What are the odds? Craps vs. Blackjack
September 23, 2004 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Which game has better odds: Craps or Blackjack and why?
posted by srboisvert to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (15 answers total)
Blackjack. Namely beacuse:

1) After X number of games, you could conceivably count or mark the cards, though either option is risky.

2) In some cases, you can lower the house/dealer's odds with a good hand, though it's roughly
a 1% difference. The monent the dice leave your hand, the odds in your favor outside of pure chance are astronomically higher.
posted by Smart Dalek at 1:18 PM on September 23, 2004

It depends on how you play. Craps offers the best "approved" odds in the house if you play the most player favorable bets. That is to say, if you stick to the best bets and play over a period of time without engaging in anything the casino forbids, you will lose the least amount of money playing craps. Blackjack generally offers worse odds than the best bets in craps, but if you count cards then you can raise those odds to even or even a slight house disadvantage.

Counting cards, though legal, is for obvious reasons forwned upon, and if the casino even suspects that you are doing it (the telltale sign is drastically raising and lowering your bets as deck conditions change - most casual blackjack players play pretty similar bets from hand to hand) they will kick you out. It is also very difficult to learn and perform, and most people who try to count cards simply end up worsening their odds. So the moral to the story is if you are just looking for the game that will hurt you the least on your next trip to Vegas, play craps and stick to the line bets. The odds in blackjack aren't significantly worse, however, so both games are a good option.
posted by ChasFile at 1:28 PM on September 23, 2004

From watching too many Vegas specials on The Travel Channel, they always claim that blackjack has the lowest house returns. However, this could very well be due to what Smart Dalek refers to with safe vs. unsafe craps betting. Also, never bet insurance when the dealer shows an ace. The house will always win in the end with it.
posted by jmd82 at 1:58 PM on September 23, 2004

Craps is the clear winner here if you play it right. Here is why: With blackjack you are playing against the house and against odds. The dealer has certain rules which they must follow and there are certain number of cards in the deck, etc.

With craps you have a similar theory (There are certain rules, probability, so forth.) the big difference is that in Craps you can bet against the thrower . What this means is that there is an added element of human fallibility in Craps. Simple example: the Craps thrower is on a streak, at a certain point you can see he/she is getting carried away by the emotion of playing. You can then place a bet that the thrower will lose the next toss. In other words a little bit of player psychology and you can end run around most of the odds.

It's not a sure thing but the odds are better.
posted by jeremias at 2:16 PM on September 23, 2004

jeremias, could you clarify? It seems to me that what you're describing is the equivalent of "It's come up red 8 times in a row, therefore it's due to come up black" in roulette.
posted by mbd1mbd1 at 2:30 PM on September 23, 2004

I have to agree with mbd1mbd1 here... jeremias: just becuase the thrower is "getting carried away by the emotion of playing" has nothing to do with what he'll throw next. Betting against him at that point won't increase or decrease your payout overall.

That being said, I think craps does have better odds than blackjack, assuming that you're not counting cards correctly in blackjack (as has been said here already). In addition, I've always just found craps to be much more fun than blackjack, and I think its because everyone in craps is betting on the same thing (assuming everyone bets the pass line, which almost everyone does). In blackjack all anyone cares about it their own personal battle with the dealer. I've also never had anyone at a craps table bitch at me for taking a card that should have been theirs. The energy at a craps table just feels better, I guess.
posted by Inkoate at 2:39 PM on September 23, 2004

in Craps you can bet against the thrower

The only way this helps you is if you think the shooter can control what he's rolling, or if you believe that luck comes in streaks. I hope we're all sophisticated enough to agree that each roll of the dice is probabilistically independent, but I wouldn't bet against some experienced, skillful shooters being able to roll certain numbers consistently. A lot of people who seem to be "lucky" always stand at the same position on the table, always set the dice the same way, always pick them up with the same grip, and always throw them the same way. Obviously, you're not always going to roll the same thing, but if you reduce the input variability significantly, you probably have a good chance at reducing the outcome's variability somewhat.
As others have said, the line bets in craps favor the house by the smallest inherent amount (the "vig.") In fact, when you bet odds, you get exactly the return you'd expect from the raw probabilities.
Betting against the thrower ("don't pass") doesn't actually put you in the position of having the edge, though, because you don't win if the shooter comes out snake eyes or boxcars (you'll see either "Bar 2" or "Bar 12" on the felt). If you won on any craps by betting "Don't Pass," you'd have a slight statistical edge.
posted by spacewrench at 2:44 PM on September 23, 2004

> Also, never bet insurance when the dealer shows an ace. The house will always win in the end with it.

