Craps

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Craps by Mike Shackleford aka Wizard of Odds

With little doubt, craps is one of the most complicated casino games to explain.  There are dozens of different bets to choose from and a terminology all its own.  It is especially intimidating to learn in a land casino, because the regulars can be very rude and impatient, especially with male beginners.  

The good news is you're here, online, so you can practice for free with nobody to rush or intimidate you via my trainer.  You also have this guide to help you understand everything you need to know to play well.  With a little patience and practice, you'll be playing like James Bond in no time and ready for the most jaded bunch of regulars in Vegas. Actually, Bond made a lot of sucker bets in the movie Diamonds are Forever, so it would not be difficult to play craps better than him, mathematically speaking. 

If my history is correct, craps came to popularity as a game of chance played by American soldiers in World War II.  All you needed was a pair of dice and money to gamble with.  I think it started with just the primary Pass bet, but through the years people kept adding more and more bets to the game.  However, the Pass bet is still the one the vast majority of players make.  What makes craps fun is that when everybody is on the same bet, they all win or lose together, creating a group euphoria.  

Pass

"What is this Pass bet?," you may ask.  To make the bet, wait for the puck you see in the upper left corner of the screen to be on the black "off" side.  Second, place a bet on the Pass line along the bottom of the playing field.  You'll see I put a $100 bet there in this image.

come out roll

Once your bet is made, you're ready to roll.  This initial roll of a round is known as the Come Out roll. After you roll, one of three things will happen: 

  • Roll is a 7 or 11:  You win even money.
      or  
  • Roll is a 2, 3, or 12:  You lose.
       or  
  • Roll is a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10:  Whatever total you rolled is known as the "Point."
          or  

If the bet is resolved with a 2, 3, 7, 11, or 12, then the next roll will be a new Come Out Roll. 

     or  

Otherwise, you'll notice the black marker that previously said "off" will get turned over to the white side "on" side and placed above whatever Point was rolled.

At this point, after a Point is rolled, the object is to roll that point again before a roll of seven.  If anything else is rolled, don't worry, just keep rolling until you get either the Point or a seven.  If the Point is rolled first, you win even money.  If the seven is rolled first, you lose.  

That's all there is to it!  Not that complicated after all.  If it wasn't clear, here is a flow chart showing the rules.

Mathematically speaking, the probability of winning the pass line bet is 49.29% and the house edge is 1.41%.  

I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't warn you that you're allowed to make a Pass bet when it isn't a Come Out roll, but you never should.  Much of the value in the Pass bet is that there is a 22.22% chance to win on the first roll and only 11.11% chance to lose.  If you make the bet late, you're giving up on that first roll privilege.  My game nicely doesn't even let you make such a terrible mistake. However, in Vegas, a sucker is always welcome. 

Don't Pass

With many bets in craps there is an opposite bet.  In the case of the Pass bet, the opposite is the Don't Pass.  With one exception, everything that causes the Pass bet to win, causes the Don't Pass to lose, and vise versa.  The exception to everything being the opposite of the Pass bet is that if a 12 is rolled on the Come Out roll, it isn't a win, but rather just a push. 

To make the Don't Pass bet, wait for a Come Out roll and then put it on the Don't Pass bar, just above the Pass bar.

dont pass

This results in a probability of winning of 47.93%, losing 49.29%, and a tie 2.78%.  The house edge is a little lower than the pass line bet at 1.36%.  

A couple final points.  While betting on the Pass after a Come Out roll is allowed, it is definitely not on the Don't Pass, as it would give the player a large advantage.  Another curiosity is that while most casinos "bar the 12," meaning make it a push, in Reno they bar the 2 instead.  Why?  I have no idea.

Odds

I'm sure you've heard the old refrain that the odds are always in the casino's favor.  However, there are two bets you can make with no house advantage.  One is the double-up feature found on some video poker games, and the other is the odds bet in craps.

The Odds bet is a supplemental, in-progress, bet you can make after a Point is established, provided you have already made a Pass, Don't Pass, Come, or Don't Come bet.  I'll get to those latter two next.  

There is no designated area on the table for the Odds bets, probably because the casino is more interested in drawing your attention to the bets with a higher house advantage.  To make the Odds bet in my game, place a bet just below it. For an Odds bet after a Don't Pass bet, place it just below the Don't Pass line, in that narrow band between the Pass and Don't Pass lines.  Let me emphasize that the Odds bet on a Pass or Don't Pass can never be made on a Come Out roll.  Wait for the point marker to be on the white "on" side. 

In a land casino, you would do pretty much the same thing for an Odds bet after a Pass bet -- place it right below the Pass bet, just below the Pass line.  For an Odds bet after a Don't Pass bet, known as Laying the Odds, the etiquette is not as widely known.  In fact, I played for years doing it incorrectly.  What you're supposed to do is "heel" the Odds bet.  That means to place it so one edge of the Odds bet is touching the Don't Pass bet and the other edge is touching the table, next to the Don't Pass.  For years I put my Odds bet next to the Don't Pass bet and was never corrected.  However, if you want to look like a pro, as opposed to amateur, heel your Odds after a Don't Pass.  

Now that we've covered how to make an Odds bet, let's talk about what it actually is.

An Odds bet after a Pass bet is a supplemental bet that the point will be rolled before a seven.  In other words, it wins or loses exactly as the Pass bet.  No matter what the point is, it is more likely to roll a seven.  So, to be fair, the Odds bet pays more than an even money if it wins.  The following table shows the probability of winning and the odds it pays according to the point

Point

Pays

Prob. Win

4 or 10

2 to 1

33.33%

5 or 9

3 to 2

40.00%

6 or 8

6 to 5

45.45%

An Odds bet after a Don't Pass bet is the opposite -- a supplemental bet that a seven will be rolled before the Point.  Since a seven will be more likely, you'll win less than your bet, according to whatever the Point is.  The odds are the inverse of the Odds after a Pass bet.  The following table shows the probability of winning and winning odds.

Point

Pays

Prob. Win

4 or 10

1 to 2

66.67%

5 or 9

2 to 3

60.00%

6 or 8

5 to 6

54.55%

Casinos will always limit Odds bets to some multiple of the Line bet they are based on.  A common rule in Las Vegas, and for my game, is known as 3x-4x-5x odds.  This means you can bet 3x the Pass bet on the Odds if the point is a 4 or 10, 4x after a point of 5 or 9, and 5x after a point of 6 or 8.  Note that if you make the maximum Odds bet, you will win 6x the Pass bet on the Odds, regardless of what the Point is. 

When Laying the Odds, under the same 3x-4x-5x rules, the maximum you can bet is 6x as much as the Don't Pass bet.  This will result in a win of 3, 4, or 5 times the Don't Pass bet, depending on what the Point is.  This is a rule very few, perhaps zero, Internet casinos get right.  Instead, they incorrectly apply the multiple you can bet Laying the Odds relative to the bet amount, not the win amount.  One of the many gambling rules that Internet casinos never seem to understand.

My advice is to bet as much on the Odds as you are comfortable with.  After all, how often do you get a chance to make a bet with no house advantage?  I would suggest sizing your pass line bets so that you are comfortable making the maximum allowed Odds bet.  If that would cause you to bet less than the table minimum on the pass, then bet the minimum and whatever you're comfortable with on the Odds.

Come

The Come bet works exactly like the Pass bet, except it can be made at any point except a Come Out roll.  You'll know it is safe to make a Come bet when the laminated marker is on the white On side. 

To make a Come bet, simply put the bet the part of the table marked Come.  If a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 is rolled on the next throw, then that total will be a separate point for purposes of that Come bet.  

Odds bets can be made after Come bets in the same manner as a Pass bet.  In my game, place the Odds after a Come bet to the right of the Come bet itself, after it is moved over.  In a live casino, you will have to ask the dealer to do it. The most graceful way is to put the Odds bet in the Come part of the table and tell the dealer, "Odds on the Come bet, please."  

