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Deal Me In: Natural odds, take your bow

1 May 2009

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I have been told that the best bet in a casino is to bet "natural odds" at the craps table because the house has no edge. My question is, if this is such a good bet, why do some casinos offer to let you to place bets for up to ten times your line bet or even higher? Bob F.

It's true; Bob, taking odds is distinct from all other casino wagers in that free odds carry NO house edge. All bets are paid off at true odds.

For example, let's say that you bet $5 on the pass line and the point is 4. On a double-odds table, where you are allowed to make an odds bet twice the size of your original pass bet, you are allowed to back your pass line bet with $10 in free odds. If the four hits, you're paid even money on your Pass line bet and true odds of two to one on your $10 odds bet.

The math of craps tells you that the odds against your winning are 2-1, because with two six-sided dice, there are six ways of making a 7 (loser) and three ways of making a winner 4. If you win, your pass line bet is paid at even money, bringing you $5 in winnings, but your odds bet is paid at the 2-1 true odds, bringing you an additional $20. By making use of them, double odds drops the house edge to 0.6 percent, 10x odds to 0.2 percent and 100x odds w-a-a-a-y down to 0.02 percent.

So why would a casino allow 2x, 10x, or even 100x odds? Casinos think of this loss leader as a marketing tool to induce play. What the casino also knows is that Mr. Average Joe isn't going to chunk that kind of change on the crap layout. They know taking odds can be an expensive proposition, especially when dealing in multiples of 10x or even 100x odds, even though the house edge on the bet is infinitesimal. They know a player needs to be well capitalized to embrace this wager. A $10 pass line wager with 100x odds puts $1,010 of your hard-earned money in play, all on one toss of the dice. They may not know exactly what your bankroll is, but they do know they've got a cage full of money to go to war with, and you probably don't. A couple early session seven-out, line away calls, and – oops! -- you're at valet parking without tip money to retrieve your car.

The suggestion of taking odds is a sound guerilla gambling strategy, so long as you don't get caught up in the hysteria of a game and start also making proposition bets that have a casino edge as high as 16%. And, Bob, your pursuit should be to find the lowest table minimum possible, preferably a $2 game.

Written here must also be one caveat: Craps with odds is still a negative expectation game, meaning that no matter how you bet, even on a $2 wager combined with 100X odds, the house has an overall edge on your play. No multiple of odds wagers can beat a negative expectation game over the long haul.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "It's much tougher to beat Sports book than it was in years past. You have a better shot at becoming a movie star." --Lem Banker, Lem Banker's Book of Sports Betting

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.