How Much Do You Lose When You Win

A friend of mine, Bernie, is married to Barbara, my old school class mate from Brooklyn. Bernie likes to play craps, but only on the pass line, and only with green chips. One green chip. He puts it on the pass line, win or lose. That’s it. No odds. No other bets.

The four of us had lunch together and afterwards, our lovely wives had to go powder their lovely noses, so Bernie and I meandered off to the craps tables, which had a $5 minimum with 10X odds. I was determined to cure Bernie of his flat bets with no odds.

We each bought in for $100 and Bernie got his four green chips and I got twenty red ones. Bernie waited for the come out and made his bet. Fortunately, the shooter rolled a six point.

“Hey Bernie, watch this,” I said as I placed $5 with $20 odds on the pass line. “Same money as you. I have $5 plus $20 odds. You have a $25 flat bet. Who wins more?”

He grinned that weird grin of his. “Same money, so we’ll win the same too.”

“Nope. Look. If you win, you’ll get $25 for your flat bet. That’s it. Flat bets pay 1:1 so when you bet $25, you win $25. But odds bets pay more. When you place odds behind the flat bet, you get paid true odds in addition to your flat bet.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, the odds on the six rolling compared to the unmentionable number (even Bernie knew not to speak the word seven aloud) are 6:5, which is more than 1:1. If you bet $25 at 6:5 odds, you win $30 instead of $25. And if you bet $20 odds, like I did, you win $24 instead of $20.”

“Yeh?”

“So if you win three pass line bets in a row, you’re really losing $12, because you should have won $87 but you only won $75.”

“Yeh?”

“And that’s only on the six or eight. If you bet $25 pass line on the five or nine, you’d be better off betting $5 flat with $20 odds, because the odds for the five or nine are 3:2. Instead of $25 you’ll get back $35.”

The shooter made his six point and, sure enough, Bernie got his $25 and I got my $29.

“See? I got $4 more. Speaking of which, if the point is a four or ten, the odds are 2:1, so if you bet $5 flat plus $20 odds, you get back $45 instead of $25 – an extra $20!”

“Wow, that’s great! So…if I bet and win three different points in a row. . . let’s say the four, five and six – the old way I would have won $75 betting $25 flat bets.”

“Yes, and betting $5 flat bets with $20 odds, you would win $45 for the four, $35 for the five, and $24 for the six – a total of $109 – that’s $34 more than you won before!”

“Gee, I guess I was losing money even though I was winning.”

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