In the area of craps, the greatest interest is usually centered around monster rolls, rolls that last more than 20-30 minutes and make everyone at the table a bundle of money. I have had a good number of monster rolls, between 45 minutes and an hour.
How do my monsters stack up against the greatest rolls of all time? Like Gremlins to Godzilla! The greatest ?verified? roll of all time was one Stanley Fujitake, the famous ?Golden Arm? from Hawaii, who rolled for over three hours at the California Club in Las Vegas in the 1980s. He is said to have had (unconfirmed) one to two hour rolls at Caesars Palace in Vegas as well.
There was a report of an even bigger roll at the Binions Horseshoe in Tunica -- a four-hour monster in 1999. When I investigated it, my reliable source (Madeliene Bizub who writes about Mississippi matters), told me that the roll was actually only (only!) 2 hours 15 minutes in duration and was not at the Horseshoe but rather at the Sheraton, which is next door. How did she know? She was there!
I personally witnessed two back-to-back hour-plus rolls at The Frontier during the summer of 1995, during that awful Union of Culinary Workers? strike. The table was composed of nothing but red-chip players, but after the two fellows finished two plus hours later, everyone was betting green, black and purple chips! How much did I make? About $37 -- because I was playing blackjack at the time, not craps. But I had a great view of the craps game, if that?s any consolation.
Atlantic City has had its share of great reported rolls. A two-hour roll was said to have occurred at Caesars in the mid-1990s but I could get no confirmation of it. I do know that the famous ?Arm? of Atlantic City has had many 20 minute to one-hour rolls over the past two-dozen years, and that one special night, New Year's Eve (1990?), at the Claridge Hotel, she had five or six 20-to-30-minute or longer rolls -- one after another -- because every other player passed up his or her turn to shoot and let the ?Arm? roll the bones exclusively! Literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions, were won by those high-rolling players in a single session. (Robert Renneisen, the former Claridge President, obliquely refers to the Captain?s Crew and episodes such as this in his excellent book How to Be Treated Like a High Roller Even Though You Are Not One.) Supposedly the ?Arm? was triumphantly boosted on the shoulders of the winning players and carried out of the casino like Michael Jordan after a championship, with all the attendant whooping and hollering. A happy New Year, indeed!
My claim to lasting fame is a seven-hour tag-team roll that I had in September of 2002 with a fellow dice controller at Treasure Island in Vegas. Everyone at the table passed the dice to the two of us, one of us was at the stickman?s left (me) and one was at the stickman?s right (him). We were the official rollers for the table and we had consistently good rolls, 15, 20, sometimes 30 minutes in duration. We almost broke the bank of that table!
Of course, there are famous craps players as well; that is, players who are known for running up big wins with small investments, not necessarily on their own individual rolls. Because craps is a game with many long-shot bets, some paying as high as 30 to 1, a craps player can catch a ?lucky streak? and ride small buy-ins to big wins. It?s rare but it does happens. Michael Konick in his excellent book, The Man with the $100,000 Breasts and Other Gambling Stories tells of one character known as Fast Eddie, ?an octogenarian jockey who has on four separate occasions run $100 up to more than $250,000.? That ain?t hay!
Would you rather be lucky or skillful? Many gamblers have asked that question, even Santiago, Ernest Hemingway?s ancient fisherman from the classic The Old Man and the Sea, wondered about this. His conclusion was that it was better to be skillful so that when luck came you were ready for it. Blackjack is a game of skill but some people have ridden lucky streaks to incredible wins.
In the spring of 1995, an old man found treasure at Treasure Island in Las Vegas. This was a rags to riches to rags story that has now taken on the aura of legend. While some writers think this tale is mere fiction, I can tell you it did happen. I personally interviewed dozens of eyewitnesses from Treasure Island for my book Best Blackjack, which has the complete story of the man sometimes referred to as ?the million dollar bum.? These interviews were done mere weeks after the events.
In a nutshell, here is the most amazing blackjack streak of all time: A smelly bum, whose wife has just kicked him out of the house, cashes in his $400 Social Security check and proceeds to win between 1.3 and 1.6 million dollars in a week-long orgy of good luck at the blackjack tables. The folks who deal to him and the folks who serve him say he is the rudest, crudest, but luckiest bastard they ever saw -- with the emphasis on the ?b? word. At the height of his winning he alienates just about everyone he comes into contact with at Treasure Island. When he finally blows his incredible bundle (oh, yes, he loses just about all of it back to the casino), then owner Steve Wynn steps in and has him escorted out into the neon night and into the dawn of a new Las Vegas legend.
The ?million dollar bum? might have had the greatest sustained rags-to-riches streak -- over a week of winning -- by a player who did not play basic strategy but did play the gods of chance for all they were worth, that is, until they turned on him. However, a shorter but also improbable streak took place at the Maxim Casino in Las Vegas in July of 1995 (just weeks after the bum?s rush), when a $5 player won 23 straight hands -- some with doubles, splits (wins on both!), and splits with doubles (wins on them all!) -- in blackjack playing heads up against a dealer in a six-deck game. This player was playing perfect basic strategy but, still, 23 straight hands is an amazing run. On the fourth hand, he started to increase his bets and he won several thousand dollars in that streak.
But luck comes and goes -- mostly goes since casino gaming for most folks is a negative-expectation endeavor -- but skill lasts. In the early and late 1970s the most exciting blackjack player in history, Ken Uston, beat the casinos in Vegas and Atlantic City out of over five million (some say 10 million) dollars utilizing a concept called ?team play.?
Here is a sample of how team play worked: Relatively small-stakes players took seats at various blackjack tables throughout the casino where they counted cards and used basic strategy to play their hands. When the shoe became positive for the player (many big cards were left), a small-stakes player signaled a ?big player? (Uston) to enter the game, make large bets, sometimes table maximum bets of $500 to $2,000, and depart once the shoe went negative. It was a remarkably effective system that some teams still utilize to this day. It got Uston fame, fortune and the boot from just about every casino he played in.
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