Farming the Field

Take a look at any crap table and see where the sage old right-way players put their money.  One of the most popular bets you’ll see these guys toss out is $44 inside – that’s twelve dollars on the six and eight, and ten dollars each on the five and nine.  They know the inside numbers are the easiest to make, and the house edge on these numbers is less than on prop bets or Placing the four and ten.

These same players also avoid the Field bet because of the house edge.  They’ll wink at the dealer and crack jokes about the IQ of the guys that play it.  If a woman makes the same play they will offer some friendly advice and try to show them the error of their ways.  Yet often I will watch these players lose bet after bet while the Field better fills her rack with green chips.  Clearly this isn’t supposed to happen.  After all, the vigorish on the standard Field bet is 5.56%, right?

Not always.  The fact is, many casino’s offer a better Field bet by paying triple on the two or twelve.  That one little change brings the house’s edge down to about  2.8%.  Meanwhile, our $44 inside players are paying a 4% vigorish to place the five and nine.  Clearly the 2.8% vig on the Field is less than the 4% on the five and nine.

The law of large numbers tells us that in this situation the Field bet should cost us less over, say, a million decisions.  Of course, none of us are going to stand at the table that long, which takes us back to the other part of the law of large numbers.  During that million random rolls of the dice, wide swings in expected outcome can and do occur.  That can include long streaks of Field numbers – as well as long streaks of non-Field numbers.

So why doesn’t everyone play the Field?  Because there is one major difference in Field bets and Place bets.  The Field bet is a one-roll bet, while the place bets stay up until a seven rolls or the player takes them down.  As a result, during a no-field streak, you lose more than your wallet can endure quickly when playing the Field.

Do I ever play the Field?  Rarely, but on occasion – yes.  From time to time I’ll use a Field bet in lieu of the higher vig World/High-Low combination on my come-out hands.  I’ll also utilize a Place/Field strategy like the Iron Cross on those occasions when I want to zone in at the table and work on my toss without having to pay a lot of attention to my bets.  But for the most part that action is reserved for low-limit games where I’ll place $34 inside no-five and play the field for $3 every toss.  It’s really “dead-head” action that allows me to focus on breathing and zoning in.

Often you will see players with a light bankroll playing a flat bet adaptation of the above Iron Cross strategy utilizing all self-service bets.  In this case you might see the player play $5 on the Field plus $5 each on the Big 6 and Big 8.  This gives him a total of $15 in action and a win on any Field Numbers.  He is perfectly hedged against the six and eight.  His downside risk is a $5 loss to the five, or a $15 loss to the seven.  This combination of “bad” bets might raise the ire of many players, yet every day a certain segment of players with modest bankrolls and reasonable win objectives make money playing this strategy.

The other popular methods of playing the Field involve utilization of any of the numerous progression or regression strategies you have in your arsenal.  You know the strategies I’m talking about – the ones named after all those long-dead French and Italian mathematicians.  Of course, these systems and betting strategies are fun to experiment with, but the simple fact is that without influencing the outcome of the roll there is no way to mathematically overcome the house’s edge at craps. Anyone who tells you there is – is wrong.

The smart play?  Bet within your bankroll, practice good money management and discipline, limit your hedges, and focus on the bets with the lowest house edge – the Pass or Don’t Pass, and placing the six and eight.  But don’t be too quick to poke fun of the Field player.  There’s always a chance he could walk away from the table with more chips than you.