Twelve Ways to Win

One of the many issues recreational gamblers endure is short run bankroll volatility.  These are often players with short bankrolls to begin with; guys who step up to a $10 game and buy in for double what they’d buy in for at a $5 game – a whopping $200.  And in many cases that $200 represents 25 – 50% of their entire trip bankroll.  All too often they are playing with scared money, which means they’re probably playing pretty tight.  They bypass the Come Out and place the six and eight only.  Maybe they play one hit and down, or perhaps they’re playing a place-to-come strategy like the Heatseeker.  But they also want to shoot the dice when it’s their turn and that means making a Pass Line or Don’t Pass bet.  Eternal optimists, they’re not going to risk losing $10 to the Seven or Eleven or the Come Out.  That’s eight ways to lose.  By betting the Pass Line they can reduce the potential Come Out loss to four ways – the two, three, and twelve.  But even more important to these players – by risking just $2 on a “craps check” bet they can increase the number of potential Come Out winners to twelve.

A “craps check” is typically a $1 – $5 Any Craps bet.  You can make larger Any Craps bets but you don’t see them that often because they’re usually played as a Pass Line or Come Bet hedge.  This hedge protects you against the 2, 3, or 12 and it pays 7-1. The vigorish on this bet is high – 11.1%. I don’t recommend it and rarely bet it.  Then again, a $10 Pass Line bet rarely comprises 5% of my bankroll as in the $200 buy-in example above.

Now let’s break down that twelve ways to win on the Come Out for a minute.  Again, we have $10 on the Pass Line and $2 on the Any Craps.  Here’s how it shakes out:

Seven rolls:  Win $10 on Pass Line – Lose $2 on Any Craps – Net win $8
Eleven rolls:  Win $10 on Pass Line – Lose $2 on Any Craps – Net win $8
Any crap number rolls:  Lose $10 on the Pass Line – Win $14 on Any Craps – Net win $4

When I talk about the number of “ways” to win or lose I’m talking about the various permutations of the dice.  For example, there are six permutations of the dice that add up to seven.  Two permutations will produce elevens.  Four permutations kick off craps numbers.  That adds up to twelve ways to win.  That looks like a no-brainer to a lot of players.  But let’s back up a minute and think about that it.  There are thirty-six permutations of the dice, so if you have twelve ways to win then you have twenty-four ways to lose.  On those twenty-four tosses you’ll lose $2 from the example above.

Again, that works out to an 11.1% vig. .  Now, my local church only wants me to tithe ten percent so I guess the casinos think they’re worth more than God. An 11.1% vig is the equivalent of just throwing away every 8th bet. In other words, bet seven of those dollar crap checks – and instead of betting the eighth one just throw the buck away. As Doctor Phil says, “How’s that working for you?”

Let’s take that buck and double it to get our $2 craps check in the above example.  Now after every seventh bet you can throw two bucks in the cash.  Hey, that means after every thirty-fifth craps check you bet you can throw ten bucks in the trash.  But wait a minute – we were trying to protect a $10 bet – right?  Oh, the humanity!

Now, hedge bet proponents will counter with the fact that we all have auto insurance, home owners insurance and life insurance – even though we rarely collect on it.    Idiots like the famous gaming expert I mentioned earlier will advocate playing strategies like the Doey-Don’t to hedge their line bets (no ways to win and one way to lose – hmmmm).  But the fact is, hedge bets cost you extra money over the long run.  Stand at the table long enough and they do add up.

On the other hand, if you’re only making that bet when you’re the shooter and you’re playing with a short bankroll to begin with maybe it’s not that big of a deal.  Why?  Well, let’s say you’re playing at a table that’s half-full (or half-empty if you prefer that perspective).  The dice have to get past six to eight other players before they come back to you each time.  You bet a couple of bucks on the Any Craps on the Come Out only when you’re the shooter and stick with place bets the rest of the time.  We’re talking about a very small amount of action here – perhaps four or five bets over the course of the next two hours.   Over the short-run what happens in the next couple of hours at the table is probably going to look much different statistically from what you’d expect over the long run.  Virtually anything can happen over the short run.

Bottom line?  It’s your call.  You’ll probably be better off over the long run if you opt to pass on the hedge bets, but if it makes you feel good and you understand the long run costs then knock yourself out.  After all, it’s your money.