For decades, craps was the biggest and most important game in the casino. Slot machines were what the women played while the men shoot dice. Blackjack didn’t get big until Edward Thorp popularized card counting in the 1960s. And roulette was too boring and too European for most American gamblers.
The purpose of this page is to provide an introduction to the game of craps and how it’s played in a casino. I’ve also included some tips about strategy and some information about other similar games.
How to Play Craps
If you’ve never played craps before, the easiest way to get started is to take one of the free classes offered by the casino. Another easy way to learn is to start playing at an online casino’s free version of the game. Either method will familiarize you with the game.
Another easy way to get started is to just jump in. At its heart, craps is similar to roulette. You place a bet on a certain outcome using the betting surface, and you get paid out based on which wager you made. If you want to just jump into the action, start by placing a small bet on the pass or the don’t pass wager on the table.
By betting on the pass line, you’re hoping the shooter will succeed. Placing a bet on the don’t pass line, then you’re hoping the shooter will fail. The shooter succeeds on her first roll if she rolls a 7 or an 11 on her first roll of the dice. She fails if she rolls a 2, 3, or 12. Any other total becomes a point.
If a point is set, the player has the option of taking an odds bet. This is an amount equal to the original bet or some multiple of it. This is one of the best bets in the casino, as it pays out at true odds. The table doesn’t have the odds bet labeled; to place this bet, you place a new bet on the table behind your pass or don’t pass bet.
Once the point is set, the pass bettor is hoping that the shooter will roll the point before rolling a 7. If she does, then he wins. If she rolls a 7 first, then the bettor loses, and a new come-out roll is initiated.
The Rules of Craps
The rules of craps are simple enough. The players take turns being the shooter (i.e. the person rolling the dice). Players place their bets by putting their chips on the corresponding section of the table—all of which, except for the odds bet, are clearly labeled. If a player doesn’t know how to place a particular wager, all he has to do is ask the dealer or the stickman.
If a player is the shooter, she must bet on the pass or don’t pass. This is a wager on the shooter’s success or failure in each round. Being the shooter has two phases—the come out roll and the point. If the player wins immediately on the come out roll, she gets to continue as the shooter. If she succeeds at making the point, she also gets to continue as the shooter. When she finally loses, the next person at the table gets to be the shooter.
A bewildering array of bets are available, all of which have different payouts. The rule of thumb is that the more complicated the bet is, the worse the odds are.
Craps Strategy & Tips
That last sentence in the section on the rules of craps sums up craps strategy pretty well. Stick with the simplest bets, and you’ll be playing a game with one of the lowest house edges in the casino. If you can take odds, you should max those out, too—this reduces the house edge even further.
Some players believe that they can influence the outcome of the roll through skilled rolling of the dice. The idea isn’t that they can actually control the dice; it’s that they can increase the chances of getting a certain outcome by enough of a percentage that they can swing the odds in their favor. This is called “dice control” or “dice setting”.
I’m skeptical of how well dice control/dice setting works, but I’ve seen reports on the Internet from reliable sources who have attended demonstrations. These reports had the ring of truth to them. My guess is that learning to control the dice well enough to get an advantage over the casinos takes more practice and effort than most players are willing to put in.
Craps Variants & Other Dice Games
What I’ve described so far on this page is casino craps. Other versions of the game are played, including “street craps”. It’s not hard to figure out where this version of the game got its name; it was played in the streets and back alleys of cities, especially in the early part of the 20th century. Since it’s not played in a casino, there’s no banker, so players have to watch the money closely. Also, the number of bets is severely limited—there’s no table to place bets on, so players just bet on the pass or don’t pass line when playing street craps.
“Crapless craps” is a simplified version of the traditional game that originated in the Stratosphere in Las Vegas. In this version of the game, players can’t lose on a pass bet on the come out roll. But players also lose the sure winner when the shooter rolls an 11. This seems like a good deal for the player, but it’s not—crapless craps has a house edge of over 5%. The same bets on traditional casino craps has a house edge of just over 1%.
Craps is a great game that seems intimidating at first. Players should learn how to play the game anyway. It’s one of the most exciting and fun games in any casino, and the house edge is smaller than almost any other casino game. Stick with the pass and don’t pass bets, and the odds bet when a point is set, and you can have hours of enjoyment without losing a lot of money.