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Craps is what a math expert would call a “negative expectation” game.
This means that the house has a mathematical edge that makes the game impossible to beat in the long run.
This hasn’t prevented gamblers from coming up with craps systems to try to beat the system. Some of these craps systems can be a fun way to play, but none of them can overcome the house edge in the long run.
This post provides a look at why you can’t win at craps in the long run regardless of what kind of betting system you’re trying to use. It also offers a few craps systems for you to try and explains the pros and cons of using each system.
Why Craps Is a Negative Expectation Game
Craps has a mathematical edge for the casino because of the difference in payout odds and the odds of winning. The game is completely random, but this doesn’t mean that it’s a break-even game. In fact, from a mathematical perspective, the game is inherently unfair.
Every bet at the craps table (except for one) pays off at lower odds than the odds of winning.
If a specific craps bet has 5 to 1 odds of winning, the payout for that bet is only 4 to 1. The difference is the house edge.
This doesn’t mean you can’t win in the short run. In fact, gamblers often DO win at craps in the short run. If they didn’t, no one would play the game. (This is true of all casino games.)
A craps system usually involves lowering and raising the sizes of your bets based on previous results. Sometimes it also involves hedging your bets. You can check our craps bets guide if you need help understanding the following systems.
The easiest way to think of a craps bet, though, is as a negative number. That’s essentially what you’re dealing with here — a negative number.
Doubling or tripling negative numbers doesn’t do anything to make that number positive. No matter how you manipulate those negative numbers, when you add them up, you get a negative total.
Some systems might make it seem like you’re bucking the odds in the short run, but they won’t work in the long run.
In the long run, the casino will always win at craps unless you’re cheating.
And I don’t recommend that.
Cheating at casino games is a felony in many states.
Why Gamblers Love Systems
Everyone wants something for nothing. Everyone wants to believe that they can outsmart the house, too. Betting systems offer the opportunity of doing that.
Craps is a game with a lot of different bets available, so it’s ripe for coming up with schemes where you combine multiple bets in an attempt to buck the odds.
And because craps is a game of random chance, every system will work some of the time just because of dumb luck. This will encourage the systems player to keep using that system.
Even when their luck changes, they’ll often remember the success they previously had with the system. They assume that it’s just a matter of time before the luck changes back in the other direction and their system starts working again.
The math behind casino games is often complicated enough that it’s hard to understand initially why a system won’t work.
A Typical Example of a Craps System
Here’s a craps system a friend of mine claims he devised.
You bet $10 on the pass line, $10 on the don’t pass, and $10 on the field at the same time. You also keep doing that on the come and don’t come bets.
The theory is that you’ll either win the field bet or lose the field on a 6, 7, or 8.
If the 6 or 8 comes up, you wind up with a strong come number.
And a 7 would result in a break-even result, although you’d still lose the field bet.
Rather than assume you’re familiar with all these bets, I’ll explain each of them below.
The pass line bet is the most basic bet in craps. It’s a bet that the shooter will succeed by rolling a 7 or 11 on the come out roll or that he’ll succeed by setting a point and rolling that point before rolling a 7 again.
The pass line bet loses if the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12 on the come out roll. It also loses if the shooter rolls a 7 on a subsequent roll before rolling the point number again.
The pass line bet pays off even money if you win.
The don’t pass bet is a bet against the shooter succeeding. If the pass line bet wins, the don’t pass bet loses, and vice versa.
There’s one exception, though, with the don’t pass bet. That’s if a 12 is rolled. The don’t pass bet doesn’t win in that exception, and that’s one of the reasons the house still has an edge with the don’t pass bet.
The field bet, unlike the pass and don’t pass bets, is a one-roll bet. (The other bets stay in play for multiple rolls, until one of the winning or losing conditions is met.)
The field bet wins if any of the following numbers come up: 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12.
The only numbers where the field bet loses are the 5, 6, 7, or 8.
The field bet pays off at 2 to 1 if a 2 or 12 is rolled. If any of the other winning numbers result, the payout is even money.
This sounds like a good bet because there are so many potential winning numbers, but the combinations required to get those numbers aren’t as many as you’d think.
You have 36 possible outcomes on a roll of two dice. 16 combinations result in a winning field bet, but 20 of them result in a loss.
A come bet is the same thing as a pass line bet, but it treats a roll subsequent to the come out roll as a new come out roll. It’s probably obvious what a don’t come roll is, but it’s just a don’t pass bet that treats a roll subsequent to the come out roll as a new come out roll.
So the idea behind this system is that if you don’t win pass or don’t pass on the come out roll, you’ll win the field bet. This is true except for when you roll a 12, in which case pass and don’t pass BOTH lose.
The other problem with the system is that all the bets in the system are negative expectation bets, but one of the bets has a far higher house edge than the others.
The pass line bet has a house edge of 1.41%, the don’t pass bet has a house edge of 1.36%, and the field bet has a house edge of 5.56%.
Remember that the field bet is there to compensate for when you lose the pass or don’t pass bet, but the money you keep putting down on the field bet is “taxed” at 5.56% over time. That’s not going to compensate for 1.41% or 1.36% in the long run at all.
In fact, let’s look at the possible outcomes using this system.
- You roll a 2.
- You roll a 3.
- You roll a 4.
- You roll a 5.
- You roll a 6.
- You roll a 7.
- You roll an 8.
- You roll a 9.
- You roll a 10.
- You roll an 11.
