Craps is, of course, a casino game in which players bet on the outcome of a roll, or a series of rolls, of a pair of dice. The name ‘craps’ is believed to be an Anglicisation of the French word ‘crapaud’, meaning ‘toad’ which, in turn, is derived from how a precursor of craps, called ‘hazard’, was played by people crouched on floors or pavements in seventeenth century France. However, the origins of hazard are believed to be much older. The invention of the game is credited to William of Tyre, during the siege of the castle of Hazarth – after which the games was probably named – in the early twelfth century.
Fast forward five hundred years or so and craps was a simplification of hazard created in France in the late sixteenth century. In the early nineteenth century, the game was introduced to New Orleans by French-American nobleman Bernard de Marigny who, as an errant young man, spent time frequenting the gambling houses of London. In the early years of the twentieth century, John H. Winn, a.k.a. ‘the Father of Modern-Day Craps’, remedied an obvious flaw in the game, by allowing ‘pass’ and ‘don’t pass’ options. His innovation revolutionised craps and encouraged its spread throughout French Louisiana and along the Mississippi River. Fast forward again, to the early Thirties, and the legalisation of gambling in Nevada further increased the popularity of craps and it has remained a rollicking, social game on the tables of Las Vegas ever since.
In Texas hold’em poker, ‘floating the flop’ is an intermediate, or advanced, bluffing technique used to defend against the continuation bet, or ‘c-bet’, which can, itself, be a bluffing technique. Aggressive players frequently follow a pre-flop raise with a bet on the flop – that is, a continuation bet – regardless of whether or not they hit the flop, but floating the flop allows player to turn a continuation bet on a weak, non-made hand against his opponent.
Floating the float is best done when in position – that is, when you are the last player to act in a hand – in a heads-up pot, against a tight-aggressive opponent, who frequently raises pre-flop and continuation bets. The idea is that you lead your opponent to believe that you have a legitimate hand, by calling pre-flop and calling his or her continuation bet on the flop, with a view to forcing him or her to check on the turn card.
If your opponent shows any sign of weakness, by checking to you, you are in perfect position to take the pot by betting heavily on the turn, at three-quarters of the pot size, to make it too expensive for him or her to continue. Otherwise, if your opponent bets heavily on the turn, you can fold safe in the knowledge that you probably have an inferior hand in any case or, if he or she bets weakly on the turn, perhaps re-raise, although this is a dangerous tactic, especially against an unfamiliar opponent.
Nowadays, baccarat is the most popular gambling game in the world, accounting for the majority of casino revenue in Macau and Singapore and, even on the Las Vegas Strip, playing second fiddle only to the ubiquitous slot machines in terms of profitability.
Like many ancient card games, the origin of baccarat is disputed. The name ‘baccarat’ is derived from the French word ‘baccara’, which dates from the mid-nineteenth century, but the origin of which is unknown. One suggestion, by independent game historian Thierry Depaulis, that the name is derived from the Provençal expression ‘fa bacarrat’, which translates into English as ‘go bankrupt’, seems at least as plausible, if not more so, than unsubstantiated rumours of an Italian heritage. In his ‘Dictionary of Conversation and Reading’, published in 1867, William Duckett claims that baccarat was originally an Italian game, imported into the south of France in the late fifteenth century, but provides no supporting evidence.
Whatever the origin of the game, the first printed records of baccarat being played in the United States appeared in ‘The New York Times’ in the late nineteenth century. Baccarat was not played in Nevada casinos until 1958 but, the following year, a new version of the game, known as ‘punto banco’ was imported to Las Vegas from Cuba by Tommy Rezoni. The original version featured a side bet on ‘naturals’, which has since been replaced by the ‘tie’ bet but, otherwise, punto banco was virtually indistinguishable from modern baccarat.
A sucker bet is a bet that overwhelmingly favours the casino – that is, a bet with a huge house advantage, or house edge – by offering odds that are significantly lower than the true, mathematical odds of winning. Sucker bets are often created to fool, or hoodwink, inexperienced players into betting against the odds, although experienced players are often just as bad at evaluating true odds. In a single coin toss, the odds of heads or tails are, of course, even money, or 1/1, but in ten tosses of the same coin, the odds of five heads and five tails are 5/2 against, as counter-intuitive as it may seem.
Blackjack, for example, generally offers a house edge of 0.28%, but even something as apparently innocuous as taking ‘insurance’ against the dealer having blackjack when his upcard is an ace adds up to 7% to the house edge. Craps, too, offers ‘don’t pass/don’t come’ bets with a house edge of 1.36% and ‘pass/come’ bets with a house edge of 1.41%, but anyone bold, or foolhardy, enough to bet on ‘any seven’, with a house edge of 16.67%, has fallen victim to a sucker bet. Worse still is keno, which requires little thought or involvement, but is, nonetheless, an uncomplicated, relaxed form of gambling. Keno players may be less relaxed to learn that, at best, they are giving away a 25% edge to the house and, at worst, an eyewatering 29%.