Ask a Casino Dealer – Who Are “Strokers” at the Craps Table and How Do They Scam the House?

Craps Dealer Behind  His Table

After enjoying an early exit from my days of owning a casino industry consulting firm, I found myself growing restless in retirement. Ever the gambler, I decided to take a risk and enroll in a dealer’s school here in my native Las Vegas. It was hard work – a lot harder than I assumed it would be, if I’m being honest – but I successfully graduated and found employment on The Strip. I didn’t really need the money, per se, but I definitely needed the utterly unique sights and sounds that only a Sin City casino can serve up.

One of the oddest sights I witnessed during those days took place at the craps table. There, amidst the hustle and hubbub of a hot roll, cheats known as “strokers” plied their trade by targeting green dealers like myself.

Below you’ll find everything you need to know about strokers, the gambling industry’s most shameless hucksters.

Alright, I’ll Bite… What the Heck is a Stroker Anyway?

I won’t pretend as if I know the term’s origin or etymology, but I sure do know what strokers are all about.

During a crowded craps game, a stroker will wait around until they sense a “break-in” dealer has entered the fray. In our industry, that term simply refers to an inexperienced dealer who needed to be “broken in” through diligent study and on-the-job training.

When a stroker sees that the craps dealer isn’t exactly an expert in their craft, they start salivating at the prospects of free money?

Sorry to Interrupt, But I Thought Casino Dealers Were Trained Well Before They Started Working Real Money Tables?

Well, we are… but craps is a different beast altogether. Old heads around the dealer break room always told me that it would take just north of three years – while working the full 40-hour a week grind, mind you – to come close to mastering craps.

I scoffed at that notion at the time, mistakenly believing any casino game could be “cracked” by putting in enough time, energy, and practice. Eventually, however, I came to realize that the old-timers had it right – craps played at the Las Vegas level is a bear to deal competently.

OK, So When a Craps Dealer Doesn’t Exactly Have Confidence in Their Corner, the Stroker Strikes?

Precisely. Once a stroker detects weakness from the dealer’s side of the table, the age-old contest between predator and prey begins anew.

Suddenly, the stroker springs into action by calling out a series of exotic and obscure bets. These wagers are called vocally and in quick succession, leaving vulnerable dealers to try and piece together a string of bets which they haven’t seen much of before.

Indiana Casino Craps Table

You’ll hear stuff like the “Ace-Deuce,” which pays out at 16 to 1, or “Hop” bets with their 30 to 1 payoff. Strokers also like to use slang terms and lingo to further disguise their intentions.

Why Do These People Try to Make a Tough Job Even Rougher on Rookie Dealers?

I’m sure it’s nothing personal. They just know an easy mark when they see one, I suppose.

A stroker isn’t trying to confuse the dealer just for the fun of it… no, they have bad intentions in mind.

I can still remember my first unpleasant experience being victimized by a stroker like it was yesterday. This greasy old dude knew I was raw, and he even knew that I knew that he knew. He could sense my hesitation and uncertainty, so he did what any predator does when it spots fresh prey – he pounced.

After placing a series of strange wagers I wasn’t used to, the guy seemingly did me a sold and asked for a pair of standard Place bets. Or so I thought…

The stroker tossed six of his black $100 chips my way and mumbled “six and eight,” which is the most common combination of Place bets made at the craps table. Knowing that informal craps etiquette meant the player wanted to wager on both the 6 and the 8, I instantly divided his $600 total in chips into two $300 stacks.

Within seconds, the stroker had $300 on the Place 6 and $300 more on the Place 8.

It took three rolls, but the shooter eventually nailed an 8 to mint the stroker’s $300 bet a winner. Using the standard 7 to 6 payout odds on this wager, I stacked up $350 in profit for the man and slid it back in his direction.

And just like that, he exploded with faux outrage that felt oh so real:

“Hey there kid, don’t try to short me!

I just gave you $600 to Place the 8, where’s the rest of my money?!

You all heard me say ‘six on eight” right?!

Within moments, my worst nightmares were coming true before my eyes as the intimidating floorman headed over to see what all the commotion was about. After hearing the regular player’s story, and sizing me up as a relatively new hire, the floorman sided with the stroker and ordered me to pay him $700 in profit instead.

Just like that, this particular stroker bilked my home casino out of a cool $350 while utterly embarrassing your humble author in the process.

Later on, I tried to plead my case to the floorman, but he sternly told me to consider the debacle to be a “learning lesson.”

Sufficed to say, I didn’t stick around that casino for much longer, but I did learn a lot that day. Namely, when there’s any glimmer of doubt about a bettor’s verbally voiced intentions, always double-check to confirm before making the bet action.

Ahh, That’s Pretty Brutal… and Yet, Pretty Savvy on the Stroker’s Part. Do They Have Any Other Tricks?

You bet they do…

Strokers pay their bills – or subsidize their gambling habit, at the very least – by employing every dirty trick in the casino cheat’s playbook.

They’ll wait until the very last moment right before the shooter rolls, then toss a $100 chip toward the “Field” bet space on the felt. When the shooter cooperates and rolls a 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12, the stroker happily collects the commensurate payout.

But when the Field bet fails, the stroker proudly looks a dealer dead in the eye and says “change for a hundred please.” Because you can’t assess the sincerity of the stroker’s intention during those brief milliseconds, they know inexperienced dealers will likely go along to get along.

Strokers also love to “barber-pole” their bets by placing different denomination chips in a pattern like $5 – $25 – $5 – $25 – $5. This isn’t against the rules, in and of itself, but it does add time and mental energy to the dealer’s already demanding duties.

Overhead View of a Craps Game

And a stressed dealer is a dealer prone to making mistakes that a skilled stroker can exploit.

Even worse, strokers often work in tandem, teaming up on either side of the table to game the comp reward system. One stroker always bets the Pass Line, while the other backs the Don’t Pass, thus ensuring that their collective bankroll will hold steady during a long session.

By betting big bucks, and sticking around the table long enough to get rated, these stroker teams can siphon all sorts of freebies from the house via the Player’s Club promotions.

Do the Casinos Really Worry Too Much About Strokers?

Sadly, not as much as they should. Unfortunately, the impact of strokers is essentially negligible in the eyes of a multibillion-dollar casino corporation’s accounting department.

These guys and gals are essentially bottom-feeders within the gambling industry’s illicit economy. They’ll never get a big score in the seven-, six, or even five-figures, so casinos are content to write stroker-induced losses off as “spillage.”

With that said, don’t get any ideas now… an eagle-eyed dealer with experience under their belt will bust an aspiring stroker every time.

Our Conclusion

Reliving my glory days as a casino dealer is always a good time, even when the focus turns to bad people who do bad things. Cheating and gambling have always gone hand in hand, but still, it’s a shame realizing just how common lowlifes like craps strokers are in the real world. In every casino you’ll ever visit, you can bet your bottom dollar that a stroker lurks somewhere nearby, waiting in the weeds to strike back at unsuspecting dealers just beginning their career.

Thankfully, dealer training continues to improve by leaps and bounds, while the once secretive techniques favored by strokers are now seeing the light of day.