If my history is correct, craps came into popularity during World War II. It was a way for American troops to gamble with just a pair of dice. Through the years, more bets got added to the game until it became the complicated mess that is what we see today.
Despite dozens of bets to choose from and game-specific terminology, craps is not as difficult to learn nor to play as it may initially appear from the eyes of virgins to the game. Speaking of which, craps players tend to be a very superstitious bunch; one of many incorrect beliefs is that male craps virgins are unlucky, whereas female virgins are thought to be lucky. With that in mind, I recommend that men new to the game do not broadcast this information to the table.
The good news is that you don’t have to understand every bet to play online craps. Most bets are sucker bets, anyway. You can start with just one bet and add more as you go. More good news about craps is that when played properly, which means making only the best strategic bets possible in any given scenario, it offers among the best odds in the casino. So, if you are looking for a game that offers a good value and is fun and exciting, it is hard to beat craps.
This article will begin with explaining the best and most fundamental bets, add some proposition bets, and end with sucker bets that I suggest you have nothing to do with.
In this article, I generally express the house edge as the ratio of the expected player loss to bet amount on a bet resolved basis. An exception to this is the “Don’t Pass” bet, which I explain later in this article. All pays are indicated on a “to one” basis. On the actual craps tables, to make things confusing, some pays are listed on a “to one” and others on a “for one” basis.
Why? I have no idea.
The Pass or “PASS LINE” bet is the most fundamental wager in craps, and one almost every player makes. When the pass bet wins, the whole table usually wins at the same time. That excitement offers a contact high that is hard to beat
To make a Pass bet, place a bet on the “PASS LINE” which wraps around the table thus making it easy to reach. However, you should wait until a “Come Out Roll.” You can tell it’s a Come Out Roll when a big circular lamer on the table is flipped to the black side and says “off.”
After you have made your pass bet, here are the rules:
- If the first roll, known as the “Come Out Roll,” is a 7 or 11, you win.
- Otherwise, if the first roll is a 2, 3, or 12, you lose.
- Otherwise, the total rolled on the first roll is known as the “Point.”
(For example: If the roll is a 5 and 4, then the Point is 9.)
- The dice are rolled again.
- If the total of the roll from step 4 equals the Point, you win.
- If the total of the roll from step 4 equals seven, you lose.
- Else, on any other total, go back to rule 4.
The probability of winning the Pass bet is 244/495 or 49.29%. Wins pay even money for a low house edge of 1.41%.
More good news is that the Pass bet can take a while to resolve, with 3.38 rolls on average. This allows you more excitement for your money.
I’m sure you’ve heard the old refrain that the odds are always in the online casino’s favor. However, there is an exception in craps, which has an exactly fair bet with 0.00% house edge, known as the Odds.
The Odds bet is a supplemental, in-progress bet you can make after a Point is established, provided you have already made a pass bet. 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. An Odds bet should be placed next to the Pass bet and outside of the Pass Line designated section of the table.
The Odds bet works just like the Pass bet, except it is made after the Come Out Roll and pays more than the Pass bet if it wins. This is because it easier to roll a total of seven than another total in craps. The following table shows what each Point pays on the Odds and the probability of winning:
|4 or 10||2 to 1||33.33%|
|5 or 9||3 to 2||40.00%|
|6 or 8||6 to 5||45.45%|
To prevent players from betting too much on wagers with zero house edge, there is always some maximum multiple of how much the player may bet on the Odds relative to the Pass bet. For example, no more than twice as much. In Las Vegas, a common standard is known as 3-4-5 times odds, which means 3x the Pass wager on a point of 4 or 10, 4x on a point of 5 or 9, and 5x on a point of 6 or 8.
The Come bet is exactly like the Pass bet, except that it may be made at any time excluding a Come Out roll. If the first roll after a Come bet is made does not resolve the bet, then whatever total was rolled shall be the Point for purposes of that Come bet.
Like the Pass bet, the player may make an Odds bet if a Point was established after the bet was made. There is no place on the table to make an Odds bet after a Come bet, so you’ll have to tell a dealer what you want to do.
The odds on a Come bet are the same as the Pass bet, with a house edge of 1.41%. Much like the odds after a pass bet, taking the Odds after a Come bet has zero house edge.
Finally, please note that if there are any outstanding Come and Odds bets on a Come Out roll, then Come bets will have action on that roll but Odds bets will not. If the Come bet is resolved on a Come Out roll, then the Odds bet will be refunded. Why? I don’t know, just another quirky craps rule.
Many bets in craps have an opposite and the Pass bet is one of them. The opposite of the Pass bet is the Don’t Pass. Everything, with one exception, that wins on the Pass bet loses on the Don’t Pass and vice versa. That exception is that if the Come Out roll is a 12, which would be a loss on the Pass bet, it is a push on the Don’t Pass.
To make matters more confusing, in northern Nevada, a Come Out roll of 2 is a push on Don’t Pass bets instead of a 12. Why? I have no idea.
The house edge on the Don’t Pass bet is 3/220 = 1.36%. This figure counts pushes on a Come Out roll of 12 as a bet resolved.
The player may also make Don’t Come bets, which work just like Don’t Pass bets except that they are made at any time other than a Come Out roll.
