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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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Why not all unresolved craps bets can be changed once they've been at risk

19 March 2012

Most casino bets are resolved by winning, losing, or pushing in every coup or round. After a push, money that’s been at risk can be recovered as well as increased, left the same, or decreased and bet again. Even-money “flat” bets on Don’t Pass, Don’t Come, Pass, and Come at craps may not be settled after a roll, yet are restricted as to what can be done with them once they’ve been up for grabs. The limitations arise because the wagers in question operate in two stages. The constraints apply during the second stage, following rolls of the dice that neither win nor lose but are considered as involving no action rather than pushes.

Don’t Pass and Don’t Come bets on a shooter’s initial or “come-out” roll win if the outcome is two or three, lose if it’s seven or 11, and push if it’s12. Bettors have the usual choices after a push. A four, five, six, eight, nine, or 10 on the come-out establishes that sum as the “point” for throws during the second phase. There, the bets win if a seven pops, lose if the number repeats, and have no action otherwise. With a point established, players can take down the bets and get their money back. In principle, they could also lower the bet and recover part of it, or call the bet temporarily off but leave it on the table with the possibility of reinstating it later; these options, though, are requested so rarely that few dealers would oblige without conferring higher up the command ladder, and even then they’re apt to be refused. Players can’t increase flat Don’t Pass or Don’t come wagers at all. However, they can “lay Odds” – augmenting the flat wagers with sums that pay in exact inverse proportion to the prospect of winning – or make separate Lay bets against the numbers. Odds and Lay bets can be changed at will after unresolved throws.

Bets on Pass and Come bets win on the come-out if the dice show a seven or 11 and lose on a two, three, or 12. The other totals, four through six and eight through 10, neither win nor lose but become the point for subsequent throws. No pushes are possible. Once the point is established, Pass and Come bets win if the number repeats, lose if a seven rears its ugly head, and get no action otherwise. Flat Pass and Come bets can’t be lowered or taken down during the point phase of a roll. They can’t be directly raised, either, but other means are available to get more money on the number. The most common is to “take Odds,” augmenting the flat bet with amounts that pay in exact inverse proportion to the likelihood of winning. They could also be supplemented using Place, Buy, or Put bets. With all these approaches, the extra amount can be changed at will.

The restrictions on the flat Don’t Pass, Don’t Come, Pass, and Come bets after the come-out game result from the interaction of two factors. 1) Payoffs are all at even money. 2) Advantage flip-flops between the house and the player when the phase of the game switches.

With Don’t Pass and Don’t Come, the house is favored 8-to-3 during the come-out and solid citizens have the upper hand thereafter – by 2-to-1 on points of four or 10, 3-to-2 on points of five or nine, and 6-to-5 on points of six or eight. Anyone who clears the come-out hurdle and then removes or reduces the resulting flat bet on the point boosts the casino’s net edge. This, by initially subjecting the wager to the house’s heavy hammer, then sacrificing the chance to temper it when the player is sitting pretty. The flat bets can’t be increased after the come-out because the converse would pertain, reducing or reversing the house’s net edge .

With Pass and Come, bettors are favored 8-to-4 during the come-out and the bosses are in the catbird seat thereafter – by 2-to-1 on points of four or 10, 3-to-2 on five or nine, and 6-to-5 on six or eight. Were players able to take down or reduce these bets after the come-out, they could decrease or invert the house’s edge by maximizing the impact when they’re riding high and cutting it when the house gains the upper hand. Individuals can’t add directly to their flat Pass and Come wagers after the come-out, but can pump up the amount wagered on the point by taking Odds or making Place, Buy, or Put bets on the same number.

Casinos book and accommodate changes in Place, Buy, Put, and Lay bets as well as in Odds during the point phase of the game. The bosses have no edge on Odds taken or laid; they enjoy an advantage on the others independent of what may be at risk on the same numbers in the form of flat Don’t Pass, Don’t Come, Pass, and Come wagers.

Craps buffs may want to change their exposure on one or more numbers during the point phase of the game. The reason is that when a shooter ultimately sevens-out and passes the dice pass to the next person, all the experienced aficionados at the table know how much they should have had on one side or the other of the various numbers at any given time. Those endowed with extraordinary hindsight think about applying the strategy that would have worked before to what comes next. A course of action thus described by the sanguine songster, Sumner A Ingmark:

A gambler will find that it’s rarely correct,
To bet that a game follows cause and effect.

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.