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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Try Hedging Craps Bets Sequentially rather than Concurrently

9 March 2004

Some solid citizens garner great gratification from opportunities craps affords to hedge their bets. Qualitatively, hedging appeals to them as what seems like cheap insurance against costly losses. Quantitatively, well... folks who think hedging is a cute way to beat the bosses don't usually sweat the arithmetic too profusely.

Hedges may be simple. An archetype is $1 on Any Craps during the come-out roll to "protect" $5 or $10 on the Pass line. This hedge pays $7 on a two, three, or 12 -- the instant losers on the line. Anything else and the dollar vanishes. It's just a buck, the argument goes, so who cares? (The answer is that the house cares, minor as the impact may appear to players at the time.)

Hedges may also be complex. For instance, say you bet $12 on Don't Pass. When the point is established, Place the same number for $12 if it's six or eight and $10 otherwise. What can happen?

First, pretend the number hits. You lose the $12 Don't Pass. But you win $18 if the point is four or 10 for a net profit of $6, and pick up $14 on any other point for a net gain of $2. Instead, say the shooter sevens out. Then you win $12 on the Don't Pass, losing $12 on a six or eight for a push and giving up $10 on any other number for a net profit of $2. You can win or push but not lose. The catch is that the expected value of the combined bet is less than that of the $12 Don't Pass bet alone. Statistically, it's unwise. But locking out a loss has an undeniable allure.

A hedge that might be considered "too smart by a half" involves equal flat bets on Pass and Don't Pass during the come-out roll, then taking or laying odds on one side or the other when the point is established. This ostensibly lets you bet the Odds, on which the bosses have no edge, without paying the devil its due on the flat bet. Except, of course, when 12 pops on the come-out, a result that proponents of this tactic dismiss as infrequent enough to be of no consequence. They don't know that the house's take on the expected instances of the 12 equals its edge on the sum of the two flat bets. The "cost" of the right to wager without an edge is therefore twice as much with this approach as it would be normally. Intuitively, you sacrifice the best part of the Pass bet -- the favorable 8-to-4 chance of winning even-money on the come-out, and also the best part of the Don't Pass -- a greater than 50-50 shot at even-money when the seven emerges before the number on the point roll. Further, Odds win or lose as usual, so there's neither "protection" in the sense of a small longshot covering a larger main bet, or of a sure win or push.

These traditional craps hedges share the characteristic that the compensating bets are made on both sides of the same proposition simultaneously. You essentially pay the casino at a rate based on the sum of the bets but your winnings hinge on the difference.

An alternate hedging concept would be to sequence "do" and "don't" bets on separate propositions during a roll. For example, start with money on Pass, followed by a bet on Don't Come, then by a wager on Come, and so forth. You can be creative to suit your personal style. Bet Come and Don't Come with or without Odds, use Place and Lay, try sundry sequences -- like A-B-A-B-A-B or A-A-A-B-B-B. As numbers roll, you win or lose one bet at a time. When a seven eventually shows and the roll ends, the "do" dough you lose is offset by the "don't" dollars you win.

You can think of situations in which this idea would be a disaster, for instance if the "don't" numbers keep repeating. But it can be effective when the shooter throws several numbers once each, followed by a seven. And the strategy can bring home big bacon when the "do" numbers repeat, without the usual downturn when the dust finally settles. Unlike most craps hedges, each bet is independent so you're not adding penalties and subtracting benefits. What you typically are doing, though, is putting more money out on the table than you would be with just one side or the other. And the house gets a percentage of the extra action. So the piper still gets paid. As the poet Sumner A Ingmark, said:

When hedging bets, be apprehensive,
Insurance schemes aren't inexpensive.

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.