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How to Play Craps

Three Methods:Your Set-UpThe BetsPlaying the Game

If you've ever passed a craps table in a casino when a "hot shooter" was rolling the dice, you've probably wanted to play. Craps is a game in which everybody (except the house) can win together, and when everybody's winning, a craps table can get pretty wild. Craps also has some of the best odds in the casino, so there's a lot of winning to be done. A craps table, however, can also look pretty intimidating. It's a big table with a bunch of numbers and unfamiliar phrases, and there can be more than 20 players and 4 staff at the table at any given time. In reality, though, craps is a pretty simple game.

Method 1
Your Set-Up

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    Know the personnel. When you walk up to any table, you'll want to know just who you're dealing with. Because craps involves the most money out of any standard casino game, you can expect to be working with a fair amount of employees.
    • Walk into virtually any casino today and you'll find a craps table with a double layout. At one side of the table (probably closest to the pit) in the center is the "boxman," -- he supervises the game and handles and stashes all the cash (way more than what's circulating in all of the Democratic Republic of the Congo). Opposite him is the "stickman" (not the stick-figure man)-- he's the one operating the stick, believe it or not, using it to push the dice around. He controls the tempo of the game, calling out the results, working with the dice, and urging players to be decisive.
    • Near the stickman will be two dealers who manage all the bets, pay the winners, and collect the losers' money. Surrounding them will be the players -- your new friends.
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    Familiarize yourself with the table. Casinos aren't meant for customers to be scared away by feeling intimidated -- the craps table is simple once you've studied it for a minute. Here are the basics:
    • All around the table is a "Pass" line. This is for bettors who are on the shooter's side. A less noticeable "Don't Pass" bar is for the players who are smart enough to bet against the shooter.
      • You'll also notice areas marked "Come" and "Don't Come." These are similar to the two aforementioned sections, but will be utilized later in the game.
    • If you take a hard look between the boxman and the stickman, you'll see an area for proposition, or one-roll, bets. That's where you'd be betting on one specific roll, naturally. In the same vicinity is an area for hard-way bets. That's where you might bet, for example, that an 8 will come up as two 4s before a 7 or an "easy" 8 does.
    • Also in front of the players is a section that says "Field." This is for one-roll bets that one of seven numbers (2, 3, 4, 10, 11, 12) will turn up next. The boxes that say 4, 5, Six, 8, Nine, and 10 are for "Place" or "Buy" bets that, before the next 7, the chosen number will be rolled.
      • Six and Nine being spelled out make it easy for players on all sides of the table to be able to decipher between the similar shapes.
    • In the corners on either end, you'll find boxes marked Big 6 and Big 8 -- bets that a Six or 8 will come up before a 7.(Pays 1:1 or 7:6)
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    Learn the lingo. "Comin' out. Bet those hard ways. How about the C and E? Hot roll comin', play the field. Any mo' on yo?"[1] Did you catch any of that? Odds are that's what you'll be hearing when you saunter up to a game in progress. It will be mind-boggling at first, but you'll be hating those Skinny Dugans in no time. Here's a list to get you started:
    • Craps - 2,3, or 12
      Yo, or Yo-leven - 11
      C and E Craps - 11
      Snake Eyes - Two 1s
      Boxcars - Two 6s
      Little Joe, or Little Joe from Kokomo - 4 (particularly rolled as a 1 and a 3)
      Jimmy Hicks - the number 6
      Skate and Donate - 8
      Skinny Dugan - A loser 7
      Center Field - 9, because it's in the middle of the seven numbers on the field bet
      Puppy Paws - Two 5s -- though the more common call is simply "Hard 10," or "10, the hard way"
      Natural Winner - 7 or 11 on the come-out roll[1]
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    Get "superstitious". Just like any avid gambler, the gods of luck must not be scoffed at, lest ye want your money revoked. Avoid certain habits (and do others) to look like a seasoned pro (literally) and not drive the others away, leaving you with nothing but nasty glares for companionship.
    • The more superstitious of players think it's bad luck to use different dice on the same roll. If a shooter were to throw one or both dice off the table accidentally, you might hear him call "Same dice!" just for good measure.(You might break the other dice and this one too.)
    • If you call out, "Seven!"(the worst thing to say), don't be offended if everyone automatically flees. It's like uttering Macbeth in the theater. The word should be unthinkable and definitely unspeakable.
    • If you see a penny under the table, leave it; it's good luck. Or so some people might tell you.
    • If you're shooting, don't throw both dice in the air at the same time. You'll look like a pro if you toss just the one (maybe the other later); if you toss both, be ready for glares and a rush to the exit.

