How to Play Craps

Learning how to play craps scares some people, probably because of the large number of bets available.

This list of 7 tips on the basics of craps begins with the understanding that the pass line bet is the centerpiece of the game. Every other bet is just icing on the cake — and, in some cases — it isn’t even good icing.

Why should you learn how to play craps?

Because craps is one of the best bets in the casino. (It’s definitely better than those red screen slot machines that are so popular in Oklahoma.)

1- Start with the Pass Line Bet

Learning how to play craps begins with learning how to place a bet on the pass line. This is called “the pass line” bet, or just a “pass” bet.

To place a bet on the pass line, you just put the amount you want to risk on the section of the craps table layout labeled “pass line.” (It should be easy to find.)

The game of craps is played in rounds. A round starts with a shooter making a “come-out roll.” That’s just the first roll of the dice in a round.

If the shooter rolls a 7 or an 11 total on the come-out roll, a bet on the pass line pays off at even money. (If you bet $5, you win $5.)

If the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, a bet on the pass line loses.

If the shooter rolls any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10), that number is now “the point.”

When a point has been set, the shooter keeps rolling the dice until rolling a 7 or rolling the point number again.

If the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling the point again, the pass line loses.

If the shooter rolls the point before rolling a 7, the pass line bet wins even money.

If the pass line bet is a winner, the shooter gets to keep rolling the dice on the next come-out roll.

If the pass line bet is a loser, the next player at the table becomes the new shooter. Who shoots rotates around the table clockwise, like the blind in a game of Texas holdem.

That’s the beginning of craps wisdom — the come-out roll, the pass line bet, and the setting of points.

If that’s all you know, you can have a good time at the craps table without doing ANYTHING else.

2- Start Learning about the Other Bets on the Layout with the Odds Bet

You don’t have to stick with the pass line bet, though. Different areas of the craps table offer different bets. Some of these bets are okay, while others are lousy.

These bets can be divided into 2 categories:

  1. Multiple roll wagers
  2. Single roll wagers

The pass line bet is a multiple roll wager. Your money stays in action until the criteria explained in #1 happen.

An example of a single roll wager is a bet on a total of 11 on the next roll. The stickman — one of the dealers at the craps table — will offer this bet by saying, “Anyone on 11.”

If you say yes and give the stickman a bet of $5, you’ll win if the next roll comes up with a total of 11. Any other total will be a loser.

And if you win, you’ll get paid off at 15 to 1 odds, which means you’ll win $75 on that bet.

Another name for these one-roll bets is “proposition bet.”

But you shouldn’t go straight to the single roll bets. You should expand your betting options slowly, starting with the free odds bet.

The free odds bet is a bet that ISN’T labeled on the table. You can only place an odds bet when a point has been set. You place this bet by putting your wager directly behind the pass line wager that you made. It doesn’t hurt to tell the dealer you’re taking odds.

The odds bet is one of the only bets in the casino where they don’t have a mathematical advantage over you. It pays off when the shooter makes the point, just like the pass line bet does.

But instead of paying off at even money, it pays off at the same odds you have of winning.

This means that if the point is 4 or 10, the odds bet pays off at 2 to 1.

If the point is 5 or 9, the odds bet pays off at 3 to 2.

If the point is 6 or 8, the odds bet pays off at 6 to 5.

Casinos have a maximum amount they’ll let you bet when you take odds. This is expressed as a multiple of the pass line bet.

For example, in a casino that offers 100X odds, you can bet $5 on the pass line, and when the point is set, you can bet another $500 on the odds bet.

Most casinos aren’t that generous with their betting limits, though.

The most common limits on the odds bet are:

  • 2X odds
  • 3X4X5X odds
  • 10X odds

The 3X 4X 5X limits warrant explanation. With these limits, the payouts become easier for the craps dealers to make,

If you take the maximum odds bet, with these limits in place, the payout for a successful shooter who makes the point is always 7X the amount of the pass bet.

