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How to Play Craps

The craps table is often the most raucous, excitable area of the casino. This noise and action draws many a gambler to see what all the fuss is about. Once at the table they will be greeted with a green baize layout, a stickman and over 40 betting options. Confusing? Like many things, not once you get the hang of it. The thing to bear in mind with casino games is that they are designed to be pretty easy to play and understand – the casino don’t want to put people off. Sticking to the basic “pass” bets outlined below is good advice for newcomers and the rest can be picked up as you go along.

Craps is a casino game where all the action is centred upon the result of the roll of two dice. The combined value of the two dice is used to determine the outcome of all bets in the game. Craps is played at a bathtub shaped table with bets laid out on a, usually green, felt playing surface. The bathtub layout is split in two with identical betting opportunities in each half. This is to enable players anywhere around the table to place their bets with ease. The stickman and box man are positioned opposite one another at the centre of the table. It is the box man’s duty to deal with all the cash in play whilst the stickman controls the dice, calls the results and running the game. The box man and stickman are aided by two dealers who manage the bets. A hockey puck with two sides labelled Off and On is used to communicate the state of the game.

One of the beauties of craps is the high level of player involvement, as it is the players themselves who get to roll or “shoot” the dice. For a roll to be valid both dice must make contact with the “wall” of the bathtub playing area, on the opposite side of the table to the shooter.

The Pass Bet

At the start of a round of play one player will be designated as the shooter. The shooter must place a pass/don’t pass bet before their first roll of the dice. This first roll is known as the come out roll. Prior to a come out roll the hockey puck will be positioned at the corner of the layout away from any numbers and will be showing OFF. The outcome of “pass” and “don’t pass” bets is determined by the roll or rolls of the shooter and both pay even money. They are the most popular bets in the game. Players wagering on the “pass” are said to be with the shooter, those on the “don’t pass” are against him or her.

Once the pass and don’t pass bets have been placed and the shooter is limbering up to make the come out roll, the obvious question is - how do you win? Let’s take a look at the “pass” option first. There are three things that can happen on this come out roll.

  • The roll results in a seven or an 11: Pass bettors win. Don’t pass bettors lose.
  • The roll results in a two, a three or a 12: Pass bettors lose. Don’t pass bettors win on two and three and push on 12.
  • The roll is a four, five, six, eight, nine or ten: The shooter must roll again.

The value of this come out roll is known as the “point”. The hockey puck with the word ON written on it will be placed in the numbered box corresponding to the point number. For pass bets to win the shooter must roll the point number again before they roll a seven. Don’t pass bettors win if a seven is rolled before the point number is rolled again.

Players other than the shooter are able to place a pass bet at any time, that is to say, either before the come out roll or once a point has been established. In addition an existing pass bet may be increased at any time during a round. However once increased it may not be then subsequently decreased.

The situation differs for those wishing to make a don’t pass bet. These bets must be placed prior to the come out roll. The reason for this is that prior to the come out roll both the pass and don’t pass bets have an equal chance of winning but once a point has been established, don’t pass is always the favourite to win. Don’t pass bettors are allowed to decrease or take down their stake altogether at any time after a point has been established. Once taken down or decreased the stake may not be subsequently increased.

A shooter keeps control of the dice for as long as he or she throws wins for pass bettors. Throw a win for the don’t pass bettors and the dice must be passed to the next shooter.

The Come Bet

The come or don’t come bet is identical to the pass/don’t pass bet. The only difference is that the come bet can be placed prior to any roll apart from a come out roll. The bet begins on the first roll after the bet is placed. Both the come and don’t come bets pay even money. Pay outs work as follows.

  • The roll results in a seven or 11. Come bettors win. Don’t come bettors lose.
  • The roll is a two or a three. Come bettors lose. Don’t come bettors win.
  • The roll is a twelve. Come bettors lose. Don’t come bettors push.
  • The roll is a four, five, six, eight, nine or ten. This establishes a point for the come bettor. The come bettors stake will be moved onto the corresponding numerical value on the layout. This is to distinguish his point from a point resulting from the point which applies to pass/don’t pass bettors, which is identified by the hockey puck. Come bettors win if their point is rolled before a seven. Come bettors lose if a seven is rolled before their point.

The reverse applies to don’t come bettors with the exception that if the first roll is a 12 the bet is a push.

Note: Some casinos give don’t pass/don’t come bettors the option to win on three and 12 and push on a two. This bet will be identified as don’t pass/don’t come bar two. The win on two push on twelve will be labelled as don’t pass/don’t come bar 12.

Whilst this may all sound very complex, in reality, once you are at the table things become a lot clearer and after a few throws of the dice you’ll be cheering and shouting with the best of them. It’s also worth noting that for those playing online much of the process will be automated, indicated or explained.

