Craps is a negative expectation game. Mathematically speaking, the best way to manage your bankroll in a negative expectation game is to not play. Otherwise, you’ll eventually lose all your money.
Most people want to know how big their bankroll needs to be to win at a certain game. That’s the wrong question, even if you’re playing a game where you have a positive expectation. The real question is what kind of bankroll you need to minimize the probability of going broke.
With advantage gamblers, the goal is to avoid going broke before your long-term positive expectation starts to become reality.
For recreational gamblers, the goal is to stay in action long enough to have some fun. It’s no fun losing your entire bankroll within five minutes of sitting down at the table.
In this post, I’ll offer some tips on how to best manage your bankroll when playing craps. None of these tips will turn this game from a negative expectation game to a positive expectation game, but they might save you some heartache.
Your Craps Bankroll Should Consist of Money You Can Afford to Lose
The biggest mistake you can make in any gambling game is to play with the rent money.
Regardless of whether you have an edge or not, you shouldn’t risk money you need for something else. It would be crazy to get evicted from your apartment because you lost the rent money at the craps table.
Yet it happens all the time.
Even if you’re an advantage gambler, like a card counter or a poker player, you need to have money set aside for the sole purpose of gambling. In the short run, anything can happen, including going broke when you have an edge.
If you’re behind on your child support payments, if you’re deep in debt, or if your car payment is late, you can’t afford to gamble on anything – craps included. Get some financial integrity going on before you budget money for frivolous expenses like dice games.
And don’t get me wrong. I’m pro-gambling. I love craps.
But I’m pro-responsible-gambling.
If you’re playing with money you need for something else, you’re gambling irresponsibly.
Set Win Goals and Stop Loss Limits
The classic money management advice for any casino gambler is to quit while you’re ahead.
This is impossible to implement unless you decide in advance how far ahead you want to get. Also, if you want to avoid going broke, you need to know how much money you’re willing to lose before quitting.
The problem with most money management proponents is that they try to give you the impression that you’re somehow changing the probability of winning and/or losing with this technique. The reality is that stop loss limits and win goals do nothing to alter the underlying probabilities of the game.
They can help you manage your money in the short run, but they won’t make a long-term winner out of you when you’re playing a negative expectation game like craps.
Here’s an example of a sensible stop loss limit and win goal strategy.
- You sit down with $300 to play at a craps table with a $5 minimum bet
- You set a loss limit of $100. If the stack of chips in front of you gets down to $200, you call it a day and walk away
- You set a win goal of $300. You want to double your money. If you ever get $600 in chips in front of you, you call it a day and quit
Either way, you’ll still walk away from the table with a little (or a lot of) money in your pocket.
That’s a worthwhile goal for a purely recreational gambler.
You decide how much you’re willing to win or lose based on what’s exciting for you. I wouldn’t be happy walking away from a craps table having won only $30, even though I’d be ahead.
I want a big enough win that I can brag about it. I want to strut around a little bit.
Therefore, your stop loss limits and win goals should be decided based on what works for you psychologically.
Bankroll Management Doesn’t Affect Which Bets Are Good and Which Bets Are Bad
Most of the bets at the craps table are sucker bets with a huge house edge. These are the bets on the inside of the table, and some of them have a house edge of well over 10%.
The most basic bets in craps – pass, don’t pass, come, don’t come, and the odds bet – all have some of the lowest house edges in the casino.
Your money will last longer if you stick with bets that have a low house edge.
Here’s one way to look at it.
You can estimate how much money you’ll lose per hour by multiplying your hourly action by the house edge. And your hourly action is just the product of your average bet size and the number of bets you make per hour.
An average craps player might make 30 pass line bets per hour at $5 per bet. That’s $150/hour in action. The house edge for a pass line bet is 1.41%, so your expected loss per hour is only $2.12.
$300 will last a long time in a situation like this.
But suppose you like the “any craps” bet. You can place this bet 100 times per hour because you don’t have to wait for a come out roll to place it. That’s $500/hour in action. And the house edge is 11.11% for that bet.
The expected loss per hour for the “any craps” bet is $55.55.
$300 won’t last long with a house edge that high, especially since you’re placing three times as many bets per hour.
Remember – your goal as a recreational gambler is to maximize the amount of fun you have in exchange for the money you’re losing. You can’t do that if you go broke fast. (You can only do it if you go broke slowly.)
