Here’s a question that hits on some of the topics that are currently relevant. Also, by pure coincidence, in this week’s video, I am playing on a short stack with no available rebuy, just like Sherri here. This gives me a chance to evaluate and give my thoughts on short stack play.


Reader Sherri asked a similar question that many other readers have asked.

I will quote her question in part…

  • …I am disappointed that my long-anticipated trip to a casino this evening was cut short by my pre-set loss-limit, I’m glad that I got to play and didn’t lose the entire bankroll. I live to fight another day!…I do have a question for you. I see your strategy of PL+max odds and Come+max odds; I see your shift to the dark side when PSO is trending. What I experienced this evening was a mixed bag. PL/Come hit more often than DP/DC, but timing was such that I hit 4-5 numbers and lost about 8 numbers…My $400 buy-in ($15 table w/100x odds) couldn’t withstand that so I played 2x odds – mainly because I watched a couple of rounds and could see how up/down the table was. I walked away at $225…What advice do you have for this situation? If I had a larger bankroll I may have let it fluctuate some more to see if I could ride out the bad trend. Your thoughts and expertise are appreciated….


First, let’s talk about your buy-in…

NOTE: I included this part to show how I derived my answer. If you want to get to the nitty gritty answer, scroll down to the section titled, THE STRAIGHT ANSWER.

The Probability of the Short Stacked Play

You bought in for $400 at a $15 table and 2x odds. At 400/15, you have a total of 26.66 total units.

You didn’t tell me your ratio of lightside to darkside play, so I’m going to make some assumptions. I’ll show you my work so that others can see and also do their own calculations, in the event their assumption is different.

You were playing at a $15 minimum game with 2x max odds. So let’s manually work out the average number of units per bet on the pass line (i.e., the lightside) as…

  • 36 combinations
    • 8 winners come out, 1 unit total bet
    • 4 losers come out, 1 unit total bet
    • 24 rolls, following points established
      • each of these rolls, the bet will be 1 unit + 2 units. So 3 x 24 = 72 units
        • 4 and 10, six times, 1 unit + 2 units, so 6 x 3 = 18
        •  5 and 9, eight times, 1 unit + 2 units, so 8 x 3 = 24
        •  6 and 8, 10 times, 1 unit + 2 units, so 10 x 3 = 30
          •  total 72 units/24 is 3 units
          • Once the point is established, you will always risk 3 units per bet
    • 8+4+72 = 84 total units over 36 rolls, so average unit per bet is 2.33

This means that statistically, every time you put down a pass line or come bet, you can expect to bet 2.33 units. At 2.33 average total units total per bet, you had a total of 26.66 units/2.33 units per bet, which means you had 11.44 available bet units.

Just to avoid confusion, from now on, let’s call the 11.44 figure ‘bet units’. Each of these bet units are worth $34.95. Remember, the reason why these numbers are so wonky is because on 12 out of 36 rolls, you do not bet the 3 unit combo of $15 + $30 odds. You only bet (and subsequently win or lose) $15.

At 2x odds, the combined house edge on the total action, assuming you took 2x odds every time, is .606%.

You walked away with $225 of your original $400 buy-in. This means that you lost $175, which means you lost roughly 5 bet units.

It doesn’t sound like you played for very long, so let’s assume you played for an hour. The average craps table will have about 100 rolls per hour. The average pass line bet requires 3.38 rolls to resolve, which means that per hour, you made 29.58 bets; however, you said that you made a pass line and a come bet. This brings your hourly total to 59.17 bets if you played for an hour. Since we are estimating anyways, let’s keep the math simple and say 59 bets an hour.

Using a binomial distribution calculator, the probability of losing at least $175 to the casino is roughly 23%.

What that means is that if you buy in with the exact same amount and play the exact same way, you can expect that 23% of the time, you will lose at least $175 of your $400 buy-in.

This doesn’t mean that 23% of the time, you will lose $175; rather, it means that you will be down at least $175 in 23% of your trips.  You might be down more!

This 23% figure doesn’t factor in your switch to the darkside. If I had an idea of your ratio of lightside to darkside play, I could have adjusted for that factor. But switching to the darkside would have increased the 23% figure.


To sum it up, 23% of the time, Sherri can expect to have a similar loss or worse. Let’s just make it a nice even number, since we’re using some assumptions anyways, and say that 1 out of 4 times (25%), if you play the same way, you will incur the same loss.

You’re probably thinking that’s a pretty high number, and you would be right.

You only came to a $15 game with a $400 bankroll and you were betting 2x odds, then you were severely short stacked.

However, don’t feel bad.

When you play with a short stack, your volatility goes higher. What this means is that your swings will be wild, both up and down. You’ll either win big or lose big. High volatility has the advantage of giving you the greatest probability of avoiding the expected loss (‘deviating from the expected result’, if you want to use the statistician’s jargon).

