Gambling City

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Deal Me In Craps

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I walked up to a crap table with a free play $80 coupon and told the dealer that I wanted to make a Pass Line bet. He informed me that I would have to wait until the point was made (which I did) but also said you can still make the same bet now. I’m new to craps, but what did he mean by I have to wait, but I could still make it now. I’m confused. Scooter T.

The dealer, Scooter, was speaking of a wager akin to a Pass Line bet called a Come bet, which allows you to make a wager while a round is in progress and after the Pass line point has been established.

To make a Come bet, you place your wager in the Come box, and the next roll becomes your come bet's "come out roll.” The next point that the shooter rolls becomes your personal point. If the shooter repeats your point number, you win, and if the shooter rolls a seven before your point shows again, you lose.

The rules of Pass line bets apply as well to the Come bet.

Once your bet is in the Come box, and before your personal point has been established, if the shooter rolls a natural (7 or 11), the Come bet wins. If the shooter rolls craps (2, 3 or 12), the bet is lost. Also, just as in a Pass line bet, once placed, your bet cannot be removed. The Come bet pays even money.

In addition, Scooter, once a number becomes a Come bet point, you are allowed to add odds to your bet. The dealer will place the odds on top of the come bet, slightly off center so it makes a distinction between your original bet and the odds.

Come bettors can find themselves in a situation where they have a come bet (possibly with odds on it), and the next roll is a come-out roll. With this scenario, the odds bets on the Come wagers are presumed to be NOT working for the come-out roll.

In such a case -- where the shooter rolls a 7 on the come-out roll -- any players with active Come bets waiting for their personal come-point would lose their initial wager but would have their odds money returned to them.

If your point is rolled, the Come bet wins and the odds are returned. You can inform the dealer that you want your odds working so they can also win if the shooter rolls your come point. Obviously, if a seven is rolled first, cinco dos, adios, they both lose.

Dear Mark: I was on a crap game that had a pretty decent roll going. So figuring anything would work, I threw out a $5 chip and called for a Hard 10. Seven rolls, and the shooter screams at me for causing it. Why me? I didn’t interfere in any way with the dice, and I didn’t toss the seven, he did. Dan L.

Hey, Dan, not to nit pick you play -- you do know a hard 10 has a house edge of 11.1% -- but you might have left out an itsy bitsy detail in your e-mail, that being, trying to place a bet after the shooter had the dice in his hands. That’s a no-no on a craps table.

I’m surprised the dealer didn’t call out "no more bets," but even so, a late bet not only goes against craps etiquette, but amongst the superstitious, it creates bad luck.

Dear Mark: Some time ago, you mentioned a bet on the crap table that I had never heard of. It seemed like a “no lose” proposition. Could you explain what it was? Frank H.

If your question really means, is there any absolute way of beating the game of craps, the answer is, yes, DON’T PLAY.

As for, Are there any “no lose” wagers available? Well, Frank, sort of. The Odds Bet. This bet gives no casino advantage, but you use it to back up a Pass line wager that does. Odds, which has been mentioned enough in this column that even a newbie has some familiarity with it, is distinct from all other casino wagers in that free Odds carry NO house edge, and of course, it’s not mentioned on the layout. All Odds bets are paid off at true odds.

My best guess is that you were interested in a bet I briefly mentioned a while back called a “Put” bet. A Put bet is making a Pass line wager after a point has been established just so you can take advantage of Odds.

The biggest advantage of Put bets is that you get to choose your own point numbers. The biggest disadvantage is that you miss out on those sevens and elevens a pass-line player has before the point is established. However, with the casino offering multiple odds like 5X, 10X and even 100X odds, the house edge can be lowered considerably.

Say for instance the point is a 4 or 10; the house edge on the Put bet without odds would be 33.33%, akin to what credit card companies are now trying to pilfer from you. With 5X odds it’s still a nasty 5.56%, but at 100X odds, the house edge on your combined wager is significantly reduced to 0.33%. Better yet, if the point were a 6 or 8, a Put bet with 5X odds would have a casino advantage of 1.52%, similar to either placing the 6 or 8, or a pass line bet without odds. Yet at 10X odds it’s 0.83%, and at 100X odds, that figure is drastically reduced to 0.09%. That makes it a pretty decent wager, Frank, but most keen crap players only make a Put bet if the point is a six or eight and only if they can meet the expense of 10X odds or more.

Why? Because taking Odds can be a costly proposition, especially when dealing in multiples of 10x or 100x odds. You need to be well capitalized to embrace this wager, even if the house edge on said wager is infinitesimal. A $5 Put bet with 100x odds puts $505 of your bankroll in play, all on one toss of the dice. A couple early session seven-out, line away calls, and you are cinco dos, adios.

Now if the Put bet wasn’t the wager you were thinking of, at least take note of this, Frank. There no such thing as a “no lose” proposition on the crap table. Any bet is still a negative expectation wager, even with Odds, because you still have to combine it with another bet.

Dear Mark: Are the dice placed on the crap game ever inspected for imperfections so the same number won't repeat itself? Steve B.

