Craps appears to be a very intimidating and complicated game to the novice. Once you get a handle on it, however, it becomes easy to understand and to play. The apparent complexity has led to a proliferation of supposed ‘craps experts’ claiming that one craps strategy or another is foolproof, unbeatable and the ticket to massive riches. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that none pass statistical scrutiny.
Here’s the good news–there are a number of bets at the craps table that have an extremely low house edge. This isn’t counting the ‘even money’ odds bets that have no house edge. We’ll assume that you’ve got at least some familiarity with the craps layout and the types of bets available. Each of the various bets comes with a different ‘house edge’. The more exotic the bet and the higher the payout, the higher the house edge.
Craps can be viewed in even more complex terms than that. Since many craps bets take more than one roll of the dice to resolve you can calculate a different house edge for every bet made, every bet resolved and every roll of the dice. For example, the per bet house edge of the ‘Hard 6’ or ‘Hard 8’ bet is a whopping 9.09%. The ‘expected rolls’ for a Hard 6/Hard 8 bet to be resolved is 3.27. That makes the per roll house edge on these bets a more manageable 2.78%. Even at this lower house edge, there are better bets to be found elsewhere.
For now, we’ll consider the ‘per bet made’ house edge. The ‘per roll’ calculations are interesting, however, and we’ll look into some more advanced strategies based on these numbers in the future. Using the ‘per bet made’ metric here are the bets with the lowest ‘house edge’:
DON’T PASS/DON’T COME
Two of the four ‘bread and butter’ craps bets–the others are the opposite of these wagers namely ‘Pass’ and ‘Come’. These bets have a 1.36% house edge. Granted, they’re not the most thrilling bets to play and winners are paid at even money. If you’re looking for thrills and higher payouts this isn’t the bet for you but it is the most player friendly wager at the craps table by this metric. It’s just slightly more than the house edge on the ‘Player’ bet in baccarat (1.24%) and slightly less than the house edge for Pai Gow (1.50%) and Pai Gow Poker (1.46%).
Some players don’t feel comfortable with the perception that they’re ‘betting against’ the current dice roller with the ‘Don’t Pass’/’Don’t Come’ bet. Obviously, there’s no correlation between the bet and outcome of the roll but that superstition does exist. The ‘affirmative’ side of these wagers is only slightly less advantageous to the player. The ‘Pass’ or ‘Come’ bet has a house edge of 1.41%. In the short term, it’s unlikely that the fractional difference between the house edge of these four bets will make a difference. In the long term, however, every bit helps.
PLACE 6 OR 8
The ‘place’ bet means that you are betting that your number (in this case 6 or 8) will appear before the current shooter rolls a 7. Bets on the 6 or 8 are paid at 7-6 odds, bets on 5 or 9 are paid at 7-5 odds and bets on 4 or 10 are paid at 9-5 odds. The novice craps player will sometimes gravitate toward the 4 or 10 since they pay out at the highest odds but that’s not a good move from a statistical standpoint. The house edge on the 6 or 8 is 1.52% which isn’t much worse than the pass/don’t pass or come/don’t come wagers. The house edge on the Place 5 or 9 is 4.00% while the house edge on the 4 or 10 is 6.67%.
This bet is a winner of the next roll is a 2,3,4,9,10,11 or 12. Usually the bet is paid out at even money but there is an exception–if the roll is a 2 or a 12 it is paid out at 2-1 or in some cases 3-1. At some casinos, the 2 is paid at 2-1 and the 12 at 3-1, at other casinos the 2 is paid at 3-1 and the 12 at 2-1 and some pay 2-1 on both. If the payout is 2-1 for both 2 and 12 the house edge on these bets is 5.56%. If either is paid at 3-1 the house edge is a far more reasonable 2.78%.
As with any other casino game it’s wise to ‘shop around’ and find the most advantageous rules. Making the challenge more difficult the rules change frequently at many casinos so the one with the most player friendly rules today might not be the same a month from now. In Las Vegas, the Cromwell (formerly Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall and the Barbary Coast) will often have the most player friendly rules on ‘The Strip’ along with the nearby Casino Royale. You’ll have an easier time finding player friendly craps rules downtown, on the Boulder Highway or at some of the ‘locals casinos’ around town. You’ll also have an easier time finding low limits and favorable rules in the Reno area.