Craps: Relying on Strategy to Place the Best Bets

Craps offers more than 100 different kinds of bets. The table layout gives a mere hint of all the betting options to consider, from bets that depend on a series of rolls to one-roll bets that hinge on only the next throw. But with a variety of bets comes a variety of odds. Many of the bets in Craps tilt too heavily toward the house to be worth considering.

Before you toss down your cash and buy in at a table, make sure the table betting minimum is within your budget so you don’t make a quick exit. Minimum bets are as low as $5, sometimes even $3, but during busy times or at ritzier clubs, the minimums rise accordingly, with many tables sporting $25 or $100 minimums.

You may have a good understanding of how to play Craps if you’ve read the previous sections in this chapter. (If you haven’t, we suggest you check them out to get a good foundation of how to play Craps.) If you do understand the very basics of Craps, then this section is for you. Here we focus on betting and how you can use strategy to make the best bets.

You don’t need to understand every single bet on the table to become a good player. In fact, some bets have such poor odds that you’re better off avoiding them altogether. With so many options, you want to concentrate on the most advantageous bets. If you’re fairly new (or even an old pro) at playing Craps, we suggest you focus on the following bets.

The pass-line bet

The main wager in Craps is the pass-line bet, also called the front-line bet. The pass-line bet is popular because it offers eight ways to win and only four ways to lose, yielding a low house edge of only 1.41 percent (the casino wins an average of $14 out of every $1,000 bet). The pass-line bet works as follows:

On the come-out roll, a 7 or 11 wins.
A come-out roll of 2, 3, or 12, known as a Craps, loses.
If the come-out roll is a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, that number becomes the point, and the next sequence of rolls is point rolls. A 7 is a loser after the point is established.

During point rolls, all pass-line bets can still win if the point is rolled before a 7, which can happen on the very next roll. However, the shooter may have to throw the dice dozens of times before the bet is resolved by either a 7 or the point number coming up on the dice. If the shooter sevens out — rolls a 7 before the point — all the pass-line bets lose. For example, if the come-out roll is a 10, the dealer moves the puck white-side-up into the 10 square. For the next roll or sequence of rolls, your pass-line bet wins if the roll is a 10 but loses if it’s a 7. All other numbers rolled will be meaningless (at least for the pass-line bet).

You aren’t allowed to take down (remove your pass-line bet) after the point is established, but you may increase it with an odds bet, which we discuss later in “The odds bet” section.

Most casinos allow you to make a pass-line bet (called a put bet) after the point is established. Some gamblers place these bets if they walk up to a table in the middle of point rolls. This move lets them play immediately instead of waiting for the next come-out roll. But put bets aren’t smart moves, even if they look attractive when the point is 6 or 8. The better play is to make a come bet. (See the next section for more on the come bet.)

The come bet

After the point is established on a come-out roll, only the point and the 7 can affect bets on the pass line. Because it can take a dozen or more rolls to hit one of those two numbers, the come bet offers extra playing excitement to bettors. With a come bet, every point roll can be an independent come-out roll.

You can place come bets only after a point has been established for the pass-line bettors. To place a come bet, slide a chip to the large area on the layout marked Come. Make sure you slide the chip directly in front of you so the dealers know it’s yours. Now you’re betting on the next throw of the dice. Just like a pass-line bet,

7 or 11 win outright. 2, 3, or 12 loses.

If a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 is thrown, that number becomes your point number. You win if that point number is thrown again before a 7, but you lose if a 7 is rolled before the point number.

So, for example, you have a pass-line bet on the board and the established point is a 6. That bet is only resolved if a 6 (win) or 7 (loss) is thrown. Before the next throw, you place a new bet in the come area, subject to the same minimum betting rules as the pass-line bet. Now the shooter throws a 2. Your original pass-line bet is unaffected, but you lose your new come bet. You put another chip on the come area, and this time the shooter throws an 8. The dealer moves that come bet to the 8 square. Now you’re rooting for two different numbers, the 6 and the 8. If either number appears, one of your bets will pay off. Of course if a 7 appears, you lose both the original pass-line bet and the come bet on the 8.

When you hear about players going on great Craps rolls, some time period is usually associated with it … 30 minutes, 45 minutes, an hour. You lose your turn only when you seven out, or throw a 7 after the come-out roll. Only on seven outs does the whole table lose all its pass-line and come bets. So for a hot shooter to roll the dice over and over, she must be hitting point after point after point.

