Playing the Game
Basic Craps Gameplay
Initially the game of Craps may seem intimidating due to specific etiquette involved and the various betting options available to you, but the game itself is in fact very simple. Let us begin then with an explanation of the game without any reference to the betting options.
First of all, each player at the craps table gets an opportunity to roll the dice, but you don't have to roll if you don't want to. The dice are passed clockwise around the table, so when it's your turn to roll you simply take the two dice and roll them to the opposite end of the table. The first roll of the dice is called the "come-out" roll and if you roll a 7 or 11 it's called a "natural" and you win (in addition, you get to roll the dice again). If you roll a 2, 3 or 12 these are referred to as "craps" and it is pretty crap because you lose but believe it or not, you still get to roll again.
Other possible numbers that you might roll are 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 and should one of these numbers show up, then that number is your "point" and the object is then to roll that number again before you roll a 7.
However, if you throw a 7 before your "point" number then you lose and the dice move on to the next shooter but if your "point" number shows up before a 7 does, then you have made a "pass" which means you win your bet and you get to roll again. Sounds simple doesn't it? It is! And that's all there is to the game of Craps.
A typical Craps Table Layout
Now that you have an understanding of how the game of Craps works, let's examine the different kinds of bets that you can make. Two of the best bets on the Craps table are in the areas marked "Pass" and "Don't Pass". When you bet on the "Pass" line you're betting that the shooter will win. Now, in order to make a pass line bet you put your bet right in front of you on the pass line. These bets are paid even-money and the house edge on a pass line bet is 1.41%
The other option is to bet on the "Don't Pass" line, which is the opposite of a "Pass" bet, and in placing this bet you are betting that the shooter will lose. Making this bet is pretty much the same as making a "pass" bet, only you place your bet in front of you in the "Don't Pass" area. As with "pass" bets, don't pass bets are also paid even-money although the house edge on them is supposedly 1.40% but in actual fact, the odds are always 1.41% against the shooter and in favor of the "Don't Pass" bettor by that same amount.
Although, if you're a "Don't Pass" bettor the casinos obviously don't want to offer you a bet where you have an edge over them, so they have implemented a rule for "Don't Pass" bets where if the shooter throws a 12 on the "come out roll", you don't win. You don't lose either though, the bet is considered a "push" or tie, and nothing happens.
Some casinos or an online casino may however make the number 2 instead of 12 that's a push. If you're not sure which it is, look on the Don't Pass line and you'll you see the word "Bar" and then the number that the casino considers a push. In the above illustration you will see that it reads bar 12, which means that in this casino your bet on the don't pass line will be a push if the come-out roll is a 12. This rule gives the casino an advantage on don't pass bets and it doesn't matter whether the casino bars the 2 or 12, the outcome is always the same 1.40% advantage for the house.
Pass Line Betting
For the sake of example, let's say you put $10 on the pass line and roll the dice, if you roll a 7 or 11 you win $10 and if you roll 2, 3 or 12 you lose $10. But what happens when you roll any of the other numbers you may ask? Well, as mentioned previously, that number becomes your point and you have to roll that number again before you roll a 7 in order to win your pass line bet. Once your point is established, the dealer at each end of the table will move a marker into the box that corresponds to your point number to let those at the table know what your point is. You will notice that the marker that's used has two different sides, one is black with the word "off" and the other white with the word "on". Prior to any point being established, the marker is kept in the "Don't Come" box with the black side facing upwards until you roll your point number when the dealer will turn it over to the white side and move it inside the box that contains your point number.
So, if your come-out roll is a 4 for example, the dealer will simply turn the marker over to the white side that says "on" and places it in the 4 box. This indicates that 4 is your point number and you will continue to roll the dice, no matter how long it takes, until you roll a 4, which will make you a winner, or a 7, which will make you a loser. Remember that once your point is established you can't remove your pass line bet until you either win (by throwing your point) or lose (by rolling a 7). The reason for this is that on the come out roll the pass line bettor has the advantage because there are eight ways to win (by rolling a 7 or 11) and only 4 ways to lose (by rolling a 2, 3 or 12). Should a point number be rolled, no matter what number is, there are then more ways to lose than to win and this is why the bet cannot be removed.
