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Best of Donald Catlin

Gaming Guru

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Sharpshooter

5 January 2003

This past September I had the pleasure of attending the Global Gaming Expo, or G2E as it is known, that was held in Las Vegas. The convention was fascinating, as usual, with all of the new games, gaming machines, and gambling-related products on display. This year, for me, there was some added excitement.

First the gaming writer Jean Scott and her husband had arranged a reception for gaming writers at the new Palms Hotel and Casino. It was held in early evening at the Ghost Bar high atop the Palms. There was an open bar, delicious hors d'oeuvres provided by owner George Maloof, and a spectacular view of Las Vegas from an open balcony. It was really fun to to finally meet other writers who, up until then, had just been names on a page. Jean, if you're reading this, thank you for all of your efforts at putting that fabulous mixer together. Thanks as well to George Maloof for his part in the festivities.

Second, my friend and colleague Frank Scoblete was attending G2E and we happened to be staying at the same hotel. Although I had met Frank in person on an earlier occasion, most of our conversations are by email. This time we were able to spend some time together in person and also do some gambling together. It was this latter activity that led to my third dose of added excitement.

Frank, John Grochowski, and I had dinner together and afterwards Frank and I headed for the Craps table. Frank and I were merrily shooting Craps when all of a sudden Frank picked up his chips and said to me, "Move to the next table; the best dice shooter in the country is there" and away he went. Well, I had a bet on the Come so I had to wait for it to be resolved before moving. It seemed to take forever. Finally I moved in next to Frank at the adjoining table and saw the shooter to whom he was referring. The guy was located to the left of the stick man and his aura was pure concentration. He would carefully set the dice, deliver them smoothly, and they would come to rest after gently hitting the end of the table. His concentration was intense. Lots of points were rolled by this gent. When he finally did seven out, the players at the table simply passed the dice right back around to him. It was an experience. I noticed the box men becoming antsy and I guess the shooter did too because he finished his roll and stepped away from the table. Frank turned to me and said, "You have just witnessed Sharpshooter. Come on, I'll introduce you."

Now I'm sure there are skeptics among you who wonder if there really is a guy named Sharpshooter and if he really can control the dice. I can now tell you from personal experience that he certainly does exist and because I saw him in action I'll say it clearly: He is one terrific shooter. Not only did I meet Sharpshooter but I met his colleague Long Arm, another controlled shooter. Both of these guys were very personable and we had a really pleasant conversation; I sincerely hope our paths cross again. One of the things Sharpshooter told me is that he had written a book about Craps that was about to be published and that he would see to it that I got a copy. True to his word a copy of Getting the Edge at Craps, How to Control the Dice was in my mailbox a few weeks later.

Sharpshooter's book is one of the books in Frank Scoblete's Get the Edge series and, as all books in the series, contains an interesting foreword written by Frank. All of these books are published by Bonus Books of Chicago and all of them are great reading (two others are Get the Edge at Roulette by Christopher Pawlicki and 77 Ways to Get the Edge at Casino Poker by Fred Renzey).

To best describe Sharpshooter's book, I believe it is best to begin by saying what the book is not. It is not a book about betting schemes akin to the flim flam Craps systems that are on the market. It is not a book about money management, although that topic is discussed in the context of the book's message. It is not a book about hedging schemes to get comps. Above all, it is not a book about how to easily get rich playing Craps. So what is it about?

If I had to put it succinctly, I'd say it is a book about developing athletic skill. At Craps? You bet. Sharpshooter's main message is threefold. First is how to set the dice. This is discussed clearly and at length. Second is how to grip the dice. Again, this is discussed in detail. In both cases there are illustrations to help the reader correctly grip and set the dice. Finally he discusses delivery; how to effectively toss those two cubes. A full chapter is devoted to each of these topics. Reading by itself, however, will not do the job. If you want to become a proficient dice shooter then you have to practice, practice, practice. Does this mean that you have to go out and buy a Craps table and plop it down in your living room? No, aside from the expense involved there would also be the divorce! Rather, Sharpshooter gives detailed instructions about how to construct a collapsible box for dice practice. He also gives a sample Controlled Throw Practice Form for recording your progress using the box. Everything you need to become a successful Craps shooter is in this book. Well, everything but determination, you have to provide that.

Although the topics discussed in the above paragraph comprise the meat of this book, there is some other stuff in it as well. In particular Sharpshooter describes some of the exploits involving him and his cronies. These stories are interspersed throughout the book and make for some entertaining reading. So, all in all, I really enjoyed reading the book and would recommend it, without hesitation, to anyone who wants to seriously play the game of Craps.

Next month I'll discuss an interesting piece of mathematics that I bumped into by surprise when I was studying state lotteries. See you then.

Donald Catlin

Don Catlin is a retired professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Massachusetts. His original research area was in Stochastic Estimation applied to submarine navigation problems but has spent the last several years doing gaming analysis for gaming developers and writing about gaming. He is the author of The Lottery Book, The Truth Behind the Numbers published by Bonus books.

Books by Donald Catlin:

Lottery Book: The Truth Behind the Numbers
Donald Catlin
Don Catlin is a retired professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Massachusetts. His original research area was in Stochastic Estimation applied to submarine navigation problems but has spent the last several years doing gaming analysis for gaming developers and writing about gaming. He is the author of The Lottery Book, The Truth Behind the Numbers published by Bonus books.

Books by Donald Catlin:

Lottery Book: The Truth Behind the Numbers