What is Craps and How to Play it (Rules, Language, and Strategies)
It’s not a skill game of any sort, but you can still improve your chances considerably by learning the odds and learning the simple math behind the game. In this article, we’ll explain how to play craps at a casino, the basic rules of Craps, and some other things that might be useful for beginners as well as for experienced players.
Before you start playing Craps, you should understand the odds of hitting every particular number. In Craps, you use two six-sided dice, which means that there are 36 different combinations.
The Table Map and the Game Process
To understand how to play Craps, you have to understand the structure of the Craps table, the game process, and the bets. To make it simpler, we’ll just pretend that you’re a newbie at Craps, and you just joined a game. Let’s go step by step.
When you get to the Craps table, the first thing you’ll see will be a heap of people screaming something, waving hands, and cheering each other. For the first time, you might even think that they’re speaking a foreign language, but soon you’ll understand it. So, who are all people at the table? Most of them are players, obviously, but there is a five-man crew for each table (we’re talking about a standard double-layout craps table). There are only four members of the crew present at the table simultaneously
- The Boxman is the one who’s in charge of the Craps table. He’s not only watching over the chips, but also taking care of any issues that may arise during a game. Usually he’s wearing a suit and tie, and his place is in the center of the table at one side, near the chips.
- The Stickman is in charge of the center of the layout and uses a stick to move the dice. His place is on the opposite side of the table from the Boxman. The stick is needed because dealers never touch the dice, so the Stickman has to be able to reach them wherever they land. He’s also announcing each roll of the dice and passes them to the shooter when all payoffs are done.
- The Dealers are the ones who take care of the layouts, one layout per dealer. There are two dealers at the table, one on a break, and they stand at the sides of the Boxman. Their duty is to correctly pay all bets at their side of the table and exchange chips for cash.
Everyone else at the table are players and you can join the table at any time. Before placing a bet, you have to make sure that the game is finished. You can tell if a game is finished with the help of the Puck - a large badge with “ON” written on the white side and “OFF” on the black side. If you see the “OFF” somewhere on the table and not in any of the pockets - the game is finished and is about to begin again. “ON,” placed on one of the point number pockets, means that the game is running, and you have to wait until it ends.
Pass Line Bets
Each game starts with the Shooter’s roll, which is called a come-out. The Shooter is the one who rolls the dice. When the game starts, you can only bet on two fields from the side layouts: the pass line and the don’t pass bar.
If the Shooter hits 7 or 11, the bets on the pass line win 1 to 1, and the bets on the don’t pass line lose. If he hits 2, 3, or 12 (these numbers are known as Craps), then the bets on the pass line lose. Numbers 2 and 3 cause the don’t pass line bets to win even money, and the number 12 is a “push”. If the total is anything else (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) - it’s “the point,” which means that the game goes to another level, and all bets remain on the table.
When the Shooter hits the point, the dealer turns the Puck over to the “ON” side, and places it over the Point pocket with the number that the Shooter got. It is made to help players remember the point, as the game might be long.
The point of the game is for the Shooter to hit the point again, before he hits seven. It’s not the point, but the game ends when the Shooter rolls seven, and all bets except the Come bets lose.
When the point is established, you can bet on the point that it will be rolled before seven. It is called to take odds. According to the chances that we’ve described in the previous section, there are different amounts of bets you can place on each of them.
It’s three times the pass bet for 4 and 10, four times the pass bet for five and nine, and five times the pass bet for six and eight. Placing such bets is called “taking odds,” and they are placed outside the pass line pocket, behind your pass line bet.
If you win, your pass line bet will pay even money, and your odds bet will pay 2 to 1 on 4 and 10, 3 to 2 on 5 and 9, and 6 to 5 on 6 and 8.
Come Line Bets
You can say that the pass line is actually a bet for the shooter, and everyone who bets on the pass line is cheering for him, and wants him to win. Still, you can bet against the shooter and everyone on the pass line.
Such a bet is called the “come” bet. It goes like this: you place a bet on the Come line, and if the total is 2, 3, or 12 - you lose instantly. If the shooter rolls 7 or 11 - your bet wins even money. If it’s 4,5,6,8,9, or 10 - your bet moves from the come line to the field with the number rolled.
After that, you can make an odd bet on that number, with similar odds and payout percentages as for the pass line odds. When your come bet has moved to a number - you win if the shooter rolls your number and lose if he rolls seven.
You can make as many come bets as you want, and you can have your bets on the come line, and all particular numbers simultaneously. You’re betting that your number will be rolled before the point. So that if you make this bet, you want everyone else, including the shooter, to lose. By the way, you better to to not rejoice too much after a win, if you value your health, as craps players can be emotional sometimes.
Don’t Pass Bar Bets
Don’t pass bets are the opposite of the Pass line bets, so betting on the don’t pass bar, you bet against the table, and for the casino. If the shooter rolls 2 or 3 on the come out roll - you win even money and if the total is 7 or 11 - you lose. 12 is a push, which means that you neither win or lose, and the dice will be re-rolled. In the case of a push, you can pick up your bet, or leave it on the table as you wish.
If the shooter rolls 4,5,6,8,9, or 10 on the come-out roll, you can lay odds (which is the opposite of taking odds while you make pass line bets). In this case, you bet that seven will come up before the point, but the payout rates are reversed: 1 to 2 on 4 and 10, 2 to 3 on 5 and 9, 5 to 6 on 6 and 8.
The reason for this is that you’re betting on 7: the most frequent number rolled, and it’s most likely to come up, so the payout rates are way worse than in case of the pass line odds.
Don’t Come Bets
The don’t come bar is the opposite of the come line. If your bet is on the don’t come bar, 2 and 3 win even money, 12 is a push, and 7 or 11 loses. Any other number except the ones mentioned above, and the point will be your number.
When the number is established, you only lose if that number is rolled again, and win if seven comes up before your number. If the shooter rolls the point and wins, it doesn’t affect your bet.
You can lay odds on your don’t come bar, exactly as on the don’t pass bar, with the same odds and payout rates. The don’t come bets are placed in smaller pockets under the Place numbers pockets. Let’s figure out what Place numbers are.
The numbers 4,5,6,8,9, and 10 are known among Craps players as Place numbers. You can bet on any of these, and you’ll win if your number is rolled before 7. Their advantage over the odds bets is that the don’t require a pass line bet and the con is that their odds are way worse. The bets on 6 and 8 pay 7 to 6, on 5 and 9 they pay 7 to 5, and on 4 and 10 - 9 to 5.
You can also bet against any of the place numbers, but it’s allowed only in Australia and England, and the odds will be 4 to 5 on 6 and 8, 5 to 8 on 5 and 9, 5 to 11 on 4 and 10.
Big 8 and 6
Big 6 and Big 8 pockets are placed at the corner of each craps layout and are almost the same as the place bets on 6 and 8. The difference is that the place bets on 6 and 8 pay 7 to 6, so you should place bets in increments of 6, instead of five. For big 6 and big 8 - you can place bets in increments of five, but you get even money if you win, which is noticeably worse than 7:6.
Field bets are the one-roll bets, which means that you can either win or lose, after one roll of the dice. Field bet means that you place a bet on 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12 at the same time, and you’ll win even money if the next roll hits 3, 4, 9, 10, or 11. If the roll is 2 or 12, you’ll win double.
This bet looks awesome for a newbie, but if you look closer, you’ll see that the most common rolled numbers are missing on the field. They are 7, 6, 8, and 5. Number 5 is exactly as common as 9. Don’t forget that there are 36 ways to roll two six-sided dice, and twenty of them aren’t covered by the Field. Even with that many numbers, the odds of winning are 4 to 5 (or 16 to 20).
Proposition bets are displayed on the central area of the table. The stickman is responsible for this area, and he will be managing all bets placed there, as well as all payouts from proposition bets.
Proposition bets differ from all other bets on the table in that they use a different formula. All bets that we talked about were x to y, but the bets within the proposition section are x for y. For example, 5 to 1 odds mean that if you bet €10, you win €50 and have €60 in total. 5 for 1 odds mean that you bet 10, and if you win you get €50 in total. 5 for 1 equals to 4 to 1.
You should know that there is no single layout for all casinos and many of them add their own bets and change odds for the other bets. Still, we believe that when you go to any casino, you will see all options that we’re explaining here and maybe even a few more.
The top pocket is seven - it’s a one-roll bet that pays 5 for 1. You win if the next roll hits seven, and if it hits any other number - you lose.
Below the Seven pocket come the hard numbers. They are:
- Six rolled as 3-3, pays 10 for 1;
- Eight rolled as 4-4, pays 10 for 1;
- Four rolled as 2-2, pays 8 for 1;
- Ten rolled as 5-5, pays 8 for 1.
You might be interested as to why the most common numbers have better payouts than the ones with a lower possibility of being rolled? As we know, there are five ways to roll either 6 or 8 and only three ways to roll 4 or 10. The point is that the bets on hard numbers win when the shooter rolls the hard number you bet on and loses when the roll is 7, or any other variation of the number, except the hard one.
For example: if you bet on hard eight, you have only one winning combination out of 36 possible: 4-4. There are ten losing combinations: all six combinations for seven (1-6, 6-1, 5-2, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3), and all combinations for eight except the hard one (6-2, 2-6, 5-3, 3-5). The other 25 combinations are the push, which means that the bet will remain on until the shooter hits any of the winning or losing combinations.
In case of a hard ten, for example, you have only eight ways to lose: all six combinations for seven (1-6, 6-1, 5-2, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3), and two combinations for ten, except the “hard” one: 6-4 and 4-6. That’s why the payouts for hard eight and hard six are better than for hard ten and hard four.
The hard numbers have a minimum bet of €1, even if you’re playing at a €5 or €10 table, and they are the long-shot bets.
Below the hard numbers are the red pockets, which means that they’re the one-roll bets. It’s quite simple with them: you just bet on the next roll to be three (15 for 1), 2 (30 for 1), 12 (30 for 1), or 11 (15 for 1). You can only win if your number is rolled, and in all other cases - you lose. The minimum bet is also €1.
Below these numbers there is a pocket for any Craps (which are 2, 3 and 12) with the payout of 8 for 1. €1 minimum, one-roll bet, as well as all other ones in the center of the table.
On the sides of the central sections, there are C and E bets, which stand for “Craps” and “Eleven.” They aren’t separate bets, but made just for players’ and stickman’s convenience, and are equal to “any Craps” (8 for 1) and “Eleven” (15 for one) bets. There are 14 small C and E pockets with arrows, pointing on each player’s position at the table, so the stickman will easily know whose bet it is.
Here are some weird words you might hear at the Craps table. We won’t mention the ones that we’ve explained before, so here is what we have:
- Aces - another word for 2, also called Snake Eyes.
- Bets down - bets are physically removed and handed to you.
- Bets off - the “off” chip is placed over your bet, indicating that it’s off for one or a few rolls.
- Bets on - activates the bets that were “off.”
- Big Red - as seven is the losing number in most cases - players tend not to say “seven” at the table. Instead of that they say “big red.”
- Bones - dice.
- Boxcars - 12. Also might be called midnight.
- Box Numbers - 4, 5, 6, 8, 9,10, or the Place Bet numbers.
- Boys - dealers.
- Cold Dice or Cold Table - when nobody’s rolling their point.
- Front line - the pass line.
- Garden - another word for the field bet.
- Hi-Lo - a one-roll bet on 2 and 12.
- Hi-Lo-Yo - a one-roll bet on 2, 12, and 11.
- Hop Bet - a bet that a particular combination of the dice will come up on the next roll.
- Hot Table or Hot Dice - when players at the table are winning a lot, or one player wins a lot of bets.
- Little Joe - 2-2 combination, also known as the hard four.
- Press a Bet - take a maximum possible sum from your place bet winnings and add it to the bet.
- Right Better - a player whose bet is placed on the pass line.
- Seven Out - that’s what other players say when the shooter rolls seven before the point.
- Stroker - a player who makes extremely complex bets, giving dealers lots of work.
- Wrong Bettor - a player who bets against the shooter.
- Yo-leven or Yo - the word for eleven, because it can be easily confused with “seven,” especially when everyone’s going wild because of something.
The one thing that we haven’t discussed yet is the Sucker Bet. You may guess that it’s a bet that’s somehow unfavorable, and is pointless or just worse than other bets. Players want to see the house edge of the casino games somewhere around 2%. In general, all games have the house edge between 1% and 5%, and every bet that has a house edge of more than 5% is considered a sucker bet.
Different casinos have different rules, and can have different payout rates for any bet, but usually the Proposition bets’ house edge is somewhere between 5% and 15%, and it’s not good at all.
You should understand that these bets still pay a lot, and you will see people win betting on them, and you’ll probably want to try them too. You might even win and maybe more than once. The point is that you won’t win in the long perspective if you make proposition bets, and you shouldn’t include them in your strategy, unless you do it for fun.
There are only two bets that really suck, and they are the big six and big eight. They pay even money, and you can bet a table minimum on them, but you can also make a place bet on six or eight and get paid 7 to 6. The only drawback is that you should bet in increments of 6: €6, €12, €18 and so on. It’s very simple to notice that the player is new to craps if he bets on big six or eight.
An Optimal Strategy
In contradiction to the majority of other games of chance, Craps has an optimal strategy. It’s fairly simple: you just have to go against the shooter. Always bet the don’t pass and don’t come bar, and lay maximum odds each time. No strategy can guarantee you a win, but by doing this, you probably will be able to enjoy yourself for a length of time before calling it a day, which is more than what you could expect from a random game.
The only weakness of this strategy is that you’ll be betting against the shooter and the majority of other players at the table. You probably shouldn’t show much joy and happiness when your don’t come bets win, while the others lose. This strategy is often called “playing the dark side,” and some players deliberately refuse to use it, because they want to play with other players, and not against them. If you’re the one - just play the pass and come bets, and take full odds. It will be way worse than the “dark side” strategy, but still better than the sucker betting.
If you were patient enough to read this article through - we’re proud of you! We bet it was really difficult and you probably didn’t get anything right away - but don’t be upset - it’s okay. There are lots of places to practice playing Craps nowadays. You can download a game on your computer or smartphone and play wherever you want. That’s what we’ll advise you to do before going to a real casino.
Take your time, read the article through, and play at any online-casino for free in order to become familiar with the rules, bets, odds, and other stuff. It will be helpful, as at a real Craps table, you’ll often be distracted by other players, and probably won’t even hear what you’re saying.
Remember that, even if you use the optimal strategy, the casino will have a house edge of about 0.4%, which means that you will never ever ever beat it in a long perspective. The longer you play, the more likely you are to lose, so don’t try to catch up when you see that everything goes wrong.
The only recipe for success at any casino game, including Craps, is to consider it entertainment, and just have a bit of fun. Good luck!
Updated: 06 Apr 2018