Many people consider craps as one of the hardest casino games. However, we say it is one of the most interesting casino games ever invented. In this article, we explain everything a player should know before playing craps.
Learn How to Play Craps
Dice are among the oldest playing objects invented by humankind, and there are records that ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and even American Indians used them. They have served as tools for fortune telling and have even been known as fun makers, but in the modern era, their primary purpose became gambling.
Craps is probably the most complex and the most alluring dice game ever invented. It is exclusively a casino game because it requires a special table, toolkit, and staff. Although, there is a home version of craps as well, called street craps. However, don’t play it on the street because it is illegal in most countries.
Casino craps is not a solitary game. So when you play it, everyone around the craps table will expect you to actively participate. That means to cheer for the shooter, not to break the unofficial norms of behaviour, and know the specific craps slang.
Craps isn’t complicated — it just isn’t like other table games. Craps is unique in terms of formal and informal rules, and that’s precisely what people like about it. That is why it takes a bit more effort to understand it, but once you get the hang of it, you will see that everything else goes easily.
What Do I Need to Know Before Playing?
Craps is like a mini philosophy of dice. Everything that happens during the craps game — what the players and staff do, the betting rules, the special table — revolves around two little dice and all the possible outcomes they can give us. And of course, our luck in correctly guessing that outcome. Simple as that.
Therefore, before you start playing, there is a bit of theory you have to do.
The first thing to familiarize with is the craps table. You will easily recognize it once you enter a casino because it is massive and has a deep void inside the walls surrounding the central green bottom. When you approach, you will see that there are many areas marked on this green background. Don’t get scared, because even if it doesn’t look like it, it’s actually very orderly.
The tables might vary, but each one has to have the following fields, which are mostly there for players to place chips on, and thus bet. The craps toolkit consists of 5 dice, a stick, and an “On/Off button.” The latter is actually a small disk the staff places on specific number fields so as to mark the current point number. We will get back to this later.
The most important parts of the table are the Pass and Don’t pass lines. You and other players will use these fields most often, and this is where you place basic bets. They are parallel and usually go around the corners of the table in the shape of the letter ‘U.’ Typically, close to these lines, in the corner, there are small box sections named “Big 8” and “Big 6.” These are specific bets we will mention later on.
Along one of the longer sides of the table, there will also be a larger “Come” field, and a smaller “Don’t come” field right next to it. Along the same side, you will see the only section that has nothing to do with betting. It has fields with labels 4, 5, six, 8, nine, and 10, and these are places for the “On/Off” button.
Finally, areas for one-roll bets are usually around the centre of the table. Typically, these have two sections. One is the so-called “Field,” and the other is for hard-way bets. You will recognize the “Field” area by its bold label and numbers 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12 around it. And the hard-way bets section is usually at the very centre of the table.
We will speak of different bets later on. For now, it is only important to understand the basic organization of the table.
There are basic and specific craps bets.
Basic bets are Pass and Don’t pass bets, and they can both be placed only on the come-out roll. If you put your chips on the Pass line, you bet that the shooter (the person who tosses the dice) will win or manage to pass on to the next round. It is basically betting in favour of the player.
That is why those betting on the Don’t pass line are considered party breakers, and others might leave them out of the collective euphoria. On the other hand, if you bet on the Don’t pass line, you will profit from anything that makes the shooter lose, and that is 2 or 3. On the other hand, in case the shooter rolls a 12, it is considered a tie, and no one wins.
Apart from these basic bets, there are some less common bets, reserved for more experienced players. Most of them can be only be placed after the first roll, and only if you have previously placed the Pass/Don’t pass bets.
What is more, there are also Come and Don’t come bets. They function under the same rules as the Pass and Don’t pass bets. The only difference is in the time when you can place them. So players put Pass and Don’t pass bets before, and Come and Don’t come bets after the come-out roll.
Another type of bet is the True odds bet. In order to understand this bet, you must understand the nature of craps combinations. So for example, if you play with two dice, there’s only one way to get a 2 (if both dice land on 1). On the contrary, there are three possible combinations with which you can get get a 7 (you might get 3 and 4, 5 and 2, or 6 and 1).
