The true odds
Some will find this tedious. Dice is a complex game. Even in real time with a layout in front of a player, players would have a difficult time understanding even simple concepts about the game and how to bet straight foward pass line bets never mind the back line or proposition bets. The take away from this essay is what people call luck and the vagaries of fortune
The true odds
Dice is a complicated game, the fastest and most complex of all casino games. Craps is also the only casino game that pays the true odds, on some bets. Images of a pair of rolling dice are the quintessential image of chance. But what is luck, what people call luck? Let’s explore that here.
What about the law of averages? This is a misnomer. There is no law of averages; there is a theory of averages that does hold up over time. In other words, deviations from expected outcomes are merely minor fluctuations in a mean average of mathematical probability that holds up over time and circumstance.
Dice odds, the odds of a certain number rolling are structured like a pyramid. At the very top are 1/1, aces, and 6/6, twelve. There is only one way these numbers can come on a pair of dice. The odds are one in 36, one chance in thirty-six of expected outcomes or 35:1.
Below aces and twelve, is ace/deuce, the three; another craps number. This can come two ways; 1/2 or 2/1. The true odds are seventeen to one.
Eleven is not a craps number, and it is also not a point. Eleven can be bet as a proposition bet alone or in various combinations with other numbers as a proposition bet. It is a pass line winner on the come out, or a come bet winner at any time after the point is established. Eleven can come two ways, 6/5, and 5/6. Yo-11 odds are 17:1.
These are the true odds. The table does not pay out true odds on any bet other than the pass line or come bet odds. Or the inverse; on don’t pass odds which pay the opposite. For example, 12 should pay out thirty-six for one as the true odds of that event taking place. The table will pay thirty for one on the strip or one more unit; thirty to one, downtown. We’re raking back six units. This is true with all proposition bets. The table will grind out a hold, a percentage even when a player wins.
Next, we come to the point numbers: four and ten which both pay the same odds. Four can come like this: 1/3, 3/1, or the hard way, 2/2. Ten can come like this: 6/4, 4/6, or hard way 5/5. Pass line and come bet odds on four and ten pay two to one. These are the true odds, free odds.
Five and nine pay true odds on the pass line or come bet odds of three to two. Five can roll like this: 3/2, 2/3, 4/1, or 1/4. Nine rolls like this: 3/6, 6/3, 4/5, or 5/4.
Six and eight, come like this: 5/1, 1/5, 4/2/ 2/4, and hard way, 3/3. Eight comes 5/3, 3/5, 6/2, 2/6, and hard way 4/4. The true odds here are six to five. There is the whole don’t side of the game as well as come bet’s, buy bets, place bets, and proposition bets; mostly one roll bets, as well as self-service bets, like Big 6 and 8, and the field. If this is starting to seem complex, that’s because it is complicated until you learn it.
Many dice bets are repetitive touts designed to help you lose faster. I haven’t spoken about these other bets; I haven’t clearly explained the whole game either because it is not a necessary part of my contention here. This is about the concept of luck. My main point is about the strength of the number seven and why a player having a winning hand at dice would construe that as luck. It certainly is good fortune. I believe that it is useful to understand the fortuitous but arbitrary nature of casino games, particularly a fast, intense game like craps if you are going to play.
The controlling number in the game of craps is number seven. Seven comes like this: 4/3, 3/4, 5/2, 2/5, 6/1, and 1/6, and that’s six ways. Seven is the strongest number on the dice. Every sixth roll should be a seven according to a theory of probability.
Now we come to this; how could the dice roll for an hour and twenty minutes; how can the dice pass for that long without the seven rolling? Taken in the singular and making allowance for the game being legitimate, with no cheating, then how can this happen? And this is why casino personal, the people that run and work these games, are so superstitious. It doesn’t make sense. Seven is all over the dice. Besides which their natural greed fuels a built in expectation that we are going to win every single bet, and no, I’m not exaggerating, because I have had the misfortune to work in joints like that.
Okay. But taken in the aggregate, if you can picture dice rolling all over the world, all over the universe-- just try to picture this in your mind--then the occurrence of a single table dumping off nine hundred dollars or perhaps even four hundred and fifty thousand dollars, is a statistically insignificant anomaly; a minor fluctuation in a relentless, mean average of expected outcomes. (Citation: John Scarne, ‘On dice’)
I was dealing the game that dumped nine hundred bucks. I observed the game that dumped four hundred and fifty thousand dollars. It was pretty early in my career, and I was working at the Union Plaza, my first middle-level job.
The significance isn’t the nine hundred bucks. It was a low limit game, and the players didn’t even understand the significance of what was happening. There were the usual don’t side fleas betting against the point to the bitter end, even as the dice made pass after pass, so at least we got their money. The floor didn’t get excited; nobody caught on until it was almost over. This was a quarter game for God’s sake! Twenty-five cents and a quarter would move; twenty-five cents come bets.
I knew I was seeing something special and I never forgot it. There is always a struggle for control on a dice game, nakedly visible in the rough, hurly-burly, middle level and lower-middle-level joints I worked at, downtown in particular. I had no compunction about bullying players. I would run over the shooter, not even give them time to bet. I was looking to kill the game and please my masters.
The $450,000 dump I observed was after I got off my graveyard shift at the Plaza one day, at twelve noon and I was heading out looking for a drink. This was on a game facing the street on the Mint side of Binions. It was a significant loss even for the Horseshoe. The grapevine had it that the shooter came back a few days later and lost it all back.
The point of this essay is that there is no such thing as luck in a casino, but even having made my case, having written it, having lived it, there is still something sublime and ultimately unfathomable about the mystery surrounding games of chance, and the vagaries of life. You just never know.