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23 June 2016

Craps is a game with enough nuance that players always are looking beneath the surface for ways to win.

Take place bets and buy bets on 4 or 10. If you place those numbers, you face a house edge of 6.67%. But you can buy the numbers instead – you pay a 5% commission, but winners are paid at true odds. When you buy 4 or 10, you lower the house edge to 4.76% if you pay the commission on each wager.

To drill down another level, some casinos charge the commission only if you win. When that happens, the house edge drops to 1.67%.

A recent e-mail from a craps player named Owen hinted at another level.

“When I buy numbers, I have to pay a 5% commission,” he said. “If I bet \$20, it’s a \$1 commission, and if I bet \$40 it’s \$2. What if I bet \$25 or \$30? What commission will they charge?”

Casinos don’t stock craps tables with change. If you bet \$25, they don’t want to charge you a \$1.25 commission and have to deal in quarters.

The question is whether the casino will accept a \$1 commission for a \$25 bet, or if it will bump the commission up to the \$2 it would charge on \$40.

That’s an issue Frank Scoblete and Jerry “Stickman” have tackled in the "Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!" and "I Am a Dice Controller" books. They have found tables that will accept \$1 commissions on \$25 wagers, and less commonly, on wagers up to \$35 and \$39.

What’s that do to the house edge? Let’s use 4 as an example, though the same arithmetic applies if the number is 10.

When your number is 4, you win one of every three decisions. There are three ways to make four – 1-3, 2-2 and 3-1 – and six ways to make a loser 7.

If you make a \$25 bet and add a \$1 commission, then per three decisions you invest \$78. Winners are paid at true odds of 2-1, so on your one win, you keep the \$25 wager and get \$50 in winnings. After the three decisions, you have \$75 of your original 78. The house has \$3 – the three commissions.

Divide the \$3 house take by the \$78 invested, then multiply by 100 to convert to percent, and you get a house edge of 3.84%, better than the 4.76 it would be if you bought the 4 for \$20.

What if the house charges the commission only on winners? Then, per three decisions, you wager \$25 three times but pay only one \$1 commission, for a total investment of \$76. After your one win, you still have \$75 of your investment, but the house has only \$1.

The house edge is \$1 divided by \$76, multiplied by 100. That comes to 1.32 percent, lower than the 1.67% when buying the 4 for \$20 with commissions paid only on winners.

The larger the wager while holding the line on a \$1 commission, the lower the house edge. If you find the rare casino that will charge only \$1 when buying for \$39, house edge are 2.5% with the commission on all wagers, or 0.85% with commissions only on winners.

Such things are not publicized. You’d have to ask at the table if you can buy for \$25 or some other amount of less than \$40 with a \$1 commission, and not every casino will accept. It’s all part of the process as craps players try drill into the game’s inner depths.

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Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.