PLAYING THE "DONíT" AT CRAPS
by Jerry "Stickman"
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in craps, blackjack, video poker and advantage slot machine play. Jerry "Stickmanís" new book is "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Holdíem, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker." He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. In addition, Jerry "Stickman" along with his partner, #1 best-selling gaming author, Frank Scoblete give private lessons in dice control. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" firstname.lastname@example.org .
They are among the most despised of casino critters. They are ignored, sneered, and cursed. No, they are not pit bosses or any other casino employee. They are the "donít" players at a craps table.
For those of you unfamiliar with the game of craps, here is some background information on how the game is played.
A craps shooter starts his turn with the dice by throwing a come out roll. With a bet on the pass line, if he throws a 7 or 11 he wins his pass line bet. If he throws a 2, 3, or 12 he loses his pass line bet. If he throws any other number Ė a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 Ė it becomes the point number. He must throw that number again before throwing a 7 in order to win the pass line bet (if instead he throws a 7 before the point number, he looses). Any other number besides the point number (win) or a 7 (lose) that the shooter throws is a non-event as far as the pass line bet is concerned. The shooter simply throws again-and-again until either he rolls the point number (win) or the 7 (lose). Of course, there are myriad other bets available on the craps layout. Each of them is a separate "game" with the casino. Some bets may take several rolls of the dice to determine the outcome (such as "come" bets or "placing" or "buying" numbers) and some are one-roll bet where the outcome is determined by the next roll (such as the "field bet", "any craps" or "hop" bets). The basic game cycle, however, is determined by the pass line or donít pass bets.
The overwhelming majority of players at a craps table bet with the shooter. That is why they are sometimes called "right side" players. They put their money on the pass line, make come bets or place numbers Ė all bets that will win if the shooter makes the point or number before shooting a 7. They cheer for the shooter to have a long roll because this will also improve their fortunes. When the shooter is happy, the right side players are happy. All is well with the world.
The "donít" or "dark side" bettor does just the opposite. He bets the donít pass line, makes donít come bets or lays numbers Ė all bets that will win if the shooter throws a 7 before making the point or hitting the number. He is hoping the shooter has a quick "7-out" as that will win for him. He wants exactly the opposite of what right-side betters want. When the shooter is unhappy, the donít player is happy. No wonder he is so despised at a craps table.
The "right side" bettor wins his initial come out bet on the pass line if the shooter throws a 7 or 11, and loses if the shooter throws a 2, 3, or 12 on the come out. The donít player will lose on a come out 7 or 11, but he will win on a come out 2 or 3, and "push" (neither win nor lose) if a 12 is thrown on a come-out roll.
In my earlier years as an advantage craps player, I would take a donít better as an affront to my skill. I would become totally focused on crushing him. Sometimes I would, more often I would not.
When I wasnít the shooter, I would count a random roller (someone who showed no indications of attempting to control the dice) and when I was ready to bet I would make up to three come bets with no odds. I made three come bets to get more action. I could win on three numbers rather than just one. However, there are disadvantages to this method of play. A random roller would make his point after I had three come bets going and then roll a 7 on come-out. Everyone else would go wild as they had a win on the pass line. I, however, had lost all three come bets Ė not an event worthy of high-fives. It would drive me crazy.
After a particularly brutal day of come-out 7ís from random rollers, I decided to do the unthinkable Ė betting the donít!
My rationale for doing so was singular Ė by betting the donít come I could only win all three bets at once. I would lose them just one at a time. It seemed like a win-win.
I knew betting the dark-side would make me subject to the ire of everyone at the table. Maybe you have thought about playing the donít, or think you might want to in the future. Here are a few tips from someone who has been on both sides of the issue.
Be as inconspicuous as possible.
This may sound like a no brainer, but it is amazing the number of donít betters that actually make a showcase of their betting. They position themselves right where the shooters dice tend to land (from one side at least) and make sure they stack their odds as high a possible, ensuring the shooter will see them. I think this is somewhat of a psych-out move, similar to mentioning the 7 when someone is shooting during a point cycle.
Speaking of mentioning the 7, many donít players I have seen will be very vocal in cheering for a 7 to appear. They will loudly call out, "come on 7," or other such words hoping that it will produce the 7 they so desperately want. This is just wrong as far as I am concerned. It is very unacceptable table etiquette. (Nevertheless, etiquette at the craps table is pretty much dead these days.)
The better approach when playing the donít is to simply do the opposite; position yourself as far from the shooters field of vision as possible Ė way around the corner by the dealer. Be unobtrusive - silent, no sudden moves. Try to blend in Ė to be invisible. When placing your odds, make the smallest pile possible. You do not want to be seen, and building huge stacks of chips is noticeable.
