Discount Gambling

Card Craps @ Viejas Is The Best Ever

Posted in card craps by stephenhow on October 29, 2010

I’ve been playing more and more card craps @ Viejas, because I’ve found a more socially acceptable and enjoyable way to take advantage of the Don’t Pass bias of the game. Counting is very easy now, since I only need to remember a few things about the last 3 rolls. Ideally, playing 10x odds with the strategy below yields about +1% player advantage of the flat bet (+EV). And whenever you’re laying/taking odds, you have a relatively large advantage on your odds.

Here’s what I do. I start out with a $5 bet on both the Pass Line and the Don’t Pass Line for every hand. Then I either take or lay odds depending on the count for the point. Yes, I know this will cost me more house edge, but there’s a few good reasons to make this additional bet. First, people always look at the “Don’t player” with a little bit of animosity, and being “against” the table takes a lot of fun out of the game. Secondly, you can easily account for how much “house edge” you’ve paid to play, by adding up all the times boxcars hit on the come out roll. Also, the occasional time you lose $5 to boxcars is a lot less aggravating than losing 4 or 5 DP bets in a row to 7-11. But most importantly, if the count gets good during the roll (esp. for the 5/9, and 6/8), you can take pass line odds and cheer with the table for the point. And, when you’re right, you get some extra non-monetary satisfaction.

3-Roll Window Strategy

I’ll review the simple counting strategy for a 3-roll window. You get very little improvement for increasing the window to 4, 5, or 6 rolls, so it’s not worth the considerable effort to try to remember anything more than a few features of the last 3 rolls.

Point Key Cards When To Lay Roll Count Values
4 ⚀, ⚁, ⚂ When more “low” rolls than “high” rolls in last 3 rolls.
A low roll has two key cards.
A high roll has no key cards.
A mixed roll is neutral.
+4, 0, -4
5 ⚄, ⚅ Less than 2 key cards in last 3 rolls. +2, -1, -4
6 Less than 2 key cards in last 3 rolls. +1, -2, -5
8 Less than 2 key cards in last 3 rolls. +1, -2, -5
9 ⚀, ⚁ Less than 2 key cards in last 3 rolls. +2, -1, -4
10 ⚃, ⚄, ⚅ When more “high” rolls than “low” rolls in last 3 rolls.
A high roll has two key cards.
A low roll has no key cards.
A mixed roll is neutral.
+4, 0, -4

The counts for pass and don’t pass on a given point are multiplicative inverses of each other (i.e., times -1). So while `Yo is +4 for the pass line odds on the 6-point, it is -4 against the don’t pass odds for the 6-point, etc.

When the conditions aren’t good to lay odds, then they’re automatically good to take pass line odds. This is how you play. Start off with both a minimum pass line and don’t pass flat bet. As soon as the point is established, think back about the previous 3 rolls. Lay odds if the conditions are met for the point as described in the above table. Otherwise, it’s good to take odds on the pass line bet. So you’re constantly monitoring the key cards for your point, and adjusting your odds bet accordingly.

Odds Advantage Depends On Count

You can read more about the fair-weighted count values for each roll on my main page on card craps. While the above table works fine for knowing when to lay and when to take odds on a point, knowing the details of the count will tell you how good your odds are. The following graph shows the advantage you obtain on your odds (pass and dont) for a given 3-roll windowed count. (When the count is positive, lay odds; when the count is negative, take odds. You always have an advantage on your odds.)

Don't Pass EV

Don't Pass Advantage for 3 Roll Window

The tables below lists the possible count values and advantage for the points shown in the above graph.

