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# Laying odds at craps

6 April 2010

My craps-playing friend Steve has been experimenting with the dark side. He's been playing don't pass, meaning he's rooting for the opposite outcome of the majority of players who are rooting for the shooter to make a point.

"One thing," he said. "I really don't understand the advantage in laying the free odds. By the time I'm allowed to lay the odds, I have an edge, right? Why would I want to make a bet where I don't have an edge?"

The don't pass/don't come player does have an edge after a point is established. But it does lower the house edge if you save some of your wager to lay the odds.

Here's the way it works. You bet on don't pass before the come-out roll. If the shooter rolls a 2 or 3, you win. If the roll is a 12, the bet pushes and you get your money back. If it's a 7 or 11, you lose.

With two six-sided dice, there are 36 possible combinations. Two combinations total 3 — 1 on the first die and 2 on the second, or 2 on the first die and 1 on the second. One combination totals 2, giving you three ways to win on the come out. There are six combinations that total 7 and two that total 11, leaving eight ways to lose.

Three ways to win, eight ways to lose — the come out is a dangerous roll for the don't pass player.

If the roll is any other total, that becomes the point. The don't pass bettor wins if the shooter rolls a 7 before repeating the point number, and loses if he repeats the point without rolling a 7 first.

Since 7 is the most frequently rolled number, the don't pass bettor becomes a favorite on each point number: a 2-1 favorite if the point is 4 or 10, 3-2 on 5 or 9, and 6-5 on 6 or 8.

The opportunity is there to lay the odds, backing up the don't pass bet with an additional wager at no house edge. You must spot the house the true odds — wagering \$6 for a chance to win \$5 if the point is 6 or 8, for example.

"That's why I'm asking," Steve said. "I already have a bet that's paying even money. Why should I then add a bet that's paying less than even money? Why should I spot the house any odds? Why wouldn't I just make a bigger don't pass bet instead?"

Sounds like you're getting a worse deal by laying the odds, doesn't it? And yet, that's not the case. The house edge on the don't pass-plus-odds combination is lower than that on the don't pass wager alone.

"So you've told me. I keep wondering if that's just some kind of trick with arithmetic. It doesn't seem to pass the smell test to me. If I'm betting \$10 to win \$10, why should I then bet \$12 to win \$10 on 6 or 8?"

Or \$15 to win \$10 if the point is 5 or 9, or \$20 to win \$10 on 4 or 10, to finish Steve's thought. And if play after a point was established was all we had to worry about, it would be a valid concern.

The problem is that the entire amount wagered on don't pass is exposed to the come-out roll, and on the come out, the don't pass player is NOT the favorite. You'll recall that on the come out, there are only three ways to win and eight to lose. If you're at a table with a \$5 minimum bet, your entire don't pass wagers bucks those tough odds on the come out before getting to the point that you're the favorite to win.

So instead, a smart bettor keeps the don't pass wager to table minimum, and reserves additional wagers to lay the odds. That lowers the house edge from 1.36% on don't pass to 0.7% on a don't pass-lay odds combination, down to 0.2% if you're allowed to lay odds worth five times your wager, and even lower with more odds allowed. If you did as Steve suggested and raised your don't pass bet above table minimum instead of laying the odds, you'd find more money draining from your bankroll into the casino's coffers without even getting to the point where you're favored.

"Now I get it," Steve said. "You lay the odds to keep more of your money off the table when you're at a disadvantage, then get it in action at no house edge later."

Bingo.

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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.