Systems, Strategies, and Short Run Wins

Through the years there have been many books and articles written on the proper way to attack the game of craps. Many of these books are written by mathematicians, statisticians, or physicists who chant an oft repeated mantra – that in the long run no system can overcome the casino’s edge. If we interpret the long run to mean all of the play in all of the world’s casinos for all time and assume that the system in question is played to its ultimate end regardless of how much it loses in any given session then that statement is unquestionably true. On the other hand, if you consider the fact that the average player’s “long run” is nothing more than a stringing together of many short-run sessions I believe there is a little wiggle room in that statement.

Let’s face it. Craps is a game of give and take. But the house has an edge of less than 1% on the best bets. The house also has to book every bet, while the player can choose whether or not to wager on a given decision – or whether to bet at all. There is rarely a session played where the player doesn’t get ahead of the house at some point. If every player who got ahead in the game were to color up and walk with a win the casinos would be out of business in no time.

The system most craps experts recommend is usually the Three Point Molly, which consists of a pass line bet with max odds and two come bets with max odds. Whenever one of the bets wins it is replaced by another come bet with odds. It is one of the lowest vig ways to play the game. It is also the method taught in those “free craps lessons” the casinos give every morning. Yes, during a hot hand you can make a lot of money with this strategy. But the simple truth is, this strategy has been supporting the casinos for years.

The system that gets the worst press from the experts is the Martingale in any of its incarnations. Any negative progression – by that I mean a system that calls for you to increase your bets when you are losing – is a “cousin” to the Martingale. The phrase most commonly associated with the Martingale is “gambler’s ruin,” an event in which a gambler chases his losses with increasingly larger bets until he has exhausted his entire bankroll. Of course, some gamblers play that way, but many more do not. Most system players have a loss limit or cut-off point at which they end their session.

When one looks at the odds that one of the next three decisions will be a reversal – about a one-in-ten probability – then many progressive betting systems start to make mathematical sense when played in conjunction with loss limits. Sure, they are long-run losers. But we’re not looking at the long run. We’re looking at stringing together a series of short run wins, and for that many systems work very well.

Contrary to what the mathematicians and statisticians say, system players do not always lose. Increasing bets after a loss is not always foolish. Sometimes it’s what it takes to keep you in the game. Over the short run craps negative expectation can be overcome due to the game’s variability. Once you are ahead in your session it is up to you to save your win through money management and discipline. You can walk with a short-run win – or you can prove the math crowd right. The decision is in your hands.