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How to play Craps
How to play Craps

How to Play Craps

Contrary to popular belief, playing the casino game of craps is really quite simple. Played with two six-sided dice numbered 1 to 6, the object of the game for the shooter is to place a wager on the pass line, roll a 7 or 11, and win. That’s pretty simple. If the shooter rolls 2, 3, or 12, the pass line loses on the first roll (sometimes called the come-out roll). Any other number rolled (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) becomes the pass line point and must then be repeated to win. Players sometimes get confused about the number 7, because first 7 wins, then it loses. You see, once a pass line point is established, it must be repeated for the pass line wager to win, before the number 7 is rolled. If 7 rolls before the point is made (again), the pass line loses. It’s easier than it sounds!

Gambling at dice and the game of craps has a long history, but the game played in casinos today is markedly different than it was 100 years ago. For one thing, craps is now played on a long table with a felt layout. The table is often 12 or 14 feet long and the sides are two-feet high so the dice don’t fly off the game too often. The top of the sides has a rail with grooves in it to hold chips, and a separate ledge below on the outside of the table so players can place their drinks and ashtrays out of reach of the flying dice. Around the inside of the sides is a honeycomb or egg-carton style padding that forces the thrown dice to bounce back in an unpredictable manner. The shooter is expected to roll and bounce the dice off the farthest side of the table to ensure a fair roll. The shooter gets to continue rolling the dice as long as they roll front-line (pass line) winners. Each time a point is established and then made, there is a new come-out roll to establish a new point. The dice move to the next player in a clockwise fashion when the shooter establishes a point and fails to make it (meaning they shoot 7 before the point).

Players may also bet against the dice, by placing their wager on the “don’t” pass line, where a come-out roll of 2 or 3 wins, 7 or 11 loses, and a 12 is a push. If a point is established, the don’t pass shooter is then trying to roll 7 to win. You don’t actually have to shoot the dice if you don’t want to, and all players on the game who choose to make a pass or don’t pass bet are wagering with/or against the shooter, but all wagers are bet against the house and the inside dealers will handle all chip transactions for cash, and all wins and loses.

The stickman is on the outside of the table, and he will handle the retrieval of the dice after they are thrown, and take and place all bets made on the horn and hard ways. He will also instruct the inside dealers on who to pay when winning wagers on the horn bets (2, 3, 11, 12) are made.

What You Will See

When you walk up to a craps game there may already be a point established, meaning you are joining the game “in progress,” and that’s alright, just don’t place your money on the pass line yet, because the house odds are already against you if there is a point already established. How do you know if there is a point already? There are large square boxes with the numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 on either side of the table, and the point is marked with a round “puck” about the size of a hockey puck. It is likely to be white with the word “On” in the middle of it. If this puck is not on a point, and is placed in the middle of the table (probably with the black side showing the word “Off”), there is no point yet and the shooter is on the come-out roll.

Come-Out Roll for Pass Line Bets

  • 7 or 11 Wins
  • 2, 3 and 12 Loses
  • 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 rolls and become the point
  • Once the Point is Established
  • Rolling the Point Wins
  • Rolling 7 before the Point Loses

Although there are dozens of bets on a craps table, the pass-line is the most popular. The house has a very small edge on this wager, just 1.41%, but don’t feel bad for the casino! Craps odds are much higher for the house on other bets that the stickman will try to interest you in like “second-roll yo” (a bet on 11 after the point is established) and the hard ways. A hard-way wager is a bet on a number such as 8, which wins when the dice total 4-4. If the 8 comes up 2-6 or 3-5, it loses. If the table has a $10 minimum, that’s how much you must bet on the pass-line, or the come-line. However, you can probably bet on eleven or the hard ways for just $1 or $2. You may find those proposition bets are fun, and they don’t have to be expensive if you only bet them occasionally. However, you might want to make sure you have enough money for the best bet in the casino.

The Casino’s Best Bet

Although the craps layout has plenty of places marked to place your wagers like Big 6 and 8, the Field, and all those horn bets, one place that isn’t noted at all offers the only bet in a casino that the house has no edge on – the Odds bet. That’s right, the house will let you make an extra wager once a point is established on the pass, don’t pass, or come line. The standard odds bet is 2x your pass wager. So if you bet $10 in front of you between the edges of the pass line, you can bet an additional $20 in “odds” behind your pass line bet. The pass line wager will always pay even money, or 1 to 1. However, any odds bet will pay the actual odds of the point rolling before 7. Once a point is established, the house has the edge because the 7 is easier to make than any other number.

With two six-sided dice, there are 36 ways for the numbers to come up. The hardest numbers are 2 and 12, and there is just one way to make those numbers (a 1 and a 1, and a 6 and a 6). That means the dice will total 12 just once in 36 rolls on average. If you bet on 12, the house will pay you 31-1, retaining a 11.11% house advantage. However, the point numbers are easier to make because more than one combination of the dice make the total. For instance, rolling a total of 4 can be done three ways: 1 and 3, 3 and 1, 2 and 2. A seven can be rolled six ways, with the dice showing 1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 6-1. The odds of 4 rolling before 7 are three ways to six ways, or simplified to 1 to 2.

If a player makes an odds bet on the point of 4, the house will pay 2 to 1, the true odds of the 4 rolling before 7. With a $10 pass line bet and double odds of $20, the house will pay a winning pass line bet $10 and then $40 on the odds bet (2 to 1 on the $20 wager). The correct odds are also paid on other odds bets:

Pass Line Odds Paid with Double Odds Wagers

  • Point of 4 pays 2 for 1
  • Point of 5 pays 3 for 2
  • Point of 6 pays 6 for 5
  • Point of 8 pays 6 for 5
  • Point of 9 pays 3 for 2
  • Point of 10 pays 2 for 1

If you decide to play the don’t pass line, you can also take odds, but once a point is established you have the edge over the house, so you will be “laying” the odds. Instead of getting 2 to 1 on the point of 4, you would lay 2 chips to win 1. A $10 don’t pass line takes $20 in odds and is paid $10 on the don’t pass and $10 in odds on the $20 wager when 7 rolls before the 4. The correct odds are also paid on other odds bets:

Don’t Pass Odds Paid with Double Odds Wagers

  • Point of 4 pays 1 for 2
  • Point of 5 pays 2 for 3
  • Point of 6 pays 5 for 6
  • Point of 8 pays 5 for 6
  • Point of 9 pays 2 for 3
  • Point of 10 pays 1 for 2

There are many other craps bets, but starting with the pass line and taking odds is your best bet. When you approach a game, choose any spot that seems comfortable. There will be three dealers controlling the game and perhaps a Boxman sitting behind the table. By dropping your cash behind the pass line and asking for change (don’t do this while the dice are in action) the inside dealer will get you chips and you’ll be ready to play. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, the dealers will help you will any bet you want to make.

If it’s your turn to shoot the dice, bet the pass line, and then choose your dice. Don’t grab them all, just take two of the five offered, shake them in one hand, and roll them down the table so they hit the far wall (of the table, not the casino). The inside dealers will mark the point, you can take odds, and when the dice are shoved back to you by the stickman, shoot ‘em again. You’re playing craps now, and it’s really not that hard. As you play you’ll see more bets being made, and you can learn craps odds as you go! Have fun, the dealers and other players on a craps game can be a riot. If the dealers take care of you, take care of them with a tip once in a while! As they often say, “Who’s working for you?”

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