Aces Guide to Gambling

Craps Strategy & Rules :

Free odds in Craps give you (almost) a 50-50 chance

About The Author

John Grochowski is the author of four gaming books including The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Casino Answer Book.

Grochowski was recently named by Casino Player magazine as one of the 100 best gaming authors of the 20th century.

He also runs a gaming column in the Detroit News and the Chicago Sun-Times, which examines issues ranging from blackjack and video poker strategy to casino etiquette.

John Grochowski

Who says the casinos never give the player an even break?

They do just that at the craps table by offering free odds, that rare casino bet with no house edge.

In our craps primer the last few weeks, we've looked at how to make some of the better bets available--the pass line, come, and place bets on 6 and 8.

There's nothing we can do to lower the house edge on our place bets on 6 and 8 from its 1.52 percent, but with free odds, we can make our pass and come bets even better than the 1.41 percent starting point.

By reserving a portion of our pass and come bets for the free odds, we can reduce the overall house edge to 0.8 percent where single odds are available, to 0.6 percent with double odds, all the way down to 0.0021 percent with the 100 times odds available at the Empresses in Joliet and Hammond.

How do we get that deal?

To start, we have to make either a pass or come bet. (We also can lay odds with a don't pass or don't come bet, but more on that next week.)

Let's use a pass bet as an example. We start with a comeout roll--we know it's a comeout because the plastic disk, or puck, is turned to the side that says "Off." Before the shooter rolls, we place our bet directly in front of us in the area marked "pass line." If the roll is 7 or 11, we win and our bet is paid at even money. If it's 2, 3 or 12 we lose.

If the comeout roll is any other number, it becomes the point, and that's where things get interesting. Once a point is established, we're allowed to make a second bet behind our pass-line wager, called the free odds.

If the shooter then rolls a 7 before he rolls that point number again, we lose both the pass bet and the free odds. But if he rolls the point number, good things happen. We win, and our pass bet is paid at even money. Our free odds are paid at the true odds of making the point.

Say we've bet $5 on the pass line and backed it with $5 in free odds. The shooter rolls a 6, then rolls another 6 without rolling a 7. We win $5 on our pass line bet. Even better, we win $6 on our free odds, since the true odds against rolling a 6 before a 7 are 6-5.

How are true odds determined? There are 36 possible rolls with two dice, and six of them total 7. Five total 8 and five total 6, so the odds against rolling an 8 are 6-5, same as odds against rolling a 6. Four rolls total 9 and four total 5, so the odds on 9 or 5 are 6-4, which reduces to 3-2. Three rolls total 10 and three total 4, leading to odds of 6-3, which reduces to 2-1.

The example above used single odds, with a $5 pass bet backed by a $5 free odds wager. Most casinos offer more odds, but that doesn't mean we have to take the full amount available. Let your bankroll be your guide. If you're playing in a 100x odds game and can afford only a minimum pass bet plus double odds, then keep your bets at that level. If you go on a winning streak and want to increase your bets, leave your pass bet at the table minimum and increase your free odds. That way a greater proportion of your wager is paid at true odds, and you minimize your exposure to the house edge.

Come bettors also can take advantage of free odds. Come bets work the same way as pass-line wagers, except they're made on rolls other than the comeout.

Let's walk through a sequence in a double-odds game, starting with a comeout roll. You put $5 on the pass line, and the shooter rolls a 4. You then back your pass bet with $10 in double odds and make a $5 come bet.

The shooter then rolls a 6. That 6 becomes the point for your come bet, and the dealer moves your wager to the box marked "Six," at a point corresponding to your spot on the table. You then may back with double odds by putting $10 in chips on the layout and telling the dealer, "Odds on my 6." The dealer will place the free odds wager off center, atop your come bet.

If the next roll is a 7, your pass bet, come bet and the free odds on both lose. But let's say it's a 6. Then you win $5 for an even-money payoff on your come bet, and you win $12 for the 6-5 payoff on the free odds. Your pass-line bet and the odds backing it remain alive for the next roll.

What if the roll had been 4? Then you'd have won $5 on the pass line, and won $20 for the 2-1 payoff on the free odds. Your come bet would remain alive. The free odds on the come bet would stay on the table unless you asked the dealer to take them down, but would be inactive on the next roll. That's because the next roll would be a comeout for pass-line bets, and free odds on come bets usually are inactive on comeouts unless the player specifies that they're working.

So far, all the bets we've discussed have had the player betting with the shooter. You also can take the opposite side and bet against the shooter. That's where we're going when we take a look at don't pass and don't come--the flip sides of pass and come.

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