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Best of Donald Catlin

Gaming Guru

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The Five Count

6 June 2004

The 5-count is a Craps betting system that was first introduced in 1980 by a gambler identified only as "The Captain." Since then it has been touted by Frank Scoblete and a complete explanation of it can be found in his book Forever Craps, The Five Step Advantage Play Method (Bonus Books, 2000). A couple of years ago Frank asked me to do a mathematical analysis of the 5-count to see just what it does and does not do.

I did several computer simulations, sent Frank the results, and they now appear on his web site www.goldentouchcraps.com; click on 5-Count Proof on the left hand menu. Since that time a few of my colleagues, make that mathematical colleagues, have questioned me about this work and have expressed some skepticism. In particular, they point out that no betting system can possibly turn a negative expectation game into a positive expectation game and that any "proof" of such a claim would be bogus. Let me set the record straight; no such claim was ever made by either Frank or me.

First of all Frank accurately reported all of my results. In fact, I have never known Frank to misrepresent anything. He reports facts as facts and opinions as opinions. I'll have to admit that Frank's enthusiasm bubbles over when he writes but that is why he is such a good writer. If, however, you carefully read his write-up of my results, the facts are reported exactly as I found them. I am not going to reiterate all of my findings in this article (Frank's article is 6 pages long) since you can read them in their entirety on the Golden Touch Craps web site. I would, however, like to give you a simple overview of what I discovered and how I interpret my results.

First of all, and this is very important, my results showed that for two random shooters placing the 6 and 8, one using the 5-count and one betting every roll (for simplicity I had the bets working on comeout rolls) each experienced a house edge of 1.5% based on the amount of money risked. No surprise there! This is exactly what probability theory predicts and what Frank reported. What this proved to me was simply that my simulation was working as expected.

There is, however, a point to be made here. During the period of play the 5-count shooter lost about 57% less than the "Bet All" player. This is not surprising but, according to Frank, it does have an interesting consequence in terms of comps. Since both players played the same length of time at the same betting level, Frank contends that they would have been given the same comp rating. I suspect that this might depend upon the awareness of the person doing the rating, but Frank has had a lot of experience at this and I'll take his word for it. Anyway, he gives some numerical examples to show, under various circumstances, how the 5-counter would fare at the comp game as opposed to the "Bet All" player. The 5-counter wins hands down.

The next thing I addressed is the Captain's contention that the 5-count will find controlled shooters if they are at the table. Here we come to a sticky point. Some people claim that there is no such thing as a controlled shooter. I can weigh in on this point. I have seen controlled shooters with my own eyes and have made money betting on them. Specifically I have watched Frank, Dominator, and Sharpshooter produce controlled rolls and I made money on all three. You can read accounts of two of these incidents in my articles Sharpshooter and Rhythmic Rolling and the Gambler's Jamboree which appeared January 5th and December 13th respectively in 2003 on this web site; both articles are in the archives. If you are a skeptic then read no further.

I first did a simulation wherein there were 10 players at the table and player number 10 had a seven-to-rolls-ratio (SRR) of 1 to 7 (random SRR is 1 to 6). The rest of the players were random rollers but player number 1 was using the 5-count. Player #1 bet on player #10 more frequently than on player #9 and ended up with a 0.18% edge on the house. If player #10 had had an SRR of 1 to 8 then player #1 would have had a 1.15% edge on the house.

These results bring up two issues. First, since I took the Golden Touch seminar I think I can spot a controlled shooter just by the way he delivers the dice. So why do I need the 5-count? Good question. I accidentally got the answer when I attended the Golden Touch seminar last August. There I discovered that when the Golden Touch crew actually plays they use the 5-count on each other. Why? Because everyone has an off-day now and then and the 5-count will detect this and save them money.

The second issue is related to one of Frank's opinions. Frank believes that there are shooters out there who set the dice and have unconsciously become controlled shooters over time; Frank calls them Rhythmic Rollers. To be honest with you I am not so sure I believe this. So what? If there are such individuals out there, my results show that the 5-count will find them. So, if you're using the 5-count it really doesn't matter if Frank is right about this or I'm right about this; both are just opinions and are clearly labeled as such. The 5-count works either way.

I did one other simulation. I put a controlled shooter in spot #1. He used the 5-count on everyone but himself; the other nine shooters were random rollers who bet on every roll. Everyone placed the 6 and 8. Player #1 always made money. Interestingly enough, when player #1 had a SRR of 1 to 7.5 or better, everyone at the table made money.

Could someone come up with a different counting system and get similar results? Sure. The 5-count, though, has been around for a while, there is empirical evidence that it works, and my simulations have quantified some of this empirical evidence. If you want to see the details of my simulations, all of the numbers are there on the Golden Touch Craps web site and I welcome anyone to check my results with their own simulations. See you next month.

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