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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Should you "work" your craps bets on the come-out?

19 July 2010

Flat bets on Pass and Come at craps, those made when the shooter is coming-out, are contracts. After the come-out roll, when the points for such bets have been established, you can't temporarily call them off or permanently take them down. This, because you're favored 8-to-4 on these wagers during the come-out, in that they win eight ways – 1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 6-1, 5-6, and 6-5, and lose only four – 1-1, 1-2, 2-1, and 6-6. Surely, you don't expect the bosses to give you an edge at the starting gate and not make up for it smartly if the hand goes to the point phase.

On all other multi-roll wagers, edge is uniform throughout the hand. It's zero for the Odds that augment flat bets and biased toward the house for everything else. The effect is essentially that of a new bet on every throw. You may consequently suspend, cancel, or tacitly renew these bets before they're resolved.

Non-contract bets on the table after a shooter hits a point on the Pass line are presumed to be out of action during the ensuing come-out. To over-ride this default mode, tell the dealer you want certain or all of them to "work." In most casinos, you must repeat this instruction whenever the situation arises. In a few joints, savvy dealers ask solid citizens making this call whether they want these bets to work without specific requests for the rest of the session or pending a contrary directive.
Unless the family haruspex has been lying to you all these years, you know an inanimate set of cubes can't distinguish come-outs from other rolls. A four, for instance, has the same three out of 36 probability whenever a pair of dice is thrown. Similarly for whatever total you care to name. So, why is the normal status of these bets to be out of action on come-outs after Passes, and why do some individuals flout this tradition and work them?

Superstition may, indeed, play a role in having bets dormant during come-outs. You can find wiseguys who are convinced that sevens occur more often on these than other throws of the dice. But this nonsense is far less widespread than commonly believed.

Then, there's the win on front line bets if sevens pop on come-outs. This happenstance is a profitable link in what players hope will be a long chain of hits before the final curtain on a hand. Nobody likes to lose on what's nominally a successful throw.

Two other explanations follow from "off" being the normal modus operandi. First, the majority of players don't know there's an alternative. Second, folks who do know they have an option assume that because the casino makes this strategy the standard, and almost everybody goes along, it must be proper craps practice.

Dual reasons also motivate contrarians who work these bets during come-out rolls. One explanation holds for the Odds on Come bets. Neither the bettors nor the bosses have an advantage on the Odds. However, they lower the house's effective percentage edge on the flat wagers to which they're attached, albeit by raising the amount of money at risk. Those flat bets, being contracts, are always up for grabs. Letting the Odds work during come-out rolls accordingly affords bettors the benefit of the reduced edge.

The other rationale for working bets is simply that some craps aficionados crave as much action as they can get. They're at the rail to take a shot, not to stand around. If a seven shows on the come-out and the bets lose, explative deleted but so be it. If one of their covered numbers pops – the chances are 24 out of 36 that a four, five, six, eight, nine, or 10 will show – the bet wins. Isn't that why they made the wagers at the outset, anyway?

Should you work your bets during come-out rolls? As with all gambling choices, there's no absolute answer. You now have the information needed to weigh the pros and cons against your hopes and fears. Decide for yourself. Self-anointed gurus who tell you what to do, rather than present a basis for making up your own mind, ought to be taken with a grain of salt. Among other things, they ignored this maxim offered by the muse, Sumner A Ingmark:
Give not rules they can apply,
Teach instead the reasons why.

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.