Unless you have a blackjack, in which case you should take the insurance, sometimes called "taking even money" if the dealer has a black jack, the insurance pays off and (net) you win what you wagered. If the dealer doesn't have blackjack you loose your insurance, but your blackjack pays off at the higher rate, and you (net, again) win what you wagered.
posted by Capn at 2:54 PM on September 23, 2004

I agree that playing the right bets in craps (for example, the pass line with full odds) is slightly more advantageous than playing perfect basic strategy at your average blackjack table.

One thing to think about as well is the variance of each game. To take full advantage of the craps odds at, say, a 10x table with a $5 minimum you'd have to put down $55 dollars. Obviously you can win quite a bit with this amount on the table, or you could lose quite a bit. Compare that to a $5 blackjack table (assuming you play only $5 each hand), where only very rarely will you have more than $20 at a time at risk. The odds are worse, but you will lose (and win) slower.

That's why I usually spend most of my table gambling time playing blackjack, but consider craps to be much more fun.
posted by jess at 4:02 PM on September 23, 2004

Bringing Down the House (not affiliated with the Steve Martin/Queen Latifah film of the same name) is a very interesting and suspenseful book about how a group of MIT students won millions of dollars in Vegas by counting cards in blackjack. (Wired published an adaptation in September 2002.)

A few years a buddy of mine and I went to Vegas after he'd "perfected" winning 44 inside ($44 on 5, 6, 8, and 9, I think) against his computer. My total gambling budget for the weekend was $100, and I lost 44 inside on the first two throws.

And I think we can all agree that Don't Come is an awful thing to bet on.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:39 PM on September 23, 2004

When counting, you have to have a large enough bankroll to get you through the inevitable bad stints that will happen. Most dealers will shuffle when the deck is half-way finished. With 7 decks, your advantage is seriously small.

I always preferred craps to blackjack for odds, just because craps is one of the only games where you are in control of the gameplay. There are some casinos that won't even let you touch the cards at a blackjack table. The dealers have dealt so much that their movements are robotic, and it is truly uninspiring to play such a game. With craps, you hold your fate in your own hands.

I always liked that idea.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:32 PM on September 23, 2004

A great website for all your gambling odds and strategy needs is The Wizard Of Odds. Blackjack here, craps here. There's no short answer to your question since, as mentioned above, it depends on the house rules for the game you're playing (e.g., split & surrender rules for BJ, odds limits for craps) along with any 'underhanded' odds shifting (card counting for BJ) you can perform successfully.
posted by Mrmuhnrmuh at 6:32 PM on September 23, 2004

Er, no Capn

Unless you have a blackjack, in which case you should take the insurance, sometimes called "taking even money" if the dealer has a black jack, the insurance pays off and (net) you win what you wagered.


Let me say that again, never.

(Unless you have a true count of +3 or more if you're card counting.)

It's simple mathematics. The dealer's chance of getting a 10-card on top of that Ace is 4/13 which is about 30.77%.

You on the other hand, will get 50% more for your bet with your blackjack. And 69.23% of the time, you will make more money.

Do it on an Excel spreadsheet and you will know I make sense.

Play with maths, not emotion. ;)

(former card-counter)
posted by madman at 11:31 PM on September 23, 2004

Bacarat has the best odds of all. Thats why so many high rollers play it.
posted by Dome-O-Rama at 4:56 AM on September 24, 2004

Is this an academic question, or are you about to hit the casino and want to know how to lose less money?

If it's the latter, we're splitting hairs on this, aren't we? I don't know the math, but I can't imagine that your odds in craps vs. blackjack, assuming you know how not to make obviously bad bets, are far enough apart to affect your level of play.

Go and play what you enjoy more. Me, I like the group dynamic of craps more than blackjack.
posted by mkultra at 7:49 AM on September 24, 2004

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