As casinos begin to reopen, players are beginning to see and adapt to a new way of playing their favorite table games. Each game has had to endure new changes in a COVID-19 world. We’ve seen the plexiglass added and chairs removed for card games, but what about the social game of craps? How will craps change, how can they social distance, and how will the casinos prevent the spread of germs were the questions that sparked our curiosity. URComped CEO, Craig Shacklett, interviews the owner and operator of Axis Power Craps, Steve “Heavy” Haltom, in order to learn how this popular dice game is changing. Listen to podcast version.
Topics Discussed Include:
- Craps changes during COVID-19 times
- Sanitation and stick changes
- Table limits increasing
- Press strategy tip
- When to play the Don’ts
Full Transcript Below
(0:00-0:36) Craig Shacklett: Alright. Hello, everybody. We have a special guest here. We have Steve “Heavy” Haltom, owner/operator of Axis Power Craps. Check it out axispowercraps.com. They’ve got an amazing message board on all things Craps. Craps strategy, betting strategy, throwing strategies. And we have done Craps Cruises together. We’re on number four this October. So we’ve gotten a lot of times to hang-out together and talk Craps. And I’m excited to talk Craps with you right now.
(0:36-0:38) Steve Haltom: Looking forward to it.
(0:38-0:59) CS: I know we’ve swapped emails in anticipation of our October Craps Cruise Four. There’s still spots available. So book it if you’re interested. But you have had the chance since the re-opening of casinos cross-country to play some Craps in different jurisdictions. Tell us about where have you been so far since the re-opening?
(0:59-5:07) SH: I played my local casinos over in Shreveport, Bossier City. As you know, you and I are almost neighbors. We’re just down the road from each other here in Texas. I get over to Shreveport, Bossier occasionally just to hang-out with some friends and play in the local casinos. Keep in touch with what’s going on. And I had a seminar in Las Vegas the early part of June. So I spent six days in Las Vegas. And then the latter part of June I had a seminar up in Kansas City. So I spent five days in Kansas City. So I had an opportunity to play the… Mostly the casino in Shreveport, Bossier was over at the Horseshoe. Primary place I played. Then in Las Vegas I stayed at the Flamingo which was the primary property that was open with Caesars. It was just Caesars Palace and the Flamingo were the only two properties open with Caesars. So I played there. And I played Off-Strip properties as well. I played the Gold Coast, the Paddle Station.
Then we played up at M Resorts which is one of the casinos that URComped has a deal with where you can host players up there.
And it is one of my favorite places to play in Las Vegas, by the way. And then we went to the downtown casinos and we hit some of the old standards. The Golden Nugget was our favorite place to play down there. But we also hit the Freemont and a couple of the other places down there that we won’t go into. But the Freemont and the Golden Nugget were the two places that we played at predominantly down there. All and all, we had a great time. My first experience with post COVID-19 play was over in Bossier City. And I got to tell you, I didn’t stay very long. The casino was not crowded. They did a temperature check when I walked into the casino. Make sure I didn’t have a fever. Asked if I had any symptoms or anything like that. And other than that, there is no line. No problems getting in the door. Just get right on in. Walked in. And some players were wearing masks, some are not. But that was my tune-up for getting ready for the full experience in Las Vegas a couple of weeks later. When I got to Las Vegas it was that times a hundred. My seminar in Vegas was the first week after the casinos opened-up. So they had one weekend that they were open. And then this was the following weekend. And this was the weekend that everyone really came out to the casinos. And honest to God it was madness. The place will slammed. It was covered-up. They’ve sold out Caesars Palace. They’ve sold out the Flamingo. And they were looking at the possibility of opening-up another property just to handle the overflow of crowd because they had so many people wanting to come to Vegas. As far as table games are concerned. By large most of the casino seem to be doing a pretty good job. The MGM properties have installed plexiglass.
