The "field" is one the most alluring, infamous and addictive bets on a craps table. It is hardly a product of modern game design; it has been one of the few staples of bank craps layouts since bank craps was invented about 1907. While it has a notorious reputation as a bad bet, there are far worst bets on the craps layout.
The "field" is a one-roll bet on all the numbers listed in it, namely: 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Since some people find this explanation lacking, let me try another approach. A player can make a field bet any time he wants to. If the next roll is one of the seven numbers that are listed in the field, the player wins. If a 5, 6, 7 or 8 are rolled the player loses.
Since there are seven numbers in the field and four numbers that are not, someone not familiar with the thirty-six dice combinations might think the field favors the player. However, the four non-field numbers comprise twenty of the thirty-six combinations, so the house percentage would be 11.11% assuming that all winning bets were paid even money as they were when bank craps was first introduced. That would still make the field bet equivalent to a bet on the hard four or ten and a bet on the ace-deuce or yo-leven (at 16 for 1).
But not all winning field bets are paid even-money. For at least the last fifty years, if the two or twelve is rolled, field bets are paid 2 to 1. To compute the house percentage for a field bet that pays double for a roll of "ace" or "boxcars" requires adjusting the sixteen winning combinations to reflect the "weighted chances" of throwing two or twelve. (1 * 14/16) + (2 * 2/16) = 1.125 this number is now multiplied times the number of winning combinations: 1.125 * 16 = 18. We now have twenty losing combinations versus the equivalent of eighteen winning combinations: 20/38 — 18/38 = 2/38 = .526315 = 5.26315%. This makes the house percentage exactly the same as double zero roulette and better than any of the proposition bets in craps as well as place bets on the four and ten.
When I first started dealing in 1977, all strip casinos paid 2 to 1 for a roll of twelve and all downtown casinos paid 3 to 1 for a roll of twelve. Since then more and more strip casinos have adopted the 3 to 1 payoff in order to compete with the downtown casinos and those in Atlantic City. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find any casino in Las Vegas that still pays 2 to 1 for a roll of twelve, but I do know of at least two. (1 * 14/16) + (2 * 1/16) + (3 * 1/16) = 1.1875 multiplying 1.1875 times sixteen gives us the equivalent of nineteen winning combinations. 20/39 — 19/39 = 1/39 = 0.025641 = 2.5641%. No, this is not as good as the pass line (1.414%) but it is better than a place bet on the five or nine as well as any buy bet that requires paying the commission when the bet is made. It is even better than single zero roulette (2.703%).
Players love betting the field because as the stickman is apt to say; "There’s action every roll in the field!" But in their excitement, field bettors often do things that are not in their best interest. Here is a list of rules field bettors should keep in mind:
Make your bets when the dice are in the center of the table. Yes, I know you want to think that you don’t get your "feeling" until the shooter gets the dice but if the dice even come close to hitting you, you can expect a negative reaction from your fellow players.
Make your field bet in the area of the field that is as close to you as possible. Beginners often think that they don’t get paid the 2 to 1 or 3 to 1 payoff unless their bet is in the circle around the 2 or 12. This isn’t the case; all field bets are paid the same, regardless of their position. Keeping your field bet in front of you is the best protection from another player picking it up.
Keep track of your own bet. Dealers and boxmen aren’t responsible for resolving disputes when two or more players claim the same bet. As you will quickly be reminded; "The field is a self-service bet."
So, don’t let the other players make you feel like a putz for betting the field. In fact, if they place the outside numbers or make prop bets, you can point out that they are making worse bets than you are.
(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)