If you’ve been reading this website and watching the RoadGambler videos, you know that I’m a big craps fan. Whether played in a brick and mortar casino or online, craps is my favorite casino game.
My favorite craps bet is the free odds bet, and it’s my favorite bet by a wide margin. The free odds have zero house edge. Zero house edge does not mean that you are guaranteed to win. It just means that, unlike most other bets in the casino, the house pays true odds, thus effectively not taking any cut of the winnings.
For more details, read my write up on the free odds bet here: https://roadgambler.com/gambling-guides/craps-simple-beginners-guide-free-odds-bet/
In that article, I advocate the use of the odds bet over all other bets.
Having told you about how much I love the free odds bet, there are some legitimate and major downsides to the free odds bet. Some players hate the free odds bet. Oftentimes, the hatred and fear of the free odds bet is derived from misguided principals, one of the most common of which is the ‘number must hit twice’ for the odds to win. I cover the ‘hit twice’ fallacy here: https://roadgambler.com/craps/craps-myth-will-not-die-come-bet-must-hit-twice/
If you hate the free odds bet – as many craps players do – then this article will provide you with some logically sound principles as to why the free odds bet…sucks!
Note that I will attempt to avoid as much ‘math of the game’ as possible because the ‘math of the game’ is not the purpose of this site; however, some calculations will be unavoidable, if I am to propound reasonable arguments.
Also, a second disclaimer: for purposes of keeping things simple, when making the risk of ruin calculations, it is necessary to analogize pure pass line play to pass+odds play, so that the reader may have an illustrative concept of the arguments presented herein.
I will assume the win percentages for come betting is the same for winning the point after the come bet is established. This assumption is only for illustrative purposes. The win percentages for the pass/come + odds are different after the point has been established than if the player had played the same amount entirely on the pass/come without any odds. Specifically, the probability of the pass/come winning is 49.29% across all possible scenarios; whereas after the point is established, the player will on average win 41% of the time, and lose 59% of the time. This inequity in win percentage is compensated by the casino paying true odds; however, this unbalanced win-loss rate and odds payout will result in a different risk of ruin.
While the actual numbers will vary, the concepts and arguments presented herein do not change, and thus remain valid.
In the interest of accuracy, you may go here for the precise calculation (you will understand why I used the illustrative approach): http://catlin.casinocitytimes.com/article/calculating-a-hold-percentage-1230
REASON 1. LARGE BANKROLL REQUIREMENT
When it comes to bankroll management, players who play odds will typically overbet their bankroll. In a full odds scenario, even at a 3x, 4x, 5x table, notice that on RoadGambler’s $300 buy in, with just a mere two points working with full odds, he had more than 1/3 of his bankroll at risk.
It would take three cold rolls before the bankroll was decimated and brought to zero. Anyone who has played any amount of craps understands that three cold rolls in a row is quite common. Thus, in order to take advantage of the odds bets and be able to ride out the inevitable bad waves, the player will need much more than a $300 buy in.
How much? The amount needed is relative to each player, however, it is possible to calculate the size of the needed buy-in or bankroll by using a risk of ruin calculation…
REASON 2. PLAYING FULL ODDS HAS A HIGH RISK OF LOSING YOUR ENTIRE BANKROLL
This is the risk of ruin calculator: http://www.bjstrat.net/ror.html
It’s a great tool to calculate your probability of ruin (i.e., losing your given bankroll) before reaching a goal.
If we assume that RoadGambler’s average combined betting unit was $50 ($10 pass/come + $40 odds on average, roughly), that would be 6 units on the $300 buy-in. According to the risk of ruin calculator below, RoadGambler’s chances of losing the $300 bankroll before winning 10 units would be 67% (remember the disclaimer above).
Let’s say that the average gambler buys in for $500 and bets full odds. Their average combined unit is also $50 at $10 pass/com and full odds. That combined bet would result in 10 units. The risk of ruin before winning 10 units is still a sky high 57%. The gambler is more likely to lose his $500 buy-in than win 10 units.
To bring the probability of losing the entire bankroll down to an acceptable level, given the same win goal, the required buy-in would have needed to be $5000. At a $5000 buy-in, the risk of losing everything before winning the same 10 units would be approximately 25%.
The point here is that without a large bankroll, the risk of losing everything, and thus cutting your vacation gambling activities short, is very high with full odds.
The vast majority of players are not willing or able to buy in for $5000.
On a curious note, a $5000 buy-in seems to be the sweet spot for achieving this goal. Any buy-in higher than a $5000 buy-in has diminishing returns. While a $2500 buy-in has a risk of ruin of approximately 30%, a $10,000 buy-in has a risk of ruin of 24.78%, which is only marginally better than $5000.