Now, imagine if you were allowed to remove your bet, everyone would just wait for the come-out roll and if they don't win then they'd just retract their bet, which would of course give them a big advantage over the house and that, as you know, is never going to happen so that's why you can't remove your bet. I know we've mentioned this before, but the pass line is one of the best bets you can make, but there is also a way to make it even better because once your point number is established the casino will allow you to make another bet that will be paid off at the true odds. This is a very good bet to make as the casino has no advantage on it. Using our previous example where your point was 4, the true odds are 2-to-1 which is what your bet will be paid off at: $2 for every $1 you bet. This can be referred to as an "odds bet," "taking the free odds" or "betting behind the line" and to make this bet you just have to put your chips directly behind your pass line bet. There is however, a limit to the amount you're allowed to bet and for many years most casinos only allowed a maximum of twice the amount of your pass line bet.
Today, many casinos offer 5 times the odds and some even allow up to 100 times odds. If you are visiting Las Vegas, Binion's Horseshoe, Stratosphere and Sam's Town are some of the casinos that offer 100 times odds, and you can find 100 times odds in many of the casinos in Mississippi, Shreveport, Reno, Atlantic City, and on the Indian Reservations too. Due to the fact that the casino has no advantage on these bets, you are effectively lowering the house edge on your total pass line bet by taking advantage of these free odds bets. So where the normal house edge on a pass line bet is 1.41%, if you also make a single odds bet in conjunction with your pass line bet you will lower the house edge on your total pass line bets to 0.85%. If the casino offers double odds then the edge on your bets is lowered to 0.61%. With triple odds the edge is lowered to 0.47% and if you were to play in a casino that allowed 10 times odds the edge would be lowered to only 0.18% which means that, statistically speaking, over time, that casino would only make $0.18 out of every $100 you bet on that table. So as you can see, the more the casino allows you to bet behind the line, the more it lowers their edge, so it's always a good idea to take advantage of this bet when it is on offer.
Also, keep in mind that unlike regular pass line bets, free odds bets can be removed or reduced, at any time. So, to make a free odds bet on our point number of 4 you would put $20 behind the line. Next you would continue to roll until you either roll a 4 or 7. If a 4 comes up you would get even money on the pass line bet, plus 2-to-1 on the free odds bet, for a total win of $50. But, if you rolled a 7, you would lose both the pass line bet and the free odds bet for a total loss of $30.
Don't Pass Betting
Now that you understand pass line betting, we can move on to "don't pass" betting. Basically, everything applied to pass line betting works the opposite for don't pass betting. Let's say you put $10 on don't pass, you would win on the come out roll if the shooter rolled a 2 or 3, tie if the shooter rolled a 12, and lose if the shooter rolled either a 7 or 11. If any other number comes up then that becomes the shooter's point number and if he rolls a 7 before he rolls that same point number, you will win. Should he roll his point number before he rolls a 7 though, you will lose.
As a Don't pass bettor, you are also allowed to make free odds bets on top of your original bets; however, because the odds are in your favor you have to lay odds rather than take odds. This means that if the point is 4 or 10, the don't pass bettor must lay 2-to-l, or bet $10 to win $5; on 5 or 9 he must lay 3-to-2, or bet $6 to win $4; and on 6 or 8 he must lay 6-to-5, or bet $6 to win $5. In playing these free odds bets the casinos edge is slightly lowered on the total don't pass bets to 0.68% on single odds; 0.46% on double odds; 0.34% on triple odds and 0.12% on 10 times odds. Should you so wish, you are albe to remove or reduce your free odds bet at any time.
