Learning how to play craps can be a bit overwhelming at first, but I’m going to explain everything you need to know about the game!
I have been playing craps for nearly 20 years, and I can vividly remember how overwhelmed I was at first. I found a $5 table across the street from Caesars Palace in Vegas and I learned by jumping into the deep end.
I’ll start with the basics, and then move into the more complex aspects of the game.
Craps Table Layout
A craps table has two sides, each with anywhere from 6 to 8 positions for players. Three dealers will manage player bets and payouts.
In the center of the table, the stickman calls out the dice results, retrieves dice, passes the dice to players, and handles the proposition bets.
Across from the stickman will be a boxman, but not all casinos use them fully. If a boxman is there, it is their job to monitor all bets and payouts from the dealers. Think of them as the manager for the table, but they are not considered one of the dealers.
The remaining two dealers are setup one on each side of the table. They manage all bets from players on their side of the table.
Pro Tip – Dealers generally make a low wage and rely on tips as part of their income. You can tip the dealers at the end of your session by simply placing some chips on the table and saying “for the dealers”. You can also bet for them as you play – my preferred method!
How to Play Craps – Flow of the Game
The objective of the game is to roll a number or “point” with two dice and then roll the same number again before rolling a seven.
The person who rolls the dice is known as “the shooter.” The start of the game, or the first roll, is known as the “come out roll“.
In order to roll the dice, a player must make a pass line bet.
On the come out roll, if the result is a 2, 3, or 12, the shooter and anyone who bet on the pass line will lose. If the come out roll is a 7 or 11, the shooter and anyone on the pass line wins. Any other number rolled (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10) will become the point.
When a point is established, the dealers will turn the “puck” on and place the puck on the point. For example, if the shooter throws a 10 on the come out roll, the puck will move to the 10 and 10 is the point.
Once the point is established, the shooter continues rolling until they either throw the 7 or until they hit the point.
If they throw a 7, their turn is over and the dice move to the next player.
If they hit their point, they retain the dice and start a new come out roll. Think of this as a “point cycle“. The point cycle starts when a point is established and continues until that point is hit. It could be anywhere from 2 rolls to hundreds of rolls, as long as they don’t throw a 7.
After the point is hit and the puck is off, the shooter can throw a 7 and keep the dice, remember a 7 wins on a come out roll.
This cycle continues 24/7…as long as the table is open and staffed. Players are free to come and go at any time.
Pro Tip – It is good craps etiquette to wait until the puck is “off” to buy into the game
To summarize – On the come out roll, a 2, 3, or 12 loses, 7 or 11 wins, any other number becomes the point. Shooter continues rolling until they throw a 7, or they hit the point. If they hit the point, the cycle continues.
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Buying into the Craps Game
When you are ready to play, wait for a good opportunity to buy in. You’ll want to wait until the puck is off and ensure the dice aren’t “out”. When a shooter has the dice, they are “out” and they can throw them at any time.
You don’t want to be laying money on the table or getting your hands in the way of a roll.
When the time is right, simply set your money down on the table. The dealer will hand your cash to the boxman and they will give you the correct amount of chips, usually broken down into normal betting increments.
For example, if you buy in with $200 they will likely give you four $25 chips and twenty $5 chips.
The dealer may get your chips ready and hold them in place until the boxman verifies it is the correct amount. When the dealer slides the chips to you, it is time for you to pick them up and put them in your chip rail. Any money left on the table may be considered a bet, so be sure to pick them all up right away.
How to Play Craps – Betting
Craps bets can be broken down into 3 main categories.
- Line Bets
- One Roll Bets
- Multi-Roll Bets
The most common bet for beginners is the pass line bet. Pass line bets are placed before a come out roll. When a point is established, the pass line bet is tied to that number. Pass line bets pay even money and are generally the best bet in the casino, they carry the lowest house edge.
Taking odds on your pass line bets will maximize your winning potential and bring down the house edge. Learn how the craps odds bets work.
- Pass Line – A bet placed on the come out roll that will be tied to the point. If the point is rolled before the 7, you win. If the 7 is rolled before the point, you lose. For the come out roll only, a result of 2, 3, or 12 loses, a result of 7 or 11 wins.
