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The mystery of craps30 July 2015
Solving the mysteries of craps can be particularly perplexing, as a reader reminded me with her tale of playing on her own for the first time.
“I’d played a few times with my boyfriend helping me, and I thought I had everything right,” Lisa explained. “He taught me to play the pass line, and sometimes place the 6 and 8. I know about odds.
“Some girlfriends and I have a casino day once every couple of months, and we always play slots. I was going to be different this time and play craps, too. I got to the table, and out $5 on pass. The first roll was a 7, and I figured I was going to win $5. Instead, they took my money. I said, ‘Wait, shouldn’t I get paid?’ I was told, ‘No, it wasn’t a come-out.’
“Why didn’t they tell me that in the first place? How come I could even make the bet if it wasn’t a come-out? What should I have done differently?”
Apparently Lisa’s boyfriend hadn’t emphasized how to tell if the next roll is a come-out. Each craps table has a laminated disc that is turned black side up to show the word “Off” if the next roll is a come-out. If there’s already been a come-out, the disc is turned white side up, showing the word “On,” and is placed on the point number.
“So I should look for the disc before I bet pass,” Lisa said. “Still, shouldn’t the pass bet just be disallowed if it’s not a come-out?”
I explained to her that if you make a pass bet when there’s already a point, it becomes a “put bet” on the point number. It’s used by players who want to take advantage of betting free odds on a known point.
If you don’t take the odds, the put bet is a terrible bet. One of the attractions of a pass bet is that on the come-out, the six ways to make 7 and the two ways to make 11 are all winners, and the only losers are the one way to make 2, the one way to make 12 and the two ways to make 3. That’s eight ways to win and only four ways to lose.
On a put bet, the come-out is past, so you don’t get that boost. The put bet works just like a place bet – if the shooter rolls your number before a 7, you win, and if a 7 comes first, you lose. However, put bets pay only even money, instead of the 7-6 you’d get for placing 6 or 8, 7-5 on 5 or 9 and 9-5 on 4 or 10. Without taking free odds, you’re much better off with a place than a put.
However, there is no house edge on free odds, and if enough odds are allowed, a put bet becomes better than place. Put becomes as good as place with 4x odds on 4 or 10, 5x odds on 6 or 8, or 6x odds on 5 or 9. With more odds, the house edge is lower on put than on place.
Lisa narrowed all that to the information she needed.
“I’m not going to worry about put bets or the odds,” she said. “I’ll just know now to look for that disc.”
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