Advantage for 4/10 Point Odds
Count Don’t Pass Odds Advantage Pass Line Odds Advantage
-12 +2.2%
-8 +1.3%
-4 +0.43%
+0 +0.41%
+4 +1.3%
+8 +2.2%
+12 +3.1%
Advantage for 5/9 Point Odds
Count Don’t Pass Odds Advantage Pass Line Odds Advantage
-12 +2.4%
-9 +1.8%
-6 +1.2%
-3 +0.59%
+0 +0.0%
+3 +0.59%
+6 +1.2%
Advantage for 6/8 Point Odds
Count Don’t Pass Odds Advantage Pass Line Odds Advantage
-10 +1.5%
-8 +1.1%
-7 +1.1%
-6 +0.66%
-5 +0.65%
-3 +0.21%
-2 +0.22%
+0 +0.20%
+3 +0.65%

In the above tables and graphs, “odds advantage” means that on average return of your odds bet for a given count, excluding no result rolls. For example, if the count is +12 against a 10 point (the last three rolls were high), then your advantage of 7-out is 3.1% of your total lay bet, compared to hitting another 10. Of course, your actual return is lower, because no result is likely in the next roll. But, you’re (2)(+3.1%) = 6.2% more likely to hit a seven vs. a 10 for a +12 count than for a neutral count.

So overall, you’ll have about a +1% player edge on your flat bet. This, of course, is very little to get excited about on its own. However, you can see that you’ll have a relatively large “advantage” for your odds bet on most rolls. So, when the count is really good, it’s really fun to lay 10x odds, or take 10x odds. For example, say the count is -8 on a 6. It’s a good time to take 10x odds on your pass line bet for the 6. Your chances of hitting the 6, weighted by the 6:5 payout, is 1.1% better than your chances of 7-out. Of course, most likely, the next roll will not be a 6 or a 7, and the count will change. But when you take or lay your odds, you have the edge.

Watching Rolls

After a little practice, it gets easy to count in a 3-roll window. A little discussion with examples will help you get the idea on how to count at the table.

When watching the come out roll, keep in mind the previous roll. Say the come out is (5,2) = 7 pass line winner. You push. Say the next roll is (5,3) = point 8. If you don’t remember snake eyes two rolls ago, then lay some odds against the 8. Now, watch the rolls, and pay attention to the Aces. One ace in the 3 roll window is okay. However, if you see two Aces in the last three rolls, move to the pass line odds. So you’re just paying attention to the aces, and where they are in the window. Aces in consecutive rolls means you’re going to bet pass line odds. If the next roll doesn’t have an Ace, it’s still good for the pass line for one roll. However, you need an Ace to remain on the pass line, otherwise switch and lay odds against. The 6 point is similar to the 8 point, except the six-spot is the key card.

The 4 and 10 points are the easiest to play. It’s really easy to see “high” and “low” rolls. Low rolls are when both dice have 3 or less spots. High rolls are when both dice have 4 or more spots. Mixed rolls are neutral. When a point comes out as 4 or 10, it’s likely that the count is good to lay against. If a 3 neutral rolls go by, then the windowed count is neutral, and still favor laying against the point by +0.4%. However, as soon as the count goes from neutral to negative (e.g., Ace-Deuce vs. 10 point), then take odds on the pass line.

The 5 and 9 points are fun to play, because they’re “fair” and not biased. Of course, the roll establishing the point is +2 against itself, so it’s likely you’ll start out laying against the point. However, the count swings + and – very quickly, and any time there are 2 or more key cards in the window, take odds on the pass line. For example, say the come out roll is (6,5) `Yo. The next roll is (2,3). You should definitely take odds on the pass line, because the count is at least +2, depending on what the roll before the `Yo was. Now, watch the next roll. No matter what, the count will still be at least +2, because of the +4 `Yo, so you always place odds for at least two rolls after a +4 roll.


The game is really fun for counting. It makes the game a lot more fun than watching completely random dice, and relying on pure luck. Card craps has a reasonable component of skill, because odds change significantly with every roll.

Of course, this kind of thing might not be what the typical craps player is looking for. I’ve found that almost everyone tries to play “regular craps” at the card craps table. This can be a problem, because blind pass line odds in this game gives the house a huge house advantage. (Taking 10x odds in a dice craps game makes your overall odds better, because it reduces the proportion of the house edge by the odds factor. However, in card craps, there’s an inherent don’t pass bias, where blind 10x don’t pass odds yields a +1.8% players advantage, but blind 10x pass line odds gives the house a 4% edge vs. the nominal 1.4% pass line cost.)

8 Responses

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  1. vgMega said, on November 2, 2010 at 8:47 am

    I really need to memorize the 3 roll setup!

