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Multiple Place Bets at Craps Are Lay Bets in Disguise

2 October 2000

"Lay" bets at craps are gambles that the shooter will throw a seven rather than the number behind which the money is riding. Relatively few contemporary craps players make these wagers.

The reasons are fourfold. 1) Many players think lays are bad form because they're "against" the shooter and "with" the house. 2) Casinos tack a "vigorish," normally 5 percent of the target win rounded down to the nearest dollar, onto the bet; players don't get this back if they win. 3) The amount players put out to bet exceeds the payoff for a win. 4) The minimum lay, to which the vigorish is added, may be more than the lower table limit; it usually must be enough to win \$20 -- which means \$40 for the four or 10, \$30 for the five or nine, and \$24 for the six or eight.

Solid citizens who shun lays, however, often make multiple come or place bets after a point is established. Differences between these options turn out to be more matters of psychology than statistics, semantics than substance, and size than species.

I'll illustrate by comparing a \$30 "no five" with \$30 placed as \$15 each on the five and nine. Since lays revert to players along with the proceeds when the seven rolls, irrelevant details can be avoided by assuming all place bets are taken down after a single hit. Leaving the place bets in action for the next roll is equivalent to making a new lay for the subsequent shooter.

For the \$30 lay, a player drops \$31 on the table. If the five appears, the money goes west. If the shooter rolls a seven, the player earns \$20 and gets back \$30. The profit is \$19 because the house keeps the \$1 vigorish. Of the 36 ways the dice can land, a decision will be reached on 10 --; the six combinations totalling seven and the four totalling five. The chance of winning is six out of 10, or 60 percent. House edge, based on \$31, is ((6/10)x19 - (4/10)x31)/31 or 3.2 percent per decision.

To place the five and nine, a bettor drops \$30 on the layout. If the seven appears, the money goes bye-bye. If the shooter rolls a five or nine, the player gets back \$30 and earns \$21 profit. Of the 36 ways the dice can land, a decision will be reached on 14 -- the four combinations totalling five, the four totalling nine, and the six totalling seven. The chance of winning is eight out of 14, or 57.1 percent. House edge is ((8/14)x21 - (6/14)x(30))/30 or 2.9 percent per decision.

Examine the two bets with respect to the four reasons.

Betting with or against the shooter is strictly an emotional issue. You might as well try to convince people they like chocolate better than vanilla as change their minds on betting do or don't at craps.

Lays have a vigorish up front that leaves winners with slightly less than they would earn were payoffs equal and opposite to odds. The \$31 withdrawn from the rack would yield a profit of \$20.67 instead of \$19 on a lay against the five in a "fair" game. Place bets bury the effect in a discounted return. The \$30 at risk would earn \$22.50 and not \$21 if the house had no edge.

In both instances, the amount susceptible to loss exceeds what can be won. The lay bets pay \$19 with \$31 at risk. The place bets pay \$21 with \$30 on the table.

Depending on table minimum, it may be possible to make multiple place bets for less than a single lay. For instance, at a \$5 table, all four outside numbers can be placed for \$20, while the lowest lay is a \$24 bet against the six or eight. Either way, a player with a modest bankroll, who doesn't want to bet so high that the risk of early demise is excessive, may be in trouble.

Mathematically, multiple place bets are do-it-yourself lays. If something in your gut says it isn't so, remember that Sumner A Ingmark, the John Donne of dice devotees, declared: