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How to Play Craps: The Basics

Craps is arguably the most exciting game in the casino, and craps tables are where loud cheering and camaraderie rule. Another great thing about craps is that certain bets on the craps table give you the best odds in the entire casino. The complex layout of the craps table can be intimidating, but the basics of the game are actually quite simple. So let’s get started!

The general idea

Craps bets are won and lost based on the roll of a pair of dice. Every player at the craps table has a chance to be the “shooter” of the dice for as many rolls as they can until they “seven out” (we’ll define the seven-out below). Once a shooter sevens out, the dice are passed to the next player to the left, who becomes the new shooter. Whether you’re the shooter or not, you can bet on what the dice are going to do.

The equipment

The Dice. (Of course!)

The Puck. An important piece of equipment unique to craps is the “puck” (also referred to as the “buck”). One side of the puck is labeled “ON,” and the other side is labeled “OFF.” You’ll understand why shortly.

Craps Stick

The Stick. Meaningless to your betting, the stick is used by a croupier (a fancy term for craps dealer) to retrieve the dice after each roll, and return them to the shooter for another roll.

Dont be a sucker!

The first thing you need to know is that so many bets on the craps table are sucker bets. Once you know which bets to avoid, the table layout becomes much easier to master. We’ll briefly discuss these horrible-odds sucker bets at the bottom of this page; for now, we’ll stick with only the most basic bets you should focus on as a new player.

The Pass Line bet — your most basic bet

The fundamental bet in craps is called the “Pass Line” bet. You make this bet by placing your chip or chips in front of you in the space labeled “Pass Line.” The Pass Line bet has two basic rules, and every roll of the dice is governed by one of these two rules. You’ll use one rule when the puck says OFF, and you’ll use the other rule when the puck says ON.

Craps PuckRule 1 (when puck is OFF): If the roll of the dice totals a 7 or an 11, your Pass Line bet wins even money. If the dice total a 2, 3 or 12, (which are called “craps”), your Pass Line bet loses. If the dice total any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10), the number rolled becomes the “point.” You haven’t won or lost when the point is established; you just have the opportunity to make additional bets. The croupier will now flip the puck to read ON, and we move on to Rule 2.

Rule 2 (when puck is ON): Now that a point has been established, only two numbers matter to your Pass Line bet: the point (whatever it was, either 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10), and the number 7. If the shooter rolls a seven before she rolls the point, she has “sevened out,” and you lose. If she rolls the point before she rolls a 7, you win. No other numbers matter for your Pass Line bet – nothing happens if any other number comes up.

As far as the most basic betting in craps goes, that’s it. How easy is that?

Odds Behind the Line — the best bet in the entire casino!

Once the point has been established, your Pass Line bet has an optional feature, which is called Odds Behind the Line. This is the best bet in the casino because on this bet the casino does not hold an odds advantage over you – which means it pays true mathematical odds when you win.

To place your Odds Behind the Line bet (or “Odds bet”), you place additional chips behind the chips you used for your original Pass Line bet. Remember, you can only make an Odds bet if you made an original Pass Line bet when the puck was OFF, and the shooter subsequently established a point and the puck is now ON. The minimum Odds bet is equal to your Pass Line bet. Your maximum Odds bet depends upon the rules of the particular casino, and could be anywhere from double to 100 times your Pass Line bet.

Winning and losing with your Odds bet is exactly the same as it is with your Pass Line bet. You are betting that the shooter makes the point before rolling a 7. If the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling the point, you lose. If the shooter rolls the point before rolling a 7, you win. When you win, the casino pays even money for your Pass Line bet, and pays “true odds” for your Odds bet.

The reason we say your Odds bet pays “true odds” when the point is made is simple:

  • If the point is 4 or 10, the odds are 2 to 1 that a seven will be rolled before the point is made. However, if the point is made before a seven is rolled, the casino pays you 2 to 1 on your Odds bet.
  • If the point is 5 or 9, the odds are 3 to 2 against the point being made before the shooter sevens out, and thus the casino will pay you 3 to 2 for your Odds bet if the point is made before a seven.
  • Same for the points of 6 and 8; the odds against you are 6 to 5; the casino will pay your Odds bet 6 to 5 for a winner.

Now back to those sucker bets

As we said earlier, beware the sucker bets! Here are some bets you should generally avoid, and why:

Proposition BetsProposition Bets: You’ll see these in the very middle of the craps table layout. These are various one-roll bets where you’re hoping the shooter rolls numbers including 2, 3, 7, 11 or 12. The house enjoys ridiculous advantages of up to 17 percent on these bets!

Hardways Bets: Also in the middle of the layout, these bets win if the number you bet on (either 4, 6, 8 or 10) are rolled the “hard way” (both dice matching, for example two 5s making 10). These bets lose if a 7 is rolled, or if the number you bet on is rolled the “easy way,” (both dice not matching, for example 6 and 4 making 10). The house advantage on hardways bets is roughly 10 percent!

There’s so much more we could write a book

You could find countless big, thick books detailing all the various bets, nuances and strategies of the game of craps. But even if you’re a total beginner, you don’t need to pore over a book just yet to enjoy (and win at) craps. Armed with the two basic, fundamental bets we’ve covered – the Pass Line bet and the Odds bet – you could walk up to any craps table and get in on the action with as much chance as anybody else of walking away a winner!

Sound advice would be to play for awhile using only the Pass Line and Odds bets, and watch the betting action that’s going on. You’ll quickly pick up on the other bets that can be made, and how to make them, and you can decide to learn more about which ones interest you.

Well, now you know the basics of craps – may the dice roll your way!

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