by Pinback

First, let us review some of the rules of Craps.

The primary bet on a Craps table is called the "pass line" bet. It's the large green band that runs all the way around the table, and really, one of the only decent bets on the entire muddled, perplexing array of sucker bets that is the modern craps table. The "pass line" bet is also the only bet you're likely to be able to make if you find a home game of Craps, or are playing it out in the alley against the wall.

The rules for the pass line bet are as follows:

First roll:
- 7 or 11 wins.
- 2, 3, or 12 ("craps") loses.
- Any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10), and the shooter continues rolling, as follows:

Subsequent rolls:
- 7 loses.
- If the original number is rolled before the 7, you win.
- (No other numbers count, you just keep rolling)

The pass line bet pays EVEN MONEY. So if you've got $10 down, and the first roll is a 7, you win $10. If the first roll is a 10, and you roll another 10 before a 7 comes out, that's $10. Easy peasy.


There is another bet you can make on the craps table, and, surprise surprise, it is not marked anywhere on the felt. Why? Because, friends, it is the only fair bet in the entire casino. It is called a "free odds" (or simply "odds") bet.

You may only place the odds bet after a number has been established (meaning, someone's rolled a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, and has established that "point"). You are then betting, just as with your original pass line bet, that the number (or "point") will be rolled again before a 7. This bet is placed directly behind your pass line bet, on the plain green felt.

"But Pinback," you're beginning to whine, "if it's the same bet as the pass line bet, why is it any 'fairer'?"

To understand this, it's important to understand how casinos make money.

There are 38 spots on a modern American roulette wheel. The odds of hitting any one number are thus 1 out of every 38, or as we say in V-g-s, "37-to-1". Thus, for roulette to be a fair game, they would pay you at that rate, 37 to 1. You put $1 down on a number, and it hits? BAM, they slide you $37.

But they don't. Hitting a single number pays 35-1. Still sounds like a nice payout, huh? But basically that means that for every $38 you play at roulette, you're essentially GIVING AWAY $2 that's rightfully OWED TO YOU by the casino. But the greedy bastards, they won't give it back. Put another way, every dollar you slap down on the roulette table, the casino gets about a nickel of it. There's no escape. The only way to win is not to play.

Now, back to the "odds" bet. The difference between the "odds" bet and the regular pass line bet is that while the pass line money gets paid off at even money, the odds bet gets paid off, not at even money, not at "slightly reduced odds", but at the TRUE ODDS for that event to occur!

And that is the only fair bet in the casino.

"Then why not just go in, just play the odds bet, and never play the pass line, which itself is at about a 1.4% disadvantage to the house?"

Well, because you can't. You can't place an odds bet without first having made a pass line bet.

"How much can your odds bet be?"

Originally, the odds bet could only be up to the amount of your original pass line bet. But now, to entice the truly knowledgeably, degenerate gamblers in there, casinos offer "double odds", meaning, the odds bet can be up to twice your original bet. At NY, NY, they were offering up to "5 X ODDS" (five times original bet). Downtown, and occasionally on the strip, they offer 100 X odds, which basically means unlimited odds.

There used to be (might still be) a game in the middle of the strip which offered $1 minimum bets and 100 X odds. This was, by far, the greatest craps game in the history of the universe. Just think about it. Let's say you play 100 hands of craps an hour (which is way too many, but we're being conservative here). That's total of $100 on the passline that you've bet. The casino will take their $1.41 out of that $100. Meanwhile, you're betting whatever you want on the odds bet, but those bets are "free". So essentially, for $1.41 an hour, you are getting all that entertainment, plus as many drinks as you can suck down. And since the number of hands per hour is probably more like 40, you're basically playing for free. That, and not the $2.99 prime rib, is the best deal in town. Just keep putting your $1 on the pass line, and bet anything you want for your odds bet.

For those who want the nitty gritty, here are the payoffs (and thus, true odds) for the odds bet:

If the point is a 4 or 10, you get paid 2-1.
If the point is a 5 or 9, you get paid 3-2.
If the point is a 6 or 8, you get paid 6-5.

As an aside, this is why if the point is a 6 or 8, the house insists you bet in multiples of 5, so they can pay off correctly. Similarly, if it's a 5 or 9, it must be an even number.

Now, go forth, play craps, and kick ass.

(And don't bet on anything else on the table.)

Bonus Casino Q&A:

Q: "Hey, Pinback, can't you also bet the 'Don't Pass', which is basically the same as the 'Pass', except you're rooting for the OPPOSITE to happen?"

A: Yes you can.

Q: "And isn't the house advantage for this bet just 1.40%, as opposed to the 1.41% that they get on the Pass bet?"

A: Yes it is.

Q: "So why not play 'Don't Pass' all the time instead of 'Pass'?"

A: Because people glaring at you when you win, and cheering, hooting and hollering when you lose is not worth the extra hundredth of a percent, you party-pooper.


More Bonus Casino Q&A:

Q: "Hey Pinback, doesn't Baccarat offer even less of a house advantage than Craps?"

A: Well, not counting the free odds bet, yes.

Q: "Well, why not just play Baccarat then?"

A: Wait, how are you pronouncing that?


A: No, you uncultured boob. It's "Bock-a-rah". Jesus.

Q: "Okay, Mr. Snootypants, why not just play COCK-A-RAH instead? lol"

A: Because it's the most boring, stupid game ever invented. I would say, 'Flipping coins would be more exciting', but since that's essentially what it is, I guess it's only EXACTLY as exciting as flipping coins.

About the author: Pinback will gamble with your life and the lives of all his passengers just as easily as he will gamble with a row of filthy casino chips.