I recently learned some craps, and I thought I'd share what it is and how it works. I'm guessing most tl users haven't played craps before (many aren't old enough yet I suppose). For anyone who is experienced at craps, feel free to add to this. This is an attempt at teaching the reader about craps in a more authentic manner than that which you can read online. I just went through the learning process so I should be able to help with some insights, and eliminate that which can be ignored (including most of the jargon which is confusing as hell, but not required to understand how to play). Skip to whichever section(s) interest you.
1. What is craps?
From Wikipedia: Craps is a dice game played against other players or a bank... In craps, players may wager money against each other (street craps) or the bank (bank craps) on the outcome of one roll, or of a series of rolls of two dice.
My comments: Most casinos have craps as one of the table games, along with blackjack, poker, etc. I'm only going to talk about the variety of craps where the players are against the dealer. Frankly I know almost nothing about how craps works when played privately.
2. What are the rules?
Craps is played at a big table with several dealers standing at fixed positions:
Confusing, aint it? You don't need to worry about all of those sections in order to play. The left side of the table is not shown, but it's just a mirror image of the right side.
The players can line up at each end of the table (from what I've seen recently, all of the players congregated at one end of the table, but this was probably due to the casino not being particularly crowded). There is one 'shooter' who throws two dice. The number rolled determines the outcome of the bets. Craps makes a lot more sense if you know how dice work:
+ Show Spoiler [review of dice] +
1. The most commonly rolled number is 7. This is because there are more 'ways' for each die number to add up to 7. You can roll 1-6, 2-5, 3-4, 4-3, 5-2, 6-1
2. The least commonly rolled numbers are 2 (snake eyes) and 12. The only way to get these is to roll 1-1 or 6-6 respectively.
You can see 7 is the most common, and 6 and 8 are each a little less common than 7. 5 and 9 are a little less common than 6 and 8. 4 and 10 are yet less common, etc.
There is a big plastic button that has the word 'off' on one side and 'on' on the other side. When the game starts, the button is showing the word 'off'. This can be thought of as phase one of craps. When the button shows 'off', the rules are very simple. If the shooter throws a 2, 3, or 12, the game is lost immediately. If the shooter throws a 7 or 11, the game is won immediately. In other words, the most common number, 7, is good, and the least common numbers (with the exception of 11) are bad. For the remaining numbers (4,5,6,8,9,10) the game is not yet decided. Supposing the shooter throw a 4, the dealer would flip the plastic button over to 'on' and would position it over the number '4' written on the table surface. This is now phase two of craps.
During phase two, the goal is for the shooter to throw the number that the 'on' button is on. In the example, the 'on' button is on '4' so the goal is to roll another 4. If the shooter rolls a 4, the game is won. If however the shooter rolls a 7, the game is lost. Every other number requires a re-roll. After the game is decided, the button is flipped back to 'off' and a new game begins.
3. How does betting work?
There are many ways to bet in craps, and it can get very confusing. I'm going to focus on the most basic bets which also have the smallest house advantage.
First Type of Bet: The Pass Line:
Notice on the picture of the craps table that there is a 'pass line.' At the beginning of the game you place a bet on this section of the table. For example, I can place a 5 dollar chip there. I can place bets even if I am not the shooter, but the shooter has to bet. If the shooter 'wins' then I get back double my money (so I would win 5 dollars for the game). If the shooter 'loses' then I lose the 5 dollars I played. This bet has a house edge of 1.41% which is much smaller (better) than that for most bets in roulette (5.3%). In other words, walking into a casino, placing 5 dollars on red (or black), and walking out with the winnings (or nothing) is inferior to doing the same thing with craps (placing 5 dollars on the pass line) mathematically (although it might take longer for the craps game to be decided than a quick spin in roulette).
- I place 5 dollars on the pass line.
- The shooter throws a 7
- I receive 10 dollars (5 won)
- I place 100 dollars on the pass line.
- The shooter throws a 2
- I lose that 100 dollars
- I place 20 dollars on the pass line.
- The shooter throws a 5
- The dealer turns the plastic button to 'on' and places it on '5'
- The shooter throws a 7
- I lose that 20 dollars
- I place 50 dollars on the pass line.