Finally, in one of the quirky rules of craps, any Odds bets on top of Come bets are "turned off" during a Come Out roll.  The Come bets themselves are still active.  If a Come Out roll causes a Come bet to win or lose, then any Odds bet associated with it will be returned as a push. 

Place and Buy Bets

Many craps players are impatient to get a bet down on a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 and don't want to wait on establishing a point with a Come bet to do so.  For those players, you can do so with Place and Buy bets.  

Place bets on the 6 or 8 win if the selected total is rolled before a 7.  These bets will stay active until either event happens or the player takes down the bet.  Winning Place bets pay 7 to 6 odds.  The probability of winning is 45.45% and the house edge is 1.52%. 

Place bets on the 5 or 9 work the same way but pay 7 to 5 odds.  The probability of winning is 40% and the house edge is 4.00%.  

A bet on a 4 or 10 is known as a "Buy" bet instead of a Place bet, but works much the same way.  Winning bets pay 2 to 1, less a 5% commission based on the bet amount, if the player wins.  This equates to 39 to 20 odds.  The probability of winning is 33.33% and the house edge is 1.67%.  Some stingy casinos may require the commission be paid on losses as well, which increases the house edge to 4.76%. 

My trainer conveniently labels these bets correctly as Place and Buy.  Many Internet casinos offer both Place and Buy bets on all numbers, in which case the better odds are on the Place bets on the 5, 6, 8, and 9 and Buy bets on the 4 and 10. In live casinos, just tell the dealer what number(s) you want to bet on and it will be understood what you want and winning bets will pay the odds stated above.  Make sure to make bets on the 6 and 8 evenly divisible by $6, on the 5 and 9 by $5, and the 4 and 10 by $20, assuming wins are rounded down to the nearest dollar.

Lay Bets

These are basically the opposite of Place and Buy bets.  I almost never see anybody making these bets in live casinos, so I won't bother to address them here.  

Field

To place a Field bed, simply put a bet in that part of the layout at anytime.

This deceiving, one-roll bet wins if the next roll is a 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12.  It loses on a 5, 6, 7, or 8.  I say it is deceiving because it wins on seven totals and loses on only four.  Of course, the totals it loses on are closer to the average total of a 7 and thus have a greater probability.

In a liberal casino, a win on the 12 will pay 3 to 1, a 2 will pay 2 to 1, and a 3, 4, 9, 10, or 11 will pay even money.  A stingy casino will pay 2 to 1 only on the 12.  Either way, the probability of winning is 44.44%.  The house edge under the liberal rules is 2.78% and under the stingy rules is 5.56%.  

Another oddity about Reno is that they reverse the pays on the 2 and 12. 

Sucker Bets

Every other bet in craps is a sucker bet.  This includes all Hard Ways, Any Seven, Any Craps, totals of 2, 3, 11 (known as the "yo"), and 12, and all Hop Bets.  In the interests of brevity, I won't explain how they work, here but in a follow up article.  The important thing is they all carry a house edge of 9.09% to 16.67% and should be avoided at all costs.  

Closing Words

Craps is one of the best bets out there.  The only three casino games where you can get the house edge under 1% are blackjack, craps, and video poker.  Blackjack and video poker rules keep getting worse, leaving craps as the best bet in many land and Internet casinos, assuming you play only the line bets (pass, don't pass, come, and don't come) and back them up with the full Odds.  Whatever you do, stay away from all the long-shot sucker bets just mentioned.  

As mentioned in the introduction, craps has a reputation of being difficult to learn.  However, it really is not that bad.  You don't need to understand every bet to get started.  I would suggest learning them one at a time.  Finally, be sure to practice on my trainer before playing for real money.  

Further Reading at Wizard of Odds

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Craps

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  • How do you play Craps?

    In craps, the main action of the game is rolling dice with the hopes of getting certain results. The person rolling the dice is known as the "shooter." The first roll is the come out roll. If this roll is 2, 3, 7, 11, or 12, the round is over. If the roll is any other number, the number becomes the "point" and the round continues until the shooter either rolls the point again or rolls a 7.

    Learn how to play Craps

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