Prop Bet Pitfalls

Prop bets. Gamblers love them. So do the casinos. That’s why they have the stick man hawking them like a carnival barker. Despite the occasional large pay outs on these bets the house cleans up on them. Let’s take a tour of the prop box and I’ll show you what I’m talking about.

First off, around the fringe of the prop box you’ll see a group of chip-sized circles with arrows pointing toward the various table positions and bearing the letters “C” and “E”. While the casino would like you to make both of these bets at the same time, in craps each bet must stand alone for evaluation so let’s start with the “C,” or Any Craps bet.

The Any Craps bet is a one roll bet that the next number tossed will be a 2, 3, or 12. The standard rate of payoff is 7-1. There are four ways to win on this bet and thirty-two ways to lose. Without going through the math I’ll simply tell you the correct (True Odds) payoff should be 8-1, which means this bet carries a house edge of 11.11%.

Why do players make this bet? Most frequently it is used as a hedge for a Pass Line wager. But the Pass Line wager is one of the lowest vig bets on the table. Why “weaken” it by utilizing a high-vig insurance bet? Is there a time when you may want to use an Any Craps bet? Possibly, if you are a skilled shooter and have a positive expectation on the 2 or 12. We’ll consider that scenario in depth later in this article.

The “E” in “C and E” is the eleven or “YO.” This is a one-roll prop bet that the next number tossed will be an eleven. Players don’t have the “insurance” excuse to use on the Yo bet. Instead they’re looking for luck to make a lightning strike. But there are only two ways out of thirty six to roll the eleven – and betting it is mostly wishful thinking.

With two winners in thirty six tosses the true odds on this bet are 17-1. The standard layout shows the payoff as 15-1. The difference in payout gives the house a 16.66% edge on the wager. That’s more than ten times what the house charges you to place the six and eight. Think about it.

Now let’s move inside the prop box and look at the 2, 3, and 12 as stand-alone bets. The 2 and 12 can only roll one way each in thirty six tosses of the dice. The 3 can only roll two ways in thirty six. In all three cases the house edge is the same as on the Yo bet – a uniform 16.66%. And most players compound the “interest” by betting these numbers in pairs – or worse in fours and fives. Example – the high-low, the ace-deuce-yo, the Horn, and the World. Committing a significant portion of your bankroll to this type of prop play is like handing the casino a gun and telling them to shoot you in the foot.

Up at the top of the prop box you have the hardway bets – the hard 4, 6, 8, and 10. They’re called “hard way” bets because they can only roll one way – both dice have to read 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, or 5-5 in order to win. Unlike the one-roll prop bets, the hardways stay up until a decision is reached on them. They win if the number is rolled hard. They lose if the number rolls easy or if the seven rolls. The house edge on the hard six and eight is 9.09%. The vig on the hard four and ten is 11.11%.

Last on the list of prop bets is the Big Red, or Any Seven bet. This one is a real loser. It is a one roll bet that the seven will show up on the next toss. It pays 5 for 1, or 4-1 – which yields a house edge of 16.66%.

One of the more common ways you’ll see the Big Red bet used is in combination with a Horn bet. The Horn bet plus the Big Red is called a World or Whirl bet – depending on the layout. Players who make this bet like it because the Any Seven portion of the bet provides a hedge against losing the Horn portion of the bet on a come-out-seven. Let’s look at a $5 World bet combined with a $5 Pass Line bet as an example. If the seven appears on the come out the Horn bet loses but the Any Seven wins. The payoff from the Any Seven portion of the World bet is $4 – which is exactly what is needed to replace the Horn bet that lost. On a come out seven the World bet is considered to be a “tie” or “push.”

Most prop bet players are looking for a large win on a relatively small investment. Let’s run through a couple of examples, beginning with my old favorite – the combination of the World and High Low bet. I typically play $5 on the World and $2 on the High Low on the come out when I am the shooter. I set the dice for the Horn numbers and attempt to toss a 2 or 12. If one of those numbers rolls I collect $55 and both bets stay “up to win again.” Or, I can parlay my winnings into a $50 World Bet, toss out an extra three bucks and make my High/Low look like $10 each. If the next toss is a 2 or 12 I collect $550. Not bad for an initial $7 investment.

Now let’s consider tossing out a buck each on all of the hardways. The Hard eight rolls which pays you $9 and up to win again. But instead of raking the win you parlay the hardway and make the eight look like $10. If the hard eight repeats before an easy eight or the seven rolls you’ll collect $90 – or $100 and down for your initial $1 investment.

Through the years I’ve seen hardways parlayed to table max on many occasions, although I’ve never done it myself. At some point I will inevitably look at the stack of chips in the prop box and say “bring me down off that action.”

Should you bet the props? Not unless you can demonstrate an advantage over them through your tossing skills. But if you do choose to play the props then be smart about it, consider it “entertainment” expense and limit your action. A good way to do this is to set aside a pre-determined portion of your bankroll for prop play.

Let’s say you buy in for $500 and want to play a 4% of your session money, or $20 on the props. When you buy in ask the dealer to give you a stack of one dollar chips. Place that stack of chips in the back rail and bet the props exclusively from those chips. If you happen to win feel free to add the winnings to the prop stack in your rack. But if you lose the entire $20 you do not break another $20 down for prop play. Your prop play has ended for that session.

Another way to limit prop action is to key it to certain events occurring at the table. Take the hardway bet as an example. I’ll admit to occasionally tossing a few dollars on the hardways, but it is invariably tied to a shooter tossing at least two hardway numbers in his hand. In other words, I play follow the trend on the hardways in hope of catching a streak.

Of course, the best prop action is “no action.” But you already knew that.