How to Play Craps

The Basics

There are dozens of bets one can make playing craps -- odds bets, come bets, place bets, field bets, proposition bets, etc... However, basic play can be distilled down to just 3 steps:

  1. 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," one of four casino staff who usually works the craps table, will present you with four or more 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.

  2. Place a bet before the come-out roll. At the beginning of a "game" of craps, a puck or button, usually called a "buck," will be on the table, with the word "OFF" written on it. 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 "Pass Line." Anyone else at the table can also place a bet on the Pass Line at this time, though they don't have to. This is the most basic craps bet. 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, his bet on the pass line wins even money, as does everybody else's. If the shooter comes out with a 2, 3, or 12--this is called craps--everyone loses their Pass Line bets.

    • If the shooter rolls any other number, this number becomes the point.

  3. Play the point. If the shooter establishes a point, by rolling a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, all bets on the Pass Line remain there. You don't have to make any additional bets to play the point. The dealer will take the "buck" and place it on the number which is now the point. Let's assume the point is 8. The shooter now tries to roll his point (8) before he rolls 7. If he rolls any other number, it doesn't matter, but if he rolls 8, everybody who has a bet on the pass line wins even money. If he succeeds in hitting his point, he starts over with a new come-out roll and a new bet on the pass line, thus repeating the cycle. If he rolls a 7 at any time other than during a come-out roll, though, everybody loses their pass line bets, 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.

More Advanced Bets

Knowing the three steps described above allows you to play a game of craps. Indeed, the pass line bet has fairly good odds and is simple to play. However, betting isn't limited to just pass line play. What follows is a description of some of the various bets you can place during a craps game:

  • Don't Pass Bets
    Placing a Pass Line bet is betting with the dice, so placing a Don't Pass bet is betting against the dice. Pass Line bets are also said to be "betting right," while Don't Pass bets are said to be "betting wrong." (Not that either is any better or worse a bet than the other -- this is just craps jargon.) Don't Pass bets are just the opposite of Pass Line bets. Rather than hoping for a 7 or an 11 on the come out roll, you're hoping for a 2, 3, or 12 (the losing roll of Pass Line bets). A 2, 3, or 12 will double your money on a come out roll if you've placed a Don't Pass bet. When a point is established, rather than hoping that the point number will be rolled again before the 7 shows up, you're hoping that the point won't be rolled again before the 7 shows up -- if the 7 comes first, you win. Both Pass and Don't Pass bets pay even money (i.e., you win or lose as much as you bet).

  • Free Odds Bets
    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 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 pass bet and the odds bet.

    • 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 pass line pays even money regardless of the point, the odds bet pays you according to the true odds (you'd get more for the 4). Thus if you want to bet more money, it's better to play the odds bet than to increase your pass bet. Most casinos offer double odds tables, so that you can place an odds bet of up to twice your pass bet, though some casinos allow even higher odds bets.

    • You can increase, decrease or remove your odds bet at any time.

    • If 7 is rolled, you lose both your pass bet and your odds bet.

  • Come Bets
    After a point has been established, you may also place a come bet in addition to your pass line bet. Note that you don't have to play both an odds bet and a come bet, but to play either you must play the pass line bet. A come bet is placed by putting your bet on the "Come" space. When you place a 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, however, so if the next roll is a 7, your come bet would win (because it follows the same rules as a come-out roll), but your pass line bet, along with everyone else's, would still be lost.

    • Assuming that the roll after you place you come bet is not a 2, 3, 7, 11, or 12, 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 (see "Free Odds Bet" above) 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.

  • Don't Come Bets
    In the same way that a come bet is similar to a pass line bet, a don't come bet is similar to a don't pass bet. A don't come bet is played in two rounds. If a 2 or 3 is rolled in the first round, it wins. If a 7 or 11 is rolled, it loses. If a 12 is rolled, it is a push (subject to the same 2/12 switch described above for the don't pass bet). If, instead, the roll is 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, the don't come bet will be moved by the base dealer onto a box representing the number the shooter threw. The second round wins if the shooter rolls a seven before the don't come point.

    Don't come bets can only be made after the come-out roll when a point has already been established. The player may lay odds on a don't come bet, just like a don't pass bet; in this case, the dealer (not the player) places the odds bet on top of the bet in the box, because of limited space, slightly offset to signify that it is an odds bet and not part of the original don't come bet.

    Winning don't come bets are paid the same as winning don't pass bets: even money for the original bet and true odds for the odds lay.

  • Place Bets
    Place bets can be made on the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10. When you make a Place bet, you are betting that a particular number will be rolled before the 7 is rolled. Place bets are put on the table (layout) for you by the dealer. Place bets are made any time after the "come out" roll, like Come bets except that you can't add odds. You can also remove or reduce Place bets at any time (unlike Come bets). Place bets made on the 6 and 8 should be in $\$$6 increments, while Place bets made on the 4, 5, 9, and 10 should be made in $\$$5 increments because of the odds they pay. If you make a place bet on...

