You are here:

Gambling/Poker and Sports Betting

Advertisement


Question
QUESTION: it seems like everytime i play craps if i would just leave when im up even 10 percent i would be just fine the trick is leaving is this the only way to become a consistent winner than just hanging around because if you get caught up in the hoopla its just a matter of time you have any mental tricks for that?

ANSWER: "If I only cashed out when I was ahead."  This seems to be the age old dilemma when it comes to casino gambling.  You are correct, the only way to become a consistent winner at craps is to leave and cash in your chips when you're ahead.  Let's examine why people don't leave when they're winning and then we can look at improving your craps experience.

Craps is one of the many "house games" in a casino.  A house game means that you're playing against the house, and when you're playing against the house all of the games, and every possible bet that game offers, has what is known as a negative expected value, or -EV.  This simply means that the house has an edge on every bet -- they are the favorite to win and you're favored to lose.  Everyone knows this, but they still play.  Why?  Because the house edge is small and in the short run the player can win.  Of course, in the long run, the house always wins.  For example, the casino edge on a "Pass Line Bet" is 1.41%.  This means that for every dollar you bet, the house expects to win 1.41% of that, or 1.41, in the long run.  To improve those odds in your favor, the casino edge on a Pass Line Bet with 3x Odds drops to only 0.61%.  These bets, while they are still losing propositions, aren't as bad as some of the other betting options on a craps table.  Common bets, like the Place Bets are worse with a house edge of 1.52% on the 6 & 8, 4.00% on the 5 & 9, and 6.67% on the 4 & 10.  The Field Bet has a casino edge of 5.56%.  But there are still far worse bets.  The Hard 6 & 8 have a casino edge of 9.09% and the Hard 4 & 10 a casino edge of 11.11%!!!  Many craps players look to find "a system" in which they employ a combination of these bets in search of a fool-proof method for turning the tables in their favor and winning.  Since all bets on a craps table have a house edge, mathematically there is no combination of these -EV bets that can become +EV, that is, in the players favor.  Still in the short run a player can overcome these small house edges and win.  This gives house games like craps their appeal.  But this isn't the only reason gamblers love to roll the dice.  They are drawn to the craps tables because it is exciting and great fun.

So, now that you know craps is a house game with every bet, or combination of bets, having its odds stacked against you, what can you do?  Well, are you one of those players who are playing for the sheer entertainment value or are you playing to win?  Many casino patrons know when they walk into a casino that they will probably lose money, but they want to have as much fun as possible doing so.  People go to movie theaters knowing they will have fun and "lose" their money on admission and popcorn, but to them it's well worth the expense.  Are you one of those people willing to lose a fixed amount of money to have an exciting evening playing craps?  Let's assume you are and I'll address how best to do this now.  These tips will also apply later on when we discuss becoming a winning player.

Since we've already learned that every bet on the craps table has a house edge, we should avoid those bets with the higher house advantages, like the Hard Ways, Big 6 & 8, Any Seven, and Any Craps.  These bets will only see us lose our chips faster.  Craps is also a social game where the table roots for the shooter to make his number (and for the house to lose).  Because of this almost all craps table dynamics have the players rooting for, and betting on, the Pass Line, cheering on the shooter to make his point.  If you want to have fun, and in this scenario we're assuming you do, then you'll want to bet on the Pass Line just like the rest of the players.  If the table minimum is $5, then just bet $5 on the Pass Line.  Once the shooter establishes their point, go ahead and put $10 behind the line and take 2x odds.  This will reduce the casino edge of 1.41% on the Pass Line Bet further.  It's also easy to remember as you can ALWAYS double your Pass Line Bet with 2x Odds regardless of the shooters point.  If the shooter's point is 6 or 8, you'll win $12 on your odds bet, $15 on a 5 or 9, and $20 on a 4 or 10.  If you just bet the Pass Line and take Odds, avoiding all other bets where the casino edge is higher, your stack of chips will last longer and you'll have more time at the tables rolling dice and having fun.

