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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Playing It Smart: Should you make Come bets if you can't afford the Odds?

28 December 2007

Some craps know-it-alls think anyone who makes Pass or Come bets without taking Odds is an idiot. Ditto for Don't Pass and Don't Come. The reasoning is that supplementing these bets with Odds reduces the house advantage on the total in action. So a player who doesn't take or lay odds is sacrificing edge to the house.

But, augmenting Come bets with Odds can put a lot of money on the table all at once a situation that can be hazardous to a modest bankroll. To avoid the vulnerability a large total outlay implies, and simultaneously refrain from giving the bosses more edge than they're willing to take, some solid citizens make Place rather than Come bets after a point is established.

Such logic is specious. On flat Come bets the basic wagers not augmented by odds house edge is 1.41 percent. This is less than the edge on any Place bets, the values being 1.51, 4.00, and 6.67 percent on sixes or eights, fives or nines, and fours or 10s, respectively. It's also less than the effective edge Buying the four or 10, which starts at 4.76 percent for bets in integral multiples of $20 and drops to a low of 4.06 percent at $39.

Another widely-held fallacy is that Place bets get more action than money wagered on Come. The source of this error is the idea that Place bets are ready to win (or lose, of course) as soon as they're made, while going through the Come means waiting for a point to be established before the rocking and rolling begins.

The accompanying table explores this misconception. The data show how many wins, losses, and total decisions for Place (or Buy) and Come bets to expect, on the average, for every thousand throws of the dice. The values, found by simulating 10 million tosses on a computer, are rounded off to the nearest whole number. The table also gives the theoretical probability of winning.

Frequencies of decisions and probabilities of success for Pass or Buy and Come bets per thousand throws

bet	wins	losses	total	prob of
			decisions	success
Place six/eight	139	167	306	45.45%
Place five/nine	111	167	278	40.00%
Place or Buy four/10	83	167	250	33.33%
Come	146	150	296	49.29%

From the table, it's evident that Come bets get less action than money Placed on the six or eight, but more than on the other boxes. Examining the data further reveals that Come bets are projected to win more and lose less often than any of the alternatives. They accordingly have greater probability of success. So, even relative to Place bets on six and eight, wagers on Come have a higher frequency of wins and a lower rate of losses.

The error in thinking that Place bets in general are decided less regularly than wagers on Come arises by neglecting what happens on come-out rolls. Here, sevens or 11s win and 2s, 3s, or 12s lose. Craps buffs accustomed to Come bets with Odds may denigrate the flat-only money flowing into or out of a stash on these decisions as mere chump change. But it can be add up, especially because a third of all Come bets will be decided at this stage. More, of the bets settled on the come-out, twice as many are expected to be triumphs as tragedies. And, when Come bets are not backed by Odds, the amounts involved are the same during the come-out and point phases of a hand.

Payouts are another factor. The profit is 7-to-6, 7-to-5, and 9-to-5 for bets Placed on the six or eight, five or nine, and four or 10, respectively; Buys on the four or 10 pay 2-to-1, minus the effect of the vigorish. Come bets without Odds pay 1-to-1. You may intuitively prefer something like 40 percent chance of winning $7 with $5 on the nine, to over 49% chance of winning $5 with $5 on Come. In this case, nobody except maybe your third grade arithmetic teacher can really flunk you. Especially if your mind is made up to Place the numbers, regardless of the facts you now know about the Come. But I'll stop here, or I'll soon be mentioning lowering flat bets and using the difference as Odds. As that perceptive poet, Sumner A Ingmark, pedantically penned:


Improve your chance to take the prize,

And, doing so, enlarge its size,

With strategies you optimize.

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.