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Best of John Grochowski
How Much Odds Is Enough?20 September 2005
My friend Bob is a newcomer to craps. He's played blackjack for years, dabbled a bit in video poker, and like just about everyone else, dropped a few bills in the slots.
Now, the excitement of the craps tables has gotten to him.
"There's nothing like it when the shooter has a hot hand," he enthused over the phone. "I mean, I enjoy my blackjack, and I've had a few royals at video poker. Those are exciting. But when everybody's pulling together and winning together at craps --- man, that's electric.
"I'm hooked. Just one question. How much odds is enough?"
I knew he was talking about free odds. To back up a second for those not in tune with craps, winning pass or come bets are paid at even money. Bet $5, and if the shooter makes his point, you win $5. But after a point is established, you can back those bets with free odds, and those bets are paid at true odds. Odds against rolling a 6 before a 7, for example, are 6-5. So a winning $5 odds bet when the point is 6 will bring you $6 in winnings.
The more of your bet that is in free odds, which have no house edge, and the less that's in the pass or come bet, the better. Pass or come bets buck a house edge of 1.41 percent, but combining pass or come with single odds drops the house edge to 0.8 percent, and it drops to 0.6 percent at double odds, 0.4 percent at 3x, 4x, 5x odds, 0.2 percent at 10x odds and 0.02 percent at 100x odds.
Bob usually bets the pass line, then two come bets until he has three numbers working. And he backs them all with free odds. But I wasn't quite clear on what he meant by "enough."
"You know," he said. "Some casinos offer 100 times odds. Now, I can't afford 100 times odds. I usually can't even afford 10 times odds. So does it really make any difference to me whether 100 times odds are offered? How much is enough?"
Now I knew where he was coming from.
You want enough odds available, I told him, that you can wager what you're comfortable with to start, and have a little room to move up if you're winning. Maybe you start at double odds, but on a good day, you want the 10 times odds available in case your bankroll expands enough that you want them.
"The most I can see myself betting is 10 times odds," he said. "I play in Joliet, and the tables are usually $10 minimums. If I have a pass with two comes working, and 10 times odds, I have $330 on the table. That's getting close to nervous time for me. Truthfully, I usually stick to 3x, 4x, 5x odds."
Staying within your bankroll, and your comfort level, is an important part of playing any casino game.
"But you're telling me there's nothing magical about a table having 100 times odds, right? It's not a better game for me if the highest I go is 10 times odds."
Right. The extra odds don't lower the house edge on the pass-odds combination unless you have the money to make the bet.
"So a 100x odds craps game isn't necessarily better for everyone. Not worse, either, because you can just take the odds you can afford. But tell me, is there anything that makes one craps table better than another for an average bettor, one who can't afford the big odds?"
Sure. Players who bet the center-table propositions --- something I don't recommend because the house edges are too high --- should be aware of whether the props pay odds-to-1 or odds-for-1. If the 12 pays 30-to-1, a winning $1 wager will bring $30 in winnings plus you keep your dollar, for a total of $31. If it pays 30-for-1, you'll get only $29 in winnings plus your buck for a total of $30.
One wrinkle that makes a big difference is on the buy bet on 4 or 10. Buy bets are the same as place bets, except you pay the house a 5 percent commission to pay true odds. Place the 4 for $20 and win, and the 9-5 payoff will bring $36 in winnings, for a total of $56. Buy it for $21 instead, and on the winner the house will keep its commission, but the remaining $20 wager is paid at 2-1 odds. Your $40 in winnings will leave you with a total of $60.
The house edge on placing 4 or 10 is 6.67 percent. In most casinos, buying the 4 or 10 instead lowers the house edge to 4.76 percent --- still too steep for me. But a few casinos, including Resorts East Chicago and Horseshoe in Hammond, charge the commission only on winning bets. That drops the house edge to 1.67 percent.
"That's not too bad," Bob said, "But I still like my way better."
Bob, it seems, knows the better deal when he sees it.
Listen to John Grochowski's "Beat the Odds" tips Saturdays at 6:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 7:41 p.m. and Sundays at 8:20 a.m., 2:50 p.m. and 10:42 p.m. on WBBM-AM, News Radio 780 in Chicago, streaming online at www.wbbm780.com.
This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Best of John Grochowski