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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Take another look at Come bets in craps

19 March 2007

Seasoned craps aficionados often elect to have several numbers working for them simultaneously during a shooter's hand. By far, the most common way to achieve this is to start with a bet on Pass. Then, after the come-out roll has established a point, to make Place bets on one or more of the five remaining boxes.

The principal reason Place bets are popular is that players get to pick the numbers they want. The choice may be based on anything from hunches about what's going to hit or trends they're sure they divine, to chances of winning or amounts of payoffs.

The alternative to Placing multiple numbers for greater coverage is making Come bets. However, these are far less widely employed.

Some bettors avoid Come bets because they don't get to pick the number they need to win; it's determined instead by the point established on the come-out roll. Others stay away because the payout is only 1-to-1 unless they're willing and able to risk more money by taking Odds. A third group refrains from this wager because they think it matters that a number must show twice to win on the Come – once to establish it as the point and then to score – while Place bets pay the first time the value pops. And, of course, there are folks who've made up their minds to make Place bets and don't want to be confused by any new facts.

More's the pity. Betting on Come, even without taking Odds, gives the house less edge than Placing or feeling rich and Buying any number. The difference can be striking. A $5 Come bet is worth an average of $0.07 to the casino. Placing the six or eight isn't too far off; you can't do it for $5 but at $6, the bean counters in the back room chalk you up for roughly $0.09. Drop $5 on the five or nine and the casino's covert commission is $0.20. The four or 10 will surreptitiously siphon over $0.33 off a $5 bet.

Of perhaps greater importance is what happens if a solid citizen wants to go for more than $5 or $6. Bet $12 on six or eight and the casino averages $0.18 from the action, $10 on the four or nine gets the house $0.40, and the same on four or 10 earns the joint nearly $0.67. But $5 Come with $5 Odds ($6 Odds when the point is five or nine) still squeezes only $0.07 from a stash.

Place bets do pay more than Come bets, number-for-number, at least until a high Odds multiple is taken. Consider the nine, for example. Place it for $5 and win $7. Get on the nine with a $5 Come bet, taking no Odds, and win $5. Place it for $25 and win $35. Get there through the Come with $5 and take $20 Odds, though, and you also win $35. At any Odds multiple over 4X, you win more with the Come than the Place Bet.

Chance of winning is also a factor. Place the six or eight and your probability of success is five out of 11 or 45.4 percent. On the five or nine it's four out of 10 or 40.0 percent. And the four or 10 have a three out of nine or 33.3 percent chance.

Come bets are more complicated to figure. In 36 statistically-correct come-outs, you expect to win eight without ever getting to a point. You then anticipate being on six or eight 10 times, winning an average of 4.5; you'll be on the five or nine eight times and should win an average of 3.2; on four or 10 it's six times, to win an average of 2.0. That's a total of 17.7 wins in 36 decisions, or – allowing for round-off error – 49.3 percent.

So, maybe you should give Come bets a shot. Or, selfishly, maybe not. Casinos couldn't earn enough to pay their mortgages if everybody bet Pass and Come (or Don't Pass and Don't Come – the math is equivalent), especially with Odds. And they certainly couldn't offer the high Odds multiples that really make the game attractive for players who exploit the opportunity this affords.

Too many Come bettors might therefore lead to the loss of a good thing. Spoiling it for the proficient punters. Like the situation the songster, Sumner A Ingmark, envisioned when he inked:

After honing your skills, be happy that few are,
Also able to show the expertise you are.
For the pot is oft filled when those with no clue are,
Unaware what the things to use or eschew are.

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.