I can’t say that word. Shields between the players. So you’re like sitting in your little box in front of the dealer. Blackjack for example, you don’t touch the card. They just set the cards out in front of you on their side of the shield. And you just point to the card that you want to
hit. You point to them. If you don’t, you wave them off. But you never actually touch the cards anymore.
(5:07-5:13) CS: That almost sounds like the automated games.
(5:13-5:40) SH: You can see that coming. Honestly. When you look at that you can say, “Yeah. This is just one step away in a lot of cases.” The thing you miss in there is the human interaction. Draws customers in. You have your favorite dealer. So when you go to the Craps game if you’re a regular at the casino, I go play on certain dealers shifts because I like these guys.
(5:40-6:50) CS: Just stay on that for a minute. I totally agree. Because you start going down that path of automating everything. Why am I going to the casino in the first place? I could probably play an app on my phone. What’s the difference? It is a very slippery slope to have casinos just look to automate more, more, more. It’s almost like going to a football game. Just to make another analogy. I live in Dallas. I’m a 49ers fan but Cowboys is a close team. I want to go to the Cowboys game. It’s just such a burden. And there’s so much that goes into actually getting there. It’s so expensive. And it’s like the experience of watching my TV is as good or better. And the beer is cheaper and everything like that. I just watch it. And if the casinos try to automate too much. It’s like, “If I can gamble from my phone
why do I need to get in my car and drive forty five minutes or an hour and a fly over there?” I’m just echoing and agreeing with you that human interaction is key to survival. Long-term survival needs.
(6:50-10:39) SH: I was surprised to find that the Off-Strip casinos looked like they had done a better job of cleaning up than the Strip casinos had. In particular Gold Coast. That place pretty much sparkled when we went in there. Even cleaner was Palace Station. I was stunned at how clean that place is. That’s been remodeled within the last five or six years and had a big expansion. But that place look great. We played several sessions in there and had a great time. So some of the casinos have done a good job. And both of those
casinos are very careful to make sure at Craps, When a player left the game, a Table Games Manager, box person, someone came around with a cloth and a spray bottle of antiseptic. And came around and clean the table where that person was standing before they let anyone else buy in at that position. Not every casino on the strip was doing that. That was their rule. They were supposed to do that.
And sometimes they did it. But in the heat of a game when you had six players on table and one of them walked and somebody else stepped-up and bought in at that position, not every time that the position get wiped down like it was supposed to. And I saw that frequently on the Strip properties. To players out there, I would say, “Don’t be so eager to get in the game that you jump up there before
they wipe the spot down. If you see a spot open and you want to move into it. Take your player’s card out. Walk-up the table and set your player’s card down in the rack where you want to buy-in. And then ask the box person to get someone to wipe this spot down before you buy-in. They will get the pit person, the floor person. Someone will come around spray that area with antiseptic and wipe it down. And you’ll get to move in there without picking-up the previous player’s germs. But I’d be very cautious about that because you don’t know who’s got what walking around in today’s COVID-19 world. That’s something I’d definitely watch for.” Other than that, all and all at the Craps game they’re being very careful about… Often they’ll keep two different sets of dice. They’ll keep a set of red dice and a set of blue dice. Or set of red dice and green dice. Different-colored dice. And one player will get the red dice while they sanitize the blue dice. And the next shooter gets the blue dice while they sanitize a red dice. And they swap-out every other shooter gets different- colored dice
while they sanitize the other dice. So they keep the dice fresh all the time. Some casinos only put one stick of dice so there might be five dice on the table. But they only offer the shooter three dice at a time when it’s his turn to shoot. They’ll take the other two dice and hold them in reserve. And they keep them fresh and sanitized. So if the dice flies off the table they’ve got two fresh dice that they can offer him a choice of one of those to replace the one that fell off the table. When they can get the one that fell off the table and they can sanitize it while the game continues. But they want to make sure that they’re always giving you a fresh dice if one of the dice goes off the table and hits the floor. They don’t want you to pick-up that dice and go right back in to play with it. In case it picks-up, some germs or virus off the floor.