Regardless of the sweet spot for the most acceptable risk of ruin, not too many players are willing or able to buy-in for the ‘sweet spot’.
This is probably the most significant downside of the odds bet.
REASON 3. THE PLAYER CAN BE LURED INTO MAKING MORE BETS
Did you know that when people are given a food labeled ‘low fat’ or ‘low calorie’, people will tend to eat more than if the food was not labeled low fat? https://www.jstor.org/stable/30162434?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
Almost every odds bettor knows the mantra: the house has no edge on the odds bet. Let’s also not forget the often stated premise that the pass line has a ‘low house edge’. For almost the exact same psychological reason that leads people to eat more if a food is labeled low fat, the odds bet tends to compel a bettor to make more bets.
This video of a real craps game at Bellagio in Las Vegas is typical of the average craps player: https://youtu.be/s1-VRm8QWKM
Notice that most individual place bets made by the players are much smaller than the total combined pass + odds bet by the average player.
Here is an analysis from the craps game linked above:
In the pic above, the red arrows are pointing to a player’s come bet + 2x odds. The same player also has a pass line bet with full 4x odds (bottom right of the pic). Compare the amounts wagered on the place bets, indicated by the blue arrows. The amounts bet on the place bets are significantly less than the amount bet on pass + odds.
So let’s do some simple math to calculate the expected loss. On it’s face, it appears that the ‘low house edge’ pass line and ‘no house edge’ odds bettor is better off than the place bettor.
Red Arrow player:
- $45 total pass line bet + $105 worth of odds, total action is $150; combined house edge of .37%
- Expected loss is 55 cents on total action, bets resolved basis.
Blue Arrow player:
- $60 worth of total action; house edge of 1.5%
- Expected loss is 90 cents on all action, bets resolved basis.
So you might say, ’55 cents is less than 90 cents’; however, if you watch the video I linked, you will see the red arrow player constantly making come bets, like this…
Over the course of the hour, his total expected loss will be greater than the total expected loss of the blue arrow player. Remember that every come bet he puts down has an expected loss.
Low house edge and no house edge? Bet more!
Next time you are at the craps table, be on the lookout for this phenomena.
RESON 4. NO COMPS ON THE ODDS BET
In the minds of many casual gamblers, this is the ultimate sin of the odds bet. The casino usually does not apply any odds bet to the ADT calculation for comps. For an understanding of ADT, go here: https://roadgambler.com/faqs/
While it’s possible to make deals with the casino or host based off of large buy-ins, once the casino finds out that a player limits the bulk of their betting to the odds bet, the house will either drastically reduce or cease to issue discretionary comps.
For many casual gamblers, the manifestation of the approximate 1.5% – 4% house edge from place betting or buy betting is difficult to notice. Most casual gamblers do not gamble for long enough periods where the ‘haircut’ from the house edge is significant enough to care about; they probably would have tipped the amount away to the dealers or cocktail waitress, anyways.
Furthermore, in the average casual gambler’s mind, being comped for a casino meal or show ticket is a pleasurable experience that is tantamount to being ‘spoiled’, as if the casual gambler was an important guest that casino is fawning over. Finally, casino comps leave the impression that the gambler won something or obtained something for free.
I can understand this feeling, as there are few feelings more pleasurable in a casino, than scoring a large win and then being treated to a fancy dinner, paid for by the house
Sure, one could argue that the player could pay the meal themselves with the money saved from avoiding the house edge, but pulling money out of your own wallet to pay for an extravagant meal doesn’t have the same panache as, ‘Sir, just sign here’.
It’s quite understandable that players would avoid the odds bet because the casino usually does not apply comps to the odds bet. Comps are just part of the casino experience.
Don’t get me wrong. I still love the free odds bet, and the vast majority of my craps action will continue to be on the free odds bet. But there is a significant downside to betting the free odds, which must be acknowledged.
That was the reason I bought in for $300 and was betting the amounts seen in the video. I wanted to show – in an actual game – the bankroll exposure and risk awaiting the casual gambler who takes full odds.
Next time someone tells you about the awesome odds bet, just rebut their arguments with this rhetorical question: ‘if I wanted to play craps for 4 hours a day over a five days in Vegas/Atlantic City/destination vacation, how much money do I need to bring to play full 3,4,5x odds and have a reasonable chance of not going broke in the middle of my vacation?’
I can assure you that the honest answer is quite high ($5000, if you didn’t read above and skipped to the bottom).
So there you go!