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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Do you discount the significance of the come-out roll at craps?

1 August 2011

Most craps aficionados bet on Pass or Don’t Pass during the come-out phase of a hand. They go through the come-out roll but give it short shrift, thinking it’s mainly means for establishing the point. Focus is on the rolls that follow, until the shooter repeats the point or sevens-out.

Three primary factors account for this attitude. 1) Although players know they can win or lose during the come-out, they typically regard the amount involved as petty compared with what’s subsequently up for grabs. 2) Only 12 out of the 36 possible outcomes of the roll yield a win or loss, while 24 establish a point. 3) The come-out requires one toss of the dice; point rolls may involve many throws and much more time, and are where the excitement and anticipation build.

Solid citizens who fail to appreciate the significance of wins or losses on the come-out may ignore opportunities to hold the bosses to an extremely low edge at craps. To picture the effect, pretend this phase of the game only determines the point while totals other than four, five, six, eight, nine, and 10 are pushes.

Make believe you bet $5 on Don’t Pass in such an instance. You’d leave the come-out with a $5 even-money bet that a seven would then appear before the established point repeated. You’d have an edge, since seven is more likely to occur than your number but you’re paid 1-to-1. For four or 10, the conditional edge would be ((6/9)x$5 - (3/9)x$5)/$5 or 33.3 percent. For five or nine and six or eight, it would be 20.0 and 9.1 percent, respectively. Other size bets would yield the same percentages. Were you to lay Odds on this bet, your edge would actually decline. But the issue is moot because no casinos would book wagers that gave players an edge from the get-go, so they’d certainly disallow Don’t Pass bets that could neither win nor lose on the come-out.

Pretend, instead, you bet Pass for $5 on the same no-win/no-lose come-out. You’d end up with a $5 even money bet that the point would subsequently repeat before a seven popped. The house’s conditional edge would be huge – equal and opposite to the players’ advantage on Don’t Pass for the same points. Namely, -33.3, -20.0 and -9.1 percent for four or 10, five or nine, and six or eight, respectively. Taking Odds would reduce the pain. High enough Odds multiples could cut the edge to levels matching or below those on Place or Buy bets on the same points, although you might be reluctant to risk enough on a single number to achieve such a goal. As an illustration, with 4X Odds the conditional house advantage on a five would be -4.0 percent, the same as for a Place bet on the same number. But you could Place the number for $5 to win $7, while 4X Odds on $5 flat would require a total of $25 to win $35. With 6X Odds, a total of $35 to win $50, your edge would be down to about 2.8 percent; 10X Odds, $55 to win $80, reduces it to 1.8 percent.

Wins and losses that may seem like chump change during standard come-out rolls have a major impact on the game. Don’t Pass bettors are underdogs on decisions reached during the come-out, with even money payouts on eight ways to lose versus only three to win (1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 6-1, 5-6, and 6-5 versus 1-1, 1-2, and 2-1); this is enough to more than offset the large advantage players obtain during the point phase of the roll, switching the net edge to the house so the bets can be offered. The offset is such that the joint overall house edge on the bet without Odds is just shy of 1.4 percent – and substantially less with Odds laid. Pass bettors are strong favorites on decisions reached during the come-out, with even money payouts on eight ways to win versus only four to lose (1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 6-1, 5-6, and 6-5 versus 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, and 6-6); this tames the big advantage the house enjoys during the point phase of the roll, trimming the joint overall house edge on the bet to slightly over 1.4 percent – and appreciably less with Odds taken.

Understanding the significance of wins and losses on the come-out clarifies why proficient players use Pass, Come, Don’t Pass and Don’t Come (the Comes work the same way as the corresponding Passes) rather than Place, Buy, Lay, and Put bets to minimize the edge on the total they have at risk at any one time. For Bettors on Don’t Pass, the one-roll 8-to-3 hurdle not only makes their wagers possible but also is an inducement to maximize Odds relative to the flat portions of their bets. For bettors on Pass, it suggests why its wise to avoid diluting the 8-to-4 advantage during the come-out roll with hedges on the propositions, and take the highest possible Odds on the lowest acceptable bets consistent with their bankrolls during the point rolls.,

You can have a profitable craps session by luck alone, ignoring the edge on your bets. But, over an extended number of games, you’ll have more such sessions, and they’ll be more consistently profitable, if you keep the house’s share as low as you can. As the Dryden of the dice, Sumner A Ingmark, daringly declared:

The impact of luck should not just be neglected,
But knowledge protects you from luck misdirected.

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.