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Frank Scoblete - The Numbers of Craps: 2, 3 and 4

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  • Frank ScobleteCraps is a game of numbers, eleven of them to be precise: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. These numbers can be wagered upon in different ways and, depending on the wager, you can face house edges that are reasonable, about 1.5 percent, or nuts, about 16.67 percent. How you play the game of craps depends, I guess, on whether you are a reasonable individual or nuts.

    So in the next few issues, I?ll be taking a look at each of the individual numbers of craps, in a literal way and in a numerological way.

    Since we have two six-sided dice in craps with each die having six numbers (or spots), starting with the one-spot and going to six spots, there are 36 possible combinations (6 X 6 = 36). The number 2 can only be made if each die lands on a one-spot. Thus, the probability of the 2 on any given roll is one in 36. The odds of this happening are therefore 35 to 1. That is, there are 35 non-twos to every one 2.

    Gamblers who bet the 2 straight up at craps are getting a very poor bet, not because of the longshot quality of the situation, but because the payout is usually 30 to one. That means the casino has an almost 14 percent edge on the bet. In a fair game, where neither the casino nor the player had the edge, the 2 would pay off at 35 to one. The casino is therefore keeping those extra 5 units for itself when a player wins on the 2.

    On the Come-Out roll, the number 2 is considered part of the ?craps? numbers. Right bettors, those who are betting with the shooter, lose their Pass Line bets should the 2 appear during the Come Out. Once the Come-Out is over and a point is established, the two has no effect on the Pass Line bet. Don?t bettors, those who bet the Don?t Pass line, love the 2 as it?s an instant winner for them.

    But all numbers have other connotations as well, not just their mathematical ones. Two is considered, if not an evil number, than a number that is, well, not nice. Since God is the number 1 in numerology and 2 is the first number to go away from 1, it is considered a fallen number or a number that has strayed. It will not bring you luck if you bet it. So combine its high house edge with its low numerologic character and you have a number that deserves its nickname -- snake eyes! Recall that it was a serpent or snake that tempted our first ancestors Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Had it not been for Adam and Eve, no one would ever lose at craps.

    The number 3 can be made in two different ways: either 2:1 or 1:2. The number 3 is also a craps number, so it?s a loser for Pass Line bettors on the Come-out roll but a winner for Don?t Pass bettors on the Come-Out. For gamblers betting straight up on number 3, the house pays off this 17-to-1 shot at a mere 15-to-1. That gives the casino a hefty 11 percent edge! Yuck.

    Yet, believe it or not, in numerology the number 3 is considered the luckiest number of all. This was probably due to men being in control of society for all those centuries. Why do I say that? Because the 3 represents the male sexual apparatus composed of three parts (if you don?t know what those three parts are, you are too young to be reading gambling articles). It also represents the Trinity. While this number looks good in numerology circles, in craps circles, it has less lustre. Even when combined with other numbers as in the bet Any Craps, the house has a crippling edge on it.

    The 4 is the first of the ?point numbers.? On the Come-Out roll if the shooter rolls a 4, the 4 becomes his ?point? and he must make this number again before the 7 appears or he loses. There are three ways to make a 4 with two six-sided dice: 3:1, 1:3, and 2:2. Four made with 2:2 is called a ?hard way,? because there is only one way to make it. Since there are six ways to make a 7 and only three ways to make a 4, the odds of making a 4 are 2-to-1 against.

    You can bet that the 4 will be made the hard way. In this, you are betting that 2:2 will come up before 3:1, 1:3, or all combinations of the 7. There are eight ways to lose this bet and one way to win it. The casino pays off at 7 to 1. The house edge is therefore 11 percent. Awful.

    Some gamblers like to ?place? the 4 when they play. That means, they plunk down $5 (or $10 or whatever) and say: ?Place the four!? The dealer will take their chip(s) and put it directly in the box marked 4 in the upper layout. If the 4 should hit, the casino pays off at $9 to $5. Since the true odds are 2 to 1, and the ?true payoff? should be $10 to $5, the casino edge on placing the 4 is therefore 6.67 percent. Not good.

    You can cut the edge of the casino on the 4 by buying it. If you plunk down $25, adding $1 for a commission, the casino will pay off the 4 at its true odds of 2 to 1. The edge on a buy of the 4, when you pay a $1 commission on $25, is 3.8 percent. However, some casinos (in Vegas and Mississippi mostly) will only take the commission on a winning bet. This reduces the house edge on the ?buy 4? to an approximately 1.3 percent -- a good bet in the craps world.

    In numerology, the number 4 is considered to be a solid number, and it is the number of all things that are solid and thick such as wood or your brother-in-law?s head. It is also the number of the Earth herself, so when you bet it knock on some wood or bop your brother-in-law. This would be a good number for women to bet since it is a feminine number representing Mother Earth. But men had better watch out because the number ?4? is considered the second most unlucky number next to 13, as it deals with things that can end, such as, well, Earth, wood, a hot streak, and your brother-in-law.

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