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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Variations on Craps: Are they Fixes for What Ain't Broke?

8 March 2006

Many an invention is patented, then totally overlooked or noted and quickly dismissed. Innovations, especially improvements to existing items, that do take hold often share one or both of two characteristics. The first comprises features known to be needed or wanted that nobody knew how to implement effectively before, or that weren't even imagined to be desirable until they became available and everyone wondered how they could have done without them. The second involves reduction in complexity a manifestation of "Occam's razor:" simpler tends to be better.

These characteristics may be helpful in contemplating whether some of the brainstorms advanced as sure to enhance the game of craps will ever reach fruition at your favorite casino.

Some developers apparently believe, and maybe you agree, that adding a jackpot wager would strengthen the appeal of craps to new players while not chasing away the old. Several means have been proposed for such bets, usually involving series of results.

Patent number 5,829,748 spreads a progressive jackpot among solid citizens making the corresponding side bet when a shooter rolls every total from two through 12 before popping a seven. Patent number 5,829,749 describes options for using a computer to generate a value which the shooter must match on the next throw. If replication occurs, the computer produces a second value, and so on. Specified numbers of matches in a row pay jackpots to the lucky ducks with wampum on the wager.

"Devil Dice," patent number 6,805,352, employs three dice on the come-out two regular and one specially-colored. When three sixes appear, normal play is interrupted and the dice are tossed again. A repeat of three sixes splits a progressive jackpot among participants. On anything coming-out except three sixes, the third die is ignored and the game proceeds as usual. A variant of this idea has the three dice thrown on every roll. Standard craps bets apply to the two regular dice. A plethora of new wagers is offered for three-dice combinations. These include straights (e.g., 2-3-4) with the special die in the middle, the sum on the regular pair equal to the value on the third, and whatnot.

An alternate jackpot approach is embodied in the "Fire Bet" of patent number 6,655,689. The key is in how many different points are made before a shooter sevens-out. Players wager on this proposition at the start of a hand. If a shooter makes a point, the dealer positions an indicator at that box. When the shooter establishes a different number for a new point and hits it, the dealer positions a second indicator accordingly and the process proceeds. After an eventual seven ends the hand, the bet wins or loses according to how many separate points were made. A typical suggested payoff schedule is 20-for-1, 200-for-1, and 2,000-for-1 with passes on four, five, and six numbers, respectively; fewer than four distinct points during the hand loses.

Jackpots aren't the only innovations advanced for craps. Patent number 6,802,508 lets players take "Hardways Odds" behind line bets on points of four, six, eight, and 10. Conventional Odds pay 2-to-1 on four and 10, and 6-to-5 on six and eight. Hardways Odds pay 4-to-1 when a four is made as 2-2, and 1-to-1 when it's 3-1. Likewise, payouts are 2-to-1 when a six is made as 3-3, and 1-to-1 when it's 1-5 or 2-4. Analogously for the eight and 10.

Another patent to ponder is number 5,746,428. This uses dice marked 1, 2, 3, 5, 5, 6, and 1, 1, 4, 4, 6, 6. With such a pair, the chance of winning either a Pass or a Don't Pass bet is exactly 50 percent. The probabilities of winning Place bets are 25 percent each on the four, five, eight, and 10; they're 50 percent on the six and nine. These values would lead to payoffs that are integral multiples of the bets were the house to have no edge, or to collect a vigorish instead of burying its take in returns like 7-to-6 on odds of 6-to-5. How they relate to what casinos consider the real world may forever remain a mystery. Or, as the punters' poet, Sumner A Ingmark, perceptively penned:

It's wise to know just what you ought to,
Forget about, or give more thought to.
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.