How to Stay in the Game Until You Hit a Winning Streak
One of your goals as a craps player is to be in the game when a winning streak happens. Craps is well-known for being one of the streakiest games in the casino, in fact.
But you can’t get on a winning streak if you’re broke.
So how much money should you bring to the table with you?
Let’s look at it from the perspective of someone who’s placing the pass line bet every time it’s possible, but also someone who wants to bet 2x odds. You should have enough money for 30 bets per hour if you want the best chance of staying in the game until you get on a lucky streak.
At a table where you’re planning to bet $5 on the pass line and $10 on the odds bet, you’re looking at $15 per bet (cumulative). That means you should take $450 to that table with you.
With 30x the pass line + odds bet, you’re unlikely to go broke in an hour at the table. And you have a reasonable chance of hitting a hot streak at some point during that hour.
If you want to plan for more time at the craps table than that, just multiply the number of hours you want to play by the 30x pass line + odds bet.
If you want to plan for two hours at the craps table in the above situation, just bring $900 with you.
Of course, you also want to keep in mind what kind of action will hold your interest. I call this your “gulp limit.”
Gambling for an insignificant amount of money is pointless. If you’re a billionaire, why would you care what happens at a craps table where you’re betting $1 on the come out roll?
On the other hand, if you sit down with the only $45 that you have, you’ll probably enjoy the action at such a low-stakes craps table.
I first read about the “gulp limit” in a John Vorhaus book about poker. He explained that if you’re playing for stakes that are too low, the action won’t matter, and you’ll be bored. But how do you know what the right amount of money to play for is?
Vorhaus suggests thinking of an amount that if it were in your wallet and you lost it, you’d swallow really hard. It wouldn’t ruin your life, but it would matter.
So keep that in mind next time you’re planning a trip to the casino to play craps. What’s your gulp limit, and how does it affect your bankroll?
What About the Bankroll Requirements for a Dice Control Specialist?
Dice control in craps is controversial, even among advantage players. The idea is that someone with the right skill at setting and throwing the dice can influence the outcome of the rolls. I’m firmly in the skeptic camp.
Since casinos don’t seem to be desperate to stop dice control experts (the way they are with card counters), I think most people who think they have some influence over the dice are just deluding themselves. That said, maybe some people can influence the dice enough to affect the house edge.
What kind of bankroll does someone who can legitimately influence the dice need?
For the sake of argument, we’ll assume that the dice control specialist in question is skilled enough to turn the house edge from 1.41% to -1%. (In other words, the player has a 1% edge over the casino.)
Notice that this isn’t a sure thing. Even the dice control advocates admit that the dice still come up randomly.
In most of the books I’ve read about card counting, which is another type of advantage gambling, experts used the Kelly Criterion to decide what percentage of your bankroll you should bet on each hand. This turns out to be the same percentage of your bankroll as you have an edge over the house.
So if you have a 1% edge over the house, you would bet 1% of your bankroll.
If you’re betting on the pass line plus 3x4x5x odds, and you’re doing the table minimum of $5 on the pass line bet, you’re probably putting about $25 into action on each throw.
If you estimate that you have a 1% edge over the house, having a bankroll of $2500 ought to make the probability of going broke small enough to suit even the most conservative of advantage gamblers.
If you’re willing to accept more risk of going broke – this is called “taking a shot” – you might go with something even lower than that. You’d probably have a lot of fun even with a bankroll of $1000.
Of course, estimating your edge with dice control is another matter entirely. The first thing you’d need to know is how skilled you are at throwing the dice. This would involve a lot of practice and vigorous record-keeping over hundreds of throws.
Bankroll management is not going to turn a losing player into a winning player, especially not in a negative expectation game like craps. It can increase your chances of walking away a winner and eliminate the chance of walking away broke.
But it won’t turn a negative expectation game into a positive expectation game, no matter what some gambling pundits might have you believe.
You can probably have a lot of fun for an hour or more if you make sure you have 30x the size of the pass line bet and odds bet combined. If you’re a dice control enthusiast who wants to reduce the risk of going broke before her edge kicks in, you should have 100x the pass line bet and odds bet combined.
Other than that, it’s mostly common sense. Don’t gamble with money you can’t afford to lose. Stop playing when you’re no longer having fun. And avoid the sucker bets.
That’s about all you need to know about bankroll management as a craps player.
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Bankroll Management Tips for Practical Craps PlayersDecember 8, 2018