The game of craps is often intimidating for the average casino goer because of its large number of available bets. The outlandish jargon used by players at the craps tables does not make things any easier for novices, but the rules are actually beyond simple.
Despite its seeming difficulty, craps is a fascinating game of chance that lacks no excitement for seasoned and casual gamblers alike. Players are provided with a huge number of wagers to choose from, including an entire category of one-roll Proposition bets. The Horn bet also belongs to this category, giving players the chance to diversify their stay at the craps table and even pocket extra-large payouts.
The trouble is the average person has no proper understanding of how this combination bet works, let alone realize the monstrous disadvantage they are up against when making it. People would frequently confuse it for the C and E bet which covers the same numbers but is different in essence as you shall discover in a moment. This section of our craps guide introduces you to the Horn bet, its odds, house edge, and whether it is a bargain for the craps player or not.
The Horn Bet in Craps Explained
When you walk past the craps table, you will inevitably see players pushing chips toward the stickman, yelling outlandish phrases like “Horn High Yo!”, “Horn High Ace Deuce!”, “Horn High Snake Eyes!”, or “Horn High Boxcars!”. These are, in fact, the nicknames of the four Horn numbers. The 2 is referred to as “snake eyes”, the 12 is known as a “boxcar”, the 3 is called “ace deuce”, and the 11 has been given the nickname “yo(leven)”.
So, the Horn bet covers all three craps numbers (2, 3, and 12) along with the 11. This is a combination bet, which means you need to post four individual wagers on each of the four winning numbers when betting the Horn. Because of this peculiarity of the wager, players are recommended to always bet amounts that are divisible by four.
The Horn bet highlights one very unique aspect about the game of craps. Players often resort to calling the Horn numbers with their alternative nicknames for the purpose of preventing confusion because 7 and 11 are pronounced in quite a similar way.
Difference between Horn Bets and C and E Bets
This wager should not be confused with the Craps and Eleven bet (commonly known as the C and E bet). The latter covers the same numbers (2, 3, 12 and 11) but offers much lower payouts than the Horn bet because there is no need to divide the wager between four distinct winning outcomes. The stickman will divide your C and E bet equally, so that one half of the wager goes toward craps numbers 2 and 12 while the other one goes toward the 11 and the 3.
The C and E bet wins when one of the four numbers is rolled and you lose half of the original stake you have used to back the other pair of numbers. The Horn is different in that you lose three individual wagers even if one of the four winning numbers shows on the next throw.
How to Make a Horn Bet While Complying with Table Etiquette
It is of essential importance to comply with the established table etiquette when making this type of wager. You should keep in mind the Horn is not a self-service bet, meaning that the only person who can place it for you is the stickman at the table.
The chips for Horn bets are placed in the center of the table’s layout and you must request the stickman to make the wager for you. You can do this either by pushing the chips toward the stickman or by informing one of the base dealers you want to bet on the Horn. Some casinos would use separate betting grids for the individual Horn numbers while others may have an extra betting grid that reads “Horn”.
Players are recommended to use amounts that are equally divisible by four, even more so if is it difficult for them to calculate fractions in their head as otherwise, they might get shorted on the payout if they happen to win.
You toss up four $1 chips toward the stickman and say you want to bet “around the Horn”. The stickman will then take your four chips and break the wager into four equal parts so that Horn numbers 2, 3, 12, and 11 are all covered with a $1 chip each. Respectively, the payout you receive depends on which individual number wins. If the shooter rolls a 2 or a 12, the casino will pay out at odds of 30 to 1 or 31 for 1, which is the same thing. The numbers 3 and 11 pay out 15 to 1 or 16 for 1.
Let’s now take a look at an example where the amount you bet on the Horn is not equally divisible by 4. Suppose, you have no dollar chips left and you decide to wager $5 around the Horn on a craps table which has a separate betting box for Horn bets on the layout. In this instance, you perform some calculations in your head and establish you are, in essence, wagering $1.25 on each of the four Horn numbers.
So far, so good, but observe what happens if one of your numbers rolls because calculating your payout with fractions may get a little tricky. Provided that 11 rolls on the next throw of the dice, your payout will be 15 to 1 (or $18.75 in this case) but the other three $1.25 bets on 3, 2, and 12 will lose. The dealer will then have to subtract your losses of $3.75 from $18.85 to pay you out $15 in winnings. The calculations will be the same if your Horn bet had won with a 3 instead of an 11.
However, if you happen to win with craps numbers 2 or 12, the Horn bet will pay out at odds of 30 to 1. Number 12 hits so your winnings from this bet will amount to $37.50. You will again incur losses of $3.75 from the other three individual wagers on 2, 3, and 11.
The dealer will subtract these losses from your $37.50 profits and the result will be $33.75. At some craps tables, the staff does not deal with cents because they do not have such small chip denominations, so instead, your profits will be rounded down to $33. The remainder is retained by the house.
There are two choices for you if you want to prevent this from happening. You can either make wagers in multiples of 4 so that you can easily keep track of your winnings or you can make use of the remainder by making a Horn High bet. Of course, requesting a $1 change on your $5 is also an option, if small chips are available, but sometimes this can be a nuisance for the craps table staff.