Method 2
The Bets

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    Place a bet before the come-out roll. At the beginning of a round of craps, a button with the word OFF written on it is on the table not near any points. This means that no point (explained later) has been determined. A craps game can't begin until the shooter has placed a bet on the (don't) pass line. Anyone else at the table can also place a bet on the (don't) pass line at this time, though they don't have to. These are the most basic craps bets. The shooter's first roll of any turn is called the come out roll.
    • If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11 on the come-out roll, the pass line wins even money, the don'ts, you've lost your money. If the shooter comes out with a 2, 3, or 12----this is called craps----everyone loses their pass line bets and wins their don't pass bets (2 or 12 is a push for the don'ts, whichever the casino says.)
    • If the shooter rolls any other number, this number becomes the point.
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    Play the point. If the shooter establishes a point, by rolling a 4, 5, six, 8, nine, or 10, all bets on the (don't) pass line remain there. You don't have to make any additional bets to play the point. The dealer will take the button and place it on the number which is now the point. The button is now flipped to the ON side.
    • Let's assume the point is 8. The shooter now tries to roll his point (8) before he rolls a 7 (or the other way around). If he rolls any other number, it doesn't matter, but if he rolls 8, everybody passes. If he succeeds in hitting his point, he starts over with a new come-out roll and a new bet on the (don't) pass line, thus repeating the cycle. If he rolls a 7 at any time other than during a come-out roll, though, everybody fails and the dice are turned over to the next player (the first player has sevened out).
    • A player may hit, establish and hit several points before he finally rolls a 7, or he may roll a 7 on the first roll after he establishes his first point. You just never know what will happen.
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    Place an "odds bet." Learn the preceding steps, and you can play craps. The (don't) pass line bet has fairly good odds, and it's simple to play. Some people only play the pass line. There are, however, many other possible bets. One of the simplest is the odds bet, which also, incidentally, can have fair odds.
    • After the shooter has established a point, you can place an additional bet behind the pass line. This is the odds bet and can only be played if you are also playing the (don't) pass line. The odds bet is an additional bet on the point, so that if the shooter hits his point, you will win both your (don't) pass bet and the odds bet (2:1 point 4/10, 3:2 point 5/Nine, 6:5 point Six/8; 1:2 point 4/10, 2:3 point 5/Nine, 5:6 point Six/8).
    • The odds bet pays true odds, which differ depending on what the point is. For example, if the point is 4, there are only three combinations of the dice that will hit the point, while there are five ways to hit a point of 8. Thus the true odds for hitting 4 are worse than the true odds for hitting 8, and while the (don't) pass line pays even money no matter what, the odds bet pays you according to the true odds. Thus, if you want to bet more money, it's better to play the odds bet than to increase your pass bet. You should increase your don't bet rather than taking odds. House edge on odds (pass and don't pass) is zero.
      • Most casinos offer 3-4-5X odds tables, so that you can place an odds bet of up to thrice your pass bet if a 4 or a 10 is the point, 4 times if a 5 or a nine is the point, and 5 times if the point is a six or an 8, though some casinos allow even higher odds bets.
    • You can increase, decrease or remove your odds bet at any time.
    • The odds bet follows the same rules as your other bet.
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    Place a "(don't) come bet." After a point has been established, you may also place a (don't) come bet in addition to your (don't) pass line bet. Note that you don't have to play both an odds bet and a (don't) come bet, but to play either you must play the (don't) pass line bet. A (don't) come bet is placed by putting your bet on the "(Don't) Come" space. When you place a (don't) come bet, the next roll the shooter throws will be your own come-out roll, with the same rules for a regular come-out roll. The come bet affects only you.
    • Assuming that the roll after you place you come bet is a 4, 5, six, 8, nine, or 10, the number rolled becomes your own "come point." The dealer will move your come bet to the appropriate number. Your pass line bet still depends on the shooter's point, so you now have two points.
    • A come bet works like a pass line bet. If the shooter throws your come point before he throws a 7, you win, but if he throws a 7, you lose both your pass line bet and your come bet. If the shooter throws both his point and your come point before rolling a 7, you win both.
    • You can place odds on a come bet. Tell the dealer "odds on come" when you lay your odds bet down.
    • Once your come bet is placed on your come point, you can place additional come bets to establish additional come points.
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    Graduate to fancier bets. Once you've got the basics down, you'll want to know about the...riskier bets. These are field bets -- bets that on one roll (the next roll) one of seven numbers will show up. They don't have to wait for the come-out; they may be placed before any roll by placing a chip or chips in the field area. Likewise, you may bet propositions or hard ways before any roll by putting a chip or chips on the layout and telling the dealer what bet you want.
    • After 7, six and 8 are the numbers that turn up the most. There are six ways to make 7 and 5 ways to make six and 8. If the player "places" six or 8 in multiples of $6, the house will pay winning wagers at odds of 7-6.[1] The means the house percentage is at 1.52%, which is better than most other bets in the entire casino and still offers quick play -- but it's not as reliable as Line bets that have free odds.
    • 4,6 ,8, and 10 are the hard-way numbers. That is, these numbers pop up if you roll the dice and the same number pops up on each. If you make a hard-ways bet, the number must come up (two 2s, two 3s, two 4s, two 5s) before a 7 and before it shows up in any other combination. The house edge is 11.1 percent on the 4 and 10 and 9.09 percent on the 6 and 8.

