When a person decides to take the plunge and give the craps tables a try, the first bet they are taught is the pass line. After the neophyte has bet the pass line and the shooter comes-out on a point someone tells them to put more money behind their pass line bet for "odds."
This usually causes suspicion and confusion. Suspicion, because their first concern when they decided to play was the minimum amount they would be allowed to bet and now someone is suggesting they bet more.
Confusion arises from the explanation they receive about what the bet is and probably because they really don’t understand what it means to have a "point" in the first place.
To have a basic understanding of the game of craps you must know that it is either the come-out roll or the shooter has a point. If the shooter throws a 7 or 11 on the come-out roll the pass line bettors win even money. If the shooter throws a 2, 3 or 12 (craps) on the come-out roll the pass line bets lose.
If the shooter throws one of the remaining six numbers on the dice (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) on the come-out roll, that number becomes the shooter’s point and it is no longer the come-out roll. Once the shooter has a point, the only rolls that effect the pass line bet is the point number which causes the pass line bets to be paid even money or a seven (seven-out) which cause the pass line bets to lose. In order to know if it is the come-out roll or the shooter has a point it is necessary to look for the "puck", which is a three-inch white circle the dealer uses to indicate the point.
After the shooter has come-out on a point, pass line bettors have the option of "taking odds" on their flat bet (original pass line bet). By taking odds the bettor is merely betting more money that the shooter will make his point. This is why dealers tell players to pick up their odds on the come-out roll. If the shooter is coming-out and doesn’t have a point, there is nothing to take odds on. Players take odds by placing a stack of checks two inches behind their pass line bet. You don’t want to put it right next to your pass line bet because you create a "dice trap" where one of the dice can become lodged and make it difficult to determine what the roll is. Players can take odds, increase them, decrease them or remove them any time there is a point for the pass line.
How much the player is paid for his odds depend on what the point is. If the point is four or ten the bettor is betting that a four (or ten) will be thrown before a seven is thrown. Since there are six combinations of seven and only three of four or ten, the chances are 6-3 (or 2-1) against the shooter making his point and the pass line bettor getting paid. This is why the dealer pays odds taken on a point of four or ten at 2-1. This is also why taking odds is called "free odds." It is the only bet a gambler can find in a casino that pays true odds and doesn’t give the house a percentage.
If the point is five or nine the odds against winning are 3-2 because of the six combinations of seven and the four combinations of five or nine. This is why the dealer will pay to odds 3-2 and it is why you should always take an even dollar amount for odds on the five or nine. Every two dollars bet is paid three dollars and if the bettor bets five dollars odds or any other odd amount they will be shorted fifty cents on their payoff. The chances against making a point of six or eight are 6-5. So you take odds on six and eight in units of five dollars, since you hope to be paid six dollars for every five dollars you bet.
The term "full odds" means the maximum amount you are allowed to take on your pass line bet. When you see terms like: Double odds, 5X odds, 10X odds or 100X odds, on a casino’s marquee, they are not telling you how much you will be paid but the most they will allow you to bet. You don’t have to take full odds; in fact your odds may be less than your flat bet.
Many moons ago, when the earth was young, there was only "single odds." Single odds meant the most odds you were allowed to take, was an amount equal to your flat bet. There were exceptions made in order for a player to get his odds to correct units but since your chances of finding a casino that only offers single odds is extremely remote, there is no reason to explain them. Then some time during the last millennium some heretic decided to allow players to take double odds. Thus began the terrible period of casino history known as "the odds war" when competition drove casinos to adapt double odds and ended in the creation of the "neutron bomb" of the odds war; 100X odds.
Double odds can mean either twice as much as the flat bet or twice the amount single odds would allow. Even in casinos that consider double odds to mean twice the amount of the flat bet, they generally allow players to take two and a half times their flat bet when the point is six or eight. 5X, 10X and 100X odds should be self-explanatory, you can take either five times, ten times or one hundred times your flat bet for odds. It seems most strip resorts are going to what is called 3X 4X 5X odds. If the point is four or ten you can take three times your flat bet, four times the flat if the point is five or nine and five times the flat if the point is six or eight.
Sophisticated gamblers often believe in always taking full odds as this will reduce the overall house percentage on the amount of their pass line bet and odds. The formula for computing the HP on a pass line bet with full odds is; the flat bet multiplied by the house percentage for the pass line (1.414%) and then divide that amount by the amount of the flat bet and the average amount of full odds.
For example, $100 dollars on the pass line with five times odds. $100 * 1.414% = $1.414 You determine the average amount for odds by multiplying full odds ($500) times 2/3 because you can only be expected to come-out on a point 24 of 36 come-out rolls (or 2/3) of the time and you get $333.33. Add $100 + $333.33 and you get $433.33. Now you divide $1.414 by $433.33 and you get .0032631 or .32631%.
In the case of full odds being a different amount, depending on the point, you must determine the average amount of the odds as follows for 3X 4X 5X odds on a one hundred dollar flat bet: (6/36 X 300) + (8/36 X 400) + (10/36 X 500) = $277.78, this is the chance, of coming-out on a point of four or ten multiplied by the amount of full odds, plus the chances of coming-out on a point of five or nine multiplied by the amount of full odds and the chances of coming-out on a point of six or eight multiplied by the amount of full odds. Adding $100 and $277.78 give us a total of $377.78 and so we divide $1.414 by $377.78 and get .0037429 or .37429%.
As much as I advocate making bets with the smallest house percentage possible, from a practical matter I wonder if this is always wise in the case of full odds. As a dealer I have often seen players refuse to increase a pass line bet because they insist in being able to always afford full odds. The fact is there are twice as many sevens and elevens as there are twos, threes and twelve’s on the come-out roll, so on the come-out roll the pass line bettor has a 2-1 chance of winning in the event of a natural (instant decision). Once the shooter has come-out on a point the chances are always less the 50/50 of winning. I have often seen gamblers miss out on an opportunity to reap the benefits of several consecutive come-out roll winners because they won’t press a pass line bet after a come-out roll of seven or eleven.
(Dale S. Yeazel is the author of "Precision Crap Dealing" and "Dealing Mini-Baccarat." Full color 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).