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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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You Needn't Overbet your Bankroll to Shave the Edge at Craps

15 November 2006

Craps proficiency is predicated on more than just the names of all bets, how to make them, rolls on which they win or lose, and what they pay. This knowledge is "necessary but not sufficient."

One missing element is an understanding of bet sizing, absolutely as well as in strategies involving progressing and regressing. This is a volatility issue. It hinges on the downswings solid citizens are financially and emotionally prepared to withstand, and on the profits they deem adequate to pocket then depart.

An additional key consideration is the edge associated with various betting options. Ignorance here is evident when players "protect" bets having low house advantage using propositions that give the casino juice enough to shame a loan shark. A more subtle form of this nescience involves failure to capitalize on opportunities afforded by wagers on Pass, Come, Don't Pass, and Don't Come to shave the edge without overbetting a bankroll.

The primary mechanism by which these wagers lower edge is the privilege they allow bettors to take or lay Odds to augment the initial bet after a point is established. Briefly, the house has no edge on the Odds portion of a bet. So, for example, $10 "flat" on Pass or Come is worth an average of 1.4 percent or $0.14 to the joint. But so is $10 flat plus $30 Odds. Therefore, the bosses essentially book $40 in action for what amounts to a fee of $0.14. And $0.14 is a mere 0.35 percent of $40.

In principle, this suggests taking or laying the maximum allowed as Odds consistent with the initial bet. Say, for instance, a casino offers 5-times (5X) Odds. Betting $10 plus $20 Odds has a $0.14 penalty 0.47 percent of the $30 total. Not too shabby! With $5 plus the full $25 Odds, the damage is 1.4 percent of $5 or $0.07 0.23 percent of the same $30 total. Less shabby yet.

Taking or laying the maximum allowable Odds, of course, may conflict with sensible bet sizing. Picture a gambler with a $100 budget at a table with a $5 minimum and 10X allowable Odds. The risk of losing $55 on one throw of the dice may make a $5 bet on Pass with $50 Odds unwise. Alternately, envision someone with a big enough stake to justify having $50 or $60 vulnerable to a single seven, and wanting several numbers up to win at once. For this person, taking $25 Odds behind $5 on Pass, and spreading $25 on two or more other numbers, may be preferable to putting the whole $55 on the point just to lower the overall edge.

Good players know that taking or laying Odds trims the effective edge. The truly adept are also aware that without Odds, edge on these wagers is still below that of anything else on the layout.

As an illustration, compare the 1.4 percent base on Come bets with what the casino gets when an individual places multiple numbers after a point is established. It's 1.5 percent on six and eight, 4.0 percent on five and nine, and 6.7 percent on four and 10. Buys are also costlier than Comes. The lowest edge when buying a four or 10 is at the $39 level. You fork over $40 ($39 for the wager and $1 for the vigorish). The chance of winning is one out of three. A win returns your $39 and pays $78. You started with $40 and finished with $39 + $78 = $117, a net profit of $77. Edge is one third of $77 minus two thirds of $40, all divided by $40, which equals 2.5 percent.

This suggests using Come bets if you want several numbers at work during a roll while keeping edge as low as possible. Take Odds when you can afford to, or skip them. The casino has less edge than with Place or Buy bets either way. Of course, you can't choose your numbers, but unless the dervishes in the dice are sending you signals in advance, your guesses are garbage anyway. And, the fact that Come bets pay 1-to-1 while Place and Buy bets return higher multiples is compensated for by your being favored during the come-out. Or, maybe you balk because Come bets must hit twice to win while Place or Buy bets pay the first time the number shows. Those worried about this irrelevancy might ponder the proverb posited by that prominent poet, Sumner A Ingmark:

Fallacious theories oft seem sensible,
'Til study proves them indefensible.

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.