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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Buy, lay, place - What's a player to do?

21 April 2003

Dear Mark, Although you state it is a terrific bet, I generally do not make a pass line wager on a craps game. Instead, I prefer betting specific individual numbers. The craps table offers different opportunities: A buy bet, a place bet, and a lay bet. Of these three bets on a craps game, which do you recommend? Scott H

Among the wagers you mentioned, buy, place and lay, one is respectable (laying the 4 or 10), one is your checkmate play, (placing the 6 or 8), and all the rest are sometimes called tired trotters. Let's poke about a bit, Scott, and scrutinize them one by one. Giddy up!

Place Bet: Place betting involves just six numbers on a craps table: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10, and curiously enough, offers the best and some of the worst bets there are. At any time during a roll, you can pick one of these six numbers and bet that it will appear before a 7.

If it does, you receive a payoff that is slightly less than the true odds. For example, the true odds are 2-to-1 that a 4 or 10 will appear before a 7. Yet, if you win a place bet on the 4 or 10, you will only be paid off at 9-to-5. This works out to a house edge of 6.67%.

If you were to place the 5 or 9, you would reduce the casino advantage to 4.0%. Better, yes, but that checkmate play, placing the 6 or 8, is the cat's meow. The true odds are 6-to-5 that either the 6 or 8 will appear before a 7. The casino will pay you off at 7-to-6, which works out to a casino advantage of 1.52%.

As you can see, Scott, the place bet on the 6 or 8 gives the casino its lowest edge among all the bets you mention, making it one of the best bets you will find on the crap table, Top Dog, you might say.

And now for the also-rans:

Buy Bet: A buy bet is essentially the same as a place bet except you that pay a commission of 5% on the amount of your wager. If you win, the casino will pay you at the true odds, but stare at that 5% commission until wisdom sets in.

For the best deal on a buy bet, you would need to wager at least $20. Why so steep when a place bet can be had for $5? Because the minimum commission the casino will charge you for making a buy wager is a buck (which happens to be 5% of $20), but a higher percentage of lesser wagers. The casino edge on any buy bet for $20 works out to 4.76%.

Lay Bet: A lay bet is the polar opposite of a place bet or a buy wager.

With a lay bet, you are betting with the house and against fellow sports in the game and hoping that a 7 appears before a point number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10).

Lay bets are paid off at true odds like buy bets. But you must also shell out for that 5% commission; it's figured on the amount that you will win rather than on the amount you are betting. Again, when making a Lay bet you should always remember the minimum payoff of $20, because 5% of $20 is $1, and that's the casino's minimum charge.

For the 5 and 9 you will have to lay $30 to win $20. Here, the casino edge is 3.23%. For the 6 and 8 you will have to lay $24 to win $20. The casino edge on that bet is 4.00%. And for that respectable wager I mentioned, laying the 4 and 10, you'll have to lay $40 to win $20 to get the house edge down to 2.44%.

Gambling thought of the week: "While the high roller is fawned over in a sickening manner, the low roller must grovel to get a few crumbs." Frank Scoblete, Guerrilla Gambling

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.