The don’t-pass line bet

The don’t-pass line bet, or back-line bet, plays the opposite of the pass-line bet. If you make this bet, you’re called a wrong-way bettor. But don’t worry, it’s not immoral or against the rules to bet this way. The word wrong just means you’re betting opposite the dice, or opposite the way most people bet.

How you win your bets is also opposite. If the come-out roll is a 2 or 3 (Craps), the don’t-pass bet wins even money. But if the shooter throws a 7 or 11, the bet loses. The don’t-pass line bet is fairly safe, yielding a house edge of 1.36 percent, which is slightly better than the pass-line bet.

You can only place chips on a don’t-pass bet before a come-out roll. As soon as a point has been established and the shooter is throwing point rolls, the don’t-pass bet is off-limits.

As a don’t-pass bettor, you want the opposite of what pass-line bettors want. You don’t want to see a 7 or 11 on the come-out roll (automatic loser). Instead you’re rooting for a 2 or 3 (automatic winner) and are indifferent to a 12. If a point is established, you’re hoping a 7 appears before the point number is rolled again. If that happens, your don’t-pass bet wins.

People who play the don’t pass are typically in the minority at a Craps table. Playing against the dice goes against one of the major appeals of the game: its community spirit. You cheer as the others are shaking their heads and cursing. But because the odds are slightly better, playing the wrong way is absolutely fine. Some people prefer the dark side approach, and over time the don’t-pass bets keep more money in your wallet than the pass-line bets.

In a pass-line bet, the 12 (along with the 2 and 3) means Craps. But, even though the 2 and 3 win even money in a don’t-pass line bet, wrong- way bettors tie (no money is won or lost) if 12 is rolled. (The don’t-pass rules can’t be completely opposite the pass-line rules or the wrong-way player would have the same slight statistical advantage that the casino enjoys with the pass-line. So one number, usually the 12, becomes the odd man out.) Two dice of 6s (box cars) appear on the table in the don’t- pass space to indicate that the don’t-pass line bars the 12, preserving the advantage for the casino. Even with this negative feature, the don’t-pass line is still a good bet.

The don’t-come bet

You make a don’t-come bet after a point has been established for the pass- line bet. But like don’t-pass bets, these bets are wrong-way, too. The don’t- come bets are at risk on the first throw — they lose if a 7 or 11 is thrown, but they win outright on a 2 or 3. The 12 is a push or tie — the same as the don’t- pass bar. After the don’t-come bet gets safely on base, it wins if 7 is rolled before the come-point is repeated, and it loses if the come-point is thrown before the 7.

The don’t-come bet is to the wrong-way bettor what the come bet is to the regular Craps bettor. The bet allows him to have more numbers working instead of having to wait for a new come-out roll.

BETTING AGAINST THE DICE

Craps players come in two basic flavors: right-way bettors and wrong-way bettors. Most players bet on the pass line and follow up with come bets. In other words, they bet with the dice. On the opposite side are the wrong-way bettors. They bet on the don’t-pass bets and follow with don’t-come bets — betting against the dice.

In addition to their polar-opposite strategies, right-way and wrong-way bettors hold another important difference: The right-way bettor must stick with the bet, while the wrong-way bettor can take down the bet at any time. Because wrong-way betting has the advantage of the bet after the point is established, the wrong-way bettor has no reason to ever take down the don’t-pass bet.

Wrong-way bettors enjoy the thrill of bucking the crowd and betting the “don’t.” But you’re definitely not going to win friends around the table when you win and everyone else loses.

The odds bet

One of the best bets in the entire casino is the odds bet, offered on pass-line and come bets. The odds bet is also advantageous for wrong-way bettors playing the don’t-pass and don’t-come bets, although the payout is less. Because taking odds is such a good deal, casinos sometimes don’t advertise this option. But if you look carefully, you can see the odds limit posted on the end zone under the rim where the dice bounce. If your bankroll can afford it, you should almost always take the odds bets.

You have no designated spot or box to place your odds bets, but the standard practice is to tuck them in right behind your pass-line bet. (See Figure 7-3.)