Now, let's forget about playing craps for fun, and look at playing craps to win.  Just as in the above scenario we'll still want to avoid those bets where the casino has a big edge and focus on bets with the tiniest edge.  Above we said that bet was the Pass Line Bet with a 1.41% casino edge, but there is a better bet.  It's the Don't Pass Bet.  The casino edge drops to 1.36%.  While it doesn't seem like much that small improvement will save you some real money in the long run.  Yes, you'll be betting against the shooter and the other players will, in essence, be rooting for the shooter to win (and for you to lose), but remember, in this scenario you're not playing for fun, you're playing to win.  You've also seen that taking Odds on your bet will further reduce the casino's edge.  The more odds you take, the smaller their edge, so you'll want to take the full odds.  We'll use this as your basic strategy.

Still, we've learned that the casino still has some edge.  The casino knows they have an edge, and they know you know they have an edge.  It's this last part that you need to take advantage of next.  Since all casinos know that their players know that the odds are stacked in the casino's favor, they combat that by giving players complimentaries.  These are more commonly known as "comps" in the gaming industries and come in the form of "RFB" (rooms, food, and beverages).  Casinos will track your play and give you comps to offset their casino edge.  Luckily for you, craps generates the highest comp rate in the casino.  Why?  Because of the speed of the game.  Players usually have multiple bets on the tables all hinging on that next roll of the dice.  Compared to other table games, like black jack or roulette.  While these games have higher casino edges, it takes much longer for a hand of black jack to be dealt or a roulette ball to drop than a shooter can roll the dice.  The point is that you'll want to work to receive your share, or more than your share, of comps.

Your first step is to get yourself a players card (they're free) and present it to the craps dealer when you arrive at the table.  Just drop it, along with your cash, when you get your chips at the table.  The pit boss will record your information, along with your buy-in amount, and then clock your play.  The longer you play and the more you bet, the more comps he can award you.  (Comps are not based on who much money you lose.)  These comps will cut into the casino edge in the long run.  Here's where you have to ask for comps.  During or after spending some hours at the tables, ask the pit boss for 2 tickets to the buffet or 2 comps at a better restaurant.  Once you're in their system, you'll be assigned to a Casino Host.  Become friendly with your host.  It's their job to make sure you're having fun and to get you to visit their casino often, so they'll offer you free rooms, meals, and show tickets as your play at the craps table becomes routine.  These comps add up, so take advantage of them.

Lastly, I want to give you a tip on extending your play at the tables.  Remember, this is important as extended play means more comps.  When a shooter first rolls the dice to establish their point there are a few numbers that will end their roll immediately.  These numbers are 2,3,7,11, and 12.  These represent 12 combinations of the 36 possible combinations of that 2 dice can roll.  You can only roll a 2 one way (1-1), 3 two ways (1-2 and 2-1),  a 7 six ways (1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, and 6-1), etc.  This means that 12/36, or 1/3 of all come out rolls will not establish a point and the shooter will start again.  What happens during this time?  Well, the dealers have to pay the winning bets, take down the losing bets, reset the dice, and then place all the new bets.  This takes time.  So the tip here is not to bet on the come out roll, that is, the shooter's first roll to establish their number.  Just sit back and watch.  You're still at the craps table logging time, but not risking chips on losing bets.  We now add a second roll to this "waiting period" and here's what your pattern should be:

Step 1: Come out roll - You do nothing.

Step 2a: Shooter does not establish a point - Go back to Step 1.
Step 2b: Shooter established a point - You do nothing.

Step 3a: Shooter makes his number - Go back to Step 1.
Step 3b: Shooter does not make his number - You bet $5 on Don't Come*.

Step 4a: Shooter rolls 2 or 3 you win, 7 or 11 you lose, 12 you push.  Replace your $5 Don't Come bet.
Step 4b: Shooter establishes Your Point - your take the maximum odds (the dealer will assist you)

Step 5a: Shooter rolls a 7 - You win and return to Step 1.
Step 5b: Shooter rolls your point - You lose. Replace your $5 Don't Come Bet and return to Step 4.
Step 5c: Shooter does not roll a 7 or your point - Wait for next roll.

