Golden Touch Craps

What do Baseball, Football and Craps have in Common???

I can hear it now, "Skinny has finally lost it. He has gone off the deep end with this one!"

Let me assure you, that is not the case here. I have just seen an HBO special that gave me the idea for this article. This is a topic that has been mulling through my brain for some time now. Some posts on the private pages of the GTC website have piqued my interest in this subject and I have been trying to figure out how to put it in words. This latest show on football did the trick.

How many of you have seen the movie, Moneyball starring Brad Pitt or read the book, Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game?

If you have, then you will understand what I am talking about. The main idea is the collective wisdom behind how baseball is played and games are won is severely flawed. It is the story of Billy Beane who as GM of the Oakland Athletics revolutionized the way baseball is played overcoming a century of tradition and ideas burned into the brains of managers, coaches, players and decision makers in America’s Pastime.

Billy Beane decided to use statistics and a mathematical approach known as sabermetrics to build his team. Based on that model he then decided who, how and when to play the different players on that team. His success and genius in innovation ultimately led many other teams in professional baseball to incorporate some of this technique into their strategy in the future. It is believed the Boston Red Sox were able to employ his methods in developing a World Series Championship team that was able to break the 86 year old "Curse of the Bambino" when the Red Sox came back from a 0-3 best-of-seven deficit to beat the Yankees in the 2004 American League Championship Series and then went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals to win the 2004 World Series.

This is not meant to be a commercial for either the book or the movie although both are excellent. The point I am making is, in a game steeped in tradition and yes superstitions such a baseball, it was possible to use mathematics to analyze the best methods to employ to become successful in the game. People argued that there are other factors involved than numbers and statistics. There are things like team spirit, player determination, those who play best under certain situations and a number of other intangible things that go into the game that only experience and gut feel can be used to determine the most favorable outcome. Players are human and emotions come into play, argue the traditionalists. How can numbers take that into account? Well Billy Beane apparently proved those ideas to be false and the numbers can and did give him an edge for a time until others caught on and copied his methods. The New York Mets, New York Yankees, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox, Washington Nationals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, and the Toronto Blue Jays all hired full-time sabermetric analysts.

Enough of baseball, time to get on to FOOTBALL. The HBO special I saw had a small piece in it about a High School football team in Little Rock, Arkansas called Pulaski Academy. What is unusual about this HS team is the head coach of that team, Kevin Kelley, has also disregarded traditional football wisdom in exchange for sports analytics. Kelley has studied the "math of football" and concluded that punting and kickoffs are the wrong thing to do in football. Since 2007, his team never punts the ball on 4th down and he uses the onside kick every time his team has to kickoff. In fact he has 12 different kickoff plays, all onside kicks. They don’t even have a punter on the team because they never punt the ball on 4th down. This may sound completely crazy except for the fact that Kelley has amassed a record of 79-17-1 going to 3 state championships and winning 1 of them. Furthermore the State Division Rank of his team has been 1,2,3,1 respectively in the last 4 years. This year his team has a record of 14-0-0.

Kelley has looked at the math of the game and come to the conclusion that punting the ball on 4th down is a losing proposition. That sounds like sheer lunacy but here is what he discovered. According to Kelley's statistics, when a team punts from near its end zone, the opponent will take possession inside the 40-yard line and will then score a touchdown 77 percent of the time. If it recovers on downs inside the 10, it will score a touchdown 92 percent of the time. "So [forsaking] a punt, you give your offense a chance to stay on the field," he said. "And if you miss, the odds of the other team scoring only increase 15 percent. It's like someone said, '[Punting] is what you do on fourth down,' and everyone did it without asking why."

There are a lot more statistics and situations that he has analyzed to come to the conclusions he did. This is just one example of how he used mathematics and statistics to go against the conventional wisdom of football. Based on his results it is hard to argue against the numbers.

