Craps is a fast-paced and action-packed dice game with fantastic odds, as well as the most exciting and vocal casino table to play at.
On the downside, it can be an intimidating game for beginners to play, with its complicated-looking betting layout and speed of play.
The reality is somewhat different; for instance, did you know that with only one bet that can be learned in less than a minute, you can win a game? Craps rules are really simple to understand, and we will have you up to speed with the game in just a few minutes.
While there are hundreds of different betting combinations you can make, most craps players stick to a handful of wagers that work in their favour.
In this ‘How to Play Craps Guide,’ we are going to go deep into all the different bets and betting strategies, but we are going also to let you know the best ones to place and the worst.
The easiest way to get started playing craps is at an online casino. The craps layout is the same for both land-based and online casinos, and so are the rules and bets.
While the screaming and shouting and talking between players and the craps table crew at a real casino can be great fun and an amazing social experience, it does have its downsides, especially if you are a craps novice.
When you are playing online, being jostled at a busy table is not something you have to worry about. It’s just you against the computer; you can play at your own speed, take your time placing your bet and enjoy the much more relaxed and calmer atmosphere. When you do want to take your game to a brick and mortar casino, you’ll be able to transition much easier with a good understanding of craps, how to play, and the best bets to make.
Advantages of playing online
As well as providing a much simpler game, playing online also offers other advantages. Online casinos offer welcome bonuses and other offers and promotions that are basically extra free chips that you can use to win at craps. You also get the convenience of a casino that is always open and available to play craps, as long as you have an internet connection. You’ll also find the betting stakes a lot lower, as online casinos don’t have the staffing costs and overheads that their brick and mortar cousins have.
The online game is played the same as offline, but without other players or table crew, the rules and bets we will discuss below are exactly the same.
How to Play Craps - The Basic Rules
So, for now, we are going to cover the basic rules, and the only bet you need to know to get started.
You’ll begin by placing your bet; this will be on the area in the craps layout marked Pass Line.
The first stage of the game is the come out roll; the shooter will first roll two dice and, depending on the total rolled between 2 and 12, there are three different outcomes.
If the shooter [this is the player designated to throw the dice] rolls a 7 or 11, any bets that have been made on the pass line will win. If they throw a 2, 3 or 12, then the casino wins, and the bet is lost.
If any of the other numbers are thrown, this indicates that a point is established. You will see at the top of the betting layout all these numbers: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10; one of these numbers will now be the point. So if the dice had come up 2 and 3, then 5 would be the point. The shooter wins if they throw a 5 [or whatever point is established] before a 7 is thrown. If a 7 is rolled, any bets on the pass line would then lose.
I hope we have shown how easy it is to play and win at craps. As it’s a game of chance, it all comes down to betting strategy, and the pass line bet is one of the best you can play. So by placing just this one bet and not doing anything else, you can still win!
Of course, there are dozens of betting combinations that you can place, some more beneficial than others, and knowing some of the other favourable bets will open up the game for more excitement and more wins. So next, we are going to discuss how to play craps from start to finish and learn all the different bets you can make.
How to Play Craps - Step by Step
Before you begin: if you are playing at a casino for real money, then you should have a bankroll strategy in place. Keep to a budget and decide beforehand at what point you’ll walk away from the table, whether you are winning or losing.
So to start off, you will want to find a table that has a betting limit that you are comfortable with. You’ll see a plaque marked with the minimum and maximum bets at either end of the table. As a new player, you might also want to find a less busy table to start out at if you can.
The Craps Table and Layout
Craps tables will vary in size and have green felt background with a betting layout marked on it. All the different bets will have their own area to place your chips on. The craps table layout can be broken down into three sections. There is a middle section, which is called the center, and two end sections that are exact mirror images.
If you are playing online, you’ll usually just see the one end section and the center to make the layout less crowded.
All the bets in the center of the table are the wagers with the worst odds, such as the single roll and hard ways bets; we’ll tell you about these bets to avoid later. The bets at the end section of the table are the ones we will be wagering on, such as the pass bets and come bets.
The Personnel at a Craps Table
The craps table is the busiest of all the casino games with up to 8 players and a crew of 4.
