Sunday, March 26, 2017

Flusher Reviews The Dice Doctor by Sam Grafstein

There are a million books out there on casino gambling. (Exactly a million - I counted.) And that includes half a million books on craps.

Your typical craps book runs down some history, lays out every bet on the craps table and its house edge, and goes into some strategies around picking the better bets. These are great for the beginner who is just learning the game, or as a reference.

The information you really want is on how to make money at craps. Enter The Dice Doctor by Sam Grafstein, a book unlike any other craps book you are likely to read.

“I don’t advocate gambling! But if you do gamble, play for keeps.”

A 50 year veteran of both running craps games (legal and not-so-legal) and playing the game, Sam brings years of experience and presents a unique view of the game and how to ‘get the money’, as he puts it. In other words, the focus is on how to capitalize on a hot roll, to press bets and make a big score.

For starters, this book does not cover any of the typical stuff - the layout, the paybacks, how the game is run and so on. Sam assumes that you know all that stuff already, and focuses on presenting strategies and craps knowledge gained from his many years of experience. That said, anyone interested in craps will find plenty in the book to make it worthwhile.

Grafstein has a no-nonsense writing style that can seem a bit condescending at times, gruff and grumpy at others. It’s okay, though, it suits the material, and gives you the feeling that you are hunkered down in a sleazy bar, getting the chance to pick the brains of a grizzled old-timer who knows what’s what.

Sam’s Story

The first part of the book is a brief and thoroughly enjoyable history of the Doctor’s life, full of stories of backroom gambling joints, mob connections, and risky situations.

Very early on you understand Grafstein’s approach - he disdains superstition and long-shot bets with lousy odds, players that get out of control, players who don’t know what they are doing at the table.

On the other hand, he’s all about that killer instinct, making every move possible to reduce the house edge, keeping emotion out of the game. Grafstein advocates that you “limit losses but never limit your winnings”.

That said, his approach is not completely clinical - you can have the best strategy and self-control at the table, and in the long long long run, you are going to lose - the mathematics of the game say so... that is, unless you have that little extra bit of luck, and know how to capitalize on it.

But as Sam says, “The house edge is a piker in comparison to the weakness of human nature.”

Lots of Points

The book is filled with information that will make you a better player. Sam covers bankroll and money management, and lays out for each of his betting strategies the bankroll you’ll need at different betting levels.

Some of the things that I’ve taken away from the book include jumping on the come out natural for a two-step parlay. Let’s say the shooter rolls a 7 on the come out. You press your bet. Another natural (7 or 11) and the parlay is done and you take the profit. The surprising part of this strategy is not to take odds if a point is thrown - the odds you would have taken on your initial bet are already built into the parlayed bet on the pass line. This protects your bankroll.

Grafstein has also changed my thinking about odds, always touted as the ‘best bet on the table’ because there is no house edge on odds bets. But taking high odds greatly inflates your base bet size and can decimate your bankroll, adding a ton of variance that can sink a low roller very quickly.

Taking single odds on a pass line bet cuts the house edge from around 1.40 percent to about 0.80 percent. That’s pretty good, right? So taking even more odds must be better? Well, taking double odds lowers the edge to 0.60 percent. But Grafstein notes that “once a point is established, you as the Right Better are still a 6 to 5, a 3 to 2, or a 2 to 1 underdog” to win your bet.

If you have a huge bankroll and you are betting small initial stakes, great. But how many times have you bought in for $100 at a $5 table, and walked away after about four point-seven-outs after you took two or three times odds on your pass line and come bets? I’ve done it, takes about five minutes. So, Grafstein makes an interesting point about odds that is contrary to most craps books, and most player’s point of view.

Further, along these same lines, is Dr. Sam's view of come bets. He does not like multiple come bets. Not at all. And this kind of makes sense to me, because many's the time I've loaded up on come bets when a lot of numbers were being thrown... just to have them collected up like yesterdays trash when the Sheriff hits. He figures that a single come bet is not too bad, particularly as a replacement for a place or buy bet.

