Prop bets ‘hard’ to hit

Aug 10, 2004 3:22 AM

My friend Bob is a conservative straight shooter and never does anything without a reason — except when he plays craps.

As we headed to the tables one day, Bob was grousing about our wives’ current shopping expedition. They didn’t need anything in particular, so why they’d rather go shopping than play craps was beyond him. He maintained that shopping is just one of those thing people like to do, for no particular reason at all. He, of course, would never do anything like that.

He was still mumbling about having reasons for everything when we got to the tables and colored in. I put $10 on the pass line. The shooter obliged by coming out with a six.

"Dollar hard six," Bob suddenly called out, as he threw a white chip toward the stickman.

"Huh? What kind of bet is that?" I asked, adding odds to my pass line bet.

"Just a dollar. Doesn’t hurt anyone."

"Know what the vig is on a dollar?" The shooter rolled an eight. I placed the eight.

"Let’s look at the house advantage for a second,’’ I continued. "On hard way, it’s either 9% (on the six or eight) or 11% (on the four or 10). On a six or eight place bet, it’s 1.5%. Pass line is 1.4%."

"Yeah. So?"

"Well, look around. How many craps tables do you see?"

He counted. "Um, 10."

"Do you think the casino built any of these tables with a 1.5% profit?"

"What do you mean?" The shooter rolled a five, a 10, and another five. I should have been on the come instead of taking.

"The casino depends on making a certain level of money from its games in profit. Let’s say its break-even point is 5%. This means if it constantly makes over 5%, it does well. If it constantly makes under 5%, it does poorly."

Bob shook his head and shrugged. "So what does that have to do with me?" The shooter rolled an eight!

"Wow, I won my place bet! Look Bob, the casino really doesn’t care if you win because it makes a percentage on every bet.

That’s where most of their profits come from. But they don’t get significant profits from pass and come bets because the edge is too low. They get most of their profits from hard ways, field bets and proposition bets.

A cheer went up! The shooter threw a six! It was soft, so Bob lost, but he looked more thoughtful than disappointed.

"So you’re saying that even if I won my hard way bet, the casino wouldn’t mind Âí­because of the built-in 9% edge? But the bets you won don’t make a significant enough profit for them?"

"You got it," I said, collecting my chips, "Maybe that’s why dealers always call out "any hard ways" or "anyone on the field?" instead of "pass or come with maximum odds!"

Bob grinned. "OK. So let’s say my hard way bets are the main supplier of the casino’s statues and waterfalls. Can’t I do things for fun, just because I want to?"

I smiled. "Oh. Kinda like going shopping?"