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 Craps Rules

It’s the noisiest game in the house and only spectator game in the casino that’s worthy of the name. Next to Blackjack it’s got some of the best player odds in the house and only Roulette has more betting options for the player. It’s the one and only Craps.
Picture your average Poker game: stone faces, few words, cagey players and cut-throat action. Craps, god bless it, is the complete opposite. Players yelling bets, hangers-on pumped on the action, fellow bettors your companions with the chips flying and the dice right behind them. It’s not just a game, it’s the King of Dice.
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And while it’s true that a smart player can step in with $100 and with a little luck walk away minutes later with $10,000, it’s also true that there are more sucker bets than you can shake a stick at. Few games show you the line between a smart bet and a bad one, inked right on the felt for all to see. Strategy, opponents, long odds and smart bets. Craps has it all.
Unfortunately Craps can be pretty intimidating for the newcomer. There are such a large number of betting options, special rules and exceptions that you’ll feel as if you’ll never get a handle on it. Personally, I avoided the Craps table for the longest time simply because it was so noisy and confusing. But hang in there because the smarter you play the easier it is. The trick is to take it one step at a time.
When you are rolling the dice you are the “shooter”. Your first toss in a round of Craps is called the Come Out roll. If you roll a 7 or 11, you win and the round is over before it started. If you roll a 2, 3, or 12 that’s a Craps and you lose: again, it’s over before it started. Any other number becomes the Point. The purpose of the Come Out roll is to set the Point, which can be any of 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10. The Dealer places a puck marked “On” above the Point number printed on the table.
The basic objective in Craps is for the shooter to win by tossing the Point again before he tosses a 7. That 7 is called Out 7 to differentiate it from the 7 on the Come Out roll. If the Point is tossed, the shooter and his fellow bettors win and the round is over. If the shooter tosses Out 7, they lose and the round is over. If the toss is neither the Point nor Out 7, the round continues and the dice keep rolling.
Betting and payoff
Here’s where life at the Craps table can get complicated. There are an overwhelming number of betting options and it’ll make you dizzy trying to figure them all out at once. Like I promised though, it’s easy to play smart. Let’s talk about those smart bets first.
Pass bets
The typical — and simplest — bet is called a Pass bet. It is placed on the Pass Line before the Come Out roll. Assuming that the round goes past the Come Out roll, you’re betting on the chance that you’ll roll the Point again before you roll an Out 7. Pass bets win at even odds, 1:1. Since any Pass bets are typically betting with the shooter, Pass bettors are said to be betting “right”, they’re supporting the shooter in his attempt to win.
To Win: win on the Come Out roll if the dice show 7 or 11. Win on any subsequent roll if you roll the Point.
To Lose: lose on the Come Out roll if the dice are Craps (2, 3, or 12). Lose on any subsequent roll if it’s an Out 7.
Don’t Pass bets
A bet placed on the Don’t Pass line is basically the opposite of a Pass bet. Assuming that the round goes past the Come Out roll, you’re betting that the shooter will roll Out 7 before making the Point. In other words, you’re betting against the shooter, which is why it’s called a “wrong” bet. Rest assured though, there is nothing wrong with the odds on a Don’t Pass bet.
To Win: win on the Come Out roll if the dice show Craps (2, 3 or 12). Win on any subsequent roll if it’s an Out 7.
To Lose: lose on the Come Out roll of 7 or 11. Lose on any subsequent roll if it’s the Point.
Come/Don’t Come bets
Come and Don’t Come bets are basically the same as Pass and Don’t Pass except they are placed while a round is in progress. They are designed for players who join the game late. The same rules apply: win if the next roll is 7 or 11, lose if it’s Craps. Otherwise the roll becomes the Come Point.
Odds bets
An Odds bet is a backup bet on a Pass/Don’t Pass/Come/Don’t Come bet already on the table. They’re usually limited to two or three times (2x or 3x) the original bet and pay off at true odds: the payoff truly reflects the probability of the dice’s roll and there’s no additional house edge involved. Unlike original Pass/Don’t Pass/Come/Don’t Come bets, unresolved Odds bets can be removed from the table during play.
Pass Odds and Come Odds pay 2:1 on a roll of 4 or 10, 3:2 on 5′s and 9′s, and 6:5 on 6′s and 8′s.