In a negative expectation game, such as craps, starting with a low number of units is not always a bad thing. It just depends on your goal. If your goal is to maximize your win probability, from a statistical perspective, the fewer number of units you have, the better.

For example, let’s say you are on a plane to Vegas and you asked me, ‘what is the one absolute way for me to have the highest win probability?’

The answer to that question is to play exactly one hand and then not gamble again for that trip. You will have a sky high volatility for that trip, and for a fact, you will deviate from the expected loss. For example, if you were to have taken your $400 and put it all on the pass line or the don’t pass line, your expected loss will be about $5.50; but following this ‘one-and-done’ strategy, for a fact you will not have an expected loss of $5.50. You’ll either have a win of $400 or a loss of $400. It’s not possible to have a loss of $5.50. You will for a fact deviate from the expected result; you just don’t know which way you’ll end up on the deviation.

Once you increase the number of hands played, then your probability of meeting the expected result and expected loss becomes practically and statistically certain. The more you gamble, the more likely you are to meet the expected result.

That’s why casinos want you at the table for as long as possible. If a gambler plays long enough, for statistical purposes, the ‘gamble’ element is removed. If you gamble for long enough, the effect becomes no different than going to the grocery store and paying a fixed price for your groceries.

In the end, you have to ask yourself, do you want the highest probability of winning, or you want to play for as long as possible?

Most gamblers would answer that question with some sort of middle ground desire. They don’t want to gamble too long, but just long enough to get their juices flowing, enjoy the game, earn some comps, get some drinks, and unwind from a long week.

In your case, you had a long-anticipated trip, and heck yea, you wanted to gamble.

My point is that short stacked play isn’t always a bad thing, so long as you realize and are willing to accept that you are getting on a wild rollercoaster.


Overall, I don’t think you did much wrong. You were unlucky and fell onto the wrong side of the deviation. Over the long run, you’ll be ok.

Having said, I have four observations about your play…


I would have tried to find a $5 or $10 game. $15 + 2x odds is just too high for my blood. But, I understand this may have been your only option.


If you were with a friend or family member you trusted, I would have incorporated on such a short bankroll and high limit. Of course, this point is moot if you were solo.

Incorporation effectively makes the game a $7.50 game between two people, and you can play higher odds because you can now put the $7 (that would have gone on the pass line) on the odds. You have to know how to divide the money up if you incorporate, but a few weeks ago, I incorporated with Mike, who is a reader of this website.

You just have to know what you’re doing.

If you don’t know how to incorporate or you can’t figure out payouts quickly, don’t.


In your position, I would not have switched to the darkside.

Many times in my videos, I’m down, down, down, and then a wild swing comes and lifts me back into positive territory. Having said that, it’s all post hoc conjecture. No one can know when or if they should switch sides.

There are times when you will say to yourself, ‘ah I should have switched’ and then there are times you say to yourself, ‘why did I switch?’

While you are there in that moment, faced with a decision to switch or not switch, there’s no way to know.

However, in the long run, switching to the darkside does have a quantifiable effect on your circumstance. As I explained in this article, you need a bigger bankroll to play the darkside.

You were short-stacked on the lightside. When you switched over to the darkside, you were even more short-stacked, even if you don’t consider your diminished stack.

I am not a believer in trends. Every dice roll is independent. The only way that dice can have trends is that if the dice are living and knowing.


This is a dangerous piece of advice to give…and I do not want you to misinterpret this piece of advice…

Stop-losses are generally good ideas, but like all things in life, sometimes there are exceptions to the rule. From what I can perceive from your comments and questions, if I were in your shoes, I would not have implemented a stop-loss. I would have kept playing.

Let me explain, carefully…

Stop-losses, as the name implies, are used to stop the bleeding when a player is losing AND a second factor is present, such as the losing is contributing to a deterioration in judgment, meaning the player is tilting. Stop-losses provide a cooling off period so that rationality can return. Another ‘second factor’ might be that additional losses will have an outsized or disproportionate effect or consequence.

If the player is not tilting or a ‘second factor’ is not present, sometimes, it is ok to continue playing. It’s a personal judgment call.

Improper use of a stop-loss can actually result in additional damages to an existing position.

If you just tell yourself that you will stop playing if you lose X amount, no matter what, that’s not really a stop-loss.  That’s a bankroll limitation. If that’s what you’re doing, then you’re better off not buying-in for the amount under X and just leaving the amount in your pocket.

You did not mention in your comment and question that you were tilting. I didn’t get that vibe from you.

I am going to assume that you could afford the loss, if you lost the additional $225. Yea, it would have sucked, but you could have afforded it as part of your budget. I could be wrong, but I’ve seen enough of your posts on Facebook to derive that judgment.

