When craps players put together combination bets, there are two key things to keep in mind:

  • The house edge is a weighted average of the house edges on all bets in the combination.

  • The overall house edge can never be lower than the best individual bet in the combination.

The second point sometimes brings raised eyebrows from veteran craps players who ask, “What about the Iron Cross?”. even if you already know how to play craps, you should keep this strategy in your mind,

The Iron Cross, sometimes called Darby’s Field, is a combination that is said to do the impossible. The component bets with the lowest house edges are place bets on 6 and 8, each at a 1.52% edge. Yet the combination is said to have a house edge of 1.14%.

How can that possibly be true? The answer is that the 1.14% figure on the Iron Cross is the house edge per roll, and the place bets in the combination are multi-roll bets. If you assume all bets are played until there is a decision, the house edge is 2.37%. If you will use this strategy wisely without making mistakes while playing craps, you have a chance to return home with some extra money in your wallet.

HOW THE IRON CROSS STRATEGY WORKS?

There are four wagers in the combination: the field, along with place bets on 5, 6 and 8.

The field is a bet that the next roll will be 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 or 12. If it wins, it pays even money on 3, 4, 9, 10, 11. You get bigger payoffs on the other numbers – usually 2-1 on 2 and 3-1 on 12.

On the place bets, you’re betting the shooter will roll your number before rolling a 7. Winners are paid 7-5 on the place bet on 5 or 7-6 on either 6 or 8.

The 7-6 payoff on 6 and 8 means you should always make those bets in multiples of $6.

At its base, the Iron Cross would mean $5 bets on the field and placing 5 and $6 bets on 6 and 8 for a total risk of $22. Bigger bettors can multiply the bets.

The Iron Cross was originally designed as a one-roll, hit-and-run bet. Every number except 7 is a winner, but when the roll is 7 all bets lose.

When the place bets win, the field bet loses. However, when the field bet wins, the place bets are still in action. If you like, you can take the place bets down and walk away with the money as well as with your field winnings.

HOW THE PAYOFFS WOULD WORK FOR EACH POSSIBLE NUMBER?

  • 2: You win on the field and are paid 2-1. That means you have $10 in winnings and can keep all $22 of your wagers for a $10 profit.

  • 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11: You win an even-money payout on the field, giving you $5 in winnings and you keep your $22 in bets for a $5 profit.

  • 5, 6 or 8: You’re paid $7 on a winning place bet. You lose $5 on the field, but keep the $17 worth of place bets, meaning you have $24 overall or a $2 profit.

  • 7: You lose all $22 wagered.

The most frequent roll is the lose 7, with six of 36 two-dice combinations giving that total. The house retains an edge, but how an edge is a matter of perspective.

The Iron Cross was originally designed for players who wanted to make one last bet on their way out of the casino. They were betting the next roll would be anything but 7. In the days when even $1 would buy ham and eggs in Las Vegas, any win at craps would give the bettor enough to dine out.

They might want to know the house edge for just the next roll. The house edge on the field bet with the above listed payouts is 2.78%, while the house edges per roll on the place bets are 1.111%on 5 and 0.463%on 6 and 8.

Because you bet in multiples of $6 on the and 8 and in multiples of $5 on 5 and on the field, the 6 and 8 are given 1.2 times the weight of the other bets in calculating an overall house edge.

That one-roll edge on the Iron Cross is 1.14%. Note that it isn’t really lower than the best component bet in the combination, as has been claimed. The 0.463% one-roll edge on 6 and 8 and 1.11%on 5 are lower.

Some players see that house edge and think the Iron Cross is a viable bet for periods of longer than one bet. They need to know the overall edge of each craps bet is played to a decision. Under those conditions, the edges on each component are 2.78%on the field, 4%on the place bet on 5 and 1.52% on place bets on 6 and 8.

The overall house edge of 2.37% on the Iron Cross, played to decision on all pieces, higher than the 1.52% on 6 and 8.

Either way you look at it, the Iron Cross is no miracle bet. It’s a better combination than most that involve one-roll bets, but it has a higher overall edge than its lowest-edge component. That’s just as it must be – it can’t defy the math.

About the Author
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For nearly 25 years, John Grochowski has been one of the most prolific gaming writers in the United States. He’s been ranked ninth by GamblingSites among the top 11 gambling experts at Gambling Sites and his Video Poker Answer Book was ranked eighth among the best gambling books of all time.