- The shooter throws a 6
- The dealer turns the plastic button to 'on' and places it on '6'
- The shooter throws a 4
- The shooter throws a 6
- I receive 100 dollars (50 won)
Second Type of Bet: Pass Odds:
So you joined a table, placed 5 dollars on the pass line, and the shooter threw a 4 or 5 or 6 or 8 or 9 or 10. You have neither lost, nor won. You have the option (at most casinos) to make an additional bet that is equal to or greater in value than the pass bet you made earlier. The upper limit on how many times bigger this new bet can be than the first bet is set by the casino. For demonstrative purposes, I will say the casino allows the pass odds bet to be twice as big as the original pass line bet.
Since neither 2, 3, 7, 11, or 12 were thrown, the game is still going. You place 10 dollars down behind the 5 dollar chip you placed earlier. You still want the shooter to throw the number marked by the 'on' button before rolling a 7. If the shooter wins, you get back 10 dollars for the 5 dollar bet, as before, and additional winnings for the 10 dollar pass odds bet you made. You might be tempted to assume that the casino will pay you back 20, 10 for the original bet plus 10 additional dollars of winnings, but that assumption would be incorrect. You actually can get back more than that. The pass odds bet is better than the pass line bet.
The amount that the casino pays you for the pass odds bet depends on where that 'on' button is sitting. Essentially, the less likely it was that you would have won, the more money you get back on that bet if you win. Wikipedia explains how they are paid:
This additional bet wins if the point is rolled again before a 7 is rolled (the point is made) and pays at the true odds of 2-to-1 if 4 or 10 is the point, 3-to-2 if 5 or 9 is the point, and 6-to-5 if 6 or 8 is the point.
For a nice guide explaining this (how to make odds bets), see http://casinogambling.about.com/od/craps/ss/crapsodds.htm
The only problem with all these confusing numbers is that you have to plan how many chips to place down for the bets so that the payout if you win doesn't end up being in fractions of a chip. If this happens, I believe the casino will round down and pay you back slightly less than you should have earned.
The main advantage of the pass odds (or free odds as it's called) bet is that there is no house edge. They pay you according to the exact odds of winning/losing. In other words, it's similar to coinflip game where you get back double your money if you win. If a casino featured this game, normally they would only pay you back 90-97% of your winnings so that they could maintain an edge. The bigger you pass odds bet is relative to your pass line bet, the smaller the overall house advantage. The pass line and pass odds bet combine to give you the best odds out of any game in the entire casino.
The Third Type of Bet: Don't Pass Line:
Look on the picture of the table. You can see on top of the pass line is a separate region called the Don't Pass Bar. This works exactly like the Pass Line except for one obvious difference: you win if the shooter loses. All the rules are simply reversed, and the betting is otherwise essentially the same (including the Don't Pass Odds bet, which could be the fourth type of bet in this guide, except I won't bother to create a section for it). There is only one exception: 12 doesn't count as a win even though you'd think it should. Why? Think about the pass line bet. If you run through the math you will conclude that the house has a slightly higher chance of winning, meaning the player has a slightly higher chance of losing. If you and the casino switch sides, then you will be the one with the slight advantage. To nullify that, the casino does not allow you to win if a 12 is rolled.
It is generally frowned upon to make bets that go against the roller. As such, most players would play the pass line rather than the don't pass line (experienced players can correct me here if necessary). Part of the fun of craps is sharing a fate with the other players, so it makes more sense to bet with the shooter.
The Fifth Type of Bet: The Come Bet:
Oh god I don't feel like trying to explain this now haha. It's really simple once you get the hang of it and really tricky to explain to someone who's never watched people play craps. I'll just give a brief summary.
Once the button is set to 'on' and positioned on a number, you have something else you can do in addition to a pass odds bet (or don't pass odds bet). You can place a bet on the 'come' section on the table (you can easily find it due to the huge red letters I'm sure). There are three things that can happen with the chips on 'come.'
- You can win and get back double your bet (play 5 dollars, get back 10 for a winnings of 5)
- You can lose your 5 dollars
- Your bet can get moved to another spot on the table
If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, then you get the first option from that list (even though your pass bet loses, your come bet wins). If the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, then the second option occurs. If the shooter rolls 4 or 5 or 6 or 8 or 9 or 10 then the third option occurs, and your bet is 'placed' into the box with the corresponding number. In other words, if I placed 5 dollars