Since I know you as a gambler, I also know that you’ll be back, if not at the same casino, somewhere else. As you said, you’ll fight another day.

Notice all the assumptions that I’m making…

So now the problem is that there are costs associated with going back and fighting with the $225.

Let’s say you are going to return in a month, a week, a year, or whatever. You do not live close to a casino, so the cost of travel to this casino is not negligible. Maybe your employer is paying for it, in which case, this consideration may not apply.

This additional cost acts like a commission on the $225. Sure, the ‘commission’ might go to the gas station or the mechanic and not the casino, but that doesn’t matter. It’s an expense that diminishes your remaining bankroll. If you spend $20 worth of gas traveling to and from the casino, and your budget was only $400, that’s no different from a 5% commission, before you even hit the table. Hypothetically, if you decide that you will only play $200 each time, but it costs $20 worth of fuel or travel expenses, two trips to do battle with $400 will cost $40. That’s now effectively a 10% ‘commission’. In such cases, it’s better to make a single stand.

So if you weren’t tilting and you could afford the additional loss, if it happened, I would have kept playing. If I kept playing and lost the additional $225, I would have just called it a day or month or year or whatever.

Let me be clear…I’m not saying that you should not have implemented your stop-loss. I am saying that if I were in your shoes, and the situation is as I described it, then I would have continued playing, knowing what I know. I do not know your entire situation, so your situation may have been different.

When in doubt, the exercise of the stop-loss should usually be the default decision.

The most important issue about exercising a stop-loss is that it is a tool of discipline. If you told yourself that you were going to stop, and you did stop, then you have discipline. The exercise of restraint and self-control is often enough reason to exercise a stop-loss.

I am currently finishing and polishing an article on the issue of stop-losses, as some of the concepts about stop-losses require further explanation. I do not want anyone to misinterpret my advice as ‘this guy says to never use a stop-loss’.


In the end, you did the right thing. The four points I mentioned above are really quite minimal. You stuck to the low house edge play, and you maintained discipline when you felt that it was time to stop. That’s a wise play.

What you did not do also speaks to your discipline. You did not become desperate and start making wild long shot plays in hopes of getting even. That’s always a no-no.

Sometimes, you do the right thing, and it doesn’t work out. That’s a reality of gambling. Anyone who tells you that you can win all the time is just lying to you, or they’re trying to sell you something. I’m not going to say what.

I hope that answers your question and helps you out. Many of our readers have made similar queries, so we greatly appreciate your question, as it allows me to address many points at once.

If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.

Good luck at the tables!




Posted in: Craps, Gambling

0 thoughts on “Sherri’s Question About Playing on the Short Stack

  • RG,
    Excellent points. Many of your assumptions were correct; I limited my own bankroll and I had limited time at the table. I was in the Horseshoe (Baltimore) where the minimum is $15 and would have had to travel a distance to locate a $5 or $10 table as Maryland Live was also $15 minimum. The staff and crew were great and the other gamblers were fun – so not a total loss. I am looking forward to applying this additional knowledge the next time I get the chance to throw the dice!
    I appreciate your expertise and insight.

    • Sherri,

      Why not just stick to the pass line and odds, given the limited budget?

      15 pass and 30 odds = 45. Gives you about 9 lives….

      Playing with a small bankroll can be stressful, as you feel a need to make something happen or it will be a short night.

      If you set your budget, I would have played out the nine lives…lol

      But at the end of the day, you have to do what is comfortable for you….

      • Darrell,
        Good advice and afterward I did think perhaps that would have been better for me to only play one number at a time – but I like the excitement of the table and am used to RG’s two-number system now. However, my gambling buddy ran out of his bankroll quickly and I felt pressure to limit my time – so we only played for an hour or so. If I had been solo, I would have played longer as RG noted and perhaps would have come out better for it. When practicing to YouTube videos and on apps, that method usually rides out the lows and I come out on top – note I said usually.

  • Alan Sherman says:

    I like the thoughts on the stop-loss definitely interesting and makes a lot of sense. Of course, you definitely have to be comfortable at the time like you said and not be tilted.

  • Sherri, also consider placing the 6 and 8 for $18 each with your pass line bet with odds maybe even single odds until one hits at a $15 table when you are short stacked. That will give you 3 numbers working for you. I will often do something like that at $15 table when I’m short. By the way I hate $15 tables and will avoid them as much as I can. You did okay with what you had. At a $15 table 3 bets with 2x odds is like taking a knife to a gun fight.
    Thanks Max and good luck to you all.

  • RG so what size of bank roll do you recommend for 5&10 dollar tables . For someone just starting to play the game . I enjoy watching these video I pick up a lot of tips on does &don’ts

    • I prefer 100 basic units. So if it’s a $5 table, $500. $10 table, $1000.

