How to Play Craps

A hush came over the table as the dice passed to the new shooter. This dice table was hot, and players were making a score. The new shooter shook the dice and flung them down the table. Unbeknownst to the players, this new shooter was an 82-year-young, great-grandmother, who had never played craps in her life. In fact, up until this moment she had only played the slot machines on her weekly jaunts to the casinos.


“Granny,” as I affectionately called her, is the oldest student who ever attended one of my classes on craps. And I’ll be candid – I had my doubts when she asked me to teach her how to play. But she fooled me and became a model student.


Most casino players shy away from craps because it has the reputation of being an intimidating game. But, as Granny found out, it really isn’t. In fact, craps is not only a fun and exciting game, it also offers smart players some of the best odds in the house.


Let me show you what I taught her.


The basic bet that you will be making is on the pass line. The area for making the pass line wager runs all around the table so no matter where you stand, you’ll be able to lean over and place your chip on the pass line.


When you arrive at a crap table, take a gander at the signage that indicates what the betting limits are for the table. If you are a $5 bettor, be sure the minimum betting requirement on the table is $5. Now wait for a pause in the action, place your cash on the layout in front of you, and tell the dealer you want “chips please.” The dealer will convert the cash into an equivalent amount of casino chips and then place them on the layout in front of you. Again, wait for a pause in the action, then bend down, pick up your chips, and place them in the chip rails in front of you.


We are almost ready to make our first bet, but first, a few tips on craps etiquette. Don’t dangle your hands over the table especially when a player is throwing the dice (keep them up so there is no chance that the dice will hit your hands when they are thrown). Never speak to, or touch, a player who is having a good roll. Never mention the number 7 when someone is rolling. And if you decide to roll the dice, hold them in only one hand, above the table, and toss them with enough force so that they hit the back wall. OK, now we are ready to make our first bet.


Everyone who is betting at the table will have an opportunity to roll the dice. The dice stay with the same shooter until he or she sevens-out (I’ll explain what that means in a moment) and then they pass clockwise to the next player to shoot. If you don’t want to roll the dice, no problem, just shake your head no and the dealer will give the dice to the player on your left to roll.


Let’s suppose that the dice have passed to a new shooter. Prior to the new shooter’s rolling the dice, place your chip on the pass line directly in front of you. The very next roll by the new shooter is known as the come-out roll, the phase 1 of craps. And in this phase, pass-line bettors win if the numbers 7 or 11 (known as naturals) are rolled and lose instead if the numbers 2, 3, or 12 are rolled (so-called craps numbers). Simple enough?


Suppose, however, that the shooter doesn’t throw one of the above numbers. This could happen because if you pick up a pair of dice and throw them, you can roll any number from 2 through 12. Let’s suppose, for teaching purposes, that the shooter throws a 6. You haven’t won or lost your pass-line bet, because neither a natural or craps number was rolled. But here’s what happens next.


First the dealer will mark the 6 by placing what looks like a hockey puck on the 6 point box at the top of the layout (see Figure 1). In craps parlance, the number 6 has become the shooter’s point, and the rules for winning your pass line bet change (this starts phase 2 of craps). Stay with me because it isn’t as hard as it first seems.


During this phase of the game, the shooter must continue to roll the dice (these rolls are known as point rolls) until one of the following happens:


1. If the shooter rolls the point number 6 again BEFORE rolling the 7, all bets on the pass line win and are paid at 1 to 1 payoff odds (e.g., bet $5 and win $5).

2. If instead the shooter rolls a 7 BEFORE rolling the point number, then pass- line bettors lose their bet.


Notice that on the point rolls, the only numbers that lead to a decision are the 7 and the 6 (the number thrown on the come-out roll). Any other number that the shooter happens to throw, including the 11, 2, 3 or 12, does not affect a decision on the pass line. The 7 is a big winner for pass-line bettors on the initial come-out roll, but it results in a loss on a point roll. When a player throws a 7 on a point roll, this is known as “sevening out” and the player relinquishes the dice to the next shooter.