So in both baseball and football pioneers using mathematics have found alternatives to what previously was believed to be sacrosanct disciplines in both games. They had their detractors and few disciples in the beginning. But after proving their theories, many are starting to pause and take heed.

Now in craps, it is all about the math in a random game. There are no people, personalities, team spirit, momentum or any of the human elements that both baseball and football can point to saying that those factors can not be measured mathematically. But if Billy Beane and Kevin Kelley were able to use a purely mathematical approach to strategies they applied to produce winners in sports, shouldn’t craps players follow the math diligently in the game of craps that does not have any of the human elements of sports?

In a random game of craps mathematics tells us that the game can not be beaten in the long run. Every wager, except for the odds bet, has a negative expectation. If one continually makes negative expectation wagers in a random game, ultimately the law of large numbers will take effect. In the end they will end up in a negative position with their wagers.

There is no way to combine negative expectation wagers to offset one another to give one a positive expectation on any roll or series of rolls. Those system players who try to use hedge bets or combinations of wagers to offset one another to guarantee a win are all completely and unequivocally wrong. It is a mathematical impossibility.

Then we have those who argue against the long run who say they do not play in the long run. Every time they play a session it is a short run event. They fail to understand that in their lifetime the sum of all those short run events eventually add up to the long term where the law of large numbers takes over. If one were to produce a histogram (bar graph) of every number one has seen rolled over a lifetime while playing a random game of craps, that histogram would look exactly like the normal curve, i.e. the bell shaped curve. The 7 would be directly in the middle and the 2 and 12 would be at both extreme ends of the bell curve. All the other numbers would be dispersed on the curve in direct proportion to their mathematical probabilities.

Others like to point to wagers that have a high House Advantage (HA) such as the Fire Bet which comes in around a 20% - 25% HA for the casino. They regale us with stories of being at a table where a player made 4, 5 or 6 points towards the Fire Bet and how much money was made by the folks playing it. But how could they win that bet unless they bet on every shooter when they are at the tables? If you try to pick and choose which random player is going to hit the bet, you are certain to miss many of them. If you bet on every shooter, the HA will ultimately take its toll and you will lose that percentage of the wagers you make in totality over your lifetime in direct proportion to the HA. Yes, you will win some, but you will lose a lot more than you win.

We also have all the trend bettors and table readers. The trend bettors believe there is a pattern to the random results that come out. They study charts of random rolls and use all kinds of (false) "scientific" methods to predict what is coming up in the near future. The table readers believe in hot, cold and choppy tables. They look for hot tables or a hot shooter on the theory that they can make their fortune before the table turns. The problem here is that it is impossible to predict the future based on prior results. One can only tell that a table or shooter has been hot, cold or choppy after the fact. After the results are in we can tell what the pattern was for that table or shooter. But it is not possible to predict what will come up next based on what has happened in the past with random events. That is the very definition of random.

Unfortunately human beings want order in their lives. They look for patterns, even in random situations and try to discern a pattern to predict what will happen in the future. This is an exercise in futility and foolishness. It is diametrically opposed to mathematics and the probability theory that dictates the game of craps when being played randomly.

If you are a random player the only thing you can do is to make low house edge wagers, employ the five count to reduce the number of rolls on which you wager and try to minimize your losses so you can avoid losing your bankroll quickly. At least this way you can stay in the game longer, possibly earning some comps that give you some of your losses back and have some fun playing.

The only real way to get ahead in the game of craps is to develop a controlled throw which can turn the math of the game in the favor of the player. Even a respectable controlled shooter still needs to have the discipline to make sound wagers and have a betting strategy that fits within his bankroll. But if one is serious about winning at craps this is the only way to have a chance at overcoming the math of the game. As I said above there are no human elements in the random game of craps. It is purely a game of numbers that will ultimately fall along the statistical lines of the math. If math can be used to develop winning methods in baseball and football, why wouldn’t you believe that the random game of craps works exactly according to the math?