True odds: true lies?

Aug 17, 2004 7:39 AM

There’s a lot of talk going around about casinos that allow higher limits on the "odds" bet at craps. The so-called two times or 10 times or 100 times odds, or whatever "x" is merely a "times" bet as a multiple of one’s original line wager (Pass or Don’t). Places like Binion’s and the Frontier and, most recently, the Stratosphere advertised the 100x odds bet in an effort to attract clientele.

The "free" or "true" odds bet was first allowed about 80 years ago as an accommodation to high rollers. There’s no marked spot on the craps layout, so it’s an acknowledged bet by the craps crew, overseen by the boxman and pit supervisors.

Its true odds status is derived because the wager is paid off at "true" odds as its probability of occurrence, and is based on the point numbers (after the come-out roll).

True odds against any point being successful on the Do and Don’t Pass lines are:




4 or 10



5 or 9



6 or 8



As you can see, true lay odds are the opposite on the Don’t Pass line. There’s no house vigorish on the odds bet. Technically, it’s a separate side proposition bet. The house couldn’t care less, as it’s a break-even affair to them over the long haul.

After a point is established, a player can make odds bets, or even take them off, at any time before decision. In fact, he can do that as well with Don’t Pass line bets. He can also bet on the Pass line after the point is made — but bets cannot be taken off the Pass line before decision.

Since about 85 percent of all craps table bets seem to be made on the Pass line, that’s where the house wants to take a shot, for the 1.414 percent vig. So, to qualify for an odds bet as a separate proposition, its maximum bet size is controlled by the size of the original line wager. That is whether the odds bet is 1x, 2x, 10x or 100x, the maximum size is determined by the multiple allowed, but it can be less.

Therefore, if you had $10 working on the Pass line, at 100x, you could place up to a $1,000 wager as an odds bet on the space below the Pass line. If your point was 4 and you made it, you could win $10 on your line bet and $2,000 on your odds bet. If you laid the maximum odds on a Don’t 4, for a $10 original wager you’d place $2,000 behind the line to win $1,000.

If you have subsequent intermediate bets via the Come/Don’t Come line, these are moved by the dealer to the number boxes. You must hand the dealer appropriate chips to "press" an odds bet.

The house isn’t stupid. The reason they spin their wheels on the odds bet is to encourage and give incentive to the player to make larger line bets (at vig) to qualify for larger odds bets.

While some players convince themselves they are reducing their vigorish by making odds bets, it’s a delusion as far as the house is concerned, as it couldn’t care less. They concentrate on taking a shot at your line bet.

The house, however, does place itself at some risk. Having some shooter with a long duke throwing numbers (sans 7), it may take some time to recover. A big backup bankroll is a necessity. Also, they must use constant vigilance to keep from being "past posted." That’s where a cheating player will surreptitiously drop some chips behind the line if he sees the point is made. Dealer collusion helps.

Also, you need sharp dealers. Even though the maximum odds are 100x, say a player only bet 37x the odds and the point was a winning 6, which would pay 6-5 odds. This could entail tricky chip-counting arithmetic.

Let’s look at it this way. Suppose you’re in a bar and flipping a coin at true even odds for $1 per toss. Another guy chimes in and says he’ll flip you for $10, still another says he’ll go for $100. That’s why I think contemptuously about all this odds-war folderol.