Taking odds on pass-line and come bets

After a point is established for the pass bet, you can take the next step and take odds. All you need to do is place your odds bet directly behind your pass-line bet (this is done between dice rolls). As long as your pass-line bet is still alive (whether it’s right after the point was established or ten rolls later), you’re free to take odds or back your bet. The amount allowed on this bet varies from casino to casino and can range from 1 to 3 times the norm — or up to 100 times the odds in rare instances.

For example, three times the odds means you’re allowed (but aren’t obligated) to bet up to three times your original pass-line bet or come bets with an odds bet. Some casinos vary the amount of odds you can take from number to number, allowing several times more on the 6 and 8 than they do on other points. If in doubt, just ask your dealer about maximum odds allowed.

Odds bets are called free odds because the house has no advantage over the player — the bet is a break-even proposition. By taking odds, you can reduce the house edge to less than 1 percent, so the bet is definitely worth making. If the point is rolled before a 7, you win both your pass-line bet and your odds bet. But if the 7 comes first, you lose both bets.

Say you put $5 on the pass line before a come-out roll in a casino that allows 3× odds. The shooter then throws a 4, a tough point number to hit because the shooter is twice as likely to throw a 7 before he throws a 4. Not only is the house more likely to win the bet, but even if a 4 is thrown, your pass-line bet only pays even money, putting you at a serious disadvantage.

During the 10 to 20 seconds between dice throws, while other bettors place additional bets, you reach down and place $10 in chips behind your $5 pass- line bet. (You could have placed $15 because the casino allows 3× odds, but it’s fine to place any multiple of your pass-line bet.)

As the game continues, the shooter tosses the dice and, sure enough, it’s Little Joe! (That’s Craps lingo for a 4.) The casino pays your pass-line bet even money ($5 for $5) and puts $20 next to your odds bet. Payout odds on a 4 are 2 to 1, a reward level that exactly matches the bet’s risk. Your odds bet did nothing to improve the likelihood of the shooter throwing a 4 before a 7, but you should take advantage of the odds bets because they vastly improve the amount you’re compensated for hitting your point.

Although the pass-line and come bets pay even money, the payouts for taking odds are as follows:

When the point is 4 or 10, the odds bet pays 2 to 1. When the point is 5 or 9, the odds bet pays 3 to 2. When the point is 6 or 8, the odds bet pays 6 to 5.

Always make sure you place odds bets in increments the casino can easily pay off. At $5 tables, the odds cause minor problems when players take single odds on pass-line and come bets. For example, if the point is 5 or 9, your odds bet should be an even number (such as $6 or $10, rather than $5), so the dealer can quickly pay out the 3 to 2 on winners.

Laying odds on don’t-pass and don’t-come bets

The wrong-way bettor can lay odds on don’t bets just like the right-way bettor takes odds on the pass-line and come bets. However, the don’t bettor (a wrong-way player who bets on don’t pass and don’t come) gets only a fraction of his odds bet when he wins. For example, he has to risk $40 to win $20 with odds on the 4 or 10. Even though the numbers may not look like it, these are actually true odds; laying odds reduces the house advantage to less than 1 percent over the player, which makes laying odds a good option for players. (Check Figure 7-4 to see what this bet spot looks like on the layout.)

Unlike the come-bet odds, which are temporarily suspended during come-out rolls, the odds bets on don’t-pass and don’t-come bets are always working or on.

The payouts for laying odds are as follows:

When the point is 4 or 10, the odds bet pays 1 to 2. When the point is 5 or 9, the odds bet pays 2 to 3. When the point is 6 or 8, the odds bet pays 5 to 6.

The odds calculation is slightly different for wrong-way betting. Use the example of placing a don’t-pass bet of $5 and the point number 10. When you lay odds (place odds behind a don’t-pass or don’t-come bet), you calculate based on what you would win. At a double odds table, the most you could

win is twice your $5 bet, or $10. To win that $10, you’d place $20 behind your bet because the odds pay 1 to 2 when the point is 10.

Taking the maximum odds

After the point is established, you usually want to take the maximum odds that you can safely afford on your bets. Most casinos offer single or double odds, but you can occasionally find a table that offers up to 10 times — sometimes even up to 100 times — the odds for games with low table minimums. If the table limit sign indicates “3× — 4× — 5× odds,” the maximum allowed bet is three times the odds on the 4 or 10, four times on the 5 or 9, and five times on the 6 or 8. The house edge decreases as the odds increase, making the odds bet one of the best plays in the casino.



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Author: Billy Walters