What an unfortunate thing language can be! Shooting crap sounds awful to British English speakers, but it’s not quite so bad to many Americans where the word “craps” has a much longer established secondary meaning.
Craps is probably the most popular dice gambling game in the world, and just about the only one to make it from the streets and into the mainstream relative respectability of casino play, where the muted rattle of dice against padded felt walls is as iconic a sound as the click of a roulette wheel or the call of “banco” at the baccarat table.
Like most gambling games, craps is simple in its fundamentals but has a good deal of sophisticated gameplay and lore to satisfy the player who’s willing to dig deep.
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Craps is probably the bastard son of a medieval European dice game called hazard. The main difference between craps and hazard is the number for which the player aims. In hazard it could be chosen, in craps, it became seven.
From a simple route, hundreds of games and side-games have been developed and labelled craps. Because you can carry everything you need to play craps in your pocket, the game has become the most popular street gambling game, and that’s how it is often portrayed in popular culture.
It’s thought that American soldiers took the game around the world during the Second World War, unrolling a blanker to shoot on, and then demanded a legitimate forum to play it in when they came home – hence Las Vegas’s thriving craps scene.
How to Play Craps
In this craps guide, we’re going to be talking about casino craps, where shooters (the person who rolls the dice) and bettors (who bet on the outcome of the roll) are playing against the house.
Like all gambling games, this is a random number game. There are variants, and you should always check that you know the rules of the game you are playing before you play. If you can play for free to check out how you feel about this potentially complicated game then that’s a good idea.
Craps in real-life casinos is generally played with at least four members of staff around the table. A stickman who wields a stick and wrangles the dice. Two dealers collect and pay-out on bets. A boxman presides over the whole shebang.
Craps is the most social of casino gambling games. It’s the one that’s almost like a spectator sport, with one punter hurling the dice about and the rest of the crowd betting on what happens. It’s usually the noisiest part of a real-life casino.
The person they’re cheering on has the dice and is called the shooter. The craps game is played with two standard dice so can roll totals of between two and 12.
A series of betting options are marked out on the table – usually duplicated on two sides to get more players in – and players can place their bets before the roll. The shooter himself must also bet on the fundamental bet in the game the “pass/don’t pass” or “win/don’t win” bet.
Craps is played in rounds that start when the shooter is given a choice of dice to use. This is a memento of the era when dice players were routinely tricked with loaded dice that were weighted to produce a particular outcome – now it’s just a nice piece of theatre.
The round is split into two phases: the come out and the point.
When rolling the dice, the shooter is generally expected to hit the back wall of the table.
In this phase, bets on the pass line are lost on 2s, 3s, and 12s – this is called crapping out. Bets on the don’t pass line win on 2s or 3s and tie on a 12.
These rolls all end the phase.
Rolls of seven and 11 (a “natural”) pay out on the pass line bets.
Shooting in the come out phase continues until one of these totals is hit: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10.
Whichever of these totals is hit becomes the “point” and that phase of the game commences, being marked by the dealers moving a marker to the chosen point number on the table.
In the point phase, the round is ended by a seven (“seven out”). Pass line bets win if the shooter hits the point number.
Once the shooter has finished both these phases the dice are either passed to the left and the next shooter steps up to take their crap, or, if the shooter did hit the point number, they can carry on shooting themselves.
If this is already sounding insanely complex to you, don’t worry! The game is actually very simple, but it’s worth watching a few rounds or playing for free if you don’t feel confident.
Most craps betting is side betting.
It sounds complicated. Because it is complicated. There are a lot of potential bets to make, but it is possible to master them all – it’s no more complicated than any sport, for example, and I’m sure you know your way around lots of them.
The Pass Line Bet
The pass line bet should pay out 1/1 or evens.
This is won by first rolls of 7 or 11 (naturals).
It is lost if the first roll is a 2, 3 or a 12.
It is won if one of the point numbers is rolled – 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 – and then a 7 is rolled after another point has been rolled.
And it is lost if a point is rolled and a 7 is rolled before another point.
There is a sub-family of pass line bets that can be made after point has been established, and which pay out different odds (check these on the site you’re playing at) for different point totals (4 or 10; 5 or 9; 6 or 8) that must be rolled be a 7 ends the phase or round.
The Come Bet
The come bet is made after a point has been established. Otherwise, it follows the same rules as the pass line bet.
You can play the come bet in either round.
If the first roll is a 7 or an 11 you win. Two, 3, and 12 crap out. If the total is a point number – 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10 – then this becomes the target for the bet. At this stage – when the dealers move chips to the number in question – you can add an extra bet with odds.
This is the second round of the bet and pays if the come point number is hit before a 7 is thrown.
Don’t Pass Line Bet
This basically reverses everything from the pass line bet.