* The Don't Come Bet is identical to the Don't Pass Bet, but can be bet after the shooter established his point.  The dealer will move your chips to that number and you can take odds.  Since you're betting against the shooter, you want them to roll a 7 before they roll your point.

If you follow this tip you'll not only be putting your money on the craps bet with the lowest possible casino edge, but much of the time you'll won't have any chips on the table at all, which both extends your time at the craps tables and earns you more comps.

So, I've waited all this time explaining craps odds, the comp system, and providing you with a 5-Step betting tip to reduce the casino edge.  This still does not enable you to walk away a winner all of the time.  But it does increase your chances of winning in the short run.  Now, how do you learn to walk away?  Well, a time tested goal has always been to walk away when you're up 10%.  (This coincidentally happened to be the same percentage in your question.)  Craps may be a little more difficult than other table games for the simple reason that most players have so many bets on the tables they can't easily tell how many chips they have after each roll.  They have the chips in the tray in front of them PLUS the chips that can be retrieved from the table (usually all bets except the Pass Line and Come bets - though you can still retrieve your odds bets since these offer "true odds" with 0% casino edge).  But, if you follow the 5-Step tip I offer above, then you only need to look down at your tray and add the small pile of chips on your Don't Come bet.  So, if you want to cash out when you're up 10%, follow this rule: If you start with $100 and at one point in the evening you see that your total chips equals $110, simple ask the dealers to "color me up" and cash out the chips at the cage and go home.  

This seems simple, right?.  But it's not.  Why?  Well, say you follow the 5-Step plan and place your $5 Don't Come Bet.  The shooter rolls a 10.  If your casino allows 3-4-5 times odds as many do, your maximum odds bet would be $45.  The shooter rolls a 7.  You win $5 on your Don't Come Bet and another $15 on your Odds for a total of $20.  You're up $20, or 20%.  You ask the dealers to color up your chips and cash out for $120 at the cage a leave a winner.  

You've spent maybe 15 minutes playing craps.  Now what will you do with your evening?  You think, let's play craps!  Why wait until next weekend?  Let's imagine we haven't played craps yet today and are just now arriving at the casino.  It's a fresh start.  Buy in for $100 and do it again, right?  Better yet, why did I leave the table in the first place?  I just won, so the table was "hot".  I'll just stay and play.

This is a normal line of reasoning.  This is why no one ever leaves after 15 minutes when they win 10% or 20%.  They will either be content playing all evening long and winning 10% or playing 15 minutes and tripling their money.  Anything in between is not satisfying.

If you're going to be serious about being a winning craps player I would suggest the following:

1. Follow the 5-Step plan above.
2. Get to know your casino host and always ask for comps.
3. Keep a log after every session to include initial buy-in, wins/losses, table minimum, and time spent at the table.  You can't know if you're winning if you don't keep score.
4. Set more aggressive limits and stick to them.  I would suggest a loss limit of 1 buy-in, a win limit of 2x your buy-in, and a maximum of 2 hours at the tables.  If after 2 hours you haven't lost your buy-in or tripled it, then cash out, no matter how much or how little you have.  You've rack up 2 hours of comp credit and had fun.  (And don't forget to ask for those dinner comps.)

Hopefully, you'll have more fun playing craps, enjoy the comps that you've earned (and that the casino wants you to have anyway), and by tracking your play you can see the inevitable toll those tiny casino edges will have on your bankroll.  But hey, those people going to the movie theater never walk away a winner either.  So if you like gambling and want to play a game where the edge is in your favor and not the casino's, learn to play poker. ;-)

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: And.whats the.best way to learn how to play poker? A tutorial? Also sports betting  can that be done as a business and someone.win.more often?also with poker can someone play online legitimately and win ?