Once the shooter throws a point number on the come-out roll, you should now make a secondary bet known as the odds bet. There is no designation on the layout for the odds bet but, you make the bet by placing an equivalent amount of chips equal to what you’ve wagered on the pass line directly behind your pass-line bet (see B in Figure 1).


Here’s the deal on the odds bet. If the shooter makes his or her point, both your pass-line and odds bet win. The payoff on the pass-line bet is even money, but on the odds bet you always get paid more than even money. In fact, you get paid at the true odds of making the point number before making a seven, which means the casino’s edge on the odds bet is zero, making it one of the smartest bets you can make in a casino.


Here are the payoff odds for the odds bet.


Point Number

Payoff Odds

4 and 10

2 to 1

5 and 9

3 to 2

6 and 8

6 to 5



The above simply means that if the shooter makes, say, the 4 point number, your odds bet would be paid at 2-1. So if you had $5 on the pass line with $5 in odds, in the above example, the dealer would pay you $5 for the winning pass-line wager and another $10 for the winning odds wager. Of course if the shooter sevened out, both your pass-line and odds bet would lose.


Casinos often-times allow players to wager more on the odds bet than the amount wagered on the pass line. If a casino allows “double odds” this means that if you bet $5 on the pass line, you can wager as much as $10 in odds. Some casinos allow triple odds, some up to 10- or 20-times odds, and a few up to 100-times odds. The point to remember is the more odds you take in relation to the size of your pass line wager, the lower is the house edge on the combined pass-line and odds wagers (see table below) but, of course, you risk more money when you make the secondary odds bet.


Odds

House Edge

None

1.41%

1x

0.85%

2x

0.61%

3x

0.47%

5x

0.33%

10x

0.18%

100x

0.02%


It’s important to bet in the proper incremental amount of money when you make the odds bet. In a nutshell, always bet in increments of $5 when you make the odds bet on point 6 and 8 and an even amount on the 5 and 9. You can wager whatever you like on the 4 and 10 with no problem. If you forget all this, don’t panic, because the dealers are there to help you.


Granny stuck to just making the pass-line and odds bet, hit a good streak, won some money, and had a whole lot of fun. As a beginner, if you bet on the pass line with odds, just like Granny did, you will be making one of the best bets in the casino. But there is more to craps than just the pass line and odds, and summarized below is an explanation of all the other bets available on the layout.


Summary

My recommendation is to make bets in craps only if the house edge is 1.5% or less (this includes bets on the pass/don’t pass/come/don’t come with odds and the place bet on 6 and 8). Start playing by making a minimum bet on the pass line and then wager single odds. If you win, then you might consider bumping up your odds bet to the next higher multiple (e.g., double odds) but always keep your pass-line bet at the minimum. Depending on your risk tolerance you can keep bumping up your odds bet (or stay with the same bet size) after you win a few bets. Just don’t increase your pass-line wager (you can read more details on how to increase the odds bet in my book, Craps: Take The Money & Run). Don’t be embarrassed to let the dealers know that you are a beginner because they will help you (a tip for them would be warranted). After you get some playing experience and want to take your game to the next level, consider learning about dice control (the book, Golden Touch Dice Control Revolution!, by Frank Scoblete and Dominator, offers a good explanation of what it is and how it works).


Summary of Bets


Pass Line: On the come-out roll, bet wins if a 7 or 11 is thrown and loses if 2, 3 or 12 is rolled. On point rolls, the bet wins if the shooter repeats the point number before throwing a 7 and losses if a 7 is thrown before the point number. Winning pass-line bets get paid at even money. House edge: 1.41%.


Pass-Line Odds Bet: A secondary wager that can made along with a Pass-Line wager once a point number is established. The odds bet win if the point number repeats before a 7 and losses if the 7 is rolled before the point number. Payoff is: 2-1 (points 4 and 10); 3-2 (6/9); and 6-5 (6/8). House edge on the odds bet is zero.