In order to place a free odds bet on don't pass, place your odds bet next to your original bet and place a casino chip on top to connect the two bets. Remember that when you make a free odds bet on don't pass the casino will permit your bet based on the payout, rather than the original amount of your don't pass bet. To put it another way, if the casino offers double odds, the point is 4 and you have $10 on don't pass, you would be able to bet $40 because you would only win $20 which is double the amount of your original $10 bet. Because you put down more money than you get back, laying odds is not very popular at the craps table and you'll find that most experienced craps players would rather take the odds and bet with the shooter. From a statistical point of view though, it makes no difference whether you are laying or taking the odds because they both have a zero advantage for the house.
A final note about don't pass betting is that once the point has been established, the casino will let you remove your don't pass bet - but DO NOT do it! As noted previously, on the come out roll the pass line bettor has the advantage because there are 8 rolls that can win and only 4 that can lose, but once the point is established, there are more ways for the shooter to lose, so at that point the don't pass bettor has the advantage and it would only be foolishness to remove your bet.
Come and Don't Come Bets
Let's now move on to the areas marked "Come" and "Don't come". With your newly acquired knowledge on how to bet pass and don't pass, you should easily grasp Come and Don't Come betting as they are really the exact same bets with the exception that you bet them after the point has been established. To illustrate, let's imagine the shooter's point is 6 and you make a Come bet by placing a $5 chip anywhere in the Come box. This is the same as making a pass line bet, except that now the shooter's subsequent roll becomes the come-out roll for your bet. If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, you win; if he rolls a 2, 3, or 12 you lose, and if any other numbers comes up then that becomes your point and the shooter must roll that number again before rolling a 7 in order for you to win.
In this instance, if the shooter rolled a 4 the dealer would move your $5 come bet up into the center of the 4 box and it would stay there until either a 4 was rolled, making you a winner, or a 7 making you a loser. The casino's advantage on Come bets is the same 1.41% as on a pass line bet. You are allowed free odds on your come bet and you can place that bet by handing your casino chips to the dealer and telling him you want to take the odds. The dealer then places your chips slightly off center on top of your come bet in order to indicate that the bet is a free odds one. If you win, the dealer will place your winnings back in the come bet area so make sure that you pick them up or you will find them being considered as a new Come Bet.
Something else that is noteworthy here is that when you place a Come bet your bet is always working on every roll, even a come-out roll, however, if you take the odds on your come bets they are not working on the come-out roll at all. Confused? Don't be! To revert back to our example, the shooter's initial point was 6 and then you made a $5 come bet, the shooter then rolled a 4 which then became the point for your come bet. The dealer then moved your $5 come bet to the center of the 4 box at the top of the table and you gave $10 to the dealer and said you wanted to take the odds on the 4. On the subsequent roll the shooter threw a 6 which means he made a pass by obtaining his original point number. The next roll is then the COME AND DON'T COME BETS...quite easy afterall isn't it?
Now on to Don't Come betting, which is the same as Don't pass betting, again, except for the fact that the bet isn't made until after the point is established. So with that in mind, imagine the point is 5 and you make a don't come bet by moving a $5 chip into the Don't Come box. The shooter's next roll will then become the come-out roll for your bet and if he/she rolls a 2 or 3, you win; if a 7 or 11 is rolled, you lose; if a 12 is rolled it's a standoff, and any other number rolled becomes your point and the shooter must roll a 7 (also referred to as "seven-out"), before rolling that point number again in order for you to win. Staying with this example, if the shooter rolls a 10 the dealer will move your $5 don't come bet into the upper part of the 10 box and it would stay there until either a 7 is rolled, making you a winner, or a 10 is rolled making you a loser. Again, the casino or house edge on a don't come bet is the same 1.40% as on a don't pass bet.
You may also place a free odds bet on your don't come bet by handing your casino chips to the dealer and informing him that you want to lay the odds, he/she will then place your chips next to and on top of your Don't come bet to indicate that it is a free odds bet. Remember though, that Don't come bets, as well as the free odds bets on them, are always working - even on the come-out roll.