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I would appreciate it if someone could explain what goes on this sentence from Hemingway's short story "The Gambler, the Nun, and the Radio."

The protagonist, an unlucky gambler, says:

"I never carry a gun. With my luck, if I carried a gun I would be hanged ten times a year. I am a cheap card player, only that." He stopped, then continued. "When I make a sum of money I gamble and when I gamble I lose. I have passed at dice for three thousand dollars and crapped out for the six. With good dice. More than once."

I cannot figure out the meaning of these two phrases in this context. "Crapped out for the six" = lost six thousand dollars? What does "passed at dice for three" mean then?

I would really appreciate your help. Thanks!

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The most common bet at the craps table is the "Pass Line", though the domain has a deep set jargon terms for a variety of other bets.

How the pass line works is you place your bet before the roller or shooter shoots two dice. The first roll can win (if the shooter rolls 7 or 11), lose* (if the shooter rolls 2, 3 or 12) or set the point (if the shooter rolls 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) with the value rolled. After the point is set, there is an opportunity to increase the pass line bet (called "taking odds") so the gambler can choose the total amount of money to risk after seeing the number rolled. Then the shooter will roll until they either roll the point again (and "pass") or roll a 7, and lose.

*Technically, just the 2, 3 and 12 are the "craps" numbers and to "crap out" is to lose on the first roll and pass the dice; but many casual gamblers consider rolling 7 after the point (technically to "seven out") is also "crapping out", which appears to be the use here.

With two six sided dice, 6 and 8 are statistically more likely than any other point number (albeit less statistically likely than 7) so if the point is set to 6, it can be an attractive position to increase your bet. If the narrator is reliable, they are complaining that in multiple trips through the scenario where they would expect to win at least some of the time, they feel they have only lost.

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"Crapped out" is one way of losing at the dice game Craps. "Pass" seems to be something in Craps as well, though I don't know what.

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  • I've always liked to think that the specific way of losing referenced with to crap out was when the dice-roller set himself the high-odds target of, say, a hard 8. For which he needs 4+4, so if he rolls 1+7, 2+6, or 3+5 he craps out even though he's got the target total. Somewhat like what usually happens if you try to draw to an inside straight in poker - losing in a "Close, but no cigar!" kinda way. – FumbleFingers Apr 18 '18 at 18:01

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