- Don’t Pass Line – A bet placed on the come out roll that will be tied to the point. If the 7 is rolled before the point, you win. If the point is rolled before the 7, you lose.
- Come Bets – Similar to place bets, come bets can be made any time after a point is established. After a come bet is made, it is treated just like a pass line bet and will be tied to the next number that is rolled. It wins/loses just as a pass line bet would.
Once you learn how to play craps and the general flow of the game, these bets will become much easier to understand.
One roll bets
Commonly referred to as proposition bets, these are high risk – high reward bets on specific numbers. For example, a $1 bet on the 12 will pay $30 if it hits. But, you only get one roll and the probability to hit a 12 is only 1 in 36.
One roll bets can be made at any time, and they are only good for the next roll. They either win or lose on that individual roll. If they win, the dealer will pay you for the win and by default leave your original bet in place. If you don’t want the bet for the next roll, you’ll need to tell them to bring it down.
- Any Craps – A bet on 2, 3, and 11.
- World Bet – A bet on 2, 3, 7, 11, and 12.
- Yo Bet – A bet on 11.
- Horn Bets – A bet on 2, 3, 11, and 12.
- Field Bets – A bet on 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, and 12
- Hop Bets – A bet on any individual dice combination (i.e. 5/4). Not all tables allow hop bets.
One roll bets carry the highest house edge, meaning that these are the highest losing bets and are most favorable to the casino. They can certainly be fun with their high risk high reward, but it’s best to stay away from bets that carry a higher house edge.
Multi Roll Bets
Multi roll bets are also very common for all players. Each has it’s own set of rules on when they can be placed. Some can only be placed after a point is established. Some can be placed at any time, and others must be placed before a come out roll.
- Place Bets – A bet on either of the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10. The bet wins if your number is hit before the 7. It stays in place on a win and can be pulled down anytime. If a 7 is rolled, your bet goes away. Each number has its own payout structure.
- Buy Bets – Similar to a place bet, you win if the number hits before a 7. Buying a number increases the payout, but you must pay a 5% commission if it wins. Because of this, it only makes sense to buy the 4 or 10, but only if you are betting $25 or more.
- Lay Bets – A bet the 7 will be thrown before your number hits. Lay bets can be placed on the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10. Each having its own payout structure. If your number is thrown before the 7, your bet loses. Payouts on lay bets are lower due to the odds being in favor of a 7 being thrown first.
- Hardway Bets – A bet on either of the 4, 6, 8, or 10, but with specific dice combinations matching. For example, a hard 6 is a bet that both dice will be a 3. So 3/3 on the dice, for a total of 6. Your bet wins if a hard 6 is thrown before the 7. Your bet loses if an “easy” 6 is thrown, or on a 7. An easy 6 would be a dice combination of 5/1 or 4/2 for example.
- Fire Bet – This bet can only be placed immediately after a 7 is rolled. It is a bet that a shooter will establish and hit a certain number of points and has a progressive payout system. The more points a shooter hits, the higher the payout. If a 7 is rolled at any time, the bet goes away.
- All-Tall-Small (ATS) – This bet can only be placed immediately after a 7 is rolled. It is a 3-tier bet that the shooter will throw every possible number other than the 7. The “Tall” is the 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12. The “Small” is the 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. The “All” is hitting both the tall and small. before a 7 is thrown. Each “side” (small and tall) can hit independently and be paid accordingly.
Betting Positions on the Table
It is important to know where your money is! Most dealers are great, but they are human and can make mistakes.
It’s important for you to know what you have bet on and when you should be paid. Knowing your corresponding betting position on certain bets can help you keep track of your money which is a critical step as you learn how to play craps.
Place bets are the most common multi roll bets. When you make a place bet, the dealer will move your money onto the corresponding number. They will also place your chips in the slot that corresponds to your position on the table.
For example, if you would like to place $10 on the 4 and you are in player position 1, the dealer will position your chips on the 4 in the corresponding #1 spot.
Note – The table layout does not have these positions labeled, but the dealers know where they are and you should too! See the image below for a reference on the positions of place bets
Similarly, when you make a hardway bet, the dealer will place your money on the corresponding position.
