Craps Do's and Don'ts

It was a Friday night in the casino. He was well dressed in a sport coat, dress pants, lacquered black shoes. About 60 years old, he parted a space for himself with ease at the crowded craps table. With the dice on the hop, he reached into his jacket and pulled out two wrappers of $5,000 each, and launched them toward the stickman. "Buy the four."

The dice settled. "Seven out. Take the Line, Pay the Don'ts. New Shooter; place your bets." He was unfazed. Didn't shuffle or sweat. He removed another two wrappers from the same pocket, with the marker black up, "off," and the come out roll to follow. "Buy the four," once again.

The table is packed. "Coming out, C & E's, Play the Field, Okay shooter, hands away, here we go...five! No field five. Five's the number, Mark the five. " The stack of chips on the four with the "buy" button attracted most of the attention at the ten dollar table.

"Okay shooter, five's the number. Place your bets, come bets, hardways, field bets...dice are out, watch your hands, here we go...seven! Line away, pay the don'ts."

I watched this scene repeated for about fifteen minutes. In that time, the high roller lost $80,000. He was betting that the shooter would roll a four, before he rolled a seven. If he had succeeded, with the odds of 2 to 1, he would have turned each of his $10,000 bets into $30,000 (and owed some back to the house for its 5% commission, but a nice payday, nonetheless).

Instead of checking the temperature at the table, acting like a big shot, he plunged in and hit one cold run losing eight times in a row. In craps, as in life, timing is truly everything. No one there had the nerve to tell the big shot that a mere half-hour previously, the table was red-hot, the same shooter making pass after pass, chips flying across the felt, money pouring out of the racks.

Now, if our high roller had taken the opposite tack, and played the "Don'ts," betting that, following the come out roll (where the point is established), the shooter would roll a seven before he rolled the point, (or his layed number), he would have, without taking odds, doubled his money. Turned his $80,000 into $160,000. But that wasn't the way he played. The essence of craps, its soul and beauty lies in its eternal speedy elusiveness and streaks. I'm certainly not the first to note that most folks feel much more comfortable playing on the pass line, with the shooter, hoping for hot streaks, hosts of numbers made, with the crowd yelping, clapping, screaming, urging him on, pushing for more. You might say there's comfort in numbers.

It takes a certain personality and understanding of the game to appreciate the beauty of playing the "don't pass" and "don't come." You are not playing against everyone at the table, but with the house. Part of the house edge in craps is derived from the simple, undeniable fact that there are more ways to make a seven than any other number. This style is called, playing "wrong." Not a judgment call, it is merely the opposite of playing the pass line, or playing "right."

By putting your initial bet on the don't pass line, you are entering the Twilight Zone of dice. The first and most dangerous obstacle is the come out roll. If there are more ways to make a seven after the point is established, it is also true before. Any seven or eleven on the come out roll means the pass line gets paid in the amount of the bet, and the don't pass is lost and removed from play. Conversely, if a two or three (craps) is rolled on the come out, the don't pass is paid with the pass line lost. A twelve means the pass line loses as well, but the don't pass pushes (ties), with no money exchanged (thus the "bar double six" on the craps table layout).

Any other number: 4, 5,6,8,9,10 establishes the "point" or the number the shooter needs to roll without hitting a seven, in order to get paid and stay "on the roll." The don't pass player is now betting the seven will be rolled. At this point the marker or black and white disk is moved from the black "off" position, and placed white side up, "on" in the middle of the number on the layout to signify the point. You can look at a craps table and see the progress of any game. Generally, if there are stacks of chips sprouting like ocean front high rises on the flat beach, it is a fair assumption that the table is "hot," the shooter(s) are making their rolls (or passes) , and the players are adding to their bets, parlaying or "pressing." If you see mournful quiet faces scattered in different corners of the table, you're probably looking at a "cold" game, where the shooter makes a number and on the next pass, it's "seven out."

Let's return to our game. The point is established. Both the pass line and don't pass bettors can now take odds on their initial bets, as well as place or buy any of the other numbers or proposition bets inside the dice layout. The amount of times the odds will be paid is different at each property, with the higher numbers more potentially profitable for the players, whether right or wrong. Single odds on the don't pass line lowers the house edge from 1.40 to 0.69. 2x odds reduces the house advantage to .46 or less than half a percent for your total bet.

At this time, the wrong player can also opt to make a "don't come" bet. This is identical to a don't pass bet with the provision that it can only be made after the come out roll with the point established.

Sam Grafstein, author of the classic book on Craps, The Dice Doctor Revised and Expanded, put it this way, "In contrast to Dale Carnegie's goal,you as a wrong bettor are not there to win friends and influence people. I have as yet to hear a wrong bettor say, "He is playing for fun." You are there for one reason only. "To win the money!" The psychology ,style, and betting philosophy of the true don't bettor is entirely different from that of the pass line player. It is a patient, "grind-it-out" style, quite opposite from the hot, action-oriented popular bet. Remember, there is no "good" or "bad" involved. Just a difference in style and betting philosophy. To attempt to jump back and forth from the pass and don't pass, depending on the last shooter's success (or lack of) can be suicidal. If you are a casual observer, watch the flow of the game and see which betting style suits you best. Remember, when you bet on the "don'ts" it is not the most popular position to be in, but don't take the comments personally, and remind others you're not betting against them. You're just betting with the house, and it's just possible you're making the smarter bet.

 
 
 
 
 


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