The Craps (Check) Between Your Ears

It’s funny how players who would never consider hedging a five dollar pass line bet let higher table limits get between their ears. Put them in a ten dollar game and they start tossing out dollar craps checks. Raise the limits to twenty-five and you’ll see the three-way craps come out. The problem is, unless you are setting for and tossing twos and twelves deliberately the vig on those bets grind you down. The house gets a percentage of all that extra action. The bosses still get paid. In fact, the casino takes a bigger piece of the pie because the hedge bets carry a higher vig.

Tell these same players they cannot hedge their bets and they’ll pass on a fifteen or twenty-five dollar game every time. They’re simply too intimidated by the table limits. Yet these same players readily toss out $44 inside on a five-dollar game with little thought of hedging – or losing. And there are a lot more sevens on the dice than there are craps numbers. Go figure.

Let’s look at some simple hedges. The most common is the $1 Any Craps bet on the come-out roll to “protect” $5 or $10 on the Pass line. The winning Any Craps bet pays $7 when the two, three, or twelve rolls, and loses on any other number. No big deal, right? It’s just a buck. But you’re going to lose that buck thirty-two times for every four times you win it. That’s a $32 loss versus a $28 win. Suddenly that hedge doesn’t look so good.

Hedges can get fairly complicated, and Don’t players are the world’s worst when it comes to these plays. When you’re faced with betting “more” to win “less,” logic seems to go out the window. Hedging looks like cheap insurance against higher losses. But if hedge bets really helped players lose less – the casinos wouldn’t let you make them.

Let’s take an example from an earlier article where we were discussing money management – John Patrick’s “place the point” play when you’re up on the Don’ts. In this case let’s say the wager is a $25 Don’t Pass on the six. The hedge bettor places the point for $24. Now he has a guaranteed win, right? He’ll win a net $1 if the shooter sevens out, and $3 if he makes the point. Perhaps that sounds good if all he is interested in is mitigating losses. But the fact is he is “booking the house” on that $25 Don’t bet and will win it six times for every five times he loses it. That means over the course of eleven decisions his hedge move cost him $34. So why hedge?

A hedge play touted by a popular gaming author involves placing equal flat bets on Pass and Don’t Pass during the come-out cycle, then taking odds once the point is established. He claims that this strategy lets the player bet the Free Odds, on which the house has no edge, without risking a loss on the line bet. Of course, the twelve is the great equalizer, a one-in-thirty-six occurrence that proponents of this play dismiss as infrequent enough to be insignificant. The developer of this play apparently does not grasp the fact that the cost of this hedge is more than the occasional loss on the twelve. There is a hidden that lies in the elimination of the pass-line natural as a 2-to-1 even-money winner on the come-out. What these hedge bets really do is put more money out on the table than you would be with just one side or the other. And of course, the house gets its percentage of the extra action.

Should you hedge or go bare on your bets? Hindsight is always 20/20 on this issue, but for the long-run player, as strange as it may seem, cutting your hedges should cut your losses. Armed with the facts, it’s up to you to decide. But make a rational decision – not an emotional one.