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The language of craps

10 December 1999

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark,
I tried playing craps for the first time on a recent trip to Las Vegas. I stuck with the bets you mention on your tapes and actually walked away from the crap table $200 ahead. And though I was up $200, I still found the game intimidating. Mostly because I couldn't understand what numbers the dealer was calling. No wonder it scares so many players away. So just what number is "Little Joe from Kokomo?" Ralph S.

Your question, Ralph, is the reason why more than 90 percent who visit casinos deny themselves playing what many consider the most engaging, exhilarating game the casino has to offer. Not only that, if craps is played correctly, the percentage favoring the house is less than video poker, slots, roulette and even blackjack; that is, Ralph, if players like you follow the fundamental principles I've laid out on my audio tapes and stick to pass line bets with odds or placing the six and eight.

But still, when the game gets electric, the communal consciousness of the players leads to a table of whooping, rooting and apprehensive participants. This creates a game that both confuses and overwhelms. Now add your complaint: A dealer (stickman) with a rattan rake in hand moving the game pace along at high speeds, yelling calls that only someone in the industry might understand. Your best bet is to learn the lingo. By no means, Ralph, is the language eloquent, but it is expressive and the best way to learn is by putting the dice in your hands. So shooter, you're coming out, hands up, feet off the table, let'em loose and I'll make the calls.

TWO: "Craps," "two aces," "rats eyes," "snake eyes," "push the don't," "eleven in a shoe store," "twice in the rice," "two craps two, two bad boys from Illinois."

THREE: "Craps," "ace-deuce," "ace caught a deuce," "winner on the dark side," "three craps three, the indicator," "small ace deuce, can't produce," "the other side of eleven's tummy." (Here's an example of an old-time crap dealer, Judd, who invents a call that made its way across Nevada to a carpet joint that I've worked in. It doesn't make sense, like many of the calls, so your confusion is fitting.)

FOUR: "Little Joe," "little Joe from Kokomo," "hit us in the tu tu," "ace trey, the country way."

FIVE: "After five, the field's alive," "thirty-two juice roll" (OJ's jersey number), "little Phoebe," "fiver, fiver, racetrack driver," "we got the fever."

SIX: "Big Red, catch'em in the corner," "like a blue chip stock," "pair-o-treys, waiter's roll," "the national average," "sixie from Dixie."

SEVEN: "Seven out, line away," "grab the money," "five two, you're all through," "six ace, end of the race," "front line winner, back line skinner," "six one, you're all done," "seven's a bruiser, the front line's a loser," "up pops the devil," "Benny Blue, you're all through."

EIGHT: "A square pair, like mom and dad," "Ozzie and Harriet," "the windows," "eighter from Decatur."

NINE: "Center field," "center of the garden," "ocean liner niner," "Nina from Pasadena," "What shot Jesse James? A forty-five."

TEN: "Puppy paws," "pair-a-roses," "pair of sunflowers," "the big one on the end."

ELEVEN: "Yo leven," "yo levine the dancing queen," "six five, no jive."

TWELVE: "Craps," "boxcars," "atomic craps," "all the spots we got," "outstanding in your field," "triple dipple, in the lucky ducky," "double saw on boxcars."

Look there, Ralph, you just rolled a seven. Column's over. Cinco dos, adios.

Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.