(10:39-10:45) CS: What about the chips? The actual chips?
(10:45-11:41) SH: The chips. I saw it at the Flamingo, before they opened the tables in the morning, they took a vinyl cloth and spread it on the table. They took all the chips out of the bank and spread them out on that vinyl cloth and they spray them down with an antiseptic, with a germicide, whatever. And then they wipe them down. And they lift them all over. And they spray them down on the other side. And they wipe them off. And they put them back in the rack. So they’re washing the chips down on the table every morning before the shift. So that’s happening once a day. That’s something that did surprise me. I had wondered how they would do it. My thought was that they would do it with some sort of ultraviolet light or something. But they’re actually washing them down with a spray antiseptic at the tables. So that was good to know.
(11:41-11:58) CS: Yeah. That’s actually really interesting. It sounds like they were doing some new precautions to clean the dice. They’re cleaning the chips. And they’re restricting the game. The spots on the table from twelve to six. Is that right?
(11:58-22:25) SH: Yeah. They have six positions at the table open. Three on each end. You would think that this makes the game go quicker. Only six players. But every time there’s a stick change, they spray down the position that the stick person was at with the antiseptic. Clean it. They take the stick. Here’s the dice stick. Wipe it down with antiseptic. Well, I’ve got a clean stick for the new guy coming in. They take the dice bowl. The little rubber bowl that the dice are in. They wipe it down with the antiseptic. Then each dealer position on each side of the table, because the dealers are rotating, they have to wipe out those positions. So they’re basically wiping off everywhere a dealer person is standing and the table gets wiped down. There’s three positions to get wiped down with antiseptic. Then the puck. The little on and off puck that the dealers handle, that gets wiped down. Because the dealer touches it. So a different dealers touching it every time when it rotate. So that whole process takes about two to three minutes every time there’s a stick change. So here’s a dice shooter over here. Guy’s having a great hand. He maybe twenty three, twenty four numbers into a roll and all of a sudden, up stick change. Now stick change to dice players is always been a negative. All the energy leaves the game. “Hoo…” You hear the old timers turn my bets off. Because it’s the old superstition that the seven bottles of stick change. Now, the game ends. For three minutes nothing happens while everything gets wiped down. And you just like, “(humming).” Yeah. People are turning bets off like crazy twiddling their thumbs. It’s crazy. And then the game continues after three minutes. And of course what happens the next toss the guy throws a dice off the table. And the games stop for another three minutes. While they change the dice. And chase the dice. And clean the dice and all those nonsense. You got to keep the dice on the table folks. Don’t throw them on the floor. It kills the game forever. And the stick changes will just wear you out. It’s the truth. The sanitizing of everything at the table is bothersome but is necessary. The masks are bothersome. But if you see some of these people at the table you’ll be glad you’re wearing a mask. It’s strange that the casino seems to bring out some people that shouldn’t be in the casino. Let’s be honest with this. You see a guy walk up to a twenty-five-dollar table. And buy-in for twenty seven dollars. And I saw this in Kansas City. And the guy buys-in for twenty seven dollars at a twenty-five-dollar-minimum table. And I’m like, “What in the heck is this guy going to do with twenty seven dollars on a twenty-five-dollar table?” You can bet a pass line bet with no loss. You can bet a don’t pass. You can bet a field bet or a come bet. You can place any number. It could not have a correct bet on the six or eight but you could place it. What’s he going to do? Throws it in the field. And somebody throws it too. And it pays him fifty dollar now if you had seventy five dollars. Next thing I know I look down there and this guy’s twenty seven dollars is turned into four hundred. And I’m like, “What in the world is this guy doing?” And he keeps throwing out field bets. And his four hundred turned into eight hundred. And I’m like, “Yeah. He’s not long for this world.” This guy gets up to about twelve hundred dollars. And next thing I know it’s all gone. And he’s got nothing left but that two dollars out of that twenty-seven-dollar buy-in. And he picks-up his two one dollar chips and walks away. So Craps is an incredible game. It attracts people from all walks of life. You’ll see a guy that walks-up
