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You CAN Whittle the House Edge on the Buy Bet

11 August 2006

A reader has taught me a very valuable lesson: I don't know as much as I think I do.

Over the past few months, I've been writing a few articles about craps. It has been very easy, basic stuff just to give you the nerve to walk up to a craps table. I managed to discuss the pass line bet with taking odds and also the don't pass bet with laying odds. Then, gradually, I added to the discussion, and we talked about come bets with odds, place bets, hardways, horn bets, field bets, any 7 and any craps.

If you've played craps for any length of time, you probably already know that there are a lot more bets that I didn't discuss: put, buy, place to lose, Big 6 and Big 8, lay, three-way craps, horn high, world, single horn, hop and hopping hardway. Yes, it's mind boggling, and I wanted to keep it simple.

But I should have told you about one of those.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a column on the math involved in determining the house's edge on hardway bets. The next day I received an e-mail from a reader saying that he had figured the house edge on another bet, buying a 4 or 10, was only .952 percent, which is better than the 1.41 percent house edge on pass line bet. He outlined his calculations and asked if I agreed.

My first thought was that he was doing something wrong. The casino's edge on a buy bet is 4.76 percent, so how could he get it down to less than one percent? Well, as it turns out, I was wrong and the reader was right. In certain cases.

But let me first explain the buy bet. The buy bet is a little like a place bet, but with a buy bet, you are paid true odds. For example, if you make a $20 place bet on the 4 or 10, you'll be paid 9-to-5 or $36 if you win. But if you were to buy the 4 or 10 for $20, you would be paid 2-to-1 or $40. However, you have to pay the house a 5 percent commission, or $1 for a $20 bet. Your overall win is $39, but it's still $3 more than the $36 you'd win for placing the 4.

Even with the commission, or vigorish as it's called, buying a 4 or 10 at 4.76 percent house edge is better than placing a bet on the 4 or 10, which works out to 6.67 percent.

But there are scenarios where you can reduce the edge on the buy bet. For example, the 5 percent vig is usually charged on all buy bets, win or lose. But if you can find a casino that charges a commission only on winning that bet, then you've got the house edge down to 1.67 percent. That's a pretty hefty reduction.

Also, Frank Scoblete has written about pushing the casino into letting you buy a 4 or 10 all the way to $35 for that same $1 commission. That decreases the edge from 4.76 to 2.8 percent. Yeah, right. Like little ol' timid me is going to bully a big casino into letting me make a $35 bet for $1.

Call it southern hospitality, but most casinos here in Mississippi charge commission only on winning a buy, and most will also let you push them into accepting a $35 buy bet. That combo is what gets the casino's edge down to .95 percent.

I used to play craps nearly every day for a year. And I used to see other players buy the 4, but because I already knew it all, I just never paid much attention to the details of the transaction. Serves me right. More on buy bets next week. Until then, dice be nice.

Linda Mabry

Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com
Linda Mabry
Low Roller Linda Mabry lives and gambles on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She writes a weekly, general gambling advice column for the Biloxi Sun Herald, and may be contacted through her e-mail address, lnmabry@cableone.net or her web site www.thelowroller.com