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Craps Guide

Craps is a dice game where players place bets on the outcome of the roll of a pair of dice. Money can be wagered with the players betting against each other - this is commonly known as street craps. The game you see at casinos, and online versions of Craps, is wagering against the house.

Origins of the game Craps

Street Craps
Shooting dice in the street

The origins of the game Craps are complex and may possibly date all the way back to the Crusades and later influences by French gamblers. However today’s version of the game is generally accepted to have developed from a simplification of the Old English game Hazard, which was mentioned in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the 14th century. The game was brought to New Orleans by Bernard Xavier Philippe de marigny de Mandeville, a gambler and politician. Later, a man named John H. Winn introduced the “don’t pass” betting option in order stop players being able to exploit the casino using fixed dice. It is this version of craps that still exists today and generates such excitement in casinos around the world.

How to play Craps

To a novice, the game can look intimidating. If you are in a land casino there are many people around the table, shouting out in what seems to be a completely different language and it is quite crowded. The overall impression is "where do I begin?" However once you learn the most basic bets, it is not that hard to begin playing the game and you will catch on quickly.

Craps is a game played by multiple players at the casino, although online you can usually play on your own if you are so inclined. The players take turns rolling two dice. The player rolling the dice is called the shooter. When playing online you have the option to choose to be the shooter or the computer can take that role. You can bet on various options by placing chips on the appropriate sections of the Craps table.

The shooter must always bet on either the Pass line or the Don’t Pass line. The game is played in rounds and these bets are riding on the outcome of the particular round. The round ends once the player loses by rolling a seven. The dice are then moved to another player; in online versions this is where you can hand the dice to the computer, though you have the option of always being the shooter.

Each round has two phases – the come out and the point. The round starts with the shooter making a come out roll. If the player rolls a 2, 3 or 12 (know as craps) they lose automatically and anyone betting on the Pass line loses as well. If a player rolls a 7 or 11 (known as natural) they automatically win and the Pass line bets pay out. These numbers are statistically easier to roll with two dice than a 2, 3, or 12. If any other numbers are rolled they establish "the point" - this is the number that then must be rolled again before the player rolls a seven. If a seven is rolled before the point number is rolled, the Pass line loses and the round ends.

The Craps table
An online casino craps table

Different types of Craps bets

The Pass line - if you understand any bet in Craps this one should be it. It is the most fundamental bet in Craps and almost all players will make this bet. The shooter must make a Pass line bet. As explained in the "How to play" section above this bet is placed on the pass line itself (marked on the table) on the come out roll. If the come out roll is a 7 or 11, then you win even money. If the come-out roll is a 2, 3 or 12, then you lose. If any other number is rolled it becomes the point number. If a 7 is rolled before the point is rolled again then you lose, if the point is rolled before the 7 you win even money.

Don’t pass line - is a bet for the shooter not to make their point number, almost the opposite of the pass line bet. So, it loses if the come out roll is a 7 or 11 and wins if the come out roll is a 2 or 3. If a 12 is rolled it will draw. This is done to ensure the casino maintains a house edge regardless of whether a pass line or don’t pass line bet is made by the players. If a point is made, then the opposite applies here as well. If a 7 is rolled before the point the bet wins, if a point is rolled before the 7 this bet loses.

Odds - this is a bet with no house edge. Once the pass line bet is made and the point established, you can make an additional side bet that the point will be rolled before a 7 is rolled. To make this bet, place it behind your pass line bet. The odds pay 2:1 on points of 4 and 10, 3:2 on points of 5 and 9, and 6:5 on points of 6 and 8. Different casinos allow different maximum bets on the Odds, but generally speaking the larger your Odds bet, the more you are able to reduce the house edge of your overall wager.

Come - is like a pass bet, but can be placed at anytime except during the come out roll. The roll which is made after this bet will count as a come out roll for the come bet. You can also bet the odds on top of this bet, just like in the pass line bet.

Don’t come - is the same as the Don’t pass bet, the difference is that in can be made on any roll except the come out roll. You may also play an odds bet if a point is rolled.

Place - is the same as the odds bet, but you do not need to have made a pass or come bet first. This bet pays fewer odds because of this and can be made at any time except on the come out roll. Place bets on 4 and 10 pay 9:5, place bets on 5 and 9 pay 7:5, and place bets on 6 and 8 pay 7:6.

The Field - this bet wins if the total of the dice are anything but 5 to 9. It is bet on a single roll and wins pay even money, except when a 2 is rolled it pays 2:1 and a 12 pays 2:1 or 3:1, depending on the casino.

There are further bets in Craps but they are have a high house edge and the ones listed should be enough to get you going at the Craps table. One point to note - the bets in the middle of the table (specific dice doubles, craps or sevens) are high house edge traps for suckers, so avoid them if you want to play for longer!

House Edge in Craps

The house edge in Craps varies according to the type of bet placed:

  • Pass line: 1.41%
  • Don’t pass line: 1.36%
  • Odds: no house edge!
  • Come: 1.41%
  • Don’t come: 1.36%
  • The Field: 2.27% if the 12 pays 3:1 or 5.56% if it pays 2:1
  • Place bets:
    • 4 and 10: 6.67%
    • 5 and 9: 4.00%
    • 6 and 8: 1.52%

Craps Strategy

The optimal strategy when placing bets is to reduce your losses by only placing bets with the smallest house advantage, since all bets have a negative expected value. The Pass/Don’t line, the Come/Don’t line are the best bets with the lowest house advantage. Further to that, you should always take the odds bet as it has no house edge - in theory up to the maximum the table will allow.

As there are a huge number of bets you can place at the Craps table there are a multitude of betting systems that players swear by. Still, take note that this is a game of luck rather than skill in betting strategy, and there is no known "system" that can beat a craps table! There are those who claim to have mastered "Dice Control" - i.e. the ability to influence the roll of the dice, but their claims are highly debatable and for obvious reasons will not help you when playing online.

Playing Craps online

A version of Craps is available at most online casinos. Unlike the crowded hubbub of a land based game, the online craps table can be played alone which comes in handy if you are still learning. Due to the game's low house edge, Craps play is often disallowed while playing with a casino bonus. However we still maintain a list of the best casino bonuses that do allow Craps play, as you can see below.

Top bonuses for playing Craps online

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