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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Playing It Smart: Can you save more by betting more? Part 3: Craps

29 April 2008

Casino craps accommodates a variety of bets, having house advantages or edges ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous. Minimizing the edge is an art that involves choosing which bets to make and exploiting the benefits of extra money on the table.

Edge, of course, isn't the only bet selection criterion. You may fancy dropping $12 on Don't Pass then, on rolls that get through the come-out, placing the point for $12 (six or eight) or $10 (four, five, nine, or 10). You'll either break even or win $2 or $6 depending on the number and whether the shooter rolls the point or a seven. Cute. But edge is high because the 8-to-3 odds the $12 must overcome during the come-out greatly exceeds the possible proceeds later, giving the house a fat average profit.

Pretend you do want to minimize edge at craps. The key is to bet only on Pass, Come, Don't Pass, and Don't Come. House advantage on the "flat" bets, the amount wagered during the come-out that pays 1-to-1 regardless of when it wins, is about 1.4 percent. That's $0.14 average casino earnings for every $10 ventured. No other craps bets squeeze such little juice from your wad.

Most solid citizens begin craps sequences on Pass or Don't Pass. But quite a few hedge these wagers with offsetting propositions, usually high-payoff one-roll bets. The edge on one-roll bets tends to be large. And, worsening the matter, the house gets the edge on the total but players can only win on the difference.

Many craps buffs also round out their action during the point phase of a hand with Place, Buy, or Lay bets. Place bets have edges of 1.5 percent on sixes or eights, 4.0 percent on fives or nines, and 6.7 percent on fours or 10s. Buys and Lays work somewhat differently. As an example, buying a four or 10 for $39, which is optimum on these boxes in terms of edge, is tantamount to pitting $40 to fight 2-to-1 odds of netting $77. This is equivalent to an edge of 2.5 percent. Lay bets are comparable.

Say you're comfortable exceeding the table's lower limit on an individual bet. You can cut the edge below 1.4 percent on Pass, Come, Don't Pass, and Don't Come. After the come-out, augment the flat bets with Odds. This money pays strictly in synch with the chance of winning and therefore has no edge of its own.

Think of it this way. A flat $10 on Pass wins or loses $10 and is worth 1.4 percent, $0.14, to the casino. Assuming the bet moves to a point and you take double Odds, you add $10 x 2 or $20 to the original $10. You have $30 at risk and can win $34, $40, or $50 depending on the point. But the house still figures you for $0.14 because the Odds are a statistical wash. The house accordingly earns a theoretical commission of $0.14 on $30. And $0.14 is less than half a percent of $30. Edge falls further at greater Odds multiples. At 10X odds, you add $100 to the $10 for a total of $110. The house still only averages $0.14. And $0.14 is approximately an eighth of a percent of $110. Laying Odds on Don't Pass or Don't Come leads to similar results.

The worst edges at craps are on the one-roll propositions and the Hardways. It's true you can bet many of these for chump change, say $1. But consider that the house figures $0.14 for $110 when you bet $10 on Pass and take 10X Odds, and roughly the same $0.14 when you bet $1 on the two.

You can triumph, no matter how you gamble. People do occasionally strike it rich on a lottery. This, because, even a usurious edge will be swamped by the volatility of a game during individual sessions of reasonable duration. But if you play long and often, edge can grind you down. And the bigger the edge, the more pronounced the effect. As the poet, Sumner A Ingmark, wrote:


Those who flout the experts' edge-based rule are,

Courting separation from their moolah.

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.