On the Dark Side

At the core of Craps is the eternal battle between the Do and the Don’t. Almost perfectly balanced against one another, these two families of games comprise the building blocks of two distinct strategic philosophies. When properly played, both philosophies are mathematically reasonable. The dice are indifferent regarding the two philosophies and will punish and favor both of them equally and randomly. I recommend that you select one or the other philosophy exclusively for all of your play. Not only will you become more deeply acquainted with your chosen philosophy through investigation and experience, but also to do otherwise in actual play would invoke the risk of being whipsawed by the dice.

The Don’t Pass game initially was available only in street games to players who “faded” some or all of the Pass bets made by shooters. Early professional game operators did not permit Don’t bets by their customers. Even after dicemaker John H. Winn added spaces for Don’t bets to his Philadelphia layout in 1907 to discourage the use of bogus dice, the dark side bets were stigmatized as being “wrong” and consequently were seldom played. Most players today avoid the dark side either because they do not understand it or because they want to play along with the majority. But there is nothing inherently wrong with the dark side, just as there is nothing wrong with choosing the Tails outcome when tossing a coin. The famous Nicholas “Nick the Greek” Dandolos (1883-1966) won a fortune playing almost exclusively on the dark side of high stakes private games in the early 20th century. The dark side is preferable when playing in casinos which simulate dice outcomes by using cards drawn simultaneously from two unverifiable shoes.

The dark side family of games includes: (1) Don’t Pass; (2) Don’t Come; (3) Odds laid against point numbers; (4) Lay Bets to Lose against the box numbers; and (5) Place Bets to Lose against the box numbers. You may want to investigate the mathematical player disadvantages for all of these games at http://wizardofodds.com/craps/appendix1.html. The disadvantages of the Lay Bets to Lose and the Place Bets to Lose are too large for these bets to be included in a reasonable dark side strategy. Therefore, only the flat bets and laying Odds are good candidates for inclusion.

Every solid dark side strategy emphasizes the flat bets of Don’t Pass and Don’t Come. Their mathematical disadvantage of 1.363636 percent is small enough to make them acceptable on their own. But unlike Odds bets taken on the bright side, Odds bets laid on the dark side are not attractive. They should be used only to accomplish limited objectives. They are mathematically neutral, which would seem to make them relatively attractive among casino games. Their unattractiveness arises from other factors.

The most significant factor is the deep-pocket money advantage of the casinos, which enjoy effectively infinite resources. Even in a perfectly balanced game such as a coin toss, the smaller bankroll always is more vulnerable to eventual ruin than is the larger bankroll. Any unbalanced game in which the player risks more money than does the casino must be regarded as financially dubious, even if that game is mathematically fair. Careful money management requires selecting games with payoffs at least equal to the sums at risk.

Another factor is that of the missing advantages when laying Odds. Everywhere else in the gambling universe, smaller sums are permitted to win larger sums only at the price of mathematical disadvantage. Managers of large sums demand and receive percentage advantages as inducements to accept the risks of large possible losses and only small possible gains. A widespread example is the percentage profits built into policies of insurance. Greater imbalances tend to be associated with greater disadvantages, such as those afflicting sweepstakes and lotteries. In rare exception to this general rule of gambling life, as an inducement to Craps players to choose their casino over others, casino managers neglect to demand advantages on bright side Odds bets. But dark side players need not offer inducements to the casino, which is forever ready to play without them. Why should you risk larger sums in attempts to win smaller sums without receiving percentage advantages? If you do not receive such advantages, and of course you will not, then you should minimize accepting such risks.

A final factor is that of dilution. If it has survived the first roll and been assigned to a point, a dark side flat bet has acquired a percentage advantage. It probably will win, and its mathematical expected value is greater than its apparent value. Combining that advantage bet with a neutral Odds bet merely dilutes the acquired advantage. At higher Odds multiples, that advantage is diluted downwards toward zero. Doing so is counterproductive. In stark contrast, Odds play on the bright side is highly advisable because combining the bets dilutes the disadvantage of the flat bet upwards toward zero. On the bright side, the enhanced disadvantage of the point-assigned flat bet is the unavoidable price paid for the opportunity to make the very attractive and mathematically neutral Odds bet. Bright side flat bets are often effectively mere pretexts for much larger subsequent Odds bets. There is no comparable rationale on the dark side.

Although for my own play I prefer the bright side, in a future post I will present an effective and reasonable strategy for the dark side.


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