The Mathematically Correct Way to Play Craps – And Why It’s Wrong

Through the years I’ve often been at odds with “the math guys” over the correct way to play craps.  Wait a minute. Let me grab a book by a random math guy and see what he recommends as the correct way to play craps. Here’s one. Avery Cardoza’s Casino Strategy Guide. Cardoza is, according to his modest bio, “the foremost gaming authority in the world and the best-selling author of more than a dozen gambling books and advanced strategies.” Oh my. For a minute there I thought I was reading Frank Scoblete’s autobiography. Oh well. Cardoza is, in fact, extremely well thought of in the blackjackcommunity and has penned many volumes on advantage gaming.  He understands casino math, so he’s a good one to look at for information.

In Cardoza’s Casino Strategy Guide he dedicates about 35 pages to the game of Craps. Of those, 30 pages are dedicated to the obligatary “first pages,” you find in just about all craps books – pages that should be relegated to the appendix because most readers skip them anyway.  Around 31 pages in Mr. Cardoza get around to discussing the correct conservative method of play.

That strategy happens to be designed for single odds games – just in case any of you happen to step into a time-warp to 1950 or find yourself stranded on some Caribbean Island with a single table bearing a threadbare layout from that era.  And since Mr. Cardoza apparently doesn’t really want you to bet single odds, he has you make a three unit bet on the Pass Line because most casinos will let players round up a certain amount in single odds games if they’re betting above table minimums – say a $5 game. So here we go.

$15 Pass Line Wager

Now let’s assume that bet is established on the six or eight. Mr. Cardoza suggests you take $25 in Free Odds if the casino allows it. Now what do you supposed the second water is in Mr. Cardoza’s conservative strategy?   I suspect you are correct in your supposition.

$15 Come Bet

And once that bet is established you again take single odds. Unless, of course, it’s the five or nine, which require an even amount of odds. In that case Mr. Cardoza says to take $20 in odds if the casino allows it.

And at this point you are supposed to stand and wait for one of your bets to be reconciled – or for the seven to suck $80 or so out of your pocket.

Awesome strategy.

Shake well and repeat.

Mr. Cardoza goes on to provide us with an Aggressive version of the above strategy, whereby he adds a THIRD $15 Come Bet with “single” odds.

Okay, enough of Mr. Cardoza’s winning math ways. Let’s talk for a minute about a much better way to win at craps. I’m talking about a bet with a lower house edge than the Pass Line with Single Odds wager touted by this self-proclaimed “foremost gaming expert” in the world today. Are you ready for this?

Don’t Pass – Don’t Come

No, it’s not really rocket science to anyone who’s studied the math of the game. The Don’t Pass and Don’t Come wagers are marginally better mathematically than the Pass and Come bets. How much so? Well when we compare them with Single Odds as in Mr. Cardoza’s example it plays out like this:

Pass/Come – 0.848% House Advantage
Don’t Pass/Don’t Come – 0.682% House Advantage

Okay, at the end of the day it’s chump change, right? At least it’s chump change to a single player. But imagine if all of the players in all of the casinos in the world walked in this week and played the Don’ts. And what if they all employed some win goals and loss limits in their play and had the good sense to quit while they were ahead? I have a feeling that Caesars wouldn’t be the only casino company in bankruptcy.

Do I have issues with the mathematically correct way to play? Absolutely not – as long as the people who push it on new players at our game give full disclosure and explain things like bankroll volatility, variance, and the advantage of playing the Don’ts from time to time. Then again, maybe there’s a reason so many of these guys are seen hosting book signings and giving seminars in casino ballrooms.