Don’t Pass Odds and Don’t Come Odds pay 1:2 on a roll of 4 or 10, 2:3 on 5′s and 9′s, 5:6 on 6′s and 8′s.
Other bets
Now for the rest of the table, the Place Number bets and Proposition bets. Unfortunately the odds against you here vary from mediocre to terrible which is why savvy players ignore almost all of them. These bets are mostly designed for players who either have money burning a hole in their pocket or feel they have to bet on every little toss of the dice. The price of such impatience and risk-taking is higher house edges, sometimes dramatically higher.
A Place Number bet is where you are betting that a particular number will roll before a 7 does, or vice versa. These include the Place, Buy, Lay and Lose bets, the Big 6 and Big 8, and finally the Hard 4, Hard 6, Hard8 and Hard 10.
The Proposition bets are where you bet that the next roll will be a specific number. These include the 2, 3, 7, 11, and 12 bets, the Any Craps bet, the Field, Hop and Horn bets.
Trying to give a brief strategy guide to Craps is like trying to teach calculus quickly: 99% of the time it ain’t gonna happen. Tough! Let’s give it a shot anyway.
Let me give you my strategy for just about everything: take the best odds you can get, nudge them in your favor as much as you possibly can and play smart. In Craps the best odds on the table are Pass, Don’t Pass, Come, and Don’t Come because they give the house the smallest edge. Everything else is for the impatient, the imprudent or the “gifted” — rubes one and all if you ask me.
The Best Bets
The numbers people say that a Pass bet gives the house a 1.41% edge. And a Don’t Pass yields slightly less than 1.40% to the house. These are the Line Bets and they’re the heart of a winner’s strategy because everything else gives too much away. For example:
The Field gives away 5.6%.
Big 6/Big 8 gives 9.1%.
Horn: 12.5%.
Craps 2/Craps 12: 13.9%
Any 7: 16.7%.
See what I mean? Craps is about dice and dice are about percentages. The smart money gives as little away as possible and that means Pass/Don’t Pass at around 1.4%. Those bets and how to improve them is what this article is about.
While we’re at it, it’s worth keeping in mind that Come/Don’t Come bets follow the same odds and logic. The only thing different about them is the timing as to when they’re placed.
Improve Your Bets
Okay, so the smart bets are Pass/Don’t Pass (and Come/Don’t Come). Now how can we improve the best bets in Craps? The Odds, that’s how — either by Buying Odds when you play “right” (Pass) or Laying Odds when you play “wrong” (Don’t Pass). These are placed in addition to your initial bet after the Come Out roll and the reason they improve your initial bet is that the house takes no edge on Odds. That’s right, zero house. All you’re betting against is the straight dice. But you could spend a long time looking at the felt trying to find where the Odds bets are supposed to go. The truth is they’re not marked. It’s a “hidden” bet, so to speak.
The word is that in Vegas the big houses simply take the position that it’s not their responsibility to inform the players of all their betting options, so the Odds stay unmarked. Needless to say, our online friends are not in the business of correcting Vegas so they take the same approach: no Odds to be seen. No biggie, it’s an easy bet to make and it will improve your original Line bet by almost halving the house edge or better, if the house let’s you do it.
Placing an Odds Bet
An Odds bet is made by supplementing your original Pass/Don’t Pass bet by an additional amount after you’ve made it past the Come Out roll. The bets are placed right beside your initial bet on the Pass/Don’t Pass line. In Vegas it’s typical for the house to restrict these bets to Single Odds, meaning you can match your Come Out bet with an equal amount. And as I said, that’ll about half the house edge on your initial bet.
The good news is that the online casinos I’ve sampled let you bet double your initial Line bet. This is called Double Odds and it cuts their edge even further, to a little more than 40% of their initial edge. So that 1.4% they originally had is now down to about 0.6%. It’s a smart play. Generally speaking, and assuming you can handle the gaff, buy the biggest Odds you can find because the larger the Odds bet, the more you shave off the house edge on your initial bet.