Method 3
Playing the Game

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    Get some chips at the table. Don't try to hand cash to the dealer; all you need to do is the place some money on the layout (before the shooter has the dice) and ask the dealer for "change only." The dealer actually isn't allowed to take anything from your hand.
    • You can tip the dealer, but do so in chips as well.
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    Be an active and orderly participant. While craps is very much so a game of camaraderie and group mentality, there's a definite etiquette that a non-shooter must abide by. When you're not rolling, keep a few things in mind. And when you are, the same goes.
    • You may make (Don't) Pass bets, the odds bets backing them, Field, and (Don't) Come bets yourself. All you need to do is place your chips on the table in the appropriate, marked place. On all other bets, place your chips on the table ask the dealer to make the bet. Once you've completed this, take your hands out of the table area. Craps moves very quickly -- you don't want to become an interference.
      • Store your chips in the rail in front of you -- that's its purpose. Put them right in front of you and keep an eye on them at all times. Though craps is about solidarity, that doesn't keep the occasional player from snagging a chip or two.
    • In general, cheer on the side of the shooter. Root for the point to come up as quickly as possible. If you're betting with the shooter, be as loud as you like. It's pretty common for the entire casino to hear the roars of the craps table. However, if you've opted for the "Don't Pass" option, keep your excitement to yourself. You wouldn't like it if someone were rooting against you, would you? If you do, you'll not feel very welcome (or be welcome) at the table.
    • If you're shooting, fling the dice to the opposite end of the table. And don't skip them along the sides -- the guys working the table want to see the dice in the air.
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    Roll the dice. In truth, you could play craps all your life and never have to roll the dice. Players take turns being the "shooter," and you can pass when it's your turn. Craps is a dice game, so you should probably at least learn how to roll in case you feel lucky. Generally when it's your turn, the stickman will present you with five dice. You then choose two to throw, and the stickman takes the others back.
    • Always handle the dice with only one hand. This is a must-know rule to prevent cheating. When it's your turn to roll the dice, you must roll them so that they cross the table, hit the opposite wall, and bounce off the wall.
    • If either dice goes off the table or fails to go far enough, you'll need to roll again. The craps table is fairly large, so you actually need to toss the dice rather than simply rolling them as you would for a board game.
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    Play conservatively. These are the most basic bets of craps. You can also bet on single numbers or single rolls, and you can even bet on certain more complex "propositions." To begin, however, you should learn the basics and get comfortable playing craps. It can be a very fast-paced game, so you want to be able to master the simpler bets so that you don't have to think about them. Once you've done so, do some research on the odds of other bets and learn more about betting strategies.
    • Playing only these simple bets will give you better odds than just about anywhere in the casino, but you can win more by playing riskier bets. You can also lose more, and quickly, so you'll need a hefty bankroll if you plan on doing anything more complex.
