Craps is a game that always mystifies people when they first see it in a casino. It’s the game that draws the most attention from onlookers as one can hear the boisterous screams and cheers with each roll of the dice. Other than a full sportsbook of people yelling at every interception, fumble, or long bomb for a touchdown, the craps table is the only place to witness such instant expressions of emotion in the collective.
Everyone is intrigued by Craps the first time they’re witness to the alluring elation and camaraderie of strangers engaged around a table, hollering at flying dice. Yet, most people don’t understand it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been with a less than avid gambler walking through a casino and at the prompting of the cheers I am quickly asked, “What’s that? How does it work?”, only to have them put their hand up and say, “Stop, I don’t get it” equally as fast.
There could not be an easier game to understand, but you have to hear out the explanation and WANT to understand, of course. So now that you’re here and you are not putting your hand up to say stop, stick with me, it’s not difficult. Let’s walk through what’s involved with a Craps game.
Seven. No, not the creepy Brad Pitt movie about a serial killer, but the lucky number itself; the number you’re most likely to roll when you toss the dice. Seven is the sun of Craps; Everything revolves around its frequency. Depending on what state the game is in, Seven is your best friend or your sworn enemy. In the come out roll, you want to see your friend Seven as much as possible as many times in a row as possible. The only equally desirable number to see would be by his cousin, eleven. Seven and Eleven pay you out immediately as a pass line bettor on the come out roll, that is, the opening roll of a shooter. Two, Three, or Twelve are also immediate result numbers on the come out roll. They are your enemy. Roll any of them with money on the pass line and you lose your money. These immediate win or loss scenarios only apply in the initial state of the game: the come out roll. Think of the come out roll as a neutral state where only the aforementioned rolled numbers are an immediate win or lose result. Any other number that gets rolled becomes “the point” and now, your former best friend, good old Seven, is now your mortal enemy. Eleven is neutral to you though in an established point situation.
In the come out roll, when you roll a number that isn’t one of the immediate results (7,11 win, 2,3,12 lose) then that number is established as the point. The button on the table that was OFF, will be flipped over from the black side to the white side that says ON. This lets you and everyone else know that the game is no longer in the come out roll state, but in an established point state. Now, in order to win the original bet you made on the pass line the dice have to fly again and again until such time as you roll your point, or you roll the now dreaded seven to end the game and ’seven out’.
Think of the two dice and how many combinations there are to make each possible number.
You can roll a seven in 6 different ways of 36 possible combinations of the dice, a 1 in 6 chance of rolling the 7. So while that’s great in the come out roll, it’s not so great once you establish the point. The next two most common numbers you can roll are 6 and 8. There’s 5 combinations of each of those, let’s look at the 6 for the example: you can roll 1 and 5, 5 and 1, 2 and 4, 4 and 2, or 3 and 3. That last one is the interesting one: the paired version of an even number roll. This is called rolling the 6 ‘the hard way’, for obvious reasons, it’s only 1 of the 5 possible ways to roll that 6. You can bet on a roll being established the hard way, but you will lose that bet if you roll the number one of the easy ways, or if you roll a 7, and the game ends. If you make your point the hard way, you get paid for it (9 to 1 in fact) and your bet amount will stay in action unless you take it down. You can remove a hard way bet at any time between rolls. It’s all feeling baby!
THE SHOOTER: Players take turns rolling the dice, not on a per throw basis, but on the basis of whether they make their point or seven out. If a player makes the point, the player continues to be the shooter. A seven out, and the dice go to a new player.
THE STICKMEN: in a live casino, these are the guys who are taking your bets, paying out wins, and pulling in the lost bets. Online you won’t interact with the stickmen, who are often quite helpful explaining to a new player what each bet means.
THE BUTTON: the craps table has a plastic disc that is white on one side, black on the other, and marked as ON or OFF. This disc lets you know what state the game is in.
ON: If the button is on, it means a point has been established by the shooter and whatever number the shooter has rolled as their opening roll, that number is “the point”.
OFF: If the button is off, it means you’re dealing with a clean slate at a table and no point has been established yet. Players can put their money down on the Pass line, the Don’t Pass, the Field, or any of the exotic bets on the side of the felt.
PASS LINE: The spot you put your money down to start a game. If it’s 7 or 11, you win. 2, 3, 12, you lose. Anything else establishes the point: the number you need to roll before you roll a seven in order to win.
DON’T PASS: This is a bit more advanced, but it’s taking the opposite side of the action, you are acting alongside the house in what you want to happen. Your bet here is that the player will not make the point, but rather ‘seven out’ by rolling seven before they make the point.
COME: This is like the pass line, but a bet made as if the next roll by the shooter is the opening roll. It’s effectively the come out roll to you if you place this bet. If a seven is rolled, you win, and with an established point by the shooter, the table loses but you win this bet. Often people will make a bet on the pass line, and if the point is established they will then bet on the come line for the next roll. It acts as bait of insurance as a 7 will kill your pass line bet but pay your come bet.
If you roll the point, you win on the pass line, but now your come bet moves to that number as the established point you have to hit yet again.
You can place many successive come bets in a row, and this is how players end up with a whole bunch of numbers bet on the table. If you can get hot and keep rolling the numbers you have the bets on and not the seven, things can add up quickly. However, roll a seven, and you lose on all your pending action in one fell swoop.
DON’T COME: This is similar to the Don’t Pass line, in that you are making the bet as a new bet with the game in an established point state.
FIELD: this is a single throw win or lose bet. You are betting that the number that’s rolled is anything but a 5,6,7 or 8. It’s an even money bet.
HARDWAYS: betting a number ‘the hard way’ is betting that the next instance of an even number will be a pair. That is, 4 by rolling 2 & 2, 6 by rolling 3 & 3, or rolling an 8 by rolling a 4 on each die. It’s harder to hit a number in this fashion, so you’re rewarded for it. For example, rolling a 10 by having it rolled as 5 & 5 on the dice plays you 9 to 1 on your money.
Your hard way bet will stay up and be eligible to win until you roll that number one of the easy ways (not a pair) or you seven out. Do either and you lose your bet.
These are basic rules of Craps. The only way to really learn and understand, is to get to the table and play!