Craps can be intimidating to newcomers, mainly due to the frenzied activity around the table. To start, a player - the "shooter" - throws a pair of dice onto the table. The first roll is called the "come-out roll.”
If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, it's a "natural," and they win instantly. A 2, 3, or 12—collectively known as "craps"—means they lose. Any other number becomes the "point." The shooter then continues rolling until they either roll the point number again (winning the bet) or roll a 7 (losing the bet). If either happens, the round ends, and a new shooter takes over.
Types of Bets
Here's where craps gets intricate: the myriad of possible bets. Understanding these can help you gain a strategic edge.
The pass line bet is the most fundamental wager in craps and the first you're likely to make. It's placed before the come-out roll, and its outcome depends on the shooter's roll. If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11 on the come-out roll, the pass line bet wins immediately. This is called a "natural." Conversely, if the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12 (collectively known as "craps"), the pass line bet loses right away.
However, if the shooter rolls any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10), that number becomes the "point." Once the point is established, the shooter continues to roll until they either roll the point number again, in which case the pass line bet wins, or a 7, which results in a loss.
Don't Pass Line
The don't pass line bet is essentially the inverse of the pass line bet. You win this bet if the shooter throws a 2 or 3 on the come-out roll and lose if they roll a 7 or 11. If they roll a 12, it's a push, meaning the bet neither wins nor loses. If the shooter establishes a point, you win the don't pass bet if a 7 is rolled before the point number.
Come/Don't Come Bets
Come and Don't Come bets are similar to the pass/don't pass bets but with a twist: they can be placed after a point is established. When you place a come bet, the very next roll of the dice becomes a mini come-out roll for that bet. For example, if you place a come bet and the shooter then rolls a 5, that number becomes the point for your come bet. If the shooter rolls a 5 again before rolling a 7, your come bet wins. Don't Come bets work similarly, but in reverse, much like Don't Pass bets.
Odds bets are unique because they are "fair" bets – there's no house edge. They are additional bets you can make after a point is established and can be made on Pass, Don't Pass, Come, or Don't Come bets. These bets win if the point is rolled before a 7 (for Pass and Come bets) or a 7 is rolled before the point (for Don't Pass and Don't Come bets).
A place bet is a wager that a specific number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) will be rolled before a 7. You can choose which numbers to bet on, and you can make a place bet at any time. You can also turn a place bet on or off anytime you wish, which adds a layer of strategy and flexibility.
Proposition bets are one-roll bets, meaning they're resolved in a single roll. These bets include specific combinations of the dice or specific totals. For example, you could bet that the next roll will be a 2 ("snake eyes") or a 12 ("boxcars"). Another proposition bet is "any 7," where you're betting that the next roll will total 7. These bets usually have high payouts, but the house edge is also high, so they're considered risky.
Calculating odds in craps can be tricky. Different bets carry different odds, but here's a quick overview:
- Pass Line/Come: The odds are 251:244, giving a house edge of 1.41%.
- Don't Pass/Don't Come: The odds are 976:949, giving a house edge of 1.36%.
- Place Bets: The house edge ranges from 1.52% (place 6 or 8) to 6.67% (place 4 or 10).
- Proposition Bets: These carry the highest house edge, ranging from 5.56% (any 7) to 16.67% (2, 12, or any craps).
Popular Game Variants
A few variations of craps have emerged over the years, including:
- Crapless Craps: In this variant, you can't lose a pass line bet on the come-out roll. However, because this changes the odds so dramatically, other payouts are often reduced.
- High Point Craps: A roll of 2 or 3 is ignored in this variant, with the shooter continuing to roll until they get a different result.
- New York Craps: Played mostly on the East Coast, this variant eliminates the come/don't come bets, and has different rules for place bets.
Understanding the Craps Table Layout
Craps tables may seem confusing at first, but they're actually quite straightforward. The table is usually an oval shape, covered in green felt, and has high edges (the "walls"). The layout consists of areas where you can place the various types of bets.
Understanding the layout of the craps table is an essential step in mastering the game. Let's look at each component more closely:
- Pass Line: The Pass Line is one of the most crucial areas on the table. It's located along the edge of the table, right where the players stand. This is where you place your bet if you're betting with the shooter.
- Don't Pass Bar: Just above the Pass Line is the Don't Pass Bar. This is where you bet against the shooter, predicting that they'll "seven out" before hitting their point.
- Come & Don't Come Areas: These areas are near the center of the table. After the point is established, bets placed here act like new Pass Line/Don't Pass bets for the player.
- Place Bets: This section, usually labeled as "Place Bets to Win," is where you can bet on a number being rolled before a 7, after the point has been established.
- Field: The Field covers a large area and is easy to spot. It offers a one-roll bet encompassing several numbers (2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12). Winning numbers are paid even money, except for 2 and 12, which often pay more (like 2 to 1).
- Proposition Bets: The center of the table holds the proposition, or "hardway" bets. These are high-risk bets that a specific combination will be thrown on the next roll. For example, a bet on "hard 8" wins if the next roll is exactly 4-4.
- Big 6 & Big 8: Not found on all tables, these spots offer bets that a 6 or 8 will be rolled before a 7. They pay even money.
- The Boxman's Area: At the center of the table, facing the players, is the boxman. This casino employee supervises the game, guards the chips, and ensures smooth gameplay.
- Dealers' Areas: Two dealers usually stand on either side of the boxman, facing the players. They handle the chips, manage the bets, and distribute winnings.
- Stickman's Area: Directly across from the boxman is the stickman, who uses a stick to move the dice, announces the results of each roll, and stimulates betting.
Remember, different tables may have slight variations in layout, but these are the common components you'll encounter. Understanding each area of the table and what bets can be made there can greatly enhance your gameplay and overall enjoyment of craps.
Different Betting Systems
Over time, several betting systems have been developed for craps:
- The Iron Cross System: Here, you place a field bet to cover the numbers 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12 along with place bets on the numbers 5, 6, and 8. You win on every roll except for 7.
- The Martingale System: This system involves doubling your bet after every loss, so when you eventually win, you'll recover all lost money plus make a profit equal to your initial bet.
- The Parity Hedge System: This rare, complex system claims to offer a no-risk solution to craps, but it's generally dismissed as a myth.
Remember, no system guarantees wins. Craps, like all casino games, is based on odds.
Craps has a unique language. Here are some key terms you should know:
- Snake Eyes: A dice roll of two 1s.
- Boxcars: A dice roll of two 6s.
- Yo or Yo-leven: Refers to an eleven in order to avoid confusion with a seven.
- Little Joe: A hard 4 (two 2s).
- Hard Way: A roll of 4, 6, 8, or 10 where both dice show the same number.
- Easy Way: A roll of 4, 6, 8, or 10 where the dice show different numbers.