DON’T THINK YOU CAN BEAT THE HOUSE EDGE IN CRAPS

Open a new tab in your browser and Google ‘craps systems’. You’ll be amazed at how many are being sold claiming incredible profits from a small bankroll. Some claim that they ‘never lose’. One guy claims to earn $900 an hour with $10 craps bets like clockwork every day. Another guy says that he guarantees that people can turn $60 into $10,000 in one night using his system. Every one claims some ridiculous level of profit with little or no risk. You’d think that the international casino industry is at risk of becoming insolvent because of a bunch of cranks online claiming to make seven figures a year playing craps.

For some reason, there’s no shortage of gamblers in complete denial about the cold, hard math that circumscribes anything that happens in the casino. They put their faith in ‘luck’, in ‘urban legends’ like using cold coins in slot machines (assuming you can find one that still uses actual coins) and crackpot systems claiming to turn a game with a significant house edge into their personal ATM machine. The really sad thing about this type of gambler isn’t just that they believe this nonsense–the sad part is that they show no interest in learning the truth.

THE COLD HARD REALITY OF GAMBLING MATH

I’ve spent a good portion of my adult life trying to grind out a living in Las Vegas at the few casino games that *can* be beat in the longterm. Sports betting, horse racing, video poker, blackjack and poker can–in some form or another–become ‘positive EV’. It’s hard work involving long hours of research and crunching numbers to give yourself a fractional advantage over the casino. Professional gamblers don’t use ‘systems’ and don’t believe in ‘luck’. They believe in math and probability. Unfortunately, when you do make an effort to teach someone the ‘math of gambling’ there’s a good chance they’ll look at you like you just insulted their mother.

With the exception of the games listed above you simply cannot beat casino games in the long term. This is especially true with craps but no different for slot machines or the roulette wheel. There’s not a strategy or system that can overcome the house edge. You can play in such a way as to minimize the house edge and try to ‘grind out a profit’ but there’s not any way possible to put the odds in your favor at the craps table.

THE HOUSE EDGE EXPLAINED

Here’s why the house edge is so powerful and why it’s impossible to overcome at most casino games. The casino pays out at less than ‘true odds’ in most games and for most bets. The best way to explain this is to imagine that there’s a casino that offers betting on coin flips. In fact, you can bet on coin flips for NFL games at some sportsbooks so there’s some basis in reality. It’s commonly accepted that the ‘true odds’ of a coin flip are 50% heads and 50% tails. That’s why they flip a coin at the start of football games in the first place. We can express this 50% probability in different forms such as:

50% probability = 1/1 fractional odds = 2.00 decimal odds = +100 moneyline odds

In other words, to reflect the true odds of a coin flip a betting establishment would have to post the following line:

HEADS +100
TAILS +100

There’s one problem with that–the casino can’t turn a profit in the long term that way. So let’s say the casino in question posts the following lines:

HEADS -120
TAILS -120

At -120 the implied probability is 54.55% for a 50/50 proposition. In other words, you have to hit 54.55% in order to break even. But in the long term by definition (it’s a coin flip after all) you’ll hit 50%. In this case you’re being ‘charged’ more for the bet than the bet is worth. It’s just like being charged $5.00 for a Coke at the airport.

OTHER APPLICATIONS OF HOUSE EDGE

In the previous example you paid a ‘premium’ to place a bet. The other application of the house edge is how it works in craps. In this case, the casino pays winning bets at less than true odds. For example–let’s say that the ‘true odds’ of a particular outcome occurring is 5-1. The casino might pay off that bet at 4-1 or less. The recreational player and/or the mathematically ignorant won’t notice a difference. He’ll be pleased that he won a 4-1 bet. The problem is that he *should* have been paid at 5-1 assuming ‘true odds’. In the long run, he can’t win and the casino can’t lose.

Here’s a few examples from the craps table–the ‘Any Craps’ bet pays 7-1 at most casinos. The ‘true odds’ of ‘any craps’ are 8-1. The ‘any 7’ bet pays off at 4-1 when the true odds are 5-1. The ‘Hard 8’ pays off at 9-1 when the ‘true odds’ are 10-1. If your response to this is ‘so what?’ you’ll be very popular at the casino. The house edge on these bets are 11.1%, 16.9%, and 9.09% respectively. As was the case in the previous example over the long term you can’t win and the casino can’t lose.