A 7 or 11 loses. A 2 or 3 wins! A 12 is a push – so a tie.
Point numbers mean that a 7 before a repeat of the point pays. The point before 7 loses.
Don’t Come Bet
This is the mirror image of the come bet.
After a come point has been set, this bet pays out when a 2 or a 3 pays out and 7 and 11 lose. The 12 is a tie. Points lose unless they are thrown again preceded by a 7.
This post-point bet is simply choosing one of the point numbers. You win if your number comes up before a 7. The odds are set by the total you bet on.
Another simple number choice that pays out on 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12, and loses on 5, 6, 7, or 8. Odds are set by the total.
The Big Six and Big Eight Bets
Again, a number pick, with either 6 or 8 paying if they are thrown before a 7, paying evens.
Some of the best craps bets:
The best craps bets are ones that win. Casinos know the likelihood of each outcome and price the odds accordingly. Keep this simple rule of gambling – long odds = less likely – in your head at all times!
Experienced players will have their favourites though.
Many prefer the place 6 and place 8 to the big 6 and big 8 because they have longer odds. That seems pretty inarguable to us.
Pass line bets have no house edge if you play it with odds. The house edge on the standard bet is also low.
House edge on don’t pass line best are also low – better than pass line – and can be further improved by playing odds on them.
The Craps Table
With all this going on you’ll be unsurprised to learn that a craps table is as complicated as all hell. Bets are made with chips, and the table has high edges to allow the dice to bounce around, looking something like a bath.
The text is printed along the table is mirrored to allow players from either side to get a good read of where they’re putting their money. In real-life casinos, you can place your own bets, or ask the dealers to deal with your chips for you.
The table is complicated because it holds a place for all of those bets we’ve listed above.
It’s also possible that other bets will be listed because like all gambling games there are variations.
A good online craps casino site will have a very clearly marked craps table, and will hopefully offer a good explanation of the odds, pay-outs, and names of each bet.
Craps Odds & Craps Payouts
Craps payouts and theoretical return to player figures are usually regulated by the licensing authorities, so always make sure that you’re playing at a licensed casino.
Bets and odds may vary from casino to casino and from table to table so make sure you know what the deal is where you’re playing.
These odds are an example showing the odds against something happening (the actual probability) compared to the payout from a Las Vegas Casino. The difference between the two is the “house edge” that allows the casino to make a profit.
- The pass line or come bet has a probability of between 251/244 and a pay-out of 1/1 giving a house edge of 1.414%.
- Don’t pass or don’t come bets have a probability of 976/949 and pay put 1/1 which is a house edge of 1.402%.
- Pass line or come bets with odds (and assuming a 5% commission for the house) have these probabilities.
- Four or 10 has a probability of 2/1 and a pay-out of 2/1, a house edge of 4.76%.
- Threes or twos have a probability of 3/2 and a pay-out of 3/2 and a house edge of 4.76%.
- Six or eight has a probability of 6/5, pay-out of 6/5 and a house edge of 4.76%.
- Don’t pass or don’t come bets with odds:
- Fours and 10s have a probability of 1/2 and a pay-out of 1/2 for a house edge of 2.44%.
- Fives and nines have true odds of 2/3, pay-outs of 2/3 and a house edge of 3.23%.
- Six and eight have a probability of 5/6, a payout of 5/6 and a house edge of 4%.
- Three, 4, 9, 10 and 11 have a pay-out of 1/1 and a house edge of 5.5% against various probabilities.
- Twos and 12s have a 2/1 pay-out and a house edge of 5.5%.
For place bets the figures are:
- Fours and 10s, 2/1 probability, 9/5 pay-outs and a 6.7% edge.
- Five or 9 has a 3/2 probability, a 7/5 pay-out, and a 4% house edge.
- Six and 8 have a 6/5 probability, a 7/6 pay-out and a 1.52% edge.
- Six or eight is a 10/1 chance with a 9/1 payout giving a house edge of 9.09%.
These figures are just a guide. They don’t cover all possible bets and the set-up may be different on any game you play.
Craps has its roots in street games and you can still play it that way if you have the brains to do it. The reason you’ll need a good brain is that there is a lot to remember in this game.
The traditional blanket or cloth on which players rolled the dice and laid their bets might have had some version of the table text we’ve described above.
Playing craps in the street makes for a much simpler game, though, and if you do actually get a game together it is likely that you’ll ditch some of the betting options and slim the game down to just the pass line bet.
Street craps have got a bit of a bad rap. And there’s a reason for that. In the United States, it is usually illegal. Illegal games are rarely run fairly. There aren’t loaded dice in casinos any more, there might be in a street corner game.
The obvious craps strategy is to stick on those bets that have the lowest house edge. That means you’ll keep more of your money when you win.
We reckon that makes your best bets, in order:
Pass line, then the come bet, then the Don’t pass bet, and then the Don’t come bet. All of these have a house edge of around 1.4%.
The bets with odds have no house edge. However, they are much more unlikely to come up so you’re taking a risk when you rack up your stakes in this way.
Six or 8 place bets have a 1.52% house edge. Jump on these.
The No 6 and No 8 bets, which bet that there will be a 6 or 8 before a 7 has a house edge of under 2% and decent odds.
Sevens have an almost mystical pull in craps, but you should make up your own mind on whether you want to follow that particular bus.
The big danger when playing craps comes not in online craps but in casinos. We’ve covered the noise and excitement around the game and it’s very easy to get caught up in that and make bad decisions.
Basic Craps Strategy
No strategy will beat craps. No strategy will guarantee the roll of the dice. And no craps strategy will do anything other than maybe keep out your money longer.
The simplest and best way to play craps is in a careful way, with a focus on the best returning bets – so the come and don’t come, pass and don’t pass, especially after a point has been established. Field bets are a good simple way to play craps, and lay and losing place bets are good value and seldom used.
Advanced Craps Strategy
There are hundreds of people out there offering gambling strategies. Craps – being such a complex game – has more than its fair share of charlatans buzzing around the scene.
Our advice is to bet low, follow safe gambling advice, use the simple strategies of aiming for the best house edge that you can.
There are a load of craps betting strategies, including some – like the Martingale – that are repeated in a number of games, and can be potentially disastrous because they involve increasing stakes by such large amounts.
Never pay for betting strategies because you will be ripped off.
Here’s one for free for you to try:
Bet 3 coins on a 3-Way bet. This bet is a way of constructing a craps bet by betting on a 2, 3, and 12 coming up before a 7. Alongside this, you should bet 40 coins on the pass line bet.
The people who offer this strategy swear that it is “effective” and “efficient” but betting strategies should be considered more of a way of getting nerdy about a game and appreciating its depth than a guaranteed way of winning because that’s like Santa Clause – made up.
This leaves us with the rather boring truth that craps – like all gambling games – is random. That it is slightly weighted in favour of casinos, and in the long run, the vast majority of players will come out slightly down.
None of these means that you won’t win large amounts of money. You might win a huge amount the first time you ever play.
But over time you’ll probably end up slightly down.
That’s really dull, we know, but it’s the truth.
So the best craps tips are safe gambling tips. Never play in an attempt to improve a bad mood or because you’re angry or sad. Never play with money that you can’t afford to lose. And never play to chase losses.
Online craps game is unique in that it’s a game that might be better than the real-life game. We think that that’s certainly the case for beginners.
That’s because the game of craps is complicated and generally played surrounded by a crowd of whooping drunks. Yeah.
That might be a little unfair to the average casino goer, but there is no way that playing craps in a real-life casino is going to be anything other than a high-pressure affair. So it can be very exciting, but you have to ask yourself if being excited is a good way for a new player to learn their way around a game.
So online craps is a brilliant way to find your way around the game and the table in your own time. For this, look first at simulators rather than actual live games, which might rush you.
Best of all for learning the game is playing it for free!
If you are going to play craps you should play for nothing as often as you can.
Then you can make all the mistakes you like at no cost. You can also enjoy yourself in a fantasy land where £1,000 bets are nothing!
Remember that it’s all about fun! Play free craps and enjoy the game!
How to choose the best craps casinos
A good craps casino will have a good choice of craps tables, perhaps offering some of the rule variants of the game, including converting it into a card game.
A good craps game should have good graphics and sound, but it should also be very clear. We’ve made the point over and over again that this game can be complicated for new players, so a good set of help guides is a good sign, and a very clear and obvious table layout is a must.
Other than that, you’re looking for a craps casino that offers all the basics that you need from any site you’re going to give your money and trust to: licensing, safety, security, data protection. Make sure you go through a safe-site checklist before you play online craps anywhere.
How to play online craps for real money
Playing for online craps for real money has never been simpler. It should only take a couple of minutes to set up an account. The only delays may come in proving your identity, and you may be asked to send copies of ID documents to the craps casino before you can receive money from them.
That done, you simply need to head to the casino section and then on to the craps table. The choice of tables – and the choice of sites and games – should have no impact on your likelihood of winning. It is unlikely to have much impact on how much you win on winning bets, but we always advise that you check the payouts before you start playing.
And make sure you know the rules!
After that, take things slowly, start out with small wagers, don’t make bets that you don’t understand, and look for help and advice if you’re a bit discombobulated by anything.
And enjoy yourself! Enjoying online craps is the best way to play it safe.