    • 4 or 10, the house pays 9 to 5
    • 5 or 9, the house pays 7 to 5
    • 6 or 8, the house pays 7 to 6
  • Field Bets
    The Field is the large area near the edge of each side of the layout with the numbers 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12. You place your chips in the Field yourself, on no particular number. These are one-roll bets that pay off even money with the exception of 2, which usually pays at 2 to 1, and 12, which usually pays at 3 to 1. So, with a Field bet, if a 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12 is rolled immediately after you place your bet, you win. If a 5, 6, 7, or 8 is rolled, you lose. The initial bet and/or any payouts can "ride" through several rolls until they lose, and are assumed to be "riding" by dealers. It is thus the player's responsibility to collect their bet and/or winnings immediately upon payout, before the next dice roll, if they do not wish to let it ride.

  • Other Single Roll Bets
    Single-roll bets (also called "Proposition bets") are resolved in one dice roll by the shooter. Most of these are called "Service Bets", and they are located at the center of most craps tables. Only the stickman or a dealer can place a service bet. The single-roll bets include:

    • Any Seven / Big Red: wins if the shooter rolls a 7. Payoff is 4 to 1.

    • Any Crap / Three-Way Craps: wins if shooter rolls 2, 3, or 12. Payoff is 8 to 1

    • Snake Eyes / Aces: wins if shooter rolls a 2. Payoff is usually 30 to 1

    • Ace-Deuce: wins if shooter rolls a 3. Payoff is 15 to 1.

    • Yo / Yo-leven: wins if shooter rolls an 11. Payoff is 15 to 1.

    • Boxcars / Midnight / Cornrows: wins if shooter rolls a 12. Payoff is usually 30 to 1

    • On the Hop: This is a single roll bet on any particular combination of the two dice on the next roll. For example, if you bet on "5 and 1" on the hop, you are betting that the next roll will have a 5 on one die and a 1 on the other die. The bet pays 15:1 (just like a bet on 3 or 11) except for doubles (e.g., 3 and 3 on the hop) which pay 30:1 (just like a bet on 12, which is the same as 6 and 6 on the hop). When presented, hop bets are located at the center of the craps layout with the other proposition bets. If hop bets are not on the craps layout, they still may be bet on by players but they become the responsibility of the boxman to book the bet.

  • Other Multi Roll Bets

    These are bets that may not be settled on the first roll and may need any number of subsequent rolls before an outcome is determined.

    • Hard Way Bets
      When you bet on a number the hard way, you're betting that it will come up as a pair before it comes up in any other combination. For example, if you're betting on a Hard Way 6, you're betting that two 3's will come up before a 4 and a 2 come up or a 5 and a 1 come up.

    • Big 6 and Big 8 Bets
      These are simple bets that pay even money and can be placed at any time. You place your chips on the 6 or the 8 (in the Big 6 and Big 8 section of the layout) or on both, and hope that the 6 or the 8 is rolled before the 7. These bets pay even money (i.e., 1 to 1).

    There are still a few more bets that can be made by craps players (Buy Bets, Lay Bets, Fire Bets, Easy Way Bets, etc...) although payoffs for these can be less standardized from casino to casino than the preceding ones, so they will not be covered here.

The Craps Table

Most craps tables today are double layouts. At the center of one side of the table is the boxman, who supervises the game and takes cash collected by the dealers and deposits it in a drop box. Directly opposite him is the stickman, who uses a stick to push the dice to the shooter. The stickman controls the tempo of the game. He calls out the results of each roll and keeps up a continuous patter, urging players to get their bets down.

At the center of the table between the boxman and stickman are boxes for proposition bets -- one-roll bets. Also here are areas for hard-way bets -- betting that a 6, for example, will be rolled as two 3s before either a 7 or any other 6 is rolled.

On the sides are two dealers who take bets, pay off winners, and collect losing bets. The players encircle these side areas. In front of the players is the "Pass" line, a bar that extends all around the table for players who are betting with the shooter. A smaller, "Don't Pass" bar is for players betting against the shooter. The areas marked "Come" and "Don't Come" are for bets similar to Pass and Don't Pass but are placed at different times of the game.

Also on the layout in front of the players is an area marked "Field" for a one-roll bet that one of seven numbers will show up. Boxes marked 4, 5, Six, 8, Nine, and 10 are for "Place" or "Buy" bets that the number chosen will be rolled before the next 7. Six and nine are spelled out because players are standing on both sides of the table -- no need to wonder if that's a 6 or an upside-down 9. Down in the corner at either end of the double layout are boxes marked 6 and 8 -- the "Big 6" and "Big 8" bets that a 6 or 8 will roll before a 7.