Buying Odds
When you play “right” and Buy Odds, you’re supplementing a Pass bet and if you win you’ll get your winnings based on the Point. So assuming a Pass Bet of $5:
Buying Double Odds ($10)
Point Payout Pays (Win)
4 or 10 2-1 $30 ($20)
5 or 9 3-2 $25 ($15)
6 or 8 6-5 $22 ($12)
I’m just showing your Odds win here, not the total. In other words, on a right bet of $5, where the Come Out roll sets a Point of 10, your total take on the win will be $40: your original $5 bet back plus a winning on that of $5, plus your Odds bet back ($10) and the winnings from that ($20).
Laying Odds
Conversely, when you Lay Odds you’re supplementing a Don’t Pass Bet and win as follows (assume an initial $5 Don’t Pass bet):
Laying Double Odds ($10)
Point Payout Pays (Win)
4 or 10 2-1 $15 ($5)
5 or 9 3-2 $16 ($6)
6 or 8 6-5 $18 ($8)
So to follow the Buy example above, an initial wrong bet of $5 on a Come Out roll of 10 will yield a total win of $25: your initial $5 back plus its win of $5, your $10 Odds bet back plus its win of $5.
Now here’s another little trick. Most casinos only pay in denominations as small as $1. In other words, you lose any fraction of a dollar that you would otherwise have coming. Because of the Odds your Laying, 3-2 and 6-5 in particular, you’re losing fractions if you bet as given above because most multiples of 10 are not wholly divisible by 3 or 6. On the 5/9 Point you lose $0.67, and on the 6/8 Point you lose $0.33. Nothing much, you say? But we’re talking about not giving the house anything more than they already have, right? So let’s look at another scenario.
Now let’s say you place a wrong bet of $6 instead of $5. In that case your Double Odds bet can be $12. And as you’ll see from the following table, you lose no fractions on this bet. You keep all the win you have coming because all multiples of 12 are wholly divisible by 3 (as in the 3-2 odds) and by 6 (as in the 6-5 Odds).
Laying Double Odds ($12)
Point Payout Pays (Win)
4 or 10 2-1 $18 ($6)
5 or 9 3-2 $20 ($8)
6 or 8 6-5 $22 ($10)
So basically what I’m saying is if you’re going to Lay Odds, make your initial Don’t Pass bet a multiple of $6, and bet full on your Double Odds for a multiple of $12.
The same logic applies, by the way, with Buying Odds. Make your Pass bet a multiple of $5 so your Double Odds will be in multiples of $10. This is optimal because your divisions are going to be by 1, 2, and 5.
Testing the Strategy
Most players are going to prefer playing right and Buy the Odds because the payouts look larger, but then you’re playing against slightly higher odds. If you’re hardcore about playing to win you’d be well advised to look seriously at playing wrong, taking the smaller house edge, and grinding it out. The gurus sum it up by saying that playing right and Buying Odds is the more popular and a bit riskier. Playing wrong and Laying Odds is considerably less popular with the Craps crowds, shaves the house edge to a minimum and is for players with a large roll and the patience to grind out the winnings over extended play.
So I tested the strategy on a number of online casinos. What I found was the playing wrong and Laying Odds was definitely to my tastes, which is no surprise because I have always preferred the Don’t Pass bets. Now when it comes to kicking out for the Double Odds I have to say that I found it better for my peace of mind, if not strictly for the best edge, to not Lay Double on every round.
If you look at the Point frequencies you’ll see that there are three ways to roll a 4 or 10, four ways to roll a 5 or 9, and five ways to roll a 6 or 8 and, finally, six ways to roll an Out 7. In other words, when betting wrong and always placing Double Odds, those 6′s and 8′s are gonna turn up fairly frequently and you’re going to lose your bets. In short, it’s a game of nerves to play that way and, speaking for myself, I don’t like it. So what I’ve done is Double Odds on the 4 and 10 and let the rest ride. What I’m doing, of course, is betting exceptionally conservatively since the 4/10 Points are the least likely to show and are therefore the safest wrong bets to Double up on. It makes for a slow game but I was almost always able to better my holdings if I stuck with it. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I like it when the chips pile up and I don’t like it when they drain away. It’s basically a style of play that suits my temperament.
So there it is: Pass/Don’t Pass (or Come/Don’t Come) only, while playing the highest Odds you can get will help you shave the house edge to a minimum. Modify to suit your tastes, as I did in standing on every wrong bet save the 4/10 Points. And finally, don’t give the house your fractions. Shooters up!

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