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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Does craps have the opposite of a Place bet, one you win if a seven hits before the number?

2 September 2013

Question: In craps, you can bet on four, five, six, eight, nine, or 10, winning if the number appears and losing if the throw is a seven. The trouble is, sevens roll more than any other result so the odds are always against you. Is it possible to bet with the house, so you win on a seven and lose on the selected number?

Answer: Yes. These are called "lay" bets. As you note, you're favored to win. In fact your odds of winning are 2-to-1 on four or 10, 3-to-2 on five or nine, and 6-to-5 on six or eight. But, before you quit your day job figuring the casino bosses have made a mistake, consider the whole picture.

First, winning lay bets pay less than what you stand to lose, the proportion being the inverse of the odds. So, if you bet $60, you'd win $30 on four/10, $40 on five/nine, and $50 on six/eight.

Second, the minimum bets are too high for many players. You must lay at least enough for the payoff to be $20. This means $40 on four/10, $30 on five/nine, and $24 on six/eight.

Third, while you're favored to win, the house still has an edge. This is collected as a "vigorish" or "vig," which you must give the dealer when you make the bet. The vig is 5 percent of what you hope to win, rounded down to the nearest dollar. For the minimum bets cited above, 5 percent of the $20 payoff is $1. You therefore have to give the dealer $41 to lay $40 on the four or 10, $31 to lay $30 on the five or nine, and $25 to lay $24 on the six or eight. The house keeps the vig whether you win or lose.
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.