      If those numbers are too high, then even around 50 basic units is fine.

      Of course, the higher the odds you take, the higher the bankroll requirement because of the added volatility.

  • I find it psychologically relaxing to think of my “bankroll” as entertainment dollars not investment dollars. I’m using the money to play craps instead of going to a sporting event or concert, for example. If I choose to spend money on those activities, I have 0% of getting any money back. But when in a casino, there is a chance one can end up with more money than they started. This someone actually paid you to be entertained. When I think about a bankroll in this matter it doesn’t stress me out as much when I have a losing session, as long as I keep the loss to my entertainment budget and not hit the ATM. 🙂

    • I agree….

      Never play with ‘scared money’ or funds you cannot afford to lose. Your gambling experiences will be more enjoyable.

      Also keep your expectations in check…people who expect to constantly attempt to double their bankrolls are the ones that I see go broke…

      Relax, stick to the pass and come bets, enjoy your free drinks and you will still catch the rush of a hot roll….no need to play the hard ways, or anything in the middle…

      When craps becomes stressful, you are definitely doing something wrong….

      It may be hard to believe, but I think I love craps more than Road Gambler….lol….I won’t even play any other table game…..

  • Hi RG,
    So a follow up question to Rich’s question. If you were playing a $10 table with 100 units ($1000), what would be a good target RoR (Risk of Ruin) % for that session? 2nd question, Would you buy in for $1000, or for $500 with a $500 re-buy option?
    Thank you again for all your helpful insights and videos. Just like Sherri, I’m excited about my trip to Vegas coming up in October.

    • Ian,

      That’s a highly subjective question, and the answer would be personal to each player.

      There are some players who think that 100 units is too many units. As with anything in life and gambling, there is balance, which I’ve written about. Anytime we speak of a benefit or supposed ‘good idea’, there is a corresponding and balancing consequence. In the case of using 100 units, while you will last and be able to weather some storms, you’re also more likely to end up losing than if you were willing to play fast and (controlled) wild.

      It all just depends on what you want. Do you want to last? Or do you want to maximize your probability of winning? You can meet somewhere in the middle, of course, but the more in the middle you go, the more the two extremes (of lasting or winning) adjust up and down.

      Speaking for myself, statistically, if I am on a very short gambling session, like an overnight drive, I prefer a higher volatility. I’m ok with like a 25% ROR. If I’m on a vacation, then I want a lower ROR.

      Having said that, if I’m on a gambling vacation, I’m very likely to try and hit up a deal with a host before I gamble anything significant. Some of these deals require me to last, but remember, ‘lasting’ has negative consequences.

      If I can find some kind of deal I have with a host and if I think that a deal or some sort of variable can put me into positive territory, I am willing to play with a lower volatility bankroll and decrease my probability of winning, knowing that the deal with the host may push me into positive territory. If that’s the case, then a lower risk of ruin is probably better.

      Right now, there are things going on in the casino world that is great for players.

      I am putting together a string of articles that will piece together something that may help you for your October trip and will address your very issue. I’m going to have a helpful article ready long before your trip.

      Currently, as part of the string of articles, I am writing about stop-losses and Kelly Criterion.

      The answer to your question is found in a theory known as Kelly Criterion. I have already written the article. This is supposed to be a travel, gambling, and entertainment website; right now, there’s too much abstract theory in the article. I will have it ready soon, though.

      • Thank you Max! I think you really nailed what I was looking for in your response. Excited to read the series of articles in the future to help me on my trip and finding that balance.

  • I would like to say that I don’t play the middle of the table. but I see in the videos in Vegas for a hard way you would get payed # for 1 , but in AC it says #to 1 . what is the difference . I believe that you get pay the same for a hard 8 no matter the term.

    • Rich,

      There is no difference.

      ‘9 to 1′ and ’10 for 1’ are the same.

      In Las Vegas, it’s written as ‘9 to 1’, while in some jurisdictions, it is written as ‘for 1’.

      So if you are in Atlantic City and you see 8 for 1, you can be assured that in Las Vegas, it says ‘7 to 1’.

  • Wow, I can’t wait. As far as the bankroll size I have tried to use the 10 unit X 10 shooter session. As in if I take a passline bet for $10 with $20 odds and two come bets for 10 with 20 odds = $90 x 10= 900. You make it a lot simpler. We are starting to get into the real meat of the game. I think its about money management and expectations to be a winner. To many people try and break the casino (that is not going to happen) and go broke. If you can hang in there long enough the table will turn your way. Plus if you are getting comped room, food and beverage its liked getting paid to go to all inclusive resort. Max thank you for doing this.
    Good rolls my friends.

    • Ron,

      Find a $5 table with 10x odds…you want to put as little money on the pass and as much as you can afford on the odds….

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