Here’s an example:

The point is 4. You bet $5 on the pass line, and then you also bet $15 on the odds bet. (That’s 3X.)

If you win, you get paid off $5 on the pass bet and $30 on the odds bet, which is $35, or 7X the size of your original pass line bet.

Here’s another example:

The point is 5. You bet $10 on the pass line, and then you bet $40 on the odds bet. (That’s 4X your original pass bet.)

The shooter succeeds, so you get $10 on your pass line bet, and $60 (3 to 2) on your odds bet. That’s $70 in total winnings, which is again, 7 times the size of your original pass bet.

Here’s one final example:

The point is 8, and you’ve bet $100 on the pass line. You bet $500 on the odds bet.

When you win, you get $100 in winnings on the pass bet, but you also get $600 on the odds bet, for a total of $700 in winnings.

Again, that’s 7 times the size of your original pass line bet.

The odds bet is the best bet in the casino, in my book. You should always take the maximum odds bet, because it has no house edge, which — in effect — reduces the house edge for the game overall.

3- Start to Explore Being a “Wrong Bettor”

Until now, everything I’ve discussed had to do with being a “right bettor”.

A right bettor is just someone who’s rooting for the shooter to succeed — making pass line bets and odds bets.

A wrong bettor places a different bet – a “don’t pass” bet, which is a bet that the shooter will fail.

A bet on the don’t pass line loses on the come-out roll if the shooter rolls a 7 or an 11 — which is just the opposite of what happens with a pass line bet.

A bet on the don’t pass line wins on the come-out roll if the shooter rolls a 2 or 3 — which is also just the opposite of what happens with a pass line bet.

There’s one wrinkle that the casino has which makes the game a profitable one — a roll of 12 on the come-out roll results in a push, which means you get your don’t pass bet back, but without any winnings.

But what happens with the don’t pass bet if a point is set?

If you guessed that it wins if the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling the point again, give yourself a gold star, because that’s exactly right.

The free odds bet is also available with the don’t pass bet, but instead of taking odds, you’re “laying” odds.

The payouts are the opposite of what they are with the pass bet:

If the point is 4 or 10, laying odds pays off at 1 to 2 odds.

If the point is 5 or 9, laying odds pays off at 2 to 3 odds.

If the point is 6 or 8, laying odds pays off at 5 to 6 odds.

Notice that when you’re laying odds, your payout is always lower than the size of your bet.

But there’s still no house edge with the bet — it’s still paying off at the same odds you have of winning.

Here’s an example:

You bet $10 on the don’t pass line, and the shooter rolls a 4 on the come-out roll, setting a point.

You lay $10 on the odds bet, too.

The shooter rolls a 7 on the next roll, and you win $10 — even money — on the don’t pass bet.

But you only win $5 on the odds bet.

A lot of players don’t like being a wrong bettor, but the house edge for the don’t pass bet is actually lower than the house edge for the pass line bet.

The pass line bet has a house edge of 1.41%.

The don’t pass bet has a house edge of 1.36%.

And when it comes to the house edge, lower is always better.

4- Understand the House Edge

In any casino game, the house has a mathematical edge over the player. In other words, in the long run, the casino expects to win your money.

The house edge measures how fast the casino expects to win that money.

The house edge is always presented as a percentage, and it’s just an average of what you can expect to lose for all the money you put in action.

For example, if you make 30 bets per hour at $5 per bet, you’re putting $150 into action per hour.

If the house edge is 1.41%, the casino expects to win $150 times 1.41% per hour from you in the long run, or $2.11 per hour.

That’s not a lot of money to spend on entertainment.

Most movie tickets cost more than that.

And when you account for the odds bet combined with the pass line bet, the house edge on the amount of money you actually have in action drops even further.

The more money you bet on the free odds bet, the lower the edge becomes.

