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World Craps Championship

19 August 2006

Please don't anyone pinch me. I want to keep having this dream for at least the next two years. Okay, I'll cut to the chase and tell you up front what this is all about. On Sunday, July 23, I won the Captain's Trophy at the World Craps Championship tournament.

You see, I belong to the Golden Touch Craps Club (www.goldentouchcraps.com), which is sponsored by Frank Scoblete Enterprises. In April 2005, Frank posted a question on the club's message board, asking if anyone were interested in a World Series of Craps type tournament, in which members would compete in different categories and in which a best overall shooter would be determined. Instructors would compete with each other in demonstration challenges only, not against entrants.

The response was so overwhelming that on June 8 of last year, it was announced that the World Craps Championship would take place in Las Vegas on July 22 and 23, 2006. An awards dinner was to take place on Sunday, the 23rd, following the contest.

My history with Golden Touch Craps dates back to November 2003, when I attended the Gamblers Jamboree in Tunica, Mississippi. I wrote a few columns about that weekend and finally admitted that I was coming out of the closet - I was accepting dice control as a viable, and yes even mathematical, way to lower the house's edge in the game of craps.

But it wasn't until February 2005 that I took my first dice control class. I've never been very good at target games, so it came as no surprise to me when I did not do very well in that first class.

To illustrate: I once was on a company team that played in a slow-pitch softball league. The coach promised us that everyone would get to play in every game. You guessed it; yours truly warmed the bench in every game except the first. I once bowled every week for three years straight and never got above a 36 (gutter balls were my specialty).

It easily became apparent to the Golden Touch Craps instructors that a large part of my problem was mental; my losing history at games gave me the negative impression that I would never be any good at this thing called dice control and that my only hope was to follow the accomplished shooters around, hoping to win money off their throws, not my own. But for some reason that not even I can fathom, I didn't give up. I took the class again and made a little bit of improvement.

Somehow, I met a few other shooters in the Biloxi area and gained access to a craps practice table that was set up in a storage shed over in Gulfport. During the summer of 2005, I managed to get to the practice shed three to four times a week, and I finally realized that with enough practice, I just might even get good at this thing called dice control. At least good enough that I wouldn't embarrass myself.

Then came Katrina, and there went the shed and the craps table.

Even though I had not practiced since Katrina, I attended the advanced GTC class in Tunica in November of 2005. Why I thought I should be in the advanced class, I have no idea; I guess maybe because I had taken the basic class twice and thought it was time to refine my toss? But the other advanced students put me to shame. That weekend, I saw some of the smoothest, straightest, softest tosses that I had ever witnessed. I was suffering from a first-class case of envy.

I can't say that the instructors actually gave up on me, but I'm sure they were wondering if I would ever catch on. Two of them narrowed the many flaws in my toss down to two major ones that I needed to focus on. I bought a practice rig, took it home, set it up and started working on those two main flaws. I kept my practice routine down to six 20-minute sessions per day, with regular household chores and casino runs in between. The first ten minutes of each session was spent working on those two main flaws without even tossing the dice.

Then in June, just one month before WCC, I took another class, just to make sure I was not developing any bad habits in my practice routine. I did find one or two and then went home and worked on them.

Now, all this was done without any thought that I would win at WCC. When the contest was first announced, I thought that it would simply be fun to attend, to meet up with old friends and to put faces together with "handles" from the GTC message board. The World Famous Florida Shooters Association had already taken me in as a member in the team event, and I figured it would be a hoot just running around Vegas with them.

And, indeed, it was fun. Five of us got into town three days early and went casino hopping. We met up with several other GTC members that we had met in class and on previous trips. It was a lot like a high school or college reunion. The hot, dry, desert air of Las Vegas seemed charged with electricity. And then, finally, came the weekend, the weekend when we'd be meeting up with over 100 fellow alumni and GTC members that we had been "talking" to on the message board for the last two years. The contest itself melted away in comparison to this meeting that we had anticipated for over a year.

The tournament's format was as follows: there were nine contests, ranging anywhere from Hardways to Make The Point to Come Out. In four of these nine contests, I did not do well and did not advance even one level. In two of them, I advanced one level, and in two more I advanced two levels.

Then in the next-to-last contest on Saturday, which entailed rolling more 4s and 10s than your opponents, I actually won second place. To get that far, I had to place a hex on one of my opponents, a classmate from the advanced class last November; he had one of those straight, smooth tosses that was almost always on target and was the envy of everyone in class. But my hex held, and he wasn't able to break it.

The first two winners from each of the nine contests plus 14 wild card drawing winners advanced to the Championship table, which would determine the winner of The Captain's Trophy. There, we each threw four times and those of us who threw four box numbers advanced to the final table. There were seven of us there, and we each had four more throws. If more than one person hit four box numbers again, then a runoff would occur to determine first, second and third places.

I was trying to stay calm, cool and collected - no small feat because of the pressure we all felt. I imagined myself back home, tossing at my practice rig. The TV's on because I'm trying to provide some distraction (probably Battlestar Galactica). Our yellow cat Sunny, the one who thinks he's a lion, is lying on his back nearby, sound asleep because he's grown accustomed to the sound of dice. The other cat is still afraid of that sound and has found refuge under the coffee table. My feet hurt because I'm in those ridiculously high wedges, trying to get some height over the table.

Back in Vegas, I managed to hit four box numbers again, while the others hit three. I had just won the coveted Captain's Trophy.

My memory of the next 15 to 20 minutes plus the awards dinner is still a haze to me. I knew I should try to get to the winners of the other nine contests and congratulate them, but I don't think I managed to do even that. I was the one on the receiving end of all those high fives, congrats and pats on the back. To tell the truth, I had never imagined that winning something could be that much fun.

Okay, now for the humility part. We all know that I was not THE absolute best shooter in that room. There were at least a dozen shooters with tosses that I wanted for my own. And there were at least that many that consistently have won more money at the tables than I do just because of the power of their shooting abilities. By saying this, I don't think I'm denigrating my win. I've practiced a lot and worked hard at overcoming the mental obstacles I've thrown up in my way. But I was lucky at the right time, and things clicked for me just when I needed them to.

And let's face it, that's the way it works out in the real world at real craps tables. Sometimes, luck will often give skill a boost up, but it's usually skill giving luck the boost.

Until next time, dice be nice.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com