The Qualified Shooter

Grafstein touts the idea of not betting on a new shooter until they have proven themselves by either rolling a 7 or 11 on the come out, or by making a successful pass.

This idea is edging into the mumbo-jumbo world of craps superstitions. But, he advocates it, and it certainly will do no harm in the long run. In its favor, it will keep you at the table longer, so I guess you could argue that you get more entertainment for your dice buck this way.

The Strategies

There are about a dozen strategies for each of the Right Bettor (your typical pass line bettor) and the Wrong Bettor (betting the Don’t Come, laying odds etc.)

The strategies themselves are really interesting, and present some ways of looking at craps bets that I’d never encountered before, such as Converting the Come bet - basically placing a number that is rolled after the come out. The idea is that you’ve skipped the initial come bet and instead simply bet on the number that was rolled, including the odds you would have taken. This way, you don’t risk losing the initial come bet. On the other hand, you don’t a win for your come bet if 7 or 11 is rolled. Still, it’s an interesting concept.

Grafstein’s strategies can get quite complicated and unfortunately, aren’t presented in a way that’s easy to digest. The logic behind the strategies are illustrated through a series of example dice rolls, rather than being laid out clearly. It sometimes takes a number of careful reads to get all the nuances of each of the more complex strategies.

On the good side, Sam clearly lays out when, and how you should go about increasing your bets.

As a beginner, the one thing people told me when I asked them how to really make money at craps was “press your bets!” The best score I ever made at the craps table used The Doc’s bankroll guidelines about how and when to press.

Another money management idea Grafstein has is the idea of a ‘lockup rack’ - a place where you put certain winnings, not to be touched until the series of bets you’d planned to make has been completed. (If you can find some nearby cleavage to serve as your lockup rack, more power to you.)
The table awaits...

Pay the Line

I have very little (okay no) experience as a Wrong Bettor, the Dark Side, playing the Don't Pass, getting the Tar Beat out of me for Cheering Seven Outs. Knowledgeable, experienced and steady craps players can be found right next to the dealer, quietly raking in the dough on the Don't.

The point of this is that I don't feel qualified to say much about the dozen strategies for the Wrong Bettor - but you folks out there who skate on the black thin ice of the table should know that Dr. Sam has you faded.

There are many out there that believe that The Dice Doctor is the best book there is on craps. I’d agree with the addition of ‘for experienced players’. This is not a complete how-to book on the game - but there are many other places to get the basics. (Like my three part series on craps for the beginner: Learn and Play Craps with Royal Flusher).

However, I do highly recommend Sam Grafstein’s The Dice Doctor as essential reading for any craps player looking to ‘get the money’.

The Dice Doctor is available on Amazon.


  1. I'm glad you picked up on the 'Qualified Shooter' section, when I read the book a while back it did stand out as being counter to all the other pragmatic advice and dismissal of other superstitions elsewhere in the book.

    The author's view on taking odds was also memorable, as you say, for going against the grain and makes the point you should be thinking about your bets based on your bankroll rather than betting a certain way because it is 'the done thing'. From memory, it seemed he was fairly dismissive of most bets other than a vanilla pass line bet, and was aiming to have a long stint at the table and grinding out a profit rather than playing a more 'fun' style that we as tourists might be looking for.

  2. Sam's idea of a "Qualified Shooter" for lack of a better term is not about mumbo jumbo. It's about avoiding getting caught in a long string of out-sevens without any natural pass line come-out winners mixed in. Streaks happen in gambling, and waiting for a positive other words a "Qualified Shooter" keeps a player from getting caught in a long negative one.

  3. A while back I ran into a craps player we were talking about books and blogs and he mentioned The Dice Doctor. Turns out one of the best blogs on the web on Craps is run by a guy who plays a strict form of The Dice Doctor -it's a tribute sight to the author and is found at ... worthwhile read.

    Couple of interesting points the author of the blog makes about taking more odds - not worth it - it's all related to bank roll...and finally the other big piece is "the parlay play"...he also has youtube's.