ANSWER: First let me address your poker question.  The very best way to begin learning the game is to read a few books.  The best beginner book is called "The Theory of Poker" by David Sklansky.  You can order it on Amazon.  This book, while mathematical at times, discusses the overall theory of the game of poker, not just Texas Hold'em or Stud, and will give any player a good base to work from.  There are dozens of other fine books, each specializing in a specific type of poker from tournament play to cash games to Sit-n-Go (SNG), from limit to pot limit to no-limit, and from Texas Hold'em to Pot Limit Omaha to Razz.  I'd suggest books on No-Limit Texas Hold'em since it's the most popular type of poker, and then you can decide if you prefer cash games, tournaments, or SNGs.  You'll learn that poker is a game of decisions.  Whoever makes the fewest incorrect decisions wins in the long run.  That's your edge.

After reading a few books you can try your hand at low-level games in your local casino or poker room, usually $1/$2 no-limit with a maximum buy-in of $100-$200.  There are also many on-line tutorials, most charge a subscription fee.  Perhaps the best free site is the Two Plus Two poker strategy forum.  All professional poker players are familiar with this site.

On-line poker laws differ from country to country.  The largest, most trusted, site is Poker Stars.  They own both the Poker Stars brand as well as the Full Tilt brand.  You can log onto the site and it will let you know if you can legally play.  If you're a U.S. resident on-line poker is not regulated at the Federal level.  Each state must approve on-line poker for its residence.  As of today (6 May 2013) only Nevada has legal on-line poker that you can play today.  Other states, such as New Jersey, Delaware, and others have either passed legislation or are working on passing legislation, but none have authorized on-line play as of yet.  Nevada, unsurprisingly, is leading the way.  I would not recommend that you attempt to play on-line poker as the player pool is much more sophisticated and experienced than the average poker room player, but there are numerous automated tools, or heads-up displays, that these players use to allow them to play multiple games at once while making few wrong decisions.

Sports betting is another matter.  The casino's sports book doesn't care which team wins.  They're objective is to split the action evenly across both teams.  They charge the winners a percentage fee on their payout.  In simple terms, you can bet $20 on Team A to win.  The casino does its best to see that both teams have equal amounts of money bet on them by adjusting the point spread.  The losing players lose their $20 while the winning players may collect $18.  The casino makes $2 no matter which team wins.  This "vig" is the way the casino makes money.

Now, for you to make money, you have to know which team is going to win.  Professional sports bettors have crews who track each league, each team, injury reports, historical records, inside information, etc. in order for them to overcome the cost of the vig and profit.  This is not something one or even two people can expect to be successful at for a living.  It takes a team and lots of time and money to invest in systems to track and analyze all this sports data.  I would not recommend sports betting.

The best advice to take is to do what I do.  I play $1/$2 no-limit Texas Hold'em a couple times a week at my local poker room and take trips out to Las Vegas during the World Series of Poker.  Since I consider myself a better player than most of the other 8 players around the table I have +EV, or that the odds are in my favor.  This means that in the long run I'll be a winning player.  (Plus, you do not have to be the best player at the table, just better than a few of the others.)  Unlike the craps example, there is no need to leave when I'm up a specified amount or to leave if I've lost a buy-in or two.  The edge is always in my favor (it's like I'm the house), so I'll play as long as the game is good and I'm awake and can stay sharp.  My longest session is 28 hours straight.  I track every session in a spreadsheet.  Last year (2012) I played 103 times, and averaged just under a $150 profit each session for an annual profit of just over $15,000.  While $150 may not seem like a lot, it's better than losing and adds up over the course of a year.  It's also afforded me plenty of enjoyable hours in the casino sitting at the poker tables chatting with all sorts of interesting people.  For me, it's more entertaining than that movie theater and pays much better.  Good luck.


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Also on the craps thing.it.sounds.like one.has to have.a.hefty.bankroll to take.full odds on each come.bet whats a good bankroll to start with? Also i could see taking full odds on 4 5 9 or 10 but would you take it on 6 and 8?also u mentioned about two hour table.limit AND Triple.your amount or.lose your amount.Did u mean whichever occurs first? Can you elaborate a bit?