and buys-in for a hundred thousand dollars at a table next to a guy that buys-in for ten dollars. And they’ll stand side by side. They’re both rooting for the same thing. All social barriers are gone. We’re all high five-ing. And we’re all on the same side. We’re all looking for the same thing. We’re all trying to beat the house. There are few games in the world that are more unifying than this game. Heck. I think we ought to have it on every street corner in the planet. I think a good Craps game would solve a lot of the world’s problems. But it is what it is. I would just urge everyone when they’re out in the casinos to be safe. I honestly think social distancing probably works better than the masks do. It’s going to be hard to social distance in a lot of these casinos. I mentioned the twenty-five-dollar games. I’ll just throw this out there. One of the things you’re going to have to learn to do in the casinos if your table-games player is play at a higher-limit game. Because they’re only allowing six players on a Craps table at most the casinos right now. The limits are about double what you were used to seeing. So if you’re used to playing a five-dollar game, you’re probably going to be facing a ten-dollar game. If the casino you normally play at, at ten-dollar games they’re going to be offering fifteen to twenty-five-dollar games. In Vegas, I arrived on a Thursday
and all the casinos are running fifteen to twenty-five-dollar games on the Strip. On Friday, you could find one fifteen-dollar game and all the rest of the games in the casino were twenty-five dollars. On Saturday every game was twenty five except the ones that were fifty or a hundred. So I’m telling you. If you can’t play on the Las Vegas Strip, which you can’t afford to play a fifteen or twenty-five-dollar game,
you’re going to have to get Off-Strip. Now up at M Resort we were able to play a ten-dollar game. You get in to the Off-Strip, the locals casinos, you can find ten-dollar games. You get further Off-Strip, in the local, local casinos at the right time of day, you’ll find a five-dollar. Mid-week on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday morning, you’d find a five-dollar game around. If you go to Winnemucca, you’ll find a five-dollar game. If you go to Muckleshoot, if you know where that is outside Seattle, you’ll probably find a five-dollar game. There are five-dollar games out there in Reno, Nevada. You’ll find a five-dollar game. It depends on the part of the country you’re in. In my neck of the woods everything is a ten-dollar game over in Shreveport, Bossier. Unless you find fifteen and twenty-five dollar games on the weekend.
But you won’t find anything in the terms of a five-dollar game over there anymore. You’re going to have to play at a higher level. That means you’re going to have a different strategy if you’re used to play the five-dollar game and walking-up and play twenty two or forty four inside. You’re going to have to learn to play this game differently. I came up with a completely different strategy to play twenty-five-dollar games in Vegas this last trip. And it was simply to start with a thirty dollars, six and eight. This is a quick press move for you guys who are in the Craps. Start with thirty dollars each of the six and eight. On the first hit it’s going to pay thirty five dollars to make my six and eight look like forty two each. You will get eleven dollars change. First hit at forty two on either one of those will pay you fifty for one. You give them that one dollar they just gave you back. They will give you fifty dollars. You now have sixty dollars in your hand.
Your original bet was thirty dollars each on the six and eight. So you have two forty-two-dollar bets up there at that point that are free
and paid for. All you have to do is sit back and collect fifty for one on every hit you get after that. So it takes two hits on these six or eight. Get both those bets paid for. And then the third hit gives you a profit of forty nine dollars. Not everybody can throw two sixes
or eights at a hand. But it happens more often than you think. And if you’re a good shooter and you practice throwing six and eight you can do it. So real simple strategy for getting sixes and eights. And making a quick profit on that.That’s how I played in Las Vegas.
(22:25-22:39) CS: That’s good tip for some folks that are not typically playing at that twenty-five or fifty-dollar a game but want to play. That’s the recommended strategy.
(22:39-22:41) SH: That’s one.