The employee of the casino that runs the craps table is the boxman; it’s just as likely the boxman will be a box lady, by the way! They will make sure everything is running smoothly; they’ll keep an eye on the dealers and sort out any disputes. You’ll find them seated at the centre of the table with a big pile of chips in front of them. When a player buys into a game, they will hand their money to the dealer who will exchange it with the boxman for chips.
Each crap’s crew has four dealers, though only three will be working the table, as one will be taking a break, every 20 minutes they rotate positions each taking turns as dealers at either end of the table and as the stickman.
The two dealers will look after all the betting, taking the chips of losing players and paying out those who win.
The stickman uses an L shaped stick to move the dice; this stick is sometimes called a whip or mop. As well as moving the dice around, the stickman is the casino’s secret weapon at the craps table! A good stickman will make for a much more exciting and fun game, enthusiastically announcing all the action, but at the same time, he’ll be encouraging players to wager on the center bets. So enjoy all his chat and jokes, but don’t follow his betting advice!
Joining the Table and Placing Your Bets
You can’t use cash at a crap table, so you’ll need to exchange them for chips. When you join the table, make sure the dice are in the middle of the table before you put your money down. It’s considered bad etiquette to place your cash before the shooter has rolled, and the game is underway.
You can’t hand the cash straight to the dealer; you need to place it on the table when the dice aren’t in play. The dealer will pass your money to the boxman, who will count it before it is dropped into the dropbox. The dealer will then give you the chips; you should remove them from the table and store them in the chips rack in front of you.
When it comes to placing your bet, you can place them yourself on the pass and don’t pass line and come and don’t come bets, but the dealer must place them for you in all other areas.
We briefly discussed the role of the shooter earlier; this is the person who rolls the dice. Each player will take their turn as a shooter. If they don’t want to be a shooter, this is fine; many players prefer to opt-out of shooting the dice. If it’s a new shooter stepping up, the stickman will allow them to select a pair of dice from several pairs. To abide by correct craps etiquette, the dice must be rolled with one hand, and the shooter needs to hit the back wall of the table with them on their throw.
Before the shooter rolls the dice for the come out roll, they have to make a pass line bet; the other players can make pass line bets, as well as other bets. Each player is playing as an individual against the house.
A two-sided marker called a puck is used to show if the shooter is in the come-out phase; in this case, it will be marked off with its black side up and will be in the don’t come bet area. Once the point is established, it will be placed above the point box above the shooter’s point, white side up and marked on.
The shooter will throw the dice on the come out roll until they roll one of the point numbers [4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10]. Once they’ve established the point, they will carry on rolling the dice. If they roll a 7 before the point number, they will have ‘sevened’ out, and a new shooter will replace them. If they roll the point before they roll a seven, they will win that round and have the chance to shoot the next roll.
Type of Craps Bets
Craps is all about betting strategy, so knowing which have a high house edge, and which are the potential winning bets is very important. We will show you the best bets to make and the ones to avoid.
You also need to understand when the bets can be made; some must be made before the come-out roll, others during the game, and others once the point has been established.
The Best Craps Bets to Play
The pass line bet – This bet is made before the come out roll and pays even money. It’s the most common of the craps bets. The pass line bet wins if the roll of the dice is 7 or 11 on the come-out roll, and loses if the dice is 2, 3, or 12. If any other number is rolled, it becomes the point number.
Don’t pass bet – If you make a don’t pass bet at a casino, you’ll be what is known as a wrong bettor as you’ll be betting against the shooter. When a 7 or 11 is rolled on a come-out, this wager loses, and if a 2, 3 or 12 is thrown, they win. If the point is established, they will win if the shooter rolls a 7 before the point number.
Come bet – This wager is identical to the pass line bet; the only difference is that it is played when the white marker is on, so basically, after a point has already been established. If the shooter rolls a natural [7 or 11], you’ll win; roll 2,3 or 12, and you lose. Any other number establishes the point.
Don’t come bet – This is the same as the don’t pass bet, but after the point has been established.