For example, if you make a bet on the hard 8 and you are in player position 1, the dealer will place your money on the hard 8 in the position that corresponds with your side of the table and your position on that side. See the image below for a reference on the positions for hardway bets.
Breaking the rules in craps can get you kicked out of the casino, or even worse, in jail. But don’t let that scare you, unless you are specifically trying to cheat. Most broken rules will simply result in the staff letting you know not to do that. Here are a few to be mindful of.
Casinos do not like players and dealers handing things directly to each other. They have cameras everywhere and they want a clear picture of exchanges, ensuring money is placed in the open on the layout before it changes hands helps with this.
When you are buying in – lay your money on the table. The dealer will spread it out for the camera.
When you are making a bet, lay your chips on the layout for the dealer to pick them up. When a dealer is paying you for a winning bet, they will slide the chips over to you, but leave them on the layout for you to pick them up.
I had a situation a few years ago that saved me $100 after a mistake was made by the casino. I had 5 brand new $100 bills fresh from the ATM. I laid the money on the table and the dealers took my money and handed me $400 in chips. I told them I had given $500, but my money had already been dropped into the safe below the table. So – they went to the cameras up stairs. Sure enough, two of the bills were kinda stuck together, but the camera caught the edge of one of them. The casino made it right. But this is a good example why they don’t want money changing hands directly.
Handling the Dice
Never touch the dice unless you are the shooter!
Exceptions are when the dice are thrown off the table or land in the chip rail. If the dice end up off the table, feel free to pick it up and hand it directly to the dealer. As you do, ensure that the die remains in view of the cameras.
The dealer will take the die and check it to ensure it wasn’t swapped out for a rigged dice. Note – switching dice or rigging dice will land you in jail.
If you are the shooter, only pick up the dice after the stick man passes them to you. Also note, you can only touch the dice with one hand and should never pull them beyond the threshold of the table. The stickman needs to keep “eyes on” the dice at all times after they are passed to you. It is fine to close your hand over the dice, but only if you keep your hand in the table.
Craps players can be incredibly superstitious, so some of these might seem odd, but if you want to have the best experience they are important to follow.
- Only buy into the game when the point is off.
- Don’t make bets when the dice are out.
- Keep your hands away from the inside of the table when the dice are out. You don’t want the dice being tossed and hitting your hands.
- Never say “7”.
- No string betting. If you are going to place multiple bets, give the dealer the money for all bets and tell them all of the bets at the same time. For example, if you want hardway bets on the 4 and 10 for $5 each, lay $10 on the table and say “hard 4 and 10”.
Leaving the Craps Game
When you are ready to leave the table, hopefully after winning a ton of money, it is best to “color up”. This is a fancy way of saying, exchanging low denomination chips for higher ones.
Lets say you have a stack of $5 chips, its easier to carry one $100 chip. To color up, wait until the dice are in the center.
Pro Tip – Count your money ahead of time so you know exactly what you should be getting.
Place all of your chips on the layout and tell the dealer you want to color up. It may take them a few minutes, but they will count your money and give you the highest denomination chips as possible.
This is also a good time to tip the dealers. Lets say I finished my session and I have $210. I’ll take $200 worth of those chips and color them up. When the dealer passes me two $100 chips, I’ll thank them and take the $200. I’ll set the remaining $10 on the layout and tell them its for the dealers.
Playing Craps Online
Online casinos and smartphone apps can be a great way to learn the flow of the game and betting. Many online casinos are reputable and can be played with real money. They also offer free play options to help you learn.
This is a great way to try different betting strategies and become familiar with payouts and timing of everything. I would highly recommend giving one of them a try before your next trip to the casino.
I like the “Craps – Casino Style” app for my phone. When I play an online casino for real money, I prefer Bovada. To play on your computer for free, you can play right here!
Craps games can be a ton of fun! Playing craps is my absolute favorite thing to do when I’m gambling. There are plenty of casinos across the country, and plenty of online craps games available.
Learning an advanced craps betting strategy will help you maximize your winning potential.
But start with the basics. Once you know payouts, craps terminology, and how the individual bets work, you’ll be well prepared to play.
Some serious craps players will explore dice setting and dice control techniques.
Good luck on the tables!