(22:41-22:45) CS: Got one more strategy? One more tip?
(22:45-25:00) SH: One more tip would be play the dont’s. Because in this world with all these interruptions a couple of things are going on here. The higher table limits have weeded out a lot of the low-limit local players who are really good players. They’re good shooters but they have small bankrolls. They’re just regular guys that go down every day. And they go to the casino. They play these low-limit games and their idea is to win a hundred, hundred and fifty bucks a day. And that’s their job. That’s what they do. Well, they’re out of work right now because they don’t have the bankroll to do that job. So those guys are not playing anymore. Those were the guys that a lot of experienced players that had bigger bankrolls made money off of them. So those guys were gone. What’s left are a lot of people that have bigger bankrolls and think they are good shooters. But they’re not. So you have them. And then you have on the weekends a lot of recreational gamblers who are there to party and play. So they’re not really great gamblers. They’re not good players. They just pick them up and fling them. They have no skill. So if you play the mathematical game with these players your advantage is playing the dont’s. So in the post COVID-19 world in a market like Las Vegas a don’t player can do really well on the weekends. Not maybe so much mid week because you have some better players out there. That are the working guys that play the market regularly. Guys that are serious players that are good players that go to the casino to make money. Don’t play on the weekends. They play Tuesday, Wednesday
and Thursday mornings when the casinos are run crowded. But there’s big opportunities right now for don’t players in Las Vegas. So keep that in mind.
(25:00-25:29) CS: This has been super interesting. Thank you for filling us in on what’s going on around the country from what you’ve seen. And as of today July seventh, the cruise is still on. Craps Cruise Four. So hopefully we’ll be sailing together in October. And anybody that’s a Craps player that hasn’t taken part in the Craps Cruise I highly encourage you guys take part in this one. The deals are great. And you get a play with some high-level Craps players like Heavy
(25:29-25:38) SH: And you looking out for an announcement soon for Craps Cruise Five coming up in 2021.
(25:38-25:59) CS: That’s right. That’s right. And you do offer one edition on axispowercraps.com. There are all kinds of information that you do on these craps cruises. Offer private lessons on swing. I would say swing because it is like adults swing. How would you describe the seminars?
(25:59-28:00) SH: Yeah. I teach. I do, basically, two sessions on the Craps Cruise. I do one “Dice Control” class which basically teaches you the different dice sets that we use and the toss technique to gain an advantage over the game. And it is very much like a golf swing.
So the parallels between precision toss and a dice swing are pretty much spot on. So mentally it’s very much like a golf game. The second session I teach is a “Betting Strategy” class which teaches you how to take advantage of any dominant numbers that you might develop through your advantage toss. If you are good shooter and practice this game consistently, you’ll find that you develop certain numbers, we call them “Signature Numbers,” that you’ll toss in excess of what statistical norms are. For me, it’s the six and the ten. So I go to the casino, I always bet the six and the ten. And I will throw more of those than I should so I make a profit on those numbers. So I have specific betting strategies for those numbers. And so we teach you betting strategies to take advantage of that. That’s the nuts and bolts of it. Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that. But we do teach those two sessions on every cruise. And I have a third session on cruises that have three at-sea days. And on the actual third session we just do kind of an open house thing come on down.
And we’ll talk about whatever you want to. And work on whatever you want to. And just have fun with it. And we do this on one of the casino’s tables. The casino lets us use one of their tables on the morning of the at-sea day from like eight thirty to eleven thirty. So we do it right there in the casino.
(28:00-28:22) CS: Wonderful. I cannot wait to be there in October. I am optimistic it will happen. Right now it’s September 15th, the start date. And our cruise goes over there on halloween. So that’s a least a month of wiggle room. So I’m optimistic. And I’m sure we’ll talk again before then. So thank you so much, Steve.
(28:22-28:25) SH: Alright. Thank you. Good to talk to you again.
(28:25-28:30) CS: Good talking to you.