The game of craps is not as old as you might think. Although the game of "hazard," which the game of craps is loosely based, is about two hundred years old, a man named John H. Winn first introduced "open" craps or "bank" craps in 1907. Until then, what few casinos that offered craps only allowed players to bet with the shooter and sometimes a big 6 and 8 and a field.
Mr. Winn booked a craps game that was the first to allow bettors the option of betting against the shooter by charging the wrong bettor a five percent commission on winning bets. He also charged pass line players the same five percent commission. This was considered so strong for the person booking the game, that the commission got the nickname "vigor." It was soon after this "ish" was added to create the term "vigorish" and was later shortened to "vig."
His game was not used long before some significant changes were made. The first was probably the elimination of the vig for players betting the pass line. The second might have been the elimination of the vig for the players betting the don’t pass. The vig on the don’t pass was replaced by barring the "ace-deuce" on the come-out roll. Even this had too much "vigor" and was eventually replaced by barring the two or twelve on the come-out roll.
The third change is what leads me to the subject of this article: the introduction of place bets. When place bets where originally introduced, they were subject to a five percent commission. This percentage was too high to attract gamblers that were aware of the house percentage they were giving up for bets on the five, six, eight and nine. There were also difficulties in the constant collecting of the juice on winning bets. So someone decided to create the "put bet," although I’m sure that’s not what is was called at the time.
A player wanting to bet on the four or the ten would give the dealer $5. The dealer would then give the player a $1 come bet with $4 odds. If the bet won, the player would be paid $8 for his odds and $1 for his flat bet, for a total of $9. If he wanted to bet on the five or nine he would still give the dealer $5. The $4 odds would be paid $6 and his flat bet would be paid $1, for a total of $7 for his $5 investment. When betting on the six or eight, the player would have to give the dealer $6, so the dealer could give him a $1 flat bet with $5 odds. Of course, the player would win a total of $7 for his $6 investment, $6 for his odds and $1 for his flat.
Eventually someone figured out that they didn’t even have to go to that much work and this is when people were able to just place the four, five, nine and ten for units of $5 and place the six and eight for units of $6. I have talked to old timers that worked in illegal joints that tell me the old put bet system was actually used. But even if it weren’t, someone would have figured out the modern place bet anyway.
If you think about it, a $5 place bet on the four or ten would pay $10, if paid at true odds. The next best thing is to pay the $5 bet $9. A $5 bet on the five or the nine would pay $7.50 at true odds, so someone could have just decided to pay it only seven dollars. Since paying a five-dollar place bet on the six or eight would necessitate either paying off in cents or paying it even money, it could have been decided to make the bettor bet in units of six dollars. Of course, 7 to 6 is the next best thing compared to 6 to 5.
So whether you subscribe to the put bet being the origin of the place bet or not, the end result is the same. Players make five-dollar bet on the outside numbers and make six-dollars bets on the six and eight to win as close to true odds as possible without the need to pay off in cents.
(Dale S. Yeazel is the author of "Precision Crap Dealing" and "Dealing Mini-Baccarat." They are E-books on CD-Rom available for only $20 each (plus tax) at Gamblers Book Shop and Gamblers General Store in Las Vegas.www.geocities.com/lump450)