The Players

Let's start with the players, men and women, rank beginners and old-timers, some laughing and shouting, some quiet and grim. Although they are all crowded around the table together, craps is not a group games. All players bet against the house, and one player's decisions in no way affect those of the others. The number of players is limited only by the number of people who can squeeze around the table. If you can slip in sideways and get to the layout, go for it.

If you are going to play, you will need to bet with chips or checks. Chips are required for craps with no exception, for several reasons. First, the bankroll needed by a casino is a fraction of what would be required if all tables were stocked with cash. Second, the different colors of the chips simplify the dealer's job of paying winning bets. Finally, the possibility of theft is reduced since stolen chips must be subsequently converted into cash.

How much cash you convert depends on the minimum bet and other factors. Each craps table has a minimum-bet requirement. A sign is positioned next to the dealers on either end to indicate the table stakes. You can easily tell the stakes by the color of the sign. A white sign indicates a $2 or $3 minimum bet (very few of these low-minimum tables are found in today's casinos); a red sign indicates a $5 minimum (the most common); light brown or blue or a similar color indicates a $10 minimum; green indicates a $25 minimum; blue indicates a $50 minimum; and black indicates a $100 minimum. Maximums usually vary between $300 and $1,000, although top casinos will raise the maximums at the request of a high rolling player.

Place some of your currency in front of the dealer and, so that it will not be mistaken for a bet, announce clearly, "Change, please." Don't try to hand the dealer your money. Drop it on the table. Dealers are not allowed to take money out of your hand, and they are not permitted to hand you your chips. The dealer will usually repeat "Change only," and hand the money to the boxman, who counts it and tells the dealer the amount. The dealer will then place the equivalent amount of chips on the table in front of you. Pick them up and immediately place the chips you are not betting in the chip grooves provided in the table railing directly in front of you. Never leave chips on the layout, as they may be considered a bet. Remember that dealers must pay off all previous winning wagers and will usually set up new bets before stopping to make change. If you think the dice will be thrown before you get your chips, clearly announce the size and type of the wager you are making; if the dealer acknowledges it, called websiteing, you have a bet-even before you get your chips.

Take a Deep Breath
Tells are a fascinating subject, but as knowledge of common tells becomes more common, it becomes less useful. The information remains valuable against relative novices, but isn't particularly valuable against more experienced players without empirical and player-specific research.

Televised poker is going to make it much easier to pick up tells on players, because we're all going to get to see faces and hole card simultaneously. I can tell you from first-hand experience that players are working on sending false tells to TV audiences. When I knew prospective opponents might be studying videotapes of me, I made quite sure I included some meaningless repetitive motions.
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