In land casinos, making an Odds wager after a Don’t Pass or Don’t Come bet is called “Laying the Odds.” Much like taking the Odds after a Pass or Come bet, there is some maximum multiple the player may lay relative to the Don’t Pass or Don’t Come bet. The following table shows what laying the odds after a Don’t Pass or Don’t Come bet pays. They all have a 0.00% house edge.
|4 or 10||1 to 2||66.67%|
|5 or 9||2 to 3||60.00%|
|6 or 8||5 to 6||54.55%|
Place & Buy
The terms Place and Buy bets are not often actually at the craps table, but there needs to be some terminology to explain them. These bets are like Pass and Come bets, but don’t need to go through a Come Out roll first. The player may bet on a total of 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10. Such wagers will win if that total is rolled before a total of 7. The region on the table for these bets is out of the reach of the players, so the player must get a dealer’s attention to make said wagers. You don’t need to say the words “Place” or “Buy”. Just say which total you wish to bet on and for how much.
The following table shows what Place/Buy bets pays, the probability of winning and house edge:
|Point||Pays||Prob. Win||House Edge|
|4 or 10||40 to 21||66.67%||4.76%|
|5 or 9||7 to 5||60.00%||4.00%|
|6 or 8||7 to 6||54.55%||1.52%|
To avoid being rounded-down, bets should be evenly divisible by $6 on total of 6 or 8, by $5 on a total of 5 or 9, and $21 on a total of 4 or 10.
To make matters even furthermore confusing, some liberal casinos offer odds of 39 to 20 on totals of 4 and 10. Such bets should be evenly divisible by $20 and carry a much lower house edge of 1.67%.
There are also Lay bets that work the opposite way as Place/Buy bets. These bets are so seldomly made that I will not get into them.
The Field is a one-roll bet that wins if the next roll is a total of 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12; and loses on a 5, 6, 7, or 8. Wins pay at least 1 to 1, depending on the winning roll. This may initially look like a good bet, because there are seven winning totals and four losing totals. However, the losing totals are much more likely to be rolled.
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 the same, except only 2 to 1 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%.
An oddity about northern Nevada is that they reverse the pays on the 2 and 12.
Every other bet in craps is a sucker bet. A good way to remember them is that they are all in the center of the table. If you ever want to make a wager on anything in the middle, just paint a big red “S” on your forehead for “Sucker,” and I recommend you not go further with this section. However, if you are intrigued to know about the types of sucker bets, I encourage you to read on.
In craps, if an even total is made of the same roll on each die, then it is said to be made the “Hard Way.” For example, a 4-4 would be known as a “Hard Eight.” This is opposed to rolling an even total the “Easy Way,” which is with two different numbers on each die. For example, a 5-3 would be known as an “Easy Eight.”
Players may bet on Hard totals of 4, 6, 8, and 10. These bets win of the chosen total is rolled the Hard Way before the Easy Way or a total of 7. The following table shows what Hard Way bets pay, the probability of winning, and the house edge:
|Hard Way||Pays||Prob. Win||House Edge|
|4 or 10||7 to 1||11.11%||11.11%|
|6 or 8||9 to 1||9.09%||9.09%|
I’ve always found it interesting how the probability of winning is the same as the house edge on Hard Way bets.
Next, the “Any Craps” bets wins if the next roll is a total of 2, 3, or 12. It has a probability of winning of 11.11% and usually pays 7 to 1 for a house edge of 11.11%. In the UK and Australia the Any Craps pays 7.5 to 1, for a lower house edge of 5.56%.
The “Any Seven” bet is just that, it wins on a total of seven. It has a probability of winning of 16.67% and usually pays 4 to 1 for a house edge of 16.67%. In the UK and Australia the Any Seven pays 4.5 to 1, for a lower house edge of 8.33%.
“Easy Hop” bets are on any specific roll where the dice are different, like 5-6. This particular bet on a total of 11 is called the “yo,” by the way. All Easy Hop bets have a probability of winning of 5.56%. The following table shows the house edge according to what winning bets pay:
|14 to 1||16.67%|
|15 to 1||11.11%|
|16 to 1||5.56%|
Hard Hop bets are on any specific roll where the dice are equal, like 5-5. All Easy Hop bets have a probability of winning of 2.78%. The following table shows the house edge according to what winning bets pay:
|29 to 1||16.67%|
|30 to 1||13.89%|
|31 to 1||11.11%|
|32 to 1||8.33%|
|33 to 1||5.56%|
The more generous odds on Hop bets can be found in the UK and Australia.
Finally, there are some bets that are combinations of bets already listed. For example, the Horn and World. I won’t bother to get into them, as they are all sucker bets.
Often, land casinos offer a side bet that has the potential to pay large awards if a shooter achieves certain goals, like rolling every total besides a seven before a seven. Examples include Bonus Craps and the Fire Bet. These bets seem to be well loved by players, but carry a high house edge of about 20%.
In every casino game it is good etiquette to be kind to other players, the dealer, cocktail servers, and everybody else you may come across. Mind your own play and don’t point fingers in blame when you lose. If you can’t take losing, then don’t play in the first place. In addition, craps has its own etiquette unique to the game. Here are some of the most important things to know:
- Don’t say the word “seven.” Craps players believe, incorrectly, that saying it will cause the dice to roll more sevens, which is going to cause most bets to lose.
- Don’t place beverages on the rail, which is the top of the table where chips go. There is a shelf below the outer rail of the table provided for the storage of everything that isn’t chips.
- When you throw the dice, lob them, as opposed to bouncing them down the table. The idea is to minimize the chances of the dice touching any bets or even worse the hands of another player making a late bet.
- When it’s your turn to throw the dice, just pick up the dice and throw them. This is especially true for players who think they can influence the outcome with a delicate careful throw, which I highly doubt they can.
- Do not make late bets. When the dealer pushes the dice to the shooter, that signifies that betting is closed.
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. Your efforts will be rewarded with playing one of the best bets in the casino.