Craps lesson 3: Free odds, the best bet

The craps table is packed full of boxes, bars and circles indicating the various bets you can make, but the best bet in the game isn't listed on the table. It's called Free Odds, and it's what gets rid of the big advantage the house holds over the players. Used correctly, in fact, it can narrow the odds to where the house has only about a third of a percent advantage.

We'll explain Free Odds in detail in a second, but let's start by taking a look at the math behind it all:

The chances of rolling a given number

There are 11 numbers than can be rolled with a pair of dice, with some much easier to roll than others. 7 is the key number in the game, but it is the easiest of all roll, with six ways roll. This is how it breaks down:

Numbers and ways to roll

  • 2 - one way
    1-1
  • 3 - two ways
    1-2, 2-1
  • 4 - three ways
    1-3, 2-2, 3-1
  • 5 - four ways
    1-4, 2-3, 3-2, 4-1
  • 6 - five ways
    1-5, 2-4, 3-3, 4-2, 5-1
  • 7 - six ways
    1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 6-1
  • 8 - five ways
    2-6, 3-5, 4-4, 5-3, 6-2
  • 9 - four ways
    3-6, 4-5, 5-4, 6-3
  • 10 - three ways
    4-6, 5-5, 6-4
  • 11 - two ways
    5-6, 6-5
  • 12 - one way
    6-6

It's clear that it's a lot easier to roll a 6 or 8 than a 4 or 10, so it kind of sucks that your pass line bet pays the same on both hard and easy numbers ("hard" and "easy" are actually craps lingo for a different kind of bet, but we'll use them to mean "difficult" and "not as difficult" right now; Hard and Easy bets are sucker bets, but I'll touch on them toward the end). The Free Odds bet doesn't suck, though, because it pays more on hard numbers than it does on easy numbers. In fact, it pays true mathematical odds -- the house has no advantage at all on Free Odds bets. It's the only bet in the entire casino where you are on even footing with the house. It works like this:

All casinos will let you place a Free Odds bet of at least double your Pass Line bet (called 2X odds). Many casinos will let you place Free Odds of five or ten times your Pass Line bet (5X odds and 10X odds) and some will allow 100X odds. Free Odds bets don't pay at a 1:1 ratio, but rather pay according to the difficulty of the number vs. the likelihood of a 7. Like this:

Free Odds payouts on 6 and 8

There are six ways to roll a 7 and five ways to roll a 6 or 8. So a Free Odds bet on either of those numbers pays at a 6:5 ratio -- for every $5 you have on your Odds bet, you would be paid $6. Because most casino won't pay fractional dollars, it is important to make your Free Odds bets on 6 and 8 in increments of $5.

Free Odds payouts on 5 and 9

There are six ways to roll a 7 and four ways to roll a 5 or 9. So a Free Odds bet on either of those numbers pays at a 3:2 ratio (6:9 simplifed to 3:2) -- for every $2 you have on your Odds bet, you would be paid $3. This means you need to make Free Odds bets on 5 and 8 in even numbers.

Free Odds payouts on 4 and 10

There are six ways to roll a 7 and three ways to roll a 4 or 10. So a Free Odds bet on either of those numbers pays at a 2:1 ratio (6:3 simplifed to 2:1) -- for every $1 you have on your Odds bet, you would be paid $2. This is an easy payout for the house -- they just double whatever you have on the Odds -- so you can bet in any increment you like.

So you understand why Free Odds are such a great deal, and in what increments you want to bet them. But HOW do you bet them if they're not listed on the table? We'll show how in the next lesson...

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