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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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An Alternative to Place Betting at Craps that Cuts Edge and Exposure

5 June 2002

Ask as many experienced slot enthusiasts as you want how best to attack the machines. Most will more or less agree (rationally or not). Pick a game at a bet level you can afford, with a jackpot and other payoffs you'd be happy winning, and go for the maximum number of coins per spin. Ask a dozen deft dice devotees how best to play craps. You're apt to get at least 12 distinct views.

More than any other casino game, craps accommodates diversity. This, because of multiple wagers that reinforce, offset, and augment one another. And, a glance at almost any table will show that players are indeed of unlike mind in exploiting the options.

Bettors choose craps strategies to meet their personal, not necessarily explicitly-stated, preferences. To minimize house advantage, maximize earnings during long rolls, lessen losses during choppy periods, obtain a high probability of a small profit, get action on as many rolls as possible - to name a few. Not all together, of course, although optimists keep trying. Each path has inevitable potholes. Minimizing edge tends to reduce flexibility. Maximizing profit when shooters are hot often leads to disaster when they're cold. Betting on lots of numbers, to get unremitting action, increases vulnerability to a rout. Covering only a few numbers, to reduce exposure, may mean standing idly by while everyone else is raking in the rupees.

Say that, seeking a fast pace with moderate swings, you usually bet $5 on Pass; when the point is established, you take $10 Odds and place the five other numbers for $5 or $6 as appropriate. After the come-out, you collect on any of 24 possible dice combinations: on the Pass Line, you'll pick up $25, $20, or $17 depending on the point; on the boxes, fours and 10s will pay $9, the others will get $7. You'll lose everything on any of the six ways a seven can appear. And you'll get no action on the six remaining combinations that total two, three, 11, or 12.

An alternate approach, rarely used despite having a good mix of features, may appeal to some solid citizens. Start with the same $5 on Pass and take Odds after the point is established. However, instead of placing the other numbers, make a $5 Come bet. Then continue to make $5 Come bets on every subsequent roll. To keep your exposure at or below the $42 to which you're accustomed with the five Place bets, take no Odds on the Come bets.

The approach offers several benefits over Place bets. 1) The edge on a Come bet without Odds is 1.4 percent; this is less than that on Place bets - 1.5 percent on six and eight, 4 percent on five and nine, and 6.7 percent on four and 10. 2) Something happens on every roll - a win, a loss, or the bet moves to a number. 3) If the shooter throws a seven immediately or soon after establishing a point, you don't lose money on all six numbers, and you offset the loss on one active bet by winning $5 on the Come. 4) At the end of a long roll, the $5 on the Come offsets one of your other bets. 5) You win $5 on the Come bet when the shooter throws an 11. 6) If you want to press one or more bets after you've been hitting and are flying high, you can do so by taking Odds, further reducing the house's edge on your wagers.

The strategy also has drawbacks. 1) If a shooter throws several numbers but no repeats, followed by a seven, you won't collect except on the final Come bet. 2) You can't take Come bets down or off once the money has moved to a number. 3) All payoffs are at even money. 4) You'll lose a bet in the Come box on a two, three, or 12. 5) Your bets "work" on come-outs after a shooter Passes. 6) Alert dealers will keep bugging you to take Odds.

Relative to multiple Place bets, serial Come bets trim the house advantage and reduce or eliminate losses during short rolls while yielding strong earnings when shooters hold onto the dice. You sacrifice flexibility and will come up short if the shooter loads the bases for you then sevens out. A sophisticated way to play. Hardly one of those fabled secrets the casino bosses don't want anyone to know. As the versemonger, Sumner A Ingmark, voiced:

Gamblers erudite,
Philosophers astute,
Know that neither right,
Nor wrong are absolute.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.