Should You BUY What the Casino is Selling at Craps?
By Jerry "Stickman"
The best and worst of the "buy" bets in America.
Craps is a fascinating game. It is the only casino game where you can influence your own fate. The casino allows you to select two dice from an assortment of five, and then you are allowed to throw the dice, determining the outcome.
Even more fascinating, however, is the vast assortment of bets that are available for your choosing. Each bet has a different house advantage; ranging from a decent 1.41 percent for Dont Pass / Dont Come to 16.67 percent for Any Seven. By comparison, the house edge for Blackjack (using perfect basic strategy) is under 1 percent. The edge for American Roulette (double-zero) is 5.27 percent.
Each craps bet has about the same house edge in all casinos except "buy" bets. Casino rules for "buying" a number vary from region to region, property to property, shift to shift and even crew member to crew member. The prudent player will seek out the best buy bets and avoid the worst.
A little background information on "place" bets will help you understand why and how buy bets differ. With a place bet you "place" your bet on a number. This number can be the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10. In order to make a profit, the casino pays winning bets at less than true odds.
The house edge is 1.52 percent when you place the 6 and 8; 4 percent when placing the 5 and 9; and 6.67 percent when placing the 4 and 10. The high casino take for placing the 4 and 10 makes this place bet among the poorer bets on the table. It is even worse than Roulettes high house edge.
In order to make betting on the 4 and 10 more palatable to savvy players, casinos offer a "buy" bet. With this bet a player can "buy" the number and get paid at true odds when the number hits, minus a 5 percent commission. There are two ways for the house to collect the commission (or "vig"): collecting on all bets, or collecting only on wins.
When the vig is collected on all bets, or up front, you are required to pay $21 to make the $20 bet on a 4 or 10 - $20 for the bet and $1 for the vig. The house advantage for this transaction works out to 4.76 percent, which is significantly better than the 6.67 percent the casino garners for placing the 4 or 10.
Technically you could buy the 5, 6, 8, and 9, but there is no advantage in doing so. The house edge for placing these numbers is already less than the 4.76 percent exacted for buying them.
Some casinos will allow a player to bet more then $20 and still collect just $1 up front. The house edge is lowered if you pay the same vig and bet more on the number. With $1 collected up front, a $25 buy bet has a 3.85 percent edge, making it better than placing the 5 or 9. And, if youre lucky enough to find a casino that allows $39 to be wagered for a $1 vig, the edge is 2.5 percent.
Most North American casinos allow buy bets of $25 on the 4 and 10 and take a $1 commission up front, including casinos in Atlantic City, Connecticut, Louisiana, the Midwest, Nevada and the Pacific Northwest.
Casinos in Atlantic City allow you to buy the 4 or 10 but not both for $35 and $55. You pay the $1 and $2 up front. If you buy the 4 and 10 together, its treated as $70 and $110 wagered and you are assessed an extra dollar commission. You save $1, and drop the edge by buying the 4 and then buying the 10 in a separate transaction.
Some of the more player friendly casinos collect the vig only on wins. This seemingly minor rule variation has a major impact on the casino advantage. A $20 buy of the 4 or 10, with $1 collected after the win, carries a house advantage of only 1.67 percent. Thats a full 5 percent less than placing the number and over 3 percent better than buying it with the vig taken up front.
If the casino allows you to bet more that $20 with only a $1 vig, the edge drops even more. Betting $25 and paying $1 after a win creates a 1.33 percent advantage. Thats better than placing the 6 or 8 (at 1.52 percent) and better than a Pass Line or Come bet (at 1.41 percent). The more you can "push the house," the better it gets. A $30, $35 and $39 buy of the 4 or 10 with a $1 vig have house edges of 1.11, 0.95, and 0.85 percent respectively. These edges approach basic strategy Blackjack.
Collecting the commission after a win has the same terrific effect on buy bets of the 5 and 9. A $20 buy bet has a 2.00 percent edge. The edges for $26, $30 and $36 wagers done in this fashion are 1.54, 1.33, and 1.11 percent.
It is important to remember that any buy bet with the vig collected on wins only is better than any buy bet with the vig taken up front. To illustrate, a $39 4/10 with $1 up front has a 2.5 percent edge, where a $20 4/10 with $1 on wins only has a 1.67 percent edge.
So where can you find these really good buy bets?
Well, Las Vegas is one place. Many of the Strip casinos, and almost all of the downtown and off-strip locals casinos, collect a $1 vig from a $25 bet after a win (a 1.33 percent edge).
No Las Vegas casino that Im aware of allows buying the 5 or 9 as a standard policy, but it never hurts to ask. Just make sure if they say "yes" that you ask if the vig is collected on a win only.
The craps games with the best buy bets are found in Mississippi, particularly Tunica. MOst of these casinos will automatically "buy" a 4, 5, 9, or 10 when its advantageous for the player to do so. All of them collect the commission after a win. For the low-roller, some casinos automatically buy the outside numbers (4, 5, 9, and 10) for $10 and pay off in 50¢ increments. You can tell these games by looking for stacks or rolls of fifty-cent pieces by the dealers chip stacks.
Most of these casinos allow you to buy the 4, 5, 9 and 10 for $30 with a $1 vig (or $15 with a 50¢ vig). Some even allow up to $35. A $30 bet on the 4 or 10 has a 1.11 percent edge. On the 5 and 9 the edge is 1.33 percent. At $35 the 4 and 10 carry a mere .95 percent edge, and the edge on a $36 5 or 9 comes to 1.11 percent. That makes them the best bets in craps.
Taking advantage of these great bets will stretch your bankroll farther and help you win more often. Smart players will seek them out and capitalize on them.
May all wins be swift and large and your losses slow and tiny.
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in craps, blackjack, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps and Golden Touch Blackjack. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-886-738-3423. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at firstname.lastname@example.org.