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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Why Casinos Dare Offer 100X Odds at Craps

30 March 1998

In casino craps, players can augment pass, come, don't pass, and don't come bets after a shooter establishes a point. This is done by taking or laying "odds." Using odds rather than higher base wagers trims the house edge or advantage on the bets.

The house theoretically earns 1.4 cents/dollar of the initial - "flat" - wager. This forms the edge; it results because overall chances of winning are shy of 50 percent but the payoff is only 1-to-1. The casino has no edge - earns nothing - on the odds because the payoff mirrors the chances; for instance, line bets on points of five are 3-to-2 underdogs so $20 in odds pays $30.

With $10 on the line, the house theoretically earns 10 x 1.4 or 14 cents. If a player takes $20 odds, the house still earns 14 cents even though $30 is in play. Since theoretical earnings are fixed by the flat bet, the edge on the total drops with a rise in the portion of the whole allocated to the odds.

Double odds has long been standard. On pass and come, this means players can bet twice as much in odds as on their flat wagers. On don't pass and don't come, players can bet enough in odds so payoffs for the extra money are twice that of the flat wagers.

A few casinos have traditionally offered triple or quintuple odds at some or all tables. The purpose is to attract players with lower house advantage, hoping to make up in volume the earnings sacrificed on individual wagers.

Odds multipliers of 10 and 100 can also occasionally be found. At these levels, house edge is virtually nil. Think about it. With $1 flat and $100 odds, the casino earns 1 x 1.4 or 1.4 cents on $101. With $35 flat and $70 in odds the casino earns 35 x 1.4 or 49 cents on $105. The bosses can't pay the dealers the first way.

So people wonder how they manage it. The answer is threefold.

First, few solid citizens can afford 100 times their flat bets in odds. Players accustomed to $5 on the line and $10 odds are hardly candidates for $5 on the line and $500 odds, edge notwithstanding. Even if the table minimum is $1, such bettors are unlikely to plunk down $1 and $100.

Second, high rollers who normally start with $25 or $50 on the line and take double or triple odds rarely drop to flat bets of $1 or $5 to get a better edge for the same outlay. Part of this is ego involvement. The rest ensues because casino pandering policies are predicated on a percentage of the house's theoretical earnings. Hours of bets at 1.4 cents doesn't merit a hot dog in the snack bar; at 49 cents or more, you're talking gourmet.

Third, craps players generally bet on several outcomes during a roll. A few obtain this coverage with come or don't come bets, where they can trim the edge using odds. Most, however, opt for place, buy, or lay bets - wagers on which the casino earns from 1.5 to 6.7 cents/dollar. So casinos can write-off line bets as loss leaders, making their money on the follow-on wagers.

In principle, shrewd players exploit opportunities to minimize house edge so high odds multiples should have strong appeal. In practice, edge isn't the only criterion.

Good players also consider how many numbers they want to cover during a roll, how much exposure is appropriate for their stakes, and how much they value the flexibility of place, buy, and lay relative to come and don't come bets. They can then trim edge within these constraints using strategies such as shifting money from the flat to the odds portions of line and come bets and switching from place, buy, and lay to come and don't come wagers.

Dice doyens have debated these decisions since antediluvian days. Maybe even longer. And the most successful, those who most fully fathom the fickleness of facts and fate, have been inspired by the insight of the incisive insider Sumner A Ingmark:


Winning gamblers who say "I
The casinos terrify,"
Are the folks who loudest cry,
When their systems go awry.

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.