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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Why Craps Players Can't Have their Cake and Eat It, too

27 July 2005

Most craps aficionados like to have three, sometimes more, numbers at work during a shooter's "hand." Aside from the gingerbread (one-roll and hardways bets often made as hedges), this approach to the game typically boils down to one of two strategies. Money on the Pass line and two Place or Come bets.

Players who prefer Place bets like the ability to specify which numbers will be covered and the option to move or remove their money at will. Those who elect Come bets appreciate that they pare house advantage to the bone, below half a percent when the initial wagers are augmented by high enough odds multiples.

Place and Come bets diverge in other evident ways as well. The reasons and relationships aren't always clear, but the distinctions generally reflect the same flexibility and edge.

Here's an example. Craps buffs occasionally wonder whether Come bets with high odds or Place bets for roughly the same total are rated equally for complimentaries. Some casinos do go strictly by how much a solid citizen has at risk at once. Joints that understand how their profits are generated treat these bets differently, however. A casino should calculate its theoretical earnings from an individual by multiplying the person's bets times the house advantage and factoring in decision rate. It can then allocate about a third of this theoretical amount for comps.

For Place bets, the house advantage is 1.5 percent on sixes and eights, 4 percent on fives and nines, and 6.7 percent on fours and 10s. For Pass and Come bets, it's 1.4 percent of the flat portion -- the part that's up for grabs when a shooter is coming out and that always pays even money; there's no edge on the Odds.

Say one person makes a $30 Place bet on the eight, and another drops $5 on Come then takes $25 in odds. The Place bet is good for 1.5 percent of $30, or $0.45. The Come bet represents 1.4 percent of $5 or $0.07. For the $30 total, the Come bettor benefits by saving $0.38 on the house's take; the Place bettor racks up $0.15 as opposed to just over $0.02 toward that coveted all-you-can-eat cornucopia of cholesterol. Which brings up that age-old aphorism that you can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Another element of confusion at craps is the fact that you can decrease or take down a Place bet whenever you want. Players on numbers through the Come can do the same with their Odds, but must leave their flat bets to win or lose.

The reason is that Place bets are one-stage affairs while wagers on Come have two separate phases. Here's the low-down.

Come bets first go through a come-out roll. At this stage, of 36 possible results, eight win 1-to-1 while four lose instantly; the remaining 24 become points for the second phase. Now, they win or lose with the same probabilities as the corresponding Place bets, but the flat parts still only pay 1-to-1. Were you able to take down your Come bets after the come-out, you'd have been in the enviable position of being favored by 8-to-4 to win even money because the rest of the outcomes would be irrelevant. The casino obviously can't stay in business by letting you do this.

Come bettors driven by their hunches, having gotten money onto the numbers, can raise or lower the Odds with which they augment the flat bets. The house advantage with no odds at all is less than that imposed on the least burdensome Place bets. Of course, if you keep raising and lowering your Odds money, you'll irk the dealers. But, hey, flip 'em a decent tip every so often and they'll stroke your ego anyway. As the William Shakespeare of the wily shooter, Sumner A Ingmark, cynically said:

Forbearance of bad behavior is hardly an incongruity,
Provided the guilty party forks over a nice gratuity.

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.