When craps players bet against the shooter in a live casino table, the most common strategy is to play don’t pass and don’t come.
Backing those bets by laying the free odds cuts the house edge to the bone for “Dark Side” or “wrong bettor” – as the majority who bet with the shooter refer to don’t players.
But what if you’re a dark sider craps player who wants to choose the numbers you’re betting against? What if you don’t want to wait for the shooter to establish a point on the comeout roll, as you do on don’t pass and don’t come as well as on pass and come?
Don’t bettors can choose their number with lay bets. Lay bets in craps are the opposite of place bets for the “right” bettors who bet with the shooter.
Before the explanation, one aside: Don’t let the “Dark Side Craps” and “Wrong Craps” nicknames get to you. Yes, there are wrong bets in craps, but there’s nothing wrong with betting the shooter will roll a 7 before the number that would win for “right” bettors. The house edge is even slightly lower at 1.36 percent on don’t pass/don’t come than the 1.41 percent on pass/come.
CRAPS LAY BETS STRATEGY
There are six craps lay bets available to dark siders. You can lay the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10. Those are the same numbers that become points if the shooter rolls them on the comeout, and the same numbers available to right bettors as place bets.
In each case, you win the bet if the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling your number, and you lose if the shooter rolls your number first. No numbers matter other than 7 and the number you lay.
Let’s say you lay the 6. That means you win only if the shooter rolls a 7 before the next 6. If the next few rolls are 11, 5, 9, 3 and so on, nothing happens to your bet. Those numbers don’t matter.
At any point, if a 7 turns up, you win, or if the roll is 6, you lose.
LAY BETS ODDS OF WINNING
There are 36 possible combinations of two six-sided dice in craps lay bets. Six of those combinations total 7, while 5 total 6, five total 8, four each total 5 and 9 and three each total 4 and 10.
That means you’ll win six times for every five times you lose if you lay 6 or 8, win six times per four losses on 5 or 9 and win six times per three losses on 4 or 10.
The odds in favor or your winning lay bets are 6-5 on 6 or 8, 3-2 on 5 or 9 or 2-1 on 4 or 10.
LAY BETS PAYOFFS AND COMMISSION
Because you win more often than you lose, the house charges a commission in order to gain an edge.
Payoffs are commensurate with true odds. If you bet $6 on 6 or 8, a winner will bring you $5. If you bet $3 on 5 or 9, a winner will bring you $2, and if you bet $2 on 4 or 10, a winner will bring you $1.
The commission amounts to 5 percent of the amount you would win if the shooter rolls a 7.
Let’s set our bet sizes all to amounts that would win $20 to make an easy comparison.
- If you lay 6 or 8, you must wager $24 for a chance to win $20 – the 6-5 odds multiplied by four. Fiver percent of $20 is $1, so that’s the commission you must add to your wager, so your full bet is $25 for a chance to win $20.
- If you lay 5 or 9, you must start with $30 for a chance to win $20, and the 1 percent commission brings your total risk to $31.
- If you lay 4 or 10 you must start with $40 for a chance to win $20, and the 1 percent commission bring your total risk to $41.
Some casinos charge the commission only if your bet wins. That makes a difference in the house edge, as we’ll see below.
LAY BETS HOUSE EDGE
The best deal on lay bets is on 4 or 10, where the commission represents the smallest proportion of your bet.
Let’s start with casinos where you must pay the commission on all lay bets, win or lose.
- If you lay 4 or 10, the house edge is 2.44 percent. In the long run, per $100 wagered, you would average $2.44 in losses
- If you lay 5 or 9, the house edge is 3.23 percent.
- If you lay 6 or 8, the house edge is 4 percent.
What if the house charges the commission only on winning bets? Then the house edge is reduced on all numbers.
- On 4 or 10, commission on winners only, the house edge is 1.67 percent.
- On 5 or 9, commission on winners only, the house edge is 2 percent.
- On 6 or 8, commission on winners only, the house edge is 2.27 percent.
Note that in every case, the house edge is lower for the patient player who bets don’t pass and don’t come. But especially if the commission applies only on winners, lay bets in craps give a viable option to dark siders who want to choose their own numbers.