True odds bets count on this and pay more if you successfully guess a number that the dice will depict. Moreover, people often decide to put true odds bets because they are fair and one of the rare bets without a house edge. You can place them only if you had already placed one of the flat bets (pass/don’t pass or come/don’t come) and on a number that the dice landed on. And if the number appears again before the next 7 hits the table, you win, and the size of your payout will depend on what the number is. If it is:
- 4 and 10 — the possibility to get these numbers is 2 to 1, and therefore the payout rates are also 2:1
- 5 and 9 — the bet pays 3:2 for the same reason as above
- 6 and 8 — the bet pays 6:5
It is most profitable to bet and successfully get 4 or 10 since the payout rates are biggest in this case. So if you bet 5 dollars on 4 or 10, then you will get 10 dollars in case of a successful outcome. However, if you bet the same amount on 5 or 9, you will get 7 dollars. For the same bet on 6 or 8, you will win only 6 dollars. Finally, if a 7 lands in the meantime, all the True odds bet you’ve placed up to that point are returned to you.
There are some other less common bets you can place as well. They are Field, Place, and Proposition bets, but we would strongly suggest a beginner to start with these we have explained so far. Other bets have higher risks, and you will need to spend some time by the craps table before you learn how to properly play with them.
There are always many people around the craps table. Everyone can bet, the pace of the game is fast, and the excitement is high, so a casino needs people to handle the situation. It is very likely that the following people will host you at the craps table: a boxman, stickman, two dealers, and several craps players. The duty of the boxman is to supervise the game and take care of the cash. The stickman holds the stick to move the dice and hand them to the shooter. Dealers manage the players’ bets and pay the winnings. And of course, the most important player is the shooter — the person who tosses the dice.
The Course of the Game
The game of craps begins with the first bets on Pass/Don’t pass lines. As everything about craps is exceptional, so is the way you place bets. First of all, you shouldn’t give your money directly to the dealer. You should exchange your money for the chips before the game begins since placing bets is only possible with chips. Moreover, it is a custom to tip the dealer if possible.
Secondly, the stickman will offer five dice to the shooter for them to choose two to play with.
And after players finish betting and the shooter picks their lucky dice, the “come-out” roll follows. The come-out roll is the craps slang for the first time the shooter rolls the dice. It is the most important roll, determining the course of the entire game.
So there are three possible outcomes of the come-out roll:
- In case the shooter gets 7 or 11, they and all those who bet on the Pass line will win
- If the dice display 2, 3, or 12, the shooter and the Pass line bets lose. The Don’t pass line bets win only in cases of 2 and 3, whereas the 12 counts as a tie and the bets are then “pushed.”
- If any other numbers occur (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10), this number becomes the point number and the game carries on.
In the first two cases, the game ends. Will it be for the better or for the worse depends on your initial bet. The game continues only in the third case.
It is worth to note here that 7 and 11 are favourable numbers only in the come-out roll since they enable the victory for the player and all Pass line bettors. However, if the game continues and the shooter starts chasing the point number, 7 and 11 will make them lose in any subsequent roll. The situation is, of course, reverse for Don’t pass and Don’t come bettors.
If the game continues with the newly established point number, a member of the staff will place the “On/Off” button on this number field, with “On” face up. This gesture will mark the beginning of the second phase. The players can now put new bets, and the shooter can toss the dice again.
Their new aim, as I’ve already suggested, is to avoid 7 and 11 and get the point number again. So they roll again and again, while people place, win, or lose additional bets. People also get ecstatic or sad accordingly, and most of them cheer for the shooter. That is how it goes until the shooter rolls 7, 11, or the point number. This ends the game, the dealers pay the winners, the stickman collects the dice and the chips, and the table is cleaned and prepared for the next round.
There is a specific set of rules of acceptable behaviour at the craps table. Probably the most important thing you should remember is to NEVER say the word “seven” during the course of the game. Most of the players will just say “it,” while some of them even use the scary euphemism “the Devil.” And since craps is all about community, saying “seven” will not only bring bad luck to you but to everyone else too.
The other important thing to learn before you start playing is how to toss the dice. You should throw them vigorously, one by one (not at the same time), and in such a manner that they hit against the table wall.
Finally, never, by any means, touch or speak to the shooter if they are doing good.
Are You Ready for a Craps Adventure?
If you’ve read through this text carefully, you already know enough to start your first craps game. However, don’t let the excitement of craps take over you. Only gamble with the money you can afford to lose, and think of craps as entertainment. It is an excellent opportunity to have fun and socialize, and that is what it should stay like.
In the end, keep in mind that you will need time and experience to grasp all the details. But once you do, the charms of craps will be revealed to you in their full splendour. Welcome to the world of craps, and enjoy your stay!