Free Odds

This is an additional bet available to pass/don’t pass, come/don’t come bettors. It can only be made once a point has been established. Having established a point a bettor may back up his pass/come bet by placing a further bet on the point being rolled before a seven. A player signifies their desire to place this bet by placing additional chips behind the pass line, or on top of their existing come bet but slightly offset to distinguish it from the initial stake. The term free odds comes from the fact that the casino has no built in edge on these wagers. This is a rare casino bet where the odds the player receives are the true odds of the event occurring. It is important to note these free odds bets cannot be placed in isolation, they can only be placed by a player who already has a pass or come bet currently in play. The odds for each of the point values are:

  • Four and Ten: 2/1
  • Five and Nine: 3/2
  • Six and Eight: 6/5

Most casinos restrict stakes on the free odds bets, with the limit expressed as a multiple of the existing pass or come stake. One common staking restriction is referred to as the 3-4-5 limit. This means you can wager three times the pass line stake if the point is a four or a 10, four times stake if it is a five or a nine and five times the stake if it is a six or an eight. This is a good system as it simplifies payouts. All payouts will be a whole number and a maximum odds bet will always result in a win of six times the pass line stake.

The free odds bet is also available to don’t pass/don’t come bettors. In their case they are able to back up their bets by making an additional wager on a seven to be rolled before the point value. As one might expect the odds paid are the direct opposite of those paid to the pass/come bettors. For each of the point values they are:

  • Four or Ten: 1/2
  • Five or Nine: 2/3
  • Six or Eight: 5/6

Again stakes will be restricted on these bets. For the don’t pass/don’t come option this restriction is usually the amount required to win a set amount. For example, in the 3-4-5 example the maximum stake would always be six times the don’t pass/don’t come stake.

Don’t come bettors may find themselves in a situation where the shooter makes their point, therefore making the next roll a new come out roll. The rules here are that the come bet stake stands for the next roll but any free odds bets are considered not to be in play. If the player wishes his free odds stake to be in play on the come out roll he must inform the staff they want their odds bet “working”.

Place/Buy Bets

The place bet is a bet on a number of your choosing to be rolled before a seven is rolled. To place these bets you simply place your stake on the table and inform the dealer which number you would like. The odds on each of the numbers are as follows:

  • Four: 9/5
  • Five: 7/5
  • Six: 7/6
  • Eight: 7/6
  • Nine: 7/5
  • Ten: 9/5

The buy bet is very similar. A player buys a number to come out before a seven. These bets are paid at true odds but the casino charges a 5% commission on the amount staked. Lay bets are the opposite of buy bets. A player laying a number is backing a seven to be rolled before that number. Lay bets are also paid at true odds with an upfront 5% charge on the potential amount won.

Place and buy/lay bets are considered not to be working on a come out roll unless the player informs the dealer otherwise.

Other Bets

As if that doesn’t seem like quite enough, there are also a number of extra bets possible, with most of the remaining bets in the game all single roll bets. Whether they win or lose is determined simply by the next roll of the dice, making them somewhat easier to understand. The bets available and their respective odds are:

  • 2: A bet that the next roll will total 2: pays 35/1
  • 3: Abet that the next roll will total 3: pays 15/1
  • Yo: A bet that the next roll will total 11: pays 15/1
  • 12: A bet that the next roll will total 12: pays 35/1
  • Hi-Lo: A bet that the next roll will total 2 or 12: pays 15/1
  • Any Craps: A bet that the next roll will total 2, 3 or 12: pays 7/1
  • C and E: A split bet: Half stake on 2, 3 or 12 and half on 11: pays 3/1 if 2, 3 or 12 and 7/1 if 11
  • Any Seven: A bet that the next roll will total 7: pays: 4/1
  • The Horn: Four bets. One each on 2, 3, 11 and 12: pays 27/4 if 2 or 12 and 3/1 if 3 or 11
  • World: One bet on each of 2, 3, 7, 11 and 12: pays 26/5 if 2 or 12, 11/5 if 3 or 11 and is a push on 7
  • Field: The next roll will be a 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 or 12: pays 1:1 if 3,4,9,10,11 and odds of 2/1 if 2 or 12

Additional Multi Roll Bets

  • Hard Four: A bet that a double two will be rolled before a seven or a total of four any other way. This pays 7/1.
  • Hard Six: A bet that a double three will be rolled before a seven or a total of six made in any other way. This pays 9/1.
  • Hard Eight: A bet that a double four will be rolled prior to a seven or a total of eight in any other way. This pays 9/1.
  • Hard Ten: A bet that a double five will be rolled before a seven or a total of ten any other way. This pays 7/1.