Craps: Avoiding “Sucker” Bets

Like any casino game, Craps has bets that have better odds for you as well as bets that have a higher edge for the house. In Craps, bets of the one-roll variety aren’t player friendly — you win or lose depending on the next roll of the dice, and the odds are poor on these bets.

Most of the bad bets are in the center box in front of the stickman, but — be warned — danger is everywhere, and some of the riskiest (translation: “sucker”) bets are oh so close to you. In this section, we tell you about some of the not-so-good bets and show why they’re not the best way to make money at a Craps table.

Resisting the lure of Big 6 and Big 8

A bet on the Big 6 or 8 (found in the corner of the layout, temptingly close to you and next to the pass-line bet box) is a wager that the shooter rolls a 6 or 8 before a 7. This bet pays only even money and has a whopping house edge of 9.1 percent. (In other words, it’s a horrendous bet to make because the casino wins an average of $91 out of every $1,000 bet.)

If you want to play something with a 6 or 8 in it, just mere inches away from the Big 6 and Big 8 is the more advantageous six or eight place bet, which pays 7 to 6 and has a house edge of only 1.52 percent!

Swearing off the place bets

A place bet on one of the point numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) is a wager that the shooter will roll that number before a 7. For example, you can place this bet at any time by saying to the dealer “I want to place number 5” and dropping your chips in the come area. The dealer then moves your chips to the appropriate number box. Place bets are identical to established come bets in how they win or lose. But their payout odds are different, and you have the option of taking them down and getting your chips back, should the whim hit you. Place bets are off on the come-out roll unless you ask for them to be on.

The house pays place bets at slightly less than correct odds, giving the house an edge of 4 percent on a 5 or 9 and a 6.67 percent edge on a 4 or 10.

The following are the payouts for a place bet:

A winning place bet on a 4 or 10 pays 9 to 5 (bet $5 and get paid $9). A winning place bet on a 5 or 9 pays 7 to 5 (bet $5 and get paid $7). A winning place bet on a 6 or 8 pays 7 to 6 (bet $6 and get paid $7).

Steering clear of buy bets

Buy bets resemble place bets but with one difference — they pay out at true odds in exchange for a 5 percent commission. Remember, the house normally reduces payout odds slightly, so the player isn’t compensated in proportion to the risk level of his bet. (True odds means the house pays in exact proportion to the actual risk of the bet.) Buy bets are off by default on the come-out roll, meaning they’re in suspended animation: They can neither win nor lose, no matter what’s rolled. Bettors are also free to bet or remove buy bets at any time. For example, the 4 or 10 buy bet is slightly more advantageous to the player than the 4 or 10 place bet because the buy bet has a 4.76 percent house edge versus the place bet’s 6.67 percent house edge.

Be sure to factor the 5 percent commission into your bets ($1 on a $20 bet, for example). The 4 or 10 buy bet is the only buy bet worth making; for the 5, 6, 8, and 9 numbers, you’re better off making a place bet. Nevertheless, players often use buy bets as a way to simplify their betting; they pay the commission and then enjoy correct odds on all their bets. Of course, the money all comes from the same place, but, as they say, “Different strokes …”

Laying off lay bets

A bet on one of the point numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) is to lay odds that the 7 rolls before the point number — the opposite of a buy bet (check out the previous section for more info on buy bets). But like the buy bet, you can place or remove a lay bet at any time, and it’s always working — which means the bet is active and can win or lose even on the come-out roll. Because the 7 is more likely to appear before the point number, lay bets have a better-than-even chance to win and, therefore, pay less-than-even money: A 4 or 10 lay bet pays 1 to 2; a 5 or 9 lay bet pays 2 to 3; and a 6 or 10 lay bet pays 5 to 6.

The casino takes a 5 percent commission on a win (not on the bet). So if you bet $60 on a 9, your net win is $38 ($40 minus $2 — or 5 percent of the $40 you win, not of your $60 original bet). To place these bets correctly, you need to lay $41 to win $20 on the 4 or 10 (your best bet), lay $31 to win $20 on the 5 or 9, and lay $25 to win $20 on the 6 or 8.

Passing up field bets

You can find field bets in the middle of the layout. These one-roll bets consist of the numbers 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12. They pay even money, except for 2 and 12, which pay 2 to and sometimes 3 to 1. The house edge on field bets is 5.56 percent and is popular with inexperienced players because it’s a one- time roll that’s simple to understand. But you rarely see Craps experts placing field bets because of the ugly house advantage.

Saying no to proposition bets

Proposition bets (also known as center bets) are one-roll bets you place on a 2, 3, 7, 11, or 12, and they’re bets you can make on any roll of the dice. You can see the prop bets in the center of the table layout. The stickman places these bets for you.

Some proposition bets indicate the bet pays 30 to 1, while another table layout may state the payoff odds as 30 for 1. Be careful because these two types of bets are different. A bet that is 30 to 1 is paying 30 times the bet — but a bet offering 30 for 1 pays 29 times the bet. Although for seems like an innocent little word, don’t let semantics fool you into thinking a bet pays more than it really does!

The smartest and simplest strategy is to ignore all bets in the center of the table (see Figure 7-5). If you feel an urge to play these bets, go for it. Just remember that we’re offering you expert advice because we want to help you keep your losses at a minimum. The following proposition bets can suck your wallet dry:

Any 7: A one-roll bet that pays if the next roll is a 7 and loses if any other number appears. Although the probability of rolling a 7 is 5 to 1, this bet pays only 4 to 1 (or 5 for 1, which is the same thing). The casino’s edge is 16.7 percent. Can you say ATM?

Craps-eleven: A one-roll bet on any Craps (2, 3, or 12) or the 11, represented by all those circled C and E initials on both sides of the center box. The payout is the same as for the bets for any Craps (8 for 1) or the 11 (16 for 1). House edge is more than 10 percent.

Horn bets: A one-roll bet that pays out if the next roll is 2, 3, 11, or 12 and loses if any other number appears. Horn bets may not even appear on all center-box layouts, but it’s the same as Craps-eleven. You make a wager with four chips as if you’re making four individual bets; you’re paid 16 for 1 (for the 3 or 11) or 31 for 1 (for the 2 or the 12) — but you also lose the other three wagers. House edge is 12.5 percent.

The 2, 3, 11, or 12: One-roll bets in the center box offering typical payouts of 16 for 1 on numbers 3 and 11 and 31 for 1 on numbers 2 and 12. (Some casinos may offer 30 for 1.) The house edge on these bets ranges from 11 to 14 percent.

Any Craps: A one-roll bet that pays if the next roll is a 2, 3, or 12 and loses otherwise. A box is available for this bet at the bottom of the center- bet layout. A win on any Craps pays 8 for 1, and the house edge is a stiff 11 percent.

Finding out the hard way

Four different hard-way bets are available to players on the following numbers: 4, 6, 8, and 10. A bet placed on a hard way wins if that number is thrown as a pair (for example, a dice roll of two 4s is a hard 8) and loses if that number comes easy (for example, a 6 and a 2 is an easy 8). You also lose the bet if any 7 is rolled.

The bets are placed in the center of the table, but, unlike the proposition bets, they aren’t single-roll wagers; they remain on the board until resolved one way or the other. Hard-way bets are some of the worst bets on the table with the house edge a hefty 9 to 11 percent.

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