  2. Alan said, on November 2, 2010 at 10:41 am

    If you only play the pass line with odds according to the count, can you achieve a positive EV also?

    • stephenhow said, on November 2, 2010 at 11:29 am

      The count isn’t enough of an advantage to overcome the basic -1.4% house edge on the flat pass line bet. Taking 10x odds with a good count reduces the overall edge to about -0.45%. This is better than dice craps, where taking odds doesn’t change the EV (it does reduce the overall house edge relative to your bet size). So, I’d say its worth playing the pass line, if that’s how you prefer to play. The count makes it a better game than regular dice craps. You’re “beating the house” in the sense that counting gives you an advantage, and you’re only taking odds when it’s in your favor. When I play both lines, I very often that I take 5/9 odds, fairly often take 6/8 odds, and seldom take 4/10 odds. But strictly speaking, you can only get +EV playing the dont’s with at least 5x odds. I don’t mind giving up some flat bet EV to the house, and enjoy moving my odds around per roll.

  3. John said, on December 3, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Hi Stephen – thanks for all your work on this site. Nice meeting you @ the MS stud game.

    I’ve never been to Viejas but have played a little bit @ Pala. Can you tell me if you think Pala cards can be counted as you explained above based on the below summary of how the cards are used @ Pala?

    There are 36 cards in the deck representing the 36 possible combinations with two standard dice.
    Two cards from the deck are placed facedown on the Red and Blue boxes on the table layout. The shooter rolls two special cubes, one red and one blue. The cube with the highest number determines which of the two cards the dealer will turn over as the Play card. The rules and payoffs on Pala Craps are precisely the same as found on standard Las Vegas-style Craps, with the addition of the SUPER PROP BET.

    The couple times I’ve played @ Pala I played the pass line and got “killed” Point was only made like 2 or 3 times out of 20. It was totally crazy. Each roll they pull TWO cards from the deck but sometimes only turn over ONE of the cards. Sometimes they turn over both of the cards depending on if somebody placed a bet on one of the SUPER PROP BETS. If they did I guess I’d know two card numbers per roll not just one. Wouldn’t that increase my odds some compared to Viejas?

    FYI: a single card can have a value of 1 to 12. Each card has one side w/ a value of 1 to 6 and the other side of the card has a value of 1 to 6.

    My goal is to simply get some free entertainment a couple times a month w/ maybe some comps. If I simply play don’t pass all the time w/out counted did you say I’d still have a +E.V.


    • stephenhow said, on December 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      Hi John,

      Nice meeting you at Barona, it makes my day when I meet people at the casino who understand math.

      I’ve seen the craps at Pala. Supposedly, that shuffler mixes up the 36 cards per deck, and spits one out per roll. I assume the shuffler is a deck shuffler like the ones used at carnival games (3 Card Poker, Ultimate Texas Hold’Em, etc.), so there’s no countable effect as with card craps using a 6-deck continuous shuffler with a buffer of cards in the chute. However, I have some doubts about how random that shuffler is. Does the dealer riffle the deck before putting it in the shuffler? Do you think the machine takes enough time to shuffle the cards properly?

      The next time you’re at Pala, take a closer look at the shuffler, and see if its a model that’s used in the table games. If it is, then the rolls are probably independent, just like dice. But if you think the shuffling is insufficient, then maybe there’s a way to exploit it. If you can come up with a conceptual model for how the shuffler works, then we can put it in a simulator, and see if there’s any way to take advantage of it.

      After I left you at Barona, I went to Viejas, and counted the Dragon at mini-Bac. I hit one for $200 on the next to last hand of the shoe!


  4. Grumpy said, on June 10, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Steven I used your strategy at Viejas, just at $5. After about 100 hands, I was up $40, had to put up with angry comments,but who cares. Thank you

  5. Josh said, on January 19, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    Can you please put up a screenshot of the strategy table? (my computer wont display the keycards)

  6. vgMega said, on January 26, 2013 at 3:20 am

    Hey stephen it was great seeing you! Sorry I couldnt really talk but ill be there tomorrow at 8. Hope to see you soon!

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