The best bet in a casino is called “pure odds.” This is a largely theoretical bet where the probability of that event occurring is the same as the payout. (For a discussion of probability, see my last post on this.) For example, let’s say that you are betting that a ‘6’ will be rolled on the dice. Out of 36, there are 5 ways to roll a six (and win) while there are 6 ways to roll a ‘7’ (and lose), so your probability of winning would be 5 to 6. In a “true odds” bet, a five dollar bet on the six would pay you 6 dollars if you won. However, casinos want to make money, so the payout is structured in such a way that the casino makes more money. In the case of our example of betting on the six, a six dollar bet would win you seven dollars. This ‘house edge’ is the casino’s cut, called the ‘vigorish’ or ‘vig’.
So obviously, a good bet is one that has the smallest house edge. There are some bets that have a small edge, and others with a large one. Let’s start with the good bets, the ones that are the closest to true odds.
The Pass Line Bet
The most basic bet you can make in Craps is the pass line bet. You are betting that the person shooting the dice will win. (Refer to the basic rules of the game here) A pass line bet is placed before the shooter rolls the dice for the first time (this is called ‘coming out’). If the shooter rolls a 7 or an 11, he wins. If he wins, all Pass line bets win as well, and they pay at even money. (A $10 bet pays $10) If the come out roll is a 2, 3, or 12, the shooter loses, and so do all pass line bets. Any other roll ‘sets the point’ meaning that this is the number that the shooter must roll again before he rolls another seven in order to win. Once you place a pass line bet, it must remain in place until the shooter either wins or loses. You place a pass bet by putting your chip down on the pass line, just like the $10 (red) chip in this picture.
For example: You place a $10 bet on the pass line. The shooter rolls a seven. You win $10. Congratulations, pick up your $10 in winnings. The shooter rolls again. Since no point was set, it is again a ‘come out roll.’ He rolls a 12. You lose. Easy come, easy go. Replace the $10. The shooter again comes out, and this time he rolls a 9. The 9 is now ‘the point’ and the shooter must roll another 9 to win. If he rolls a 7, he loses and passes the dice to the next shooter. (This is called “sevening out”) The house edge for a pass line bet is 1.41.
“Taking odds” is mathematically the best bet in the casino, and is a part of the pass line bet. However, it can be a good bet, or a bad one. Taking odds is a way of increasing your pass line bet, but at true odds. You can take odds by betting more money after the point is set. If a 7 is rolled, you lose your pass line bet AND your odds bet. If the point gets made, you win the pass line bet AND the odds bet pays at true odds. The house edge for an odds bet is 4.76.
Let me explain. You place this bet by putting more money behind the pass line. If the point is a 9 (as in our example above) and the 9 hits, the odds bet pays out at true odds. True odds can be found below. To place an odds bet, after the point is set, you put more chips behind the pass line bet (where the blue chips are in the picture above). Odds bets can be placed or taken down at any time, as long as the dice are not actually in play. (The dealer will say “Dice are out- no more bets, watch your hands.” whenever the dice are in play)
A place bet is where the gambler bets on a particular number being rolled. The bet pays each time the number is rolled. (see the “True odds” section below) If a seven is rolled, the bet is lost. You place a place bet by putting your chips on the playing surface between you and the closest dealer (while the dice are not in play) and tell him “$xx on the number 6”. The house edge on a place bet varies with the number you are betting on. For a 6 or 8, the house edge is 1.52. For a 5 or 9, the edge is 4.0. If you are betting on a 4 or 10, then the house edge is 6.7.
- If the point is a 6 or 8, true odds is 6 to 5. Place bet pays 7 to 6.
- If the point is a 9 or 5, true odds is 3 to 2. Place bet pays 7 to 5.
- If the point is a 4 or 10, true odds is 2 to 1. Place bet pays 9 to 5.
The good bets.
So the long and the short of this is:
The best bet on the table is the pass line bet. With a house edge of 1.41, this is the best bet to make. However, if this is the only bet you make, you are going to get bored.
The next best bet to make is a place bet on the 6 or the 8. The house edge on this bet is 1.52. When I play, I will put a $30 bet on the six or the eight, then every time that number is rolled, I collect $35. Of course, once a 7 is rolled, I lose the $30. The hope is that a 6 or 8 will get rolled at least once before a 7 makes an appearance, and I make money.
Later, we will talk about the mediocre bets, dark side bets, then some betting strategy.