Answer
Let me start by saying a little more about the odds bet.  I had stated earlier that every bet on the craps table had a casino edge.  The odds bet does not.  It's neutral.  You're getting what's called "true odds".  For example, let's look at the 4.  If the shooter's point is 4 you know your odds bet will pay out 2-1.  So if you have a $5 Pass Line bet and a $15 odds bet (the maximum on a 3-4-5 table) then you'll win $5 for the Pass Line bet and another $30 on your odds bet.  Let's look at the numbers.  We already know that there are 6 ways to roll a 7.  There are 3 ways to roll a 4 (1-3, 2-2, 3-1).  So 6 divided by 3 equals 2.  The odds of you winning is 2-1 and the casino will pay you 2-1 on your odds bet.  The casino is paying you "true odds" and has no edge.  The math will work out the same for all of the other points.  The 6 & 8 are 6-5 odds and the 5 & 9 are 3-2 odds and that is also what the casino will pay you.  Don't forget, that since they're all "true odds" an odds bet on an 8 at 6-5 is no better or worse than an odds bet on a 10 at 2-1.  Many players don't understand this and favor the 6 & 8 or the 4 & 10 thinking one is better than the other, but the fact is that they're the same.

If you want to bet with the shooter and place a $5 Pass Line bet, I would suggest taking full odds on every number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10).  This means $15 on the 4 & 10, $20 on the 5 & 9, and $25 on the 6 & 8.  Doing this the casino will pay you $30 on all odds bets.  Yes, your total bet is larger ($5 + $25) on the 6 & 8, but the odds are the same.  If you don't feel comfortable playing these stakes, it's best to look for a table with a smaller minimum bet, but outside of Downtown Las Vegas, it's almost impossible to find $1 or $2 tables.  The minimum is usually $5 and in many casinos, but depending on the day of the week, craps table minimums can be as high as $25.  Another thing to keep in mind is that some casinos do not offer the standard 3-4-5 times odds.  Some will offer the less attractive "double odds" which means you can only take 2x odds on your Pass Line bet.  If your casino is like this then your $5 Pass Line bet can only have a maximum of a $10 odds bet.  This may be what you're looking for.  While it's not as good as a 3-4-5 odds table it's much better than not taking any odds bet.  Conversely, some casinos will offer 10x or even 100x odds.  Taking full odds on this table is very expensive, but it cuts the casino edge to almost nothing (good for us).

If you're going to play craps for entertainment, go ahead and bet the Pass Line with the crowd and cheer the shooter, but remember to take as much of your odds as you feel comfortable doing (maybe only 2x as we discussed earlier, but increase that if you feel that the table is getting hot.)

So what's a reasonable starting buy-in for a $5 craps table?  Let's assume you only feel comfortable taking 2x odds, so you'll be wagering $15 on most rolls.  The odds of winning with each roll is 50% minus the house edge of 1.41%, meaning you'll win your Pass Line bet 48.59% of the time.  Let's assume it's 50/50 to make the math easy.  If you buy-in for $150 and only make $5 Pass Line bets (no odds in this example).  You have 30 bets ($150/$5=30).  It's going to take a long time for you to lose 30 bets.  (Another tip to extend your playing time, and your comps, is to ALWAYS play on full table.  If the table looks crowded, just hold your cash and your players card in your hand for the dealers to see and they'll make room for you.)  Now, if you're taking that $10 odds bet on every roll, that will reduce that number to 10 bets ($150/$15=10).  This is actually a comfortable buy-in.  It may seem like a small amount, but realize from our discussion before that 12/36, or one-third of the time, the shooter will roll a 2,3,7,11, or 12 on the first roll when you only have $5 on the Pass Line.  So one-third of your bets will only be $5 wagers thus giving your $150 buy-in more than just 10 bets.  