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    Know your odds. Just as with every game in a casino, the house would have the edge. 7 is the number most likely to come up with a pair of dice -- and the house practically owns it. Know what you're getting into when you make your bets.
    • The house has only a 1.41 percent (7/484) edge on a Pass bet and 1.36 percent on Don't Pass.[1] Most players bet the Pass line, in part because it builds camaraderie and solidarity, and in part because the house edge is low. They are called "right bettors,"; those who bet against the shooter are called "wrong bettors," unsurprisingly enough.
    • Don't Pass/Don't Come bettors may lay odds even when the point has already been established, which results in the same odds the house gives a Pass/Come bettor on an odds bet. For example, if the point is 4 or 10, a bettor with $5 on the Don't Pass line can bet another $10 to win $5 if a 7 is rolled before the point (2:1 odds). It's not that great of a deal, sure, but remember that once a point is established, Don't Come bettors will win more often than they lose. And points happen 2/3 of the time. Don't Come bettors who lay odds also lower the house edge to .7 percent with single odds and .5 percent with double odds.[1]
    • A bet on any craps (a proposition bet), for example, wins if the next roll is 2, 3, or 12; it loses if any other number is rolled. House percentages are huge on this type of bet: 1/6 bet on any 7, 13.9 percent on 2, 13.9 percent on 12, 1/9 bet on 3, 1/9 bet on any craps, 1/6 bet on 2 or 12, 1/6 bet on 3 or 11, 1/9 bet on 11.[1] If it wasn't clear already, only do this if you're looking for a quick way to lose money.


  • Some casinos offer classes for how to play craps and other table games. You can learn a great deal in a short time in one of these courses.
  • The key thing to understand is the difference between the win-loss rules on come-out rolls versus those when a point has been established.
  • Different casinos may have slight variations on the rules, particularly concerning how much can be bet on certain bets. These house rules will generally be posted at the table. Check with the dealer if you're unsure about something. If you place a bet that is not allowed or make some other honest mistake, the dealer will usually tell you promptly, and it won't be a problem.
  • The craps crew can help you learn the game, a slower game will give the dealer more one-on-one time with you.
  • Tip the dealers and they will help you remember to make your bets. They are supposed to do this anyway but that tip will have an extraordinary impact on his memory.
  • It is common courtesy to wait until the game finished. The point puck is off to put money down on the table to buy chips, as there can be a lot going on when another player is on a good roll.
  • It is better to bet the don't pass line and not the pass line.


  • Remember that the odds are against you in any casino game. That is, you are not card counting, and not stealing money, and not playing a game with a player edge put out for you to play by accident. While the safer craps bets offer great odds for a casino game, craps is still a game of chance, and the house doesn't lose money on it (There's much less craps beaters than average gamblers.)
  • Compulsive gambling is a serious problem that afflicts people worldwide, and it doesn't take long to develop a gambling problem. If you think you may have issues with gambling, stop immediately, and seek help to address your addiction.

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Categories: Games of Chance