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Best of The Midnight Skulker

Gaming Guru

 

The Midnight Skulker Reviews

19 January 2003

One of the nice things about reviewing a textbook (as opposed to a work of fiction) is that I do not have to worry about revealing too much of the plot, thereby ruining the story for other readers. This review will therefore consist of five mini-reviews, one for each major part of the book, followed by an overall summary.

Part 1: Getting Started

This section is a detailed review of the bets offered on a standard bank craps table. Experienced players may opt to skip these chapters and get right to the "good stuff," but I would recommend to those who do fast forward that they come back and read this part at least once. It is more than just a list of bets with their house advantages; Sharpshooter goes behind the numbers to show how those advantages are calculated, and why some bets are worse than others absent rhythmic rolling.

Another nice thing about reviewing a textbook is that I, the reviewer, get to disagree with the author on statements of fact. I have two such disagreements.

  1. Sharpshooter states that by default, "Buy or Lay bets do not work on the comeout." Everywhere I have played this is true for Buys but not true for Lays; they work unless the player calls them off, presumably because both the Pass Line and the Lay bettors want a seven on the comeout roll.
  2. (This one is more of a difference of opinion than disagreement.) Sharpshooter considers odds bets as diluting either the house (front side) or player (dark side) advantage on the flat portion of Pass, Don't Pass, Come, and Don't Come bets. I contend that although the two bets are linked -- they resolve simultaneously and identically, and odds cannot be taken or laid without a corresponding flat bet -- they are separate bets. A thorough discussion of this topic is beyond the scope of this review, but the basis of my position is that the bets are made at different times and under different conditions, and that the flat bet still pays even money. As we say on Usenet, YMMV ("Your Mileage May Vary").

Part 2: Mastering the Mechanics

These are the chapters one buys the book for. I was disappointed that Sharpshooter presents only one rhythmic rolling technique (his own), but it is the one with the highest potential for accuracy. (Unfortunately, it is also a technique that is easily recognized and may therefore attract the attention of pit personnel, who are notoriously bad sports when a table is dumping.) Detailed illustrations demonstrate not only the elements that produce a successful throw but also, in concert with text, what a successful throw should look like, what it hopes to accomplish, and why it produces an advantage for the player. He also presents a list of possible problems a rhythmic roller may encounter, the reason they occur, and what adjustments one should make to correct them. In all a very thorough discussion.

Part 3: Putting It All Together

Part 2 is clearly the meat of this book, but Part 3 contains the instructions on how to prepare it. As with any repetitive physical activity, rhythmic rolling requires practice to develop the hand-eye co-ordination and muscle memory necessary for success. To my relief, Sharpshooter does not minimize this effort. He includes plans for constructing a practice box and methods for charting progress, and I cannot overemphasize the importance of the latter.

The basic mechanics of rhythmic rolling, as presented in the book, are similar to those for shooting a free throw in basketball. However, there are virtually no significant random elements present when shooting free throws whereas a good hand at the craps table can be due completely to luck. Assuming one has become a rhythmic roller on the basis of an insufficient number of observations can be an expensive mistake.

Failing to employ sound money management and betting beyond one's means or tolerance for risk can also be expensive mistakes. Sharpshooter addresses these topics and presents several betting strategies to accommodate different levels of rhythmic rolling efficiency and player preferences. Even the reader who does not intend to become a serious rhythmic roller can profit from these chapters.

Part 4: Going for the Gold

These are the advanced chapters, intended for serious and accomplished rhythmic rollers only. It makes no sense to think about organizing a team while one is still mastering the basics. It makes no sense to try to analyze one's throw until that throw is consistent. Consequently, I would recommend the beginner give these chapters only a cursory reading, postponing a detailed study of the material until some level of skill has been demonstrated, but after that the sections on troubleshooting and coping with distractions can be beneficial. (I suppose the chapter on professional team play would also be beneficial, but I am unqualified to critique it since I have no desire to pursue crapshooting as a career.)

Part 5: Wrapping It All Up

To be completely honest, I was not impressed with this part. The first chapter is two accounts of two different rhythmic rollers' separate experiences on different trips. I personally find trip reports tedious reading unless they contain accounts of some unusual events; those who enjoy reading diaries may find these of more interest.

The second chapter and the appendices are a rather detailed look at some principles of elementary statistics. In my opinion the presentation is unnecessary for anyone familiar with probability distributions and over the heads of most who are not familiar with them. Nevertheless, the results of the calculations are worth a look.

Reviewer's Summary

Rhythmic rolling (also called precision shooting, controlled throwing, de-randomizing, and permutations thereof) remains a controversial subject. Thanks to the Internet there is a wealth of evidence supporting Sharpshooter's contention that it can be done. Of course that evidence is all anecdotal, but even without any hard data from a controlled experiment conducted under casino conditions, I submit that the sheer volume of testimonials indicates there are at least a few real rhythmic rollers. The big question, then, is, can anyone become one?

Sharpshooter thinks so; I have my doubts. We know for a fact that it is possible to dunk a basketball, but I know for a fact that I lack the physique necessary to do it, at least using a standard basket. I therefore recommend that beginning rhythmic rollers try something like the following experiment to determine if they have the potential and persistence to acquire the skill. Put a doormat (one without bristles) against a wall and try some throws using the technique Sharpshooter presents. (You may want to protect the wall with a section from a newspaper, and a linoleum floor can be used without a doormat.) This setup is obviously only a rough approximation of a casino craps table, but it will give you an idea of what you are trying to accomplish. Only if the results are positive should you consider constructing (or purchasing) practice boxes and attending seminars.

To quote Sharpshooter, rhythmic rolling "is not something that you pick up in a week or two of casual practice. Like anything worthwhile, it will take a concerted effort." Rhythmic rolling is also not a license to print money -- if it were, rhythmic rollers would be printing money, not books -- but it does have the potential to improve one's chances for packing more money out of a casino than one packs in. At $14.95 Get the Edge at Craps is a cheap way to investigate that potential.

The Midnight Skulker
The Midnight Skulker has been playing craps for over three decades and has played almost everywhere in the country. He is a computer expert and a frequent contributor to Internet newgroups, where his opinions and observations have earned him much respect.
The Midnight Skulker
The Midnight Skulker has been playing craps for over three decades and has played almost everywhere in the country. He is a computer expert and a frequent contributor to Internet newgroups, where his opinions and observations have earned him much respect.