QUESTION: When do you actually bet – put the money down – for the free odds on the pass line in craps? Do you bet the free odds after the point is established?
ANSWER: Yes, your odds bet is made after the point is established.
Some casinos even offer different amounts of free odds depending on the points. At casinos that offer 3x-4x-5x odds, you can bet free odds of up to three times your bet if the point is 4 or 10, four times if the point is 5 or 9, and five times if the point is 6 or 8. That makes payouts easy. If you bet $5 on pass, then you can bet $15 in free odds on 4 or 10, with winners collecting $30; $20 in free odds on 5 or 9, with winners collecting $30; and $25 on 6 or 8, with winners collecting $30. All the payouts are the same, no muss, no fuss.
Something like that is only feasible with a bet that's placed after the point is known.
Coincidentally, a few days before I received this e-mail, I received another from a craps player who wondered if it was better to take the free odds on 5 or 6, but stay off on the other numbers, especially 4 and 10.
His theory is that you want the odds on the numbers that are most likely to win, and to stay off rather than put more money on the table on those most likely to lose. When the point is 6 or 8, the shooter makes the point 45.4 percent of the time, compared with 40 percent on 5 or 9 and 33.3 percent on 4 or 10.
However, all the free odds bets are paid at true odds. Yes, you win only once for every two losses when the point is 4 or 10, but the 2-1 payoff offsets that. There is no house edge on the odds bet.
The odds bet on 4 or 10 is a bit more volatile than that on 5 or 9, which is a little more volatile than that on 6 or 8. But on all of them, the house edge is zero. That’s where I’d want my money, keeping my pass bets to a minimum and putting the larger share of my overall wager on the odds, no matter what the point.
QUESTION: I was on the Las Vegas Strip right after Thanksgiving, and saw a marquee touting single-deck blackjack, “by popular demand.” I knew without even going in that it was going to be one of those awful 6-5 games, but I had to check. Sure enough, it paid 6-5 on blackjacks, and the tables were full. Has the public just given up? Is this battle lost?
ANSWER: The public just doesn’t notice, or doesn’t understand how big an effect 6-5 payoffs have in blackjack. I often get questions in my e-mail wondering why I make a fuss about something that “only comes into play in the tiny proportion of hands that are two-card 21s,” to quote one reader. And those questions come from people who read gambling columns.
A large portion of people who stay on the Las Vegas Strip are tourists, conventioneers and business folk for whom gambling is part of the excitement, but not the whole purpose of their being there. Most are not about to venture off the Strip to look for a better game Downtown or off-Strip. They’re going to play whatever games are offered, hope to get lucky, and spice up their stay.
Paying 6-5 instead of 3-2 on blackjacks is a big deal. It adds 1.4 percent to the house edge. Take a six-deck game in which blackjacks pay 3-2, the dealer hits soft 17 and players are allowed to double down on any first two cards, including after splits. The house edge against a basic strategy player is 0.64 percent. If blackjacks pay 6-5, that edge soars to 2.01 percent.
Per $100 wagered, it’s the difference between average losses of 64 cents vs. $2. Smart players should take their business elsewhere.
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