Odds bet – This is one of the best wagers you can play, as it has no house edge; it’s also known as’ taking odds.’ These are similar to a side wager, and you use them with a pass line or come bet. Once the point number is established, you will be able to bet on a multiple of your initial wager; it will depend on the casino what the multiple is. Usually, it’s around 3x, but can go as high as 100x! If the shooter rolls the point number before the 7, you win, and it is paid out at true odds. You can also play the bet in conjunction with the don’t pass bet, and this is called laying the odds. In this case, you win if the 7 is rolled before the point.
Place bets – This is the favourite wager with craps players; they are similar to come bets, except you can’t use them in conjunction with the odds bet. They can be placed anytime you want after the come-out roll. You also have the option of removing the wager at any time. The other advantage over a come bet is that the point number doesn’t need to be repeated. Because of the odds payouts, if you make a place bet on the 6 or 8, it should be in multiples of 6 units, and with 4, 5, 9, and 10 – in multiples of 5, so if the unit was $1, then the bet would be $6 or $5.
Buy bets – You can also buy any of the point numbers [4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10]. These are similar to place bets, but for the privilege, you have to pay a 5% commission on winnings to the casino, which is known as ‘vig.’ The 4 or 10 are the best point number to buy, as they payout the most and have the best odds. You are betting on if the shooter will roll a 4 or 10.
Lay bets – it’s the complete opposite to the buy bet; you are hoping for a roll of the 7 before the point is rolled. This bet always requires paying a 5% commission.
Craps Bets to Avoid
So now that we have discussed all the best wagers on the craps table, let’s look at the ones to steer clear of. These are listed for your information rather than bets to play.
Field bets – This is one of those bets that often fool the new craps player. This is a one-roll bet; you’ll see on the layout the field bet is 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12, this looks like a pretty good wager with this amount of choice, and if any of the seven numbers are rolled, you win. If the shooter rolls 5, 6, 7 and 8, you lose, but what you have to understand is that those four numbers have a much higher probability of getting rolled.
Big 6 and big 8 bets – You’ll see these prominent bets at either end of the table, and you can bet on either one, wagering that the shooter won’t roll a seven before either the 6 or 8 come up. It’s one of those bets that looks pretty good, as the 6 and 8, along with the 7 are the dice that are rolled the most often. The actual bet is the same as a place bet on the 6 or 8, which has a house edge of 1.5%. But if you bet on the Big 6 or Big 8, it rises to a nasty 9%.
These are the bets placed at the center of the craps table, the one’s the stickman places and encourages you to wager on. They are here for your information, but we don’t recommend betting on any of them.
Hardway bets – This is a wager on what is known as the hard way pairs; these are the numbers 4, 6, 8 and 10. The roll of the dice must show two identical numbers, so for the hard way 4, it would be a 2 and a 2, for the hard way 6 – a 3 and a 3, and so on. If a 7 is rolled or an ‘easy way’ number, which would be a 4, 6, 8 or 10 without the double, then you would lose. For example, if the 6 was rolled, and a 1 and 5 or 2 and 4 was rolled first or a 7, then you’d lose the round. If you bet on the 6 or 8, it’s a 9.09% house edge, and even worse, the 4 or 10 gives the house an 11.11% house advantage.
Any craps – This is a single roll wager that the next roll of the dice will be a craps number – 2, 3 or 12. The casino has a house edge of 11.1% on this bet.
Any 7 – Also known as the ‘Big Red,’ it is a single roll bet that the next dice roll will be a 7. The house edge is 16.67%.
Snake eyes – a snake eyes bet is a one-roll bet on a 2. It gets its name from the two pips on the dice, looking like a pair of snakes eyes when they are side by side.
Boxcars – If you bet on boxcars if the shooter rolls two sixes for a total of 12, you win. The dice are said to look like boxcars on a freight train.
Yo-leven – The yo-leven bet, which is usually abbreviated to just ‘yo,’ is a single roll wager on an 11 being the next roll. This bet is named so that it doesn’t get confused with the seven bets.
Where to Practice Playing Craps
Most of the reputable online casinos offer an option to play craps and have free-play versions of their games. This is the novice’s best bet for learning craps in a stress-free environment. For craps players with a little more experience, these free games are great for trying out different bets and strategies before playing at the real money online games or at a land-based casino.