Betting the Horn High
Some players shy away from requesting change on their Horn bets while others are too lazy to order their $1 chips into neat stacks and prefer to use $5 chips to save time. The High Horn bet is the perfect option for such players as it enables them to choose which Horn number they want to back with their extra chip.
In such instances, the player announces “High Horn Yo” when they want the extra dollar to sit on the 11, or would say “Give me High Horn Snake Eyes” if they want to back the 2 with the remainder of their Horn wager. So a $5 Horn High Snake Eyes would have $2 wagered on 2 and $1 on each of the remaining Horn numbers (3, 11 and 12). The payouts for Horn High bets coincide with those on regular Horn bets.
Note that you have another option if you insist on making use of the remainder of your Horn bet. You can request “Give me a Horn and a Hard 8”, for example. The stickman would then put $1 on the Hard 8 and distribute the remaining $4 equally among the four Horn numbers, which means you have an extra number you can with. If Hard 8 (4-4) indeed hits, you will collect a payout of 9 to 1. In this case, you get $9 from your Hard 8, lose $4 from the Horn bet and end up with $6 ($5 plus your original $1 wager).
The Whirl Bet
The only reason why we include the Whirl bet here is that it bears a very close semblance to the Horn bet. In essence, the Whirl is nothing more than a Horn bet that also covers the 7. In other words, you make five independent bets on numbers 2, 3, 11, 12, and 7. Respectively, you need five units to make a Whirl bet. Four of these units are wagered on each of the Horn numbers, and the fifth unit is wagered on the 7.
Similarly to Horn bettors, players who want to experiment with Whirl bets are recommended to wager amounts that are multiples of the number 5 since this helps keep things easy. The payouts on winning Whirl bets when 2, 3, 12, or 11 hit are the same as those for the regular Horn bet. If the shooter rolls a 7 on the next throw, your bet results in a push because the 7 pays at odds of 4 to 1 (0 to 1). Both the Horn and the Whirl bets do not offer favorable odds for the player. We explain why in the next section.
Odds, House Edge, and Probability for Horn Bets
Gamblers love to experiment with Horn bets because they are all so interesting to play, ignoring the fact this is absolutely one of the worst wagers a person can make in the game of craps. There are only two possible combinations that result in a roll of craps numbers 2 (1-1) and 12 (6-6) so the probability of any of the two occurring is 2/36 = 5.5%. The 3 and the 11 have a total of four possible combinations, respectively 2-1, 1-2, 6-5, and 5-6, which corresponds to a probability of 4/36 = 11.11%.
Therefore, you have six possible winning combinations out of a total of 36 possible combinations and the probability of your Horn bet winning stands at 16.66%. In contrast, the likelihood of you losing is substantial at 30/36 = 83.83%.
You are probably asking yourself why anyone would make a Horn bet if they stand such a small chance of winning. Well, the main reason is that Horn bets bring lots of excitement to the game. More importantly, they offer significant returns if one of the four winning numbers shows on the table, especially if it is the 2 or the 12 where the casino offers a payout of 30 to 1. Some establishments will list these odds as 27 to 4.
Rolling a 3 or an 11 on the next throw results in a payout of 15 to 1 (or 3 to 1 in some casinos). Keep in mind the amounts the house pays you do not reflect the true odds of winning. The combined true odds for the Horn bet are 5 to 1. Meanwhile, the true odds of rolling 2 or 12 individually are 35 to 1 because there are 35 losing combinations and only one winning combination for each of these values. Respectively, the true odds of winning with 3 or 11 individually are 17 to 1.
Despite the differences in how the payouts are expressed, Horn bettors are facing a very steep house edge. You can calculate your expected return for the Horn bet as long as you know the probabilities of winning and losing and the profits you can generate from a winning bet. However, you should not forget you are making four independent bets, so you will lose three units even if you win. If the roll results in any other number but 2, 3, 12 or 11, you will be four units down.
So the calculations of your expected return with a $4 Horn bet will run in the following manner: ((2/36) x 27 + (4/36) x 12 + (30/36) x (-4) / 4 = (-0.125) x 100 = -12.5%. This means you will be $12.50 down per every $100 you wager on Horn bets in the long run. In other words, you are battling an outrageous house edge of 12.50% when betting “around the Horn”.
Is the Horn Bet a Bargain for Craps Players
It is probably apparent what our stance in relation to betting the Horn is. In itself one of the worst casino bets ever, the Horn combines four of the worst bets you can make in craps, i.e. the individual wagers on values 2, 3, 11, and 12.
However, if you do insist, you can experiment with the Horn bet every once in a while as long as you do not overdo it. The trouble is you most likely will have to spend a little extra on gas and drive to the nearest landbased casino since Horn bets are rarely available in the online variations of the game.
That being said, some software suppliers like Wagerworks and Betsoft have indeed included it on their craps layouts. The good news is you will not have to deal with betting in multiples of four or calculating fractions. You can make this proposition wager with a single click on the section that reads “Horn” and if you happen to win, the software will calculate the exact payout for you. Experiment with the Horn bet at your leisure but do not say we didn’t warn you.