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Deal Me In: A negative expectation game like craps can't be beat

12 March 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Some time ago, you mentioned a bet on the crap table that I had never heard of. It seemed like a "no lose" proposition. Could you explain what it was? Frank H.

If your question really means, is there any absolute way of beating the game of craps, the answer is, yes, DON'T PLAY.

As for, "Are there any "no lose" wagers available?" Well, Frank, sort of. The Odds Bet. This bet gives no casino advantage, but you use it to back up a Pass line wager that does. Odds, which has been mentioned enough in this column that even a newbie has some familiarity with it, is distinct from all other casino wagers in that free Odds carry NO house edge, and of course, it's not mentioned on the layout. All Odds bets are paid off at true odds.

My best guess is that you were interested in a bet I briefly mentioned a while back called a "Put" bet. A Put bet is making a Pass line wager after a point has been established just so you can take advantage of Odds.

The biggest advantage of Put bets is that you get to choose your own point numbers. The biggest disadvantage is that you miss out on those sevens and elevens a pass-line player has before the point is established. However, with the casino offering multiple odds like 5X, 10X and even 100X odds, the house edge can be lowered considerably.

Say for instance the point is a 4 or 10; the house edge on the Put bet without odds would be 33.33%, akin to what credit card companies are now trying to pilfer from you. With 5X odds it's still a nasty 5.56%, but at 100X odds, the house edge on your combined wager is significantly reduced to 0.33%. Better yet, if the point were a 6 or 8, a Put bet with 5X odds would have a casino advantage of 1.52%, similar to either placing the 6 or 8, or a pass line bet without odds. Yet at 10X odds it's 0.83%, and at 100X odds, that figure is drastically reduced to 0.09%. That makes it a pretty decent wager, Frank, but most keen crap players only make a Put bet if the point is a six or eight and only if they can meet the expense of 10X odds or more.

Why? Because taking Odds can be a costly proposition, especially when dealing in multiples of 10x or 100x odds. You need to be well capitalized to embrace this wager, even if the house edge on said wager is infinitesimal. A $5 Put bet with 100x odds puts $505 of your bankroll in play, all on one toss of the dice. A couple early session seven-out, line away calls, and you are cinco dos, adios.

Now if the Put bet wasn't the wager you were thinking of, at least take note of this, Frank. There no such thing as a "no lose" proposition on the crap table. Any bet is still a negative expectation wager, even with Odds, because you still have to combine it with another bet.

Dear Mark: Could you please explain what you mean by a "full pay" in regards to video poker? Jenny A.

Full pay, Jenny, means the best payoff schedule offered for a particular game, and where the Maximum Average Payback is usually in the neighborhood of 100%. For example, a full pay Deuces Wild machine has a maximum average payback of about 100.7%, and a full pay Jacks-or-better machine has a Maximum Average Payback of about 99.5%.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "A major reason I haven't taken up live poker as a money making activity is because successful bluffing and identifying when others are doing it are not skills I'm particularly good at." --Bob Dancer, Million Dollar Video Poker

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.