- You roll a 12.
That’s a $20 win on the field bet, a $10 win on the don’t pass bet, and a $10 loss on the pass line bet. Your total profit when rolling a 2 is $20. This will happen, on average, once out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 win on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total profit when rolling a 3 is $10. This will happen, on average, twice out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 win on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total profit when rolling a 4 is $10. This will happen, on average, three out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 loss on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total loss when rolling a 5 is $10. This will happen, on average, four out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 loss on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total loss when rolling a 6 is $10. This will happen, on average, five out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 loss on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total loss when rolling a 7 is $10. This will happen, on average, six out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 loss on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total loss when rolling an 8 is $10. This will happen, on average, five out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 win on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total profit when rolling a 9 is $10. This will happen, on average, four out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 win on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total profit when rolling a 10 is $10. This will happen, on average, three out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $10 win on the field bet, and the don’t pass and pass line bets cancel each other out. Your total profit when rolling a 11 is $10. This will happen, on average, twice out of every 36 rolls.
That’s a $20 win on the field bet, a $10 loss on the pass line bet, and a break-even on the don’t pass bet. Your total profit when rolling a 12 is $10. This will happen, on average, once out of every 36 rolls.
What happens when you add all that up?
Here are the total wins or losses over 36 statistically perfect rolls for each total:
- 2 – 1 x $20
- 3 – 2 x $10, or $20
- 4 – 3 x $10, or $30
- 5 – 4 x -$10, or- $40
- 6 – 5 x -$10, or -$50
- 7 – 6 x -$10, or -$60
- 8 – 5 x -$10, or -$50
- 9 – 4 x -$10, or -$40
- 10 – 3 x $10, or $30
- 11 – 2 x $10, or $20
- 12 – 1 x $10, or $10
For clarity’s sake, I made the losses red to indicate that they’re negative.
That’s a total loss of $110 over 36 rolls of the dice, or an average loss per roll of $3.05.
That’s not a winning system.
It’s not a terrible system. You’ll see a loss of $10 most of the time, but you’ll see wins of $10 and $20 a lot of the time.
You’re just not doing anything that will help you beat the house edge.
The Iron Cross System for Crap
Another craps system that takes advantage of the field bet is the iron cross system. Like the system I just outlined in the last section, the iron cross is not a progressive system. You don’t need to raise or lower your bets. You just place specific combinations of bets.
I’ve also seen the iron cross system called the “no seven system.” You cover all the numbers on the table except for the 7. Since most players like to root for the shooter to get a 7 on the come out roll, most iron cross players wait until someone sets a point.
Once that happens, the iron cross player bets on the field and also makes place bets on 5, 6, and 8.
This covers every number on the table except for the 7.
You already know what a field bet is because I explained it in the last section. A place bet is a bet on a specific number, so you’re placing four bets with this system:
- The Field Bet
- Place 5
- Place 6
- Place 8
If you’re a $10 bettor, you’ll bet $10 on the field, $10 on the 5, $12 on the 6, and $12 on the 8. You have $44 in action by doing this.
On the next roll of the dice, you’ll win unless the shooter rolls a 7.
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Since you have 36 possible combinations, this means you’ll see a win 30 out of 36 times, or 83.33% of the time.
The house still has an edge, though, even though you’ll win something on more than four out of five rolls of the dice.
When one of the field number comes up, you get paid off, and your place bets stay up. (The place bets are multi-roll wagers.)
If one of the place numbers hit, you’ll win $14, but you’ll also lose $10 on the field bet, for a profit of $4.
If you’ve ever played craps, you know that the dice sometimes get hot. When that happens, you profit quite a bit.
Iron Cross Craps Odds
In the long run, though, when a 7 hits, the house edge will take over and wipe out those wins. You’ll wind up with losses that are what you’d expect based on the house edge.
But you’ll have a lot of fun getting to that point.
When the shooter gets the point, wait until a new point is set before placing another field bet.
If you like a lot of action, this is a fun way to bet because you’ll see a resolution on every roll of the dice one way or the other.
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Some players make the iron cross system more interesting by “pressing” their bets.
Here’s how that works.
You wait until you win a field bet three times in a row. At that point, you leave your place bets working until someone rolls a 7. At that point, you just call it a night
Another way to press your bets with the iron cross system is to raise the size of your place bet after a win.
You have $44 in action, and the shooter rolls an 8. You take some of your winnings and increase the size of your place wager on 8, and you take the rest of your winnings and increase the size of your wager on the field bet.
You do this three times in a row, regardless of which bet wins. You raise the size of your bets three times in a row, then you wait until your place bets are resolved one way or the other.
This takes advantage of your occasional hot streak, which will happen more often than you’d think. After all, you’ll win something more than 80% of the time. Reinvesting those winnings is a good idea.
The iron cross, by the way, is my favorite craps system, just because I like a lot of action.
I don’t claim that it’s a winning system. I just think it’s a lot of fun.
Being a recreational gambler, that’s good enough for me.
Craps is some of the most fun you can have in the casino. Any number of craps systems can make the game even more fun, but you MUST understand before playing that no craps system will overcome the house edge in the long run.
In the short term, you might see slightly better results than you’d expect, but eventually, the house edge will always catch up with you.
If you ARE going to try a system to bet on craps, I recommend the iron cross, or no seven, system. With it, you’ll see a winning result more than 80% of the time. This doesn’t put the odds in your favor, but it will sure seem that way until you lose some money.