dice will return a 2, 11 or 12. There’s a good fellow.”
No, it was “Hi, lo, yo! Hi, lo, yo!” I had been standing there making Pass Line bets so long that I decided to throw that same bet. “Hi, lo, yo!” I shouted. At the time, I had no idea what it meant, but I thought it made me sound cool, like I was Sinatra or something. I looked at the spot on the Twister board where the chips landed, and it said 16-to-1. And it hit! And they gave me a bunch of chips. I even “colored up” when I cashed out. Yeah, just like Sinatra.
Of course, my brain realized that the adrenaline rush of hitting one of those long-odds bets is the reason craps tables make money, even after paying all the stickmen, boxmen and gingerbread men. Hit it once, you want to do it again, and you probably will lose.
Still… Hi, lo, yo!