Don’t pass line: Opposite of the pass line. You win on the come-out roll if 2 or 3 is rolled (a 12 is a tie). You lose if 7 or 11 is rolled on the come-out roll. Once a point is established, you win the don’t-pass bet if a 7 is rolled before the point number and lose if the point number is rolled before a 7. Pays even money. House edge: 1.36%. You can lay the odds on a don’t-pass line bet which will lower the house edge (laying the odds is the opposite of taking the odds). The more odds you lay, the lower the house edge on the total wager.


Come Bet: Come bets work the same as a pass-line bet except you make the come bet on point rolls. House edge: 1.41%. Once a come point number is established you can make an odds bet to lower the house edge (similar to the pass line).


Place Bets: Wager on one of the point numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10). Bet wins if the point number repeats before a 7 is rolled and loses if a 7 appears before point number is rolled. Payoff and house edge: 6/8, 7-6, 1.5%; 5/9, 7-5, 4.0%; 4/10, 9-5, 6.7%.


Buy Bets: Same as the Place bets except you pay a 5% commission to the casino at the time you make the bet and get paid at true odds when the bet wins. House edge is 4.8% but it can be lowered by making buy bets in casinos where they only collect the commission if the buy bet wins.


Lay Bets: Opposite of the Buy Bet. You are betting that a specific point number will not be rolled before a 7 appears. The player is paid at the true odds but must pay a 5% commission based on the potential winnings (paid at the time the bet is made). You have the edge with a Lay Bet so you must bet more to win less (e.g., you bet $40 plus $1 commission on Lay 4 and if the bet wins, you get paid $20). House edge is 4.0% (6/8); 3.2% (5/9); and 2.4% (4/10).


Big 6 and 8: Player wins if the 6 or 8 is rolled before a 7. Payoff is even money. If you want to bet the 6 or 8, you should make a Place bet on these numbers where you get paid at 7-6. House edge on Big 6/8 is 9.1%.


Field Bet: This is a one-roll bet. You win if one of the Field numbers is rolled (2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12) and lose if a 5, 6, 7, or 8 is rolled. Payoff is even money, except 2-1 if 2 or 12 is rolled. House edge is 5.6%. Some casinos pay 3-1 for a 12. House edge is reduced to 2.8%.


Hardway Bets: There are four hardway numbers in the center of the layout: 4, 6, 8, and 10. You win if the hardway number appears in pairs (e.g., 2-2 if you bet on the Hard 4) and lose if the number appears in any other combination (e.g., 3-1) or if a 7 is rolled. Payoff and house edge respectively are: Hard 4/10, 7-1, 11.1%; Hard 6/8, 10-1, 9.1%.


One-Roll Bets: You can make several one-roll bets in the center of the layout. They include betting that a seven will be rolled (pays 4-1, 16.7% house edge); Any Craps (7-1, 11.1%); and individually the 2 or 12 (30-1, 13.9%), 3 or 11 (15-1, 11.1%).


C-E Bet : You must 4 units to wager the C-E, which is a one roll bet that the 2, 3, 11, or 12 will be thrown on the next toss. If one number hits, you lose three units and are paid at the prevailing payoff odds for the winning number. The house edge is >12%.


Three-Way Craps: One-roll wager that covers the three craps numbers (2, 3 and 12). You must wager in units of 3. If 2 or 12 appears, you lose two units and get paid 30-1 on the remaining one-unit. If the 3 hits, you lose two units and get paid 15-1 on the remaining unit. House edge is 12.9%.


Horn Bet: This involves betting on the 2, 3, 11, and 12 at same time. You must wager in increments of four. If one number wins the other three lose, and the winning number is paid at the odds payoff for that number. Overall house edge is 12.5%. Horn High is a similar bet except you wager five units and designate which number you are betting two units on.


World Bet: Same as the Horn Bet except you are wagering a fifth unit on the 7. House edge is 13.3%.


Hop Bet: One-roll bet on a particular combination of the dice. For example a player can call, “Forty-five hopping” and the bet wins if a 9 appears as a 4-5 or 5-4. House edge is >10%.


Put Bet: Essentially this is a pass-line bet that’s made after the point has been established. You can put odds on a Put Bet. You need to make a 4-6 times odds on a Put Bet for it to be better than the best Place or Buy bet for a box number.