When the shooter does make a point they may roll for quite a while before they either make their point or crap out.  With a full table it takes time for the dealers to pay the winners, rake in the losers, and set the new bets.  Let's assume that the shooter takes 1 minute to either win or lose.  We'll call this an "event".  With each event you are at most a 1.41% underdog.  (On a full $15 bet you'll be less, but let's keep it at 1.41%.)  So, the house expects to win 1.41% of your $15 bet every event, or every minute in this example.  1.41% of $15 is 21.15 (we'll round up to $0.22).  This means that of your $150 buy-in you'll lose 22 per minute.  Two hours, or 120 minutes, will have you losing $26.40.  So a $150 buy-in should be plenty to keep you in action playing $5 Pass Line bets with 2x odds.

Earlier I suggested some metrics for stopping and going home for the night.  One was losing all of your buy-in.  If you lose your $150 just call it a night and go home.  The casino will be opened next week and you can play then.  Chalk this one up to a run of bad luck at the tables.

Another stopping point would be if you triple your buy-in.  If you see your $150 buy-in grow to $450 in this example, then call it quits and go home a winner.  Yes, maybe the table is hot and it seems stupid to leave, but remember, it's better to leave a winner than give some, or all, of it back.

Both of those stopping points are based on your buy-in.  A third method is time.  Set yourself a 2 hour maximum time at the craps table.  If you lose before 2 hours it wasn't your night and go home.  If your chip stack grows to $450 before 2 hours, then chalk up the win and enjoy the comp'd dinner.  But there will be many nights when you will still have chips when the 2 hour mark come.  Set that as a limit and go home.  Your chips stack may have $150 and you broke even for the night (but you had fun and asked for that free comp).  Your chip stack may have $25 left in it.  Don't try to stage a comeback.  It takes discipline not to blow that last $25, so don't be weak and blow it.  Cash out and go home.  Also, and often time more difficult, is when you have $425 in your stack at the 2 hour mark.  Do not try and "win that last $25" to reach $450.  I've seem players lose everything trying to win that $25.  Just rack up and head home.  So yes, whichever come first (lose, $450, or 2 hours) you head out the door.  

Remember on an "average" night you'll leave at the 2 hour mark with $124 having lost about $26.  Worst case is that the table is cold.  The shooter always then immediately rolls a 7.  This "event" last 1 minute and with your $150 buy-in your stack is decimated in 10 minutes flat.  Best case is that the shooter always establishes a point on the first roll, say a 4 or 10, and then immediately rolls his point.  Your $5 Pass Line bet and $10 odds bet returns a profit of $25.  The shooter does this 12 times in a row, or 12 minutes, and you're out the door with a stack of $450.  Neither will probably ever happen, but that's the worse and best case scenarios.  Average is you'll lose $26.  Remember to keep a log of your play, be disciplined when you play, and have fun.

One last suggestion.  If your casino has more than one craps table going, spend some time looking at each table.  Ask yourself the following questions: Do the players have a lot of chips in front of them?  Are the players making lots of bets with each roll?  Do the shooters look experienced?  Is the table full?  Are there lots of cheers?  These can all be signs of a hot table.  Just because you're about 50/50 to win doesn't mean you will follow a pattern of win-lose-win-lose-win-lose-win-lose.  Those wins and losses will be in clumps and it's your job to find the table that is getting more than their fair share of wins.  The 5 to 10 minutes to spend selecting a table could make or break your night.

Gambling

All Answers


Answers by Expert:


Ask Experts

Volunteer


Vic G

Expertise

I can assist you with a number of casino games to include blackjack, craps, roulette, and poker (Texas Hold'em, 7 Card Stud, and Omaha). I have visited hundreds of casinos and may be able to answer specific questions about casinos or poker rooms in your area. Lastly, I have a collection of over 3,700 casino chips, so if you're a collector, or are just curious of what the value of a chip may be, I can assist you.

Experience

I grew up in New Jersey during the late 1970's when casinos came to Atlantic City. I played blackjack and craps in Resorts and the Golden Nugget during my high school and college years. I play poker at least once a week in my local card room and make the annual trip to Las Vegas for the World Series of Poker each year.

Publications
Ante Up magazine: October 2008

Education/Credentials
BS from Rutgers in Electrical Engineering. MBA from Wright State in Management Science.

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.