Here are some examples:

  • You place a $10 pass line bet and a $20 odds bet, which means you have $30 in action. The house edge on all the money you have in action is only 0.61%.
  • You place a $10 pass line bet and a $100 odds bet, which means you have $110 in action. The house edge on that action is only 0.18%. (That’s better than blackjack.)
  • You place a $10 pass line bet and a $1000 odds bet. You have $1010 in action. The house edge on that action is only 0.02%, which is about as close to even odds as you’ll see in the casino.

This is because the expected loss on all those combinations of bets remains about 14 cents, regardless of how much money you put into action on the odds bet.

Remember, there’s no expected loss on the odds bet. You’ll lose more often than win, but over time, you’re expected to break even on the odds bet.

Here’s the other reason it’s important for a craps player to understand the house edge:

Most of the bets at the craps table are — mathematically — much worse for the player than the pass, don’t pass, and odds bets.

This doesn’t mean you should never make them.

But you should be an educated gambler.

5- Start Placing Come (and/or Don’t Come Bets)

A come bet in craps is just like a pass line bet. The only difference is that it treats the next roll as a new come-out roll.

A don’t come bet in craps is just like a don’t pass line bet. The only difference is that it treats the next roll as a new come-out roll.

Here’s an example of how that works:

A shooter rolls an 8 on the come-out roll, and you have $10 on the pass line.

You put $10 on the odds bet, and you also place a $10 come bet.

On the next roll, the shooter rolls a 7.

You lose your original pass line bet and the odds bet that accompanied it.

But you win $10 on the come bet, ameliorating your losses a bit.

Here’s another, more interesting example:

You bet $10 on the pass line on a new come-out roll, and the shooter rolls an 8, setting a point. You bet $10 on the odds bet, and you bet $10 on the come bet.

The shooter rolls a 9 on the next roll, which means you have a point of 8 on your original pass line bet, and a point of 9 on the come bet. You place a $10 odds bet on the come bet, too.

Then the shooter rolls an 8. You win $10 on the original pass bet. You also win $12 on the odds bet you placed there.

On the next roll, the shooter rolls a 9. Now you win $10 on your come bet, AND you win $15 on the odds bet you placed behind that come bet.

If you keep placing pass line bets, come bets, and odds bets, you can wind up with a lot of money on the table at one time.

6- Now You Can Start Venturing into Some of the Other Craps Bets (But Only if You Want To)

The worst bets at the craps table are the proposition bets. These are those single-roll bets I was telling you about.

The difference between the odds of winning and the payout odds for those bets is excruciatingly bad.

The better bets are the multiple-roll bets, but not all of them are great, either. The best of those, we’ve already covered.

But if you do want to venture into the other bets at the table, here’s where you start:

Place bets

A place bet is a bet that a specific number will come up before the 7.

For example, you can bet on place 6 or place 8 and get a 7 to 6 payout if you win. You can bet on place 5 or place 9 and get a 7 to 5 payout. And you can bet on place 4 or place 10 and get a 9 to 5 payout.

You’ll notice that these are similar to the odds bet, but you don’t have to set the point first.

You also don’t get the same payout odds.

This means the house edge for the place bets is different, as follows:

  • The house edge for a place 6 or place 8 bet is 1.52%
  • The house edge for a place 5 or place 9 bet is 4%
  • The house edge for a place 4 or place 10 bet is 6.67%

It’s probably obvious, but the only place bets worth making are place 6 and place 8 bets.

You’re now armed with a significant number of bets you can place at the craps table, so I have one final tip about the basics to share with you:

7- Stay Away from the Prop Bets

The stickman is going to do his best to sell you on the proposition bets, which are all single-roll bets with a huge house edge.

None of these bets are worth taking — ever.

The house edge is always in the double digits, and there are so many bets on the table which offer better odds that it’s just nuts to mess with those outrageous bets.

Finally

And now you should know how to play craps. It’s an easier game than most people realize.

Even if you want to play craps online, you’re now armed with everything you really need to know.

But if I left something out or wasn’t clear about something, please let me know in the comments.

 

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