Are "side bets" at the craps table a good way to build or bust your bankroll?

The side bet you’ll find in many casinos today is Bonus Craps. You may be familiar with this bet as the "All-Small-Tall" bet in the center of the craps table.

Marc Meltzer
Nov 12, 2017 • 07:56 ET

Craps quickly became my favorite game when I first started gambling legally in a casino. Not only is this game the most fun in the casino but it has some of the best odds. The small house edge of 1.41% and free odds on the passline and Come bets are great.

Being able to keep my bankroll active allows for more fun times at the loud and raucous craps table. Occasionally, the craps sessions have been both fun and profitable. That’s casino magic! I don't need any proposition bets or side bets to make the game fun - that way of thinking probably makes me old.

Many casino operators have changed the rules to increase the house edge in some of the games in a casino. That’s one reason that I’ve switched a lot of my table game play to Pai Gow Poker - but that's another story. Even though betting has changed at the craps table the same great bets are available. I can still play the passline and a couple of Come bets with a small house edge.

Craps Side Bets

Side bets give action junkies a potential big jackpot payout. Some people need the extra action to make the games more fun. Like most side bets, the newer craps bets often come with a hefty house edge so if you want that chance for the big win, you’re going to have to pay for it.

I might throw a white ($1) or red ($5) chip on a hardway every now and again but that’s about it for extra sauce when I'm playing craps. The old guy inside has noticed that the side bets seem to be attractive to younger players. These options are becoming so popular with craps that they're beginning to fly in and out of the casino.

The Fire Bet was the first popular craps side bet. This popular bet has been in casinos for about eight years and is now almost gone. The payout can be huge but the probability of a win is long. Here are the payouts:

Roll 4 different points pays 25 for 1
Roll 5 different points pays 250 for 1
Roll 6 different points pays 1,000 for 1

There is no point rolled about 59% of the time so the probability for each bet is long.

Roll 4 Numbers - 0.88% of the time (1 in 113 rolls)
Roll 5 Numbers - 0.16% of the time (1 in 610 rolls)
Roll 6 Numbers - 0.0162% of the time (1 in 6,156 rolls)

Even though the odds are long, people love placing a $5 bet to win $5,000. This bet was popular but it’s on the way out of casinos. You’ll still find the Fire Bet at The Cromwell and a few other Caesars Entertainment properties. I don't think I've ever seen anyone win a Fire Bet.

The side bet you’ll find in many casinos today is Bonus Craps. You may be familiar with this bet as the "All-Small-Tall" bet in the center of the craps table. Like the Fire Bet, this is a simple side bet.

All “Small” numbers (2, 3, 4, 5, and 6) must be rolled before a 7.
All “Tall” numbers (8, 9, 10, 11, and 12) must be rolled before a 7.
All “Make’em All” numbers (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12) must be rolled before any 7.

The payouts aren't bad but they're much less than the Fire Bet - which is probably why casinos are using this bet instead.

All “Small” pays 34 - 1
All “Tall” pays 34 - 1
All “Make’em All” pays 175 - 1

The house edge is 7.76% for Small and Tall bets and 7.47% for the Make ‘em All bet with the paytable above. Some casinos offer lower payouts and with that have a house edge of 18.30% and 20.61%, respectively. Not cool.

While the All/Small/Tall bet is popular with casinos, it doesn’t seem to have a stranglehold on craps side bets that the Fire Bet used to have. We’re already seeing new side bets popping up in Las Vegas.

Side bets are a trend that won't stop with craps. It the not too distant future I think we'll see side bets all around the betting circle for blackjack. Personally, I don't mind side bets. Let people take their shot at glory, just don't mess with the odds and rules of games I like.

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