Craps is one of the best casino games, but few people know how to play. Even some Vegas regulars don't feel comfortable walking up to a craps table, even though they've heard the yelling and screaming at hot tables for years.
Craps is complicated for novices because there are so many bets you can make, with so many players making bets all over the table all at the same time. To most uneducated observers, the craps table appears to be chaotic. Yet it's controlled chaos, and if you get familiar with just a few of the basics, you can feel comfortable in joining in on the fun.
The best way to learn is to hit the tables with a good friend who knows what he's doing, or to spend some time at a low-minimum table during an afternoon when the tables aren't completely full. The dealers will gladly help you out. Casinos also offer informal “classes” during the day where they will teach you various casino games.
Yet you may not have the luxury to learn this way, particularly if you find yourself in a casino with a hot date who wants to play now or some clients who insist on dragging you to the tables. Don't embarrass yourself by making a bunch of rookie mistakes. Check out some of the basic tips below and you'll do fine.
ROLL LIKE A MAN
Before you even think about how to bet, you need to know how to roll the dice. I'm not talking about how to hold the dice when throwing. Most players have their own style based on superstitions or just what makes them comfortable. That's all part of the fun. The key is you have to roll the dice hard enough so that they travel the length of the table. If you toss out a wimpy roll, the dealer will likely make you roll again and he'll probably offer up a crack about the lame attempt. So roll with authority so you don't get embarrassed. That said, don't throw them so hard that they bounce off the table. Watch the other players and you'll come up with a style that suits you.
BRING ENOUGH MONEY TO SURVIVE MORE THAN 5 MINUTES
Unlike blackjack where it's often easy to play all night with a moderate bankroll, craps is a game of big swings. Depending on the flow of the game, you'll have times where you have a sizeable chunk of chips on the table depending on how aggressively you bet, so bring enough money to the table so you don't have to walk away the first time a shooter rolls a 7 at the wrong time. If you're at a table with a $10 minimum bet, you should probably have $300 with you.
IT ALL STARTS WITH THE PASS LINE
To understand craps, you start with the Pass Line. A shooter's first roll is called the come-out roll, and the pass line bet is an even money bet that wins if you either roll a 7 or 11 on the come-out roll. If the come-out roll is a 2, 3 or 12 (known as "craps"), then the pass line bet loses. Now, if the shooter throws a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 on the come-out roll, then that number is established as “the point.” If the point number is repeated on subsequent rolls before the shooter rolls a 7, then the pass line bet wins. The pass line bet loses when a 7 is rolled before the established point number is repeated.
A shooter might have a bunch of rolls between the roll where he establishes a point and when he hits it or loses by rolling a 7. These rolls affect all sorts of side bets, but it won't affect you at all if you're just on the pass line. If a shooter hits his point, everyone will cheer, you'll win money, and the shooter can start again with another come-out roll and the whole process starts again. If the shooter rolls a 7 before he hits the point, he and all the pass line bets lose, and he has to pass the dice to the next player who then starts the next come-out roll. A table is hot and you'll win a ton of money when the shooter hits point after point.
These are the basics, and anyone can get the hang of it. You put your pass line bet in front of you on the table in the strip designated as the pass line, and you can stay at a table and just bet that all night if you like.
If you're a rookie, don't even bother with the Don't Pass line. This game is fun because all or most of the players are rooting for the shooter. If the shooter wins, everyone at the table wins assuming they're on the pass line. There are tons of side bets as well, but tables erupt in euphoria when the shooter hits his point because everyone is winning.
ALWAYS LAY THE MAXIMUM ODDS BEHIND YOUR PASS LINE BET
Craps offers some of the best odds in the casino, assuming you don't play like a novice. Once a shooter establishes a point, your odds of winning your pass line bet go down a bit as it's harder to hit a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 than it is to roll a 7. But, the rules let you make an additional bet at this point.
After the shooter has established a point on the come-out roll, any player who has made a pass line bet is allowed to "take the odds." This is an additional bet that the point number will be repeated before a 7 is rolled. In order to place your odds bet you just have to place the chips directly behind the pass-line bet in a separate stack. Look around, everyone except the novices and the fools will be making this bet.
This is the best bet in craps as the house has no built-in advantage. On your odds bet, points 4 and 10 pay 2-to-1, points 5 and 9 pay 3-to-2 and points 6 and 8 pay 6-to-5, matching the odds of those numbers coming up before a 7. Don't be the guy at the table who doesn't take advantage of this bet! If you don't think you have enough money with you to make these bets, or you're afraid to put more money down, then you shouldn't be playing craps at all!
The maximum odds bet varies depending on where you are playing, but in Vegas you'll usually see "3-4-5 times odds" limits, meaning the player can take 3X odds on the 4 and 10, 4X odds on the 5 and 9, and 5X odds on the 6 and 8. Always take the maximum amount, so if you're at a $10 minimum game, you would put an additional $50 behind your $10 pass line bet if the point is a 6 or an 8. Now you see why you need some bankroll.
DON'T WORRY ABOUT THE SIDE BETS
Once you understand the pass line and taking the odds, all the other stuff is noise. You can sit back and watch the game and see how other people bet, and over time you'll learn more about the game. But in the meantime you'll have the basics down and you can have a great time.
You'll see people “placing” bets in specific numbers like a 6 or 8, meaning you can win if the shooter hits that number before a 7 comes up. You'll also see people betting that even numbers will come up the “hard way,” meaning that the shooter will roll an 8 with doubles (two 4s) before he rolls one the “easy way” with a 5 and 3 or a 6 and 2. That would be a “hard 8.” These are fun bets even though the odds aren't that great, and you'll hear them a lot. Don't feel pressured to get too creative and join in. If the table gets cold you'll just lose your bankroll faster. Stick with the basics and watch and learn, and over time you'll see what style of play works for you.
SIMPLE RULES AND ETIQUETTE
Here are a couple more things to keep in mind.
Don't toss chips at the dealers. Place them on the table in front of them and say clearly which bet you want to make. This isn't necessary for your pass line bet or for your odds bet, but the dealers will need to place all your side bets. You'll see they have a system for where they place your stack of chips that will correspond to the position on the table where you are standing.
Tipping the dealers is common in casinos, and with craps you can use some of the side bets to place bets for the dealer. Let's say the point is an 8. You might see the shooter and other players tossing some bets on the hard 8, and some of them will say “two-way hard 8.” They'll lay down two chips and the dealer knows that one of them is a bet for the dealers (the smaller one if two different colors are included).
HAVE SOME FUN
Hopefully your first experience will be a good one with some hot shooters. Better yet, hopefully you'll be that hot shooter! Everyone will love you and your date will worship you (or it will at least feel that way for a few minutes… ). But don't get discouraged if you get wiped out quickly the first time you play. Craps is a game of wild swings, and that's all part of the fun.
Check out our Get Real Guide for Men regularly for more tips for the everyman!