By John Grochowski
Craps ranks among the best casino games. Craps also ranks among the worst casino games.
There are so many options in the game that those are not contradictory statements.
The trick is to avoid the bets that have some of the highest house edges in the casino. Most of those are decided on every roll, giving the house edge maximum chances to work against you.
Why would anyone buck a 16.67 percent house edge on any 7 when they could bet on pass and come (1.41 percent house edge, 0.7 percent or less with free odds), don’t pass and don’t come (1.40 percent, 0.7 percent or less when laying odds) and place bets on 6 and 8 (1.52 percent)?
Making the worst bets amounts to reckless endangerment of your bankroll.
There’s a division between the merely bad bets and the truly ugly, but any of them could and should be avoided.
THE BAD CRAPS BETS, MULTI-ROLL DIVISION
PLACE BETS ON 4, 5, 9 OR 10: On any place bet, you want to see the shooter roll your number before rolling a 7. If you place 5, you win if the shooter rolls a 5, but lose on a 7. No other numbers count. Your bet either remains in action or you can take it down.
The most frequently rolled place numbers are 6 and 8. Either can be reached via five of 36 possible combinations of two dice, compared with six ways to make the loser 7. There are four ways to make either 5 or 9 and three ways to make either 4 or 10.
The most frequently rolled numbers are also the best for players, but it’s not the frequency that puts 6 and 8 among the good bets and 4, 5, 9 and 10 among the bad. It’s that payoffs on the other numbers are farther away from true odds.
True odds against rolling a 6 before a 7 are 6-5, and winners are paid 7-6, leading to a house edge of 1.52 percent. Numbers are the same on 8.
But with 5 or 9, true odds are 3-2 and winners are paid 7-5, and the house edge is 4 percent. With 4 or 10, true odds are 2-1 and winners are paid 9-5, leading to a 6.67 percent house edge.
Stick to 6 or 8, and your average loss is $1.52 per $100 wagered. With 5 or 9, that rises to $4 per $100, and with 6 or 8, losses average $6.67 percent per $100.
Instead of placing 4 or 10, you can “buy” either number, paying the house a 5 percent commission in return for winners being paid at true odds. If the commission is paid on all wagers, that reduces the house edge only to 4.76 percent, firmly in the “bad bet” category. But if you find a casino that charges the commission only on winning bets, the edge drops to 1.67 percent – not quite as good as the best bets in craps, but not so bad, either.
THE UGLY CRAPS BETS, MULTI-ROLL DIVISION
BIG 6 AND BIG 8: In the corners at many craps tables, you’ll find boxes marked with a big 6 and a big 8. Bets there work just like place bets on 6 and 8, but the payoffs are lower.
You win on big 6 by the shooter rolling a 6 before a 7, on big 8 by rolling 8 before a 7. Odds against winning remain 6-5, but instead of 7-6 payoffs as on the place bets, winners are paid only even money.
That difference means the house edge zooms to 9.09 percent. Your average loss is six times as high as if you’d bet the same numbers with the same chance of winning in the same way as place bets. Yuck.
HARD WAYS: You can bet on 4, 6, 8 or 10 the hard way, meaning both dice have to land on the same number. A hard 8 is 4-4, while 5-3 or 6-2 are easy ways.
You win if the shooter rolls your number the hard way before rolling either a 7 or your number the easy way. Payoffs on winners are 9-1 on hard 6 or 8 and 7-1 on hard 4 or 10.
The chances at big wins are alluring, but true odds are 10-to-1 on 6 or 8 and 8-to-1 on 4 or 10. There are six ways to make 7 and four easy 6s, and only one hard six, so 10 ways to lose and only one way to win. It’s the same on 8. With 4 or 10, there are eight ways to lose and one to win.
The gap between true odds and payoffs yield house edges of 9.09 percent on hard 6 or 8 and 11.11 percent on hard 4 or 10. With so many lower-edge options, why settle for that?
THE BAD CRAPS BETS, ONE-ROLL DIVISION
THE FIELD: The effect of the house edge is magnified in one-roll bets. If you’re going to keep betting the field, you need to replenish your bet on every roll, not once every four rolls as in place bets on 4 or 10.
The field is the best of the one-roll bets. If the shooter rolls a 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11, you win even money. You win extra on 2 or 12. Some tables pay 2-1 on either of those numbers. Some pay 2-1 on 2 but 3-1 on 12, while a few pay 2-1 on 12 but 3-1 on 12.
If the payoff is 2-1 on both 2 and 12, the house edge is 5.56 percent. If one or the other pays 3-1, the edge is reduced to 2.78 percent.
A 2.78 percent edge by itself wouldn’t be so awful, but frequent decisions have to be taken into account.
If you bet $5 per decision on place bets on 4 for 100 rolls, you’d average 25 bets for a total risk of $125. With a 6.67 percent house edge, your average loss would be $8.34.
If you bet $5 on the field for the same 100 rolls, you’d make 100 bets for a total risk of $500. A 2.78 percent house edge on the better version of the field would mean average losses of $13.90.
Even with a lower house edge, average losses are higher on the good version of the field than on a bad place bet on 4. That puts the better version of the field firmly in the “bad” territory.
On the weaker version, paying 2-1 on both 2 and 12, the average loss in our trial would double to $27.80 – enough that the worse version of the field should move to the “ugly” category.
THE UGLY CRAPS BETS, ONE-ROLL DIVISION
ALL OTHER ONE-ROLL BETS: Here we enter the realm of some the worst bets you’ll find in any casino. The combination of high house edges and every-roll decisions create a perfect storm for losing money.
The house edge on any casino game is based on paying less than the true odds of winning. In one-roll bets in craps, the gaps between true odds and payoffs are enormous. Some players are attracted by the 30-1 payoff on 12 or on hard hop bets, but the true odds of winning are 35-1. That gives the house a whopping 13.89 percent edge.
Even worse is any 7, which pays 4-to-1 (or 5-for-1). There are six ways to make 7 and 30 ways to make other numbers, yielding true odds of 5-1. The house edge? A cringe-inducing 16.67 percent.
Among the house edges on one-roll bets are these:
**Any 7: 16.67 percent.
**2, 12 and hard hops: 13.89 percent.
**3, 11, any craps and easy hops: 11.11 percent.
Never make these bets, not even in combinations or hedges. Ugly bets are hazardous to your financial health.
John Grochowski has been covering casinos and casino games for nearly 40 years. He is the author of six books
and his work appears in newspapers, magazines and websites around the world.
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