Should you win by the shooter sevening out, do not cheer or even smile if you can help it. The shooter, as well as almost the entire rest of the table, has just lost their money. Rubbing their noses in it is definitely not the way to go.
Know the proper betting
Make sure your bets are made when the dice are in the center of the table. Betting when the dice are in the center of the table is great advice for any craps player because almost every shooter frowns upon late betting.
In order to ensure bets are made in a timely fashion, the donít player has to know how the bets work and what the rules are. Here are some of the basic rules.
The odds on come bets do not work on come out. This means if you happen to throw one of your come bet numbers, you only win even money on the base portion of the bet, and your odds are simply returned to you. If you throw a 7 on the come out, you lose only the base portion of your come bet(s) and the odds are returned to you. You can call the odds as working if you wish by simply telling the dealer you want the odds working on your come bets.
The odds on donít come bets work on the come out. When the 7 appears on the come out, the donít player wins all the donít come bets along with the odds, although he will lose any donít pass bet just placed on that come out roll.
In addition, a right side player cannot remove the base portion of a pass line or come bet after the point is established. A donít player, however, is allowed to remove a donít pass or donít come bet after the point is established.
Laying odds on a donít pass or donít come bet is also the opposite of placing odds on a pass line or come bet. Odds bets pay the true odds of completing the bet. The odds of throwing a 6 or 8 before the 7 are five to six. The odds of throwing a 5 or 9 before a 7 are two to three and the odds of throwing a 4 or 10 before throwing a 7 are one to two. So, every five dollars bet in odds on a point of 6 or 8 wins six dollars, every two dollars in odds on a point of 5 or 9 wins three dollars, and every dollar in odds on a point of 4 or 10 wins two dollars.
Since a donít better is betting the 7 will show before the point number, the odds are reversed. Laying six dollars in odds on a point of 6 or 8 wins five dollars. Laying three dollars in odds on a point of 5 or 9 wins two dollars. And laying two dollars in odds on a point of 4 or 10 wins one dollar.
This means a donít better must lay a multiple of six dollars in odds if the point is a 6 or 8. He must lay a multiple of three dollars if the point is a 5 or 9. And he must lay a multiple of two dollars if the point is a 4 or 10.
It is similar when placing numbers. Placing a 6 or 8 for six dollars wins seven. Placing five dollars on a 5 or 9 wins seven dollars. And placing five dollars on a 4 or 10 wins nine dollars. For the donít better it is reversed. Laying seven dollars on a 6 or 8 wins six dollars. Laying seven dollars on a 5 or 9 wins five dollars and laying nine dollars on a 4 or 10 wins five dollars.
The donít better must lay a multiple of seven dollars on a 6 or 8, a multiple of seven dollars on a 5 or 9 and a multiple of nine dollars on a 4 or 10.
Yes, there can be dozens of other bets on the craps layout, but whether you are a right side player of a dark side player, these bets are not worth playing Ė the house edge is just too high. Actually, even placing the 4, 5, 9, or 10 or laying any of the box numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 carry too high a house edge. The pass, donít pass, come, and donít come bets have a house edge of about 1.4 percent which is reduced when adding odds to the bet. All of the above bets have a house edge of over 2.4 percent. Donít bet them. They simply are not worth the risk.
Letís review how to best play the donít.
Realize that the house still has an edge even when playing the donít.
The right side player has a huge edge during come out. There are eight ways to win (six ways to throw a 7 and two ways to throw an 11) versus four ways to lose (one way to throw a 2, two ways to throw a 3 and one way to throw a 12). That gives the right side player a two to one edge on come out. After the point is established, however, the house edge swings solidly toward the house. Why do you think the house allows a donít player to remove a bet after the point is established, but prohibits the right side player from doing the same?
If everything were exactly the opposite for the donít player, he would have an edge over the house. That is why the 12 is not a winner but is a push for the dark side player. The house has an edge over the donít play on come out Ė three ways to win (2 and 3), 12 ways to lose (7 and 11), and one way to tie (12). However, after the donít player makes it past come out, the edge is squarely on the donít playerís side.
The house makes its money during the point cycle from the right side better. It makes its money on come out from the donít player. Either way, the house wins. There is no magic formula; no method of betting that will allow the player to win consistently. So it really doesnít matter that much. Play the right side or play the dark side. If you are betting on random rollers, you will lose. The only way to win at craps is to become a controlled shooter Ė and that takes work.
Note: I have since changed my betting on random rollers. No more donít come betting Ė it is simply not worth the scrutiny and ill will from the rest of the table. I now bet only one come bet with double odds on any random roller. I am betting roughly the same amount of money, but I am no longer subject to losing multiple come bets on a come-out 7 and I am only subject to a one-bet house edge of .61 percent Ė not three bets with a 1.40 percent house edge.
Until next timeÖ.
All the best in your casino and life endeavors.
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