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Best of Donald Catlin

Gaming Guru

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Martha, Here's Craps - Part 2

1 July 2006

Well Martha, by now you've had a whole month to digest the material in my last month's article on barracks, alley, backroom, and so on, Craps. You know what a comeout roll is, what a natural is, what craps are, and what a point is. You know what a seven out is and what making a point means. Most of all, you now know what it means to make a pass and what don't pass means. This said, you are now in a position to play casino Craps.

The only difference between casino Craps and alley Craps is that in casino Craps the casino banks the game; you are not wagering against other players, you are wagering against the casino. This has the advantage that every shooter can bet on the comeout roll (recall that some back shooters were out of the action in alley Craps). How do the shooters do this? Here's how.

When you walk up to a Craps table in a casino, you'll see that it is staffed by four (sometimes five) people. On the side of the table you are on is one person standing in the center of the table (as measured end to end). He or she is called the stick man. Why? Because he or she is holding a long stick that is curved at the end and that is used to move the dice around the table. On the opposite side of the table at either end (approximately above an area marked Don't Come bar 12) are the dealers. These are the people who accept wagers and pay winners; they are busy folks. On the opposite side of the table across from the stick man is the box man (sometimes there are two box men). The box man controls the bank, moves money to and from the bank to the dealers, and watches the game for errors.

Assuming that you are standing in front of the table you will see an area directly in front of you marked Pass Line. If the round puck near each dealer is black and says OFF this means that the dice are coming out on the next roll. (Hint: If you have cash and need chips, simply drop your cash in front of you on the table; don't hand it to the dealer or drop it while another player is shooting.) You can bet that the shooter will make a pass by simply placing your betting chips in front of you in the Pass Line area of the table. This done, everything else is just like the alley craps game. If the next roll is a natural, you win even money on your wager; if it is craps, you lose your wager. If a point is rolled, the puck is turned over and has the word ON in black letters against a white background; it is placed over one of the large point numbers at the top of the layout so you know at all times what the shooter's point is. If the shooter makes the point you win even money on your wager; if the shooter sevens out, you lose. In this case the dice are moved to the player at shooters left and this person becomes the new shooter.

Okay, you're probably thinking, but what about all of that other stuff on the layout. These all correspond to side bets in the alley Craps game. The areas marked Seven, Eleven, Two, Three, Twelve, Any Craps, and Field are all hop bets - ignore them. The areas showing two dice with the same number are called hard way bets and are the same as gag bets in alley Craps - ignore them. The Big 6 and Big 8 at the corners of the layout are not worth explaining so ignore them as well. There are spaces marked CE, which stands for Craps Eleven, a hop bet that is sometimes called a Horn bet - ignore this. There are areas marked Don't Pass bar 12, Come, Don't Come bar 12. In the future you may want to investigate these, but for now you should just concentrate on the Pass Line. There are some other wagers that are not really labeled and are called Place and Buy bets; as a beginner you should ignore these as well.

So, are we done? Not quite. There is a wager you should know about (and make) that is not shown on the layout. It is called the Free Odds or just Odds wager. The wager is offered whenever the shooter establishes a point. It is made in multiples of your Pass Line wager, from one up to a limit set by the casino. You make this wager by placing your chips in front of your Pass Line wager but outside of the Pass Line and closest to you. If the shooter sevens out, you lose this wager. On the other hand, if the shooter makes the point then this wager is paid at correct odds: 2 to 1 for the 4 or 10, 3 to 2 for the 5 or 9, and 6 to 5 for the 6 or 8. (Hint: If you have a $5 line bet the casino will allow you to make an odds bet of $6 since the payoff is 3 to 2, hence $9) If you want to see how one arrives at these numbers, just note the number of ways to make a seven and the number of ways to make each of the points. For example, there are three ways to make a four ((1, 3), (2, 2), (3, 1)) and six ways to make a seven ((1, 6), (2, 5), (3, 4), (4, 3), (5, 2), (6, 1)) hence seven is twice as likely as four. If you want to see the effect of taking odds see my article Taking the Odds that is archived on this site and appeared October 4, 2003. Now we're done! Happy rolling Martha (and to any other beginners reading these articles).

Before I leave I want to correct an error that appeared in my May article Gambling Down Under. I incorrectly stated the house edge for single zero Roulette as 2.63% - the correct figure is 2.7%. Thanks to my friend and colleague Stewart Ethier from the University of Utah for pointing this out to me. See you next month.

Donald Catlin

Don Catlin is a retired professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Massachusetts. His original research area was in Stochastic Estimation applied to submarine navigation problems but has spent the last several years doing gaming analysis for gaming developers and writing about gaming. He is the author of The Lottery Book, The Truth Behind the Numbers published by Bonus books.

Books by Donald Catlin:

Lottery Book: The Truth Behind the Numbers
Donald Catlin
Don Catlin is a retired professor of mathematics and statistics from the University of Massachusetts. His original research area was in Stochastic Estimation applied to submarine navigation problems but has spent the last several years doing gaming analysis for gaming developers and writing about gaming. He is the author of The Lottery Book, The Truth Behind the Numbers published by Bonus books.

Books by Donald Catlin:

Lottery Book: The Truth Behind the Numbers