Because I can predict with 100% certainty that every casino has at least one lazy pit boss-I was one-you can be assured that the dice placed on the game are near perfect. The perks for this idle behavior? Going up to the boss's office and inspecting dice. This meant feet on the head honcho's desk, Oprah on the tube and talking on the phone long distance to friends and family because I knew the secret dial code. Oh, and inspecting dice with a micrometer to make sure our dice were produced to a tolerance level of .0005 of an inch.

But we were the second line of defense. Dice makers who cut this poly-sorbate plastic in lots of five or six deal in tolerances of .0002, with imperfections discarded, making the random nature of a dice throw a certainty.

By the way, Steve, no not you, Steve, my former boss Steve. You never asked, but those long distance calls to Michigan were probably mine.

Dear Mark: I was on a crap game for the first time and asked the dealer what the difference was between a hard 8 and a regular 8. She politely told me the difference when another player started yelling at me because I was holding up the game. Talk about being embarrassed. What did I do wrong? Meg B.

Nothing! There is never a need to be embarrassed, Meg. You are to be applauded for asking for help. All too many players try to cover up their shortcomings and waste their hard-earned money playing casino games they know little about. So no question regarding gambling is "dumb." Well, that's not quite true. I was dealing blackjack late one evening in downtown Reno when a man approached me and asked: "Where are the slot machines for kids?" That was dumb. No, pathetic.

Dear Mark: When I hear cheering coming from a crap game, does that mean it's a hot game ready for me to dive right in? Bruce T.

Not necessarily, Bruce. The dice might have been sizzling before you come aboard, but that doesn't mean they will stay heated because you're now there. The reason is that your dice timeline-the period you're on the game-is different from the earlier players. Understand, Bruce, when you join a game in progress, you initiate your own personal sequence of rolls, with the dice possibly going cold from that moment on.

Dear Mark: My goal when I play craps is to win $1,000 with a $100 buy-in. Do you feel this is impractical? Skip R.

Bellying up to a crap table with $100 and expecting to win $1,000 is, at best, unrealistic. Personally, I believe it's downright wacky. Odds-on you will lose your C-note long before you win a grand.

Skip, you need to set reasonable win goals, like 50% of your original stake, not 1000% on your money. Far too many players keep upping the ante on what they want to win. This columnist recommends having predetermined loss limits and "realistic" win goals.

It takes internal fortitude to take a small win and run. I'm not asking you to quit while you are on an eventful winning streak, but true winners know how to quit when they are ahead. They don't risk it all to achieve too lofty a reward.

Dear Mark: I have been following your advice and making casino bets that have less than a two percent house advantage. I now consider myself a reformed player. My blockhead brother on the other hand makes bets with no rhyme or reason. Since we both play craps, show me why my pass line bet versus his favorite bet, hardway sixes and eights, will always do better? Susan M.

Susan, by using a simple mathematical formula, I will prove that by playing smart, your play will generally outperform your brother's.

Let's first analyze your action, Susan. A pass line bet, with no odds, has a house advantage of 1.4%. With a $5 wager and 50 playing decisions per hour, your theoretical loss (all bets lose over time) is $5 X 50 X 0.014, or $3.50 per hour. Relatively cheap entertainment. In comparison, your brother's bet, the hard six or eight, has a house advantage of 9.1%. The damage to his bankroll would be $5 X 50 X 0.091, or $22.75 in the same amount of time. Multiply that by 15 hours of play and you've got a sniveling, unhappy camper with a long car ride home.

Sibling rivalry aside, glad to see you're reforming your play. Now let's convert the blockhead.

Dear Mark: Which is a better wager on a crap game? An "any craps" bet or a "craps-eleven" bet? Gary A.

NEITHER, with one exception. Your dial-a-psychic is accurate 100% of the time.

An "any craps" bet is wagering that 2, 3, or 12 will be the result of the next roll. With a payoff of 7 to 1, the house edge is 11.1%. A "craps-eleven," or "horn" bet as it's typically called, is a bet on the next roll that the 2, 3, 11, or 12 will appear. If any other number rolls, you lose. Though the payoff varies from casino to casino, the house edge on a horn bet is always more than 12%. A piratical house advantage if ever there was one.

Dear Mark: What is a hardway number on a crap game and is it a good bet? Steve. R.

A hardway wager is a 4-6-8-10, but only paired up as a 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 combination. For example; if you have a hard six wager, a pair of 3-3s would have to roll for you to win. Not a 2-4 or 5-1 dice roll. Is it a good bet? No! House advantage on a hardway 6 or 8 is 9.1 percent. A hardway 4 or 10 has an 11.1 percent casino edge. Readers of Deal Me In only make wagers that have a house advantage of two percent or less. Steve, say adios to this wager.

Dear Mark: When I shoot craps, I have the feeling that a hot roll will always be stopped by a change in the dealers, someone touching the dice, someone crowding the shooter or the dealer giving out the two dice on a seven, eleven or craps. Is this my imagination or is there any kind of truth to it? Doug C.

With all due respect, Doug, your false-premise gambling beliefs are based on an illogical point of view. All too many players use the dial-a-psychic approach on the next toss of the dice when something whimsical happens on the game. I believe the true answer lies in the definition of the word superstition.

Superstition: groundless belief in a supernatural agencies; a popular belief held without reason.