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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Why Few Casinos Have High Odds Multiples at Craps

20 September 2006

Casino craps players can augment Pass, Come, Don't Pass, and Don't Come wagers with bets known as "Free Odds" or, more simply, "Odds." This is money put into action after the come-out roll, with a point established. Payoffs mirror the odds against winning (hence the name). As a result, Odds give the house no edge.

As an example, say a craps buff plops $10 on Pass. A five shows on the come-out and becomes the point. The player then takes "double odds" backing up the original wager with twice the original bet, $20, for a total of $30 at risk. On a seven, all $30 is lost. On a five, the payoff is $40. This is $10 on the base bet (even money, hence "flat bet") plus $30 on the Odds (chances against winning are 3-to-2 so $20 pays $30).

Were the whole $30 bet on Pass at the getgo, the payoff would only be $30. For players comfortable with $30 at risk, though, the choice isn't quite the no-brainer it may seem. Here's why.

During the come-out, bettors have eight ways to win even money and four to lose; the remaining 24 ways neither win nor lose immediately but determine the point for subsequent throws. Solid citizens who start with $10 and add $20 Odds can win $10 while they're in the catbird seat but $10 plus $40 (2-to-1 on four or 10), $30 (3-to-2 on five or nine), or $24 (6-to-5 on six or eight) while they're battling uphill. Those who start with $30 and take no Odds can grab $30 when they're 2-to-1 favorites, offset by winning only $30 when they're the underdogs.

Overall, $10 plus $20 averages out more beneficially than $30 flat. This, because house edge is 1.4 percent on the flat bet and zero on the Odds. So $10 plus $20 is worth 1.4 percent of $10 or $0.14 to the bosses; $30 flat brings 1.4 percent of $30 or $0.42.

More starkly, at 10-times Odds, the alternatives might be $10 flat with $100 Odds versus $110 flat. The former still earns the house a theoretical $0.14; the latter squeezes $1.54 in juice.

Based on math alone, casinos shouldn't want high Odds multiples and players should. What establishment would settle for $0.14 rather than $1.54 from $110 action? Alternately, what gambler would be willing to pay $1.54 instead of $0.14 for a $110 bet?

On the first of these questions, anyone who's been around the rail knows that games offering Odds multiples over 5X are scarce. Most top out at 3X, some at only 2X. The establishments with higher Odds multiples generally use them as marketing incentives to increase the action. Not only more warm bodies, but gamblers who tend to bet higher and stay at the tables longer. The idea is to accept a smaller fraction of a larger handle, hoping the concession on the one is outweighed by the gain on the other.

For the second question, consider how few players put the maximum on Odds, as it is. The problem is the amount involved. A total of $110 is too much on one number for most $10 bettors' bankrolls. More, dice doyens typically like to cover several numbers at a time. A Pass and two Comes at $10 plus $100 each may prove profitable but $330 wiped out by a seven may be a disaster.

As a result, not many players can or should take maximum Odds. Folks may choose a casino offering high Odds because they've heard edge is lower in these games, but don't understand why. Or they figure they can start at 2X or 3X then raise this portion of their bets as a way to press without incurring a penalty from the edge. Not bad in theory; rarely put into practice.

Further, bets on Pass aren't necessarily followed by wagers on Come. More often, individuals start on the Pass line, take at least some Odds, then cover additional numbers using Place or Buy bets. In such cases, a generous joint could essentially give the Pass bet away and make its money on the high edge associated with the others. Consistent with this cunningly crafted couplet by the wily Wordsworth of the wagering world, Sumner A Ingmark:

Many a dollar is lost by mistaking,
Bets you can make with the bets you are making.

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.