Craps: The Basics

The craps table is good fun no matter which casino you’re at. As there are lots of bets available, craps have more variety than other games. There’s also live action in the form of the ‘shooter’ (whoever’s turn it is to throw the dice). The shooter grabs the dice and rolls them. Their aim: for the dice to hit the back wall and land on a winning number combination.

Whether playing at a venue or online, craps have better odds than most casino games. Craps has a low house edge of 1.4, which means you’ll lose about one penny for every pound you spend.

For a beginner, however, the apparent complexity of it can make it quite intimidating just to walk up and get in on the fast-paced action. So we have put together a basics guide for you to demystify the game. Also, to help you overcome those worries so that you can crack on with the fun.

What is a game of craps?

In a nutshell, the game of Craps centres around betting on the outcome of a roll of a pair of dice.

Modern-day Craps is a new take on an Old English dice game. It was first introduced to America in New Orleans by settlers. It has been around for as long as the casinos themselves. You’ll also still find it played on street corners all over the world.

The Betting Areas

At first glance, you might think that the Craps table looks very complicated. But don’t be put off before you even pick up a dice. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The ‘Pass Line’ – This runs around three sides of the table. This area is for people placing bets on the Shooter’s side.
  • The ‘Don’t Pass’ bar – This is the less prominent area marked out inside the ‘Pass Line.’ Where people place bets against the ‘Shooter.’
  • “Come” and “Don’t Come.” – Where players can come into the game after a Point has been established. Also, place bets similar to Pass Line or Don’t Pass.
  • Area for one roll bets – In the middle of the table is where you place bets on individual rolls.
  • ‘Hard way bets’ – In the middle, eg. If you bet on a hard six, you will only win on 3 + 3, and a hard 8 is 4+ 4. If the roll produced 5 + 3 that would be an Easy 8.
  • ‘Field’ – This is for one-roll bets on the numbers 2, 3, 4, 10, 11 and 12.
  • Two areas marked ‘4, 5, Six*, 8, Nine* and 10’ – In front of the Boxman, these two areas are marked out for ‘Place’ or ‘Buy’ bets on the chosen number coming up before a 7 is rolled. (* these numbers as spelt out to avoid any confusion)
  • ‘Big 6’ and ‘Big 8’ – The areas on each side on the corners of the ‘Don’t Pass’ bar marked out for bets that 6 or an 8 will come before a 7.

For a good look at the how a Craps table is laid out and to see the game in action check out this great scene from The Cooler starring William H. Macy and Alec Baldwin. (Warning: contains violence.)

Who’s At The Craps Table

You’ll often find upwards of 20 people playing at any one Craps table. Beside them, there is the casino personnel. It’ll help you greatly to know who these people are and what role they perform.

The Personnel

  • The Boxman – he or she supervises the game and handles the cash
  • The Stickman – situated opposite the Boxman, he or she calls the results, moves the dice around the table with the stick and tries to keep up the pace of the game. Did we mention that it was fast-paced?
  • Two dealers – they manage the bets, pay the winners and scoop the losses.

The Players

  • The Shooter – to indicate that you want a crack at being the Shooter, and get to roll the dice, you must bet on either the Pass Line or the Don’t Pass Bar. Those that don’t want to shoot tend to wait until after the Come-out Roll to place a bet. The dice are passed from player to player in a clockwise direction. You can pass if you don’t want a turn.
  • The players – all the other people, betting on the roll of a pair of dice.

How Do You Play Craps?

Craps is played in rounds. Here’s how it goes:

The Come-out Roll.

A craps game begins when the Shooter bets either on the on the Pass or Don’t Pass lines after which he or she rolls the ‘come-out roll’. Others may also bet on the Pass or Don’t Pass, but they are not required to do so.

Outcomes of the ‘come-out’:

If the ‘come-out roll’ turns up a 7 or 11, those who bet on the Pass Line win even money. The Don’t Pass bettors lose.

If 2, 3 or 12 are rolled – otherwise known as Craps – everyone on the Pass Line loses and, you guessed it, those who bet on Don’t Pass win. A 2 or a 3 win even money and a 12 is a push.

Any other number rolled (4, 5, six, 8, nine, or 10) in the ‘come-out’ becomes what is known as the Point. The Point is then indicated on the table by a black button (or puck) labelled ‘OFF’, which up until the ‘come-out’ is settled sits on the table but away from any points.

Playing The Point

With a number of Point now established the dealer turns the button over to the side labelled ‘ON.’ Playing the Point does not require additional bets from the players. Don’t pass bets may not be removed at this stage.

The Shooter now wants to roll the Point before he rolls a 7.

Outcomes of Playing the Point:

If he rolls the Point, everyone passes, and he starts again with a new ‘come-out’ roll. The shooter may hit and establish the Point several times before rolling a 7.

If he rolls a 7, he is ‘sevened out,’ and everybody loses and the dice go to the next player to the left. The dealers and winnings collect losing bets plus original bets are paid.

How The Betting Works

Buying the odds – when Playing the Point players may bet up to three times their Pass Line bet on the odds that the Shooter will roll the Point before he or she rolls a 7.

Laying the odds – players bet that a 7 will come before the Point.

Come bets – offer the chance to make Pass Line bets after a point has been established, i.e., if a player misses the Come-out roll. This bet, like in the come-out roll pays even on 7 or 11 and loses on 2, 3 or 12. Like a Pass Line bet, players may also bet on the odds that the shooter will roll the Point before a 7.

Don’t come bets – this is the equivalent of a Don’t Pass bet that may be made after a point has been established, and then they may not be removed. A 2 or a 3 pay evens, a 12 is a tie, and 7 or 11 loses. Any number other than these becomes the ‘come point.’ Even money is paid if a 7 is rolled before the come-point if it’s the other way round bets are lost.

Place bets – players can place bets on 4, 5, six, 8, nine and 10 and win if their number is rolled before a 7. Place bets can be placed or be taken down at any point in the game. They are known as ‘standing’ bets because they are on and working throughout until they lose or are taken down. However, they are generally assumed to be ‘off’ during the come-out roll of a new game unless you let a dealer know otherwise.

Place to lose bets – work in the opposite way to Place bets in that players are betting that a 7 will come up before their number.

Buy bets – the same as a Place bet but with a different payout.

Lay bets – the opposite to a Buy bet and similar to a Place to lose the bet but with a different payout.

Hard Ways bets – bets on a hard 4, 6, 8 or 10 when they are rolled with an even split across the dice, i.e., 2 + 2, 3 + 3, 4 + 4 and 5 + 5.

Big 6 and Big 8 – betting, after a come-out roll, on either a 6 or an 8 before a 7. Both pay even money.

Proposition bets – these are bets that either win or lose on a single roll, i.e., the next roll.

Field bets – bets placed on the very next roll that one of the numbers in the Field area (2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 or a 12 ) will turn up. You lose on 5, 6, 7 or 8.

Check out this craps scene from the film Hard Eight with Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Philip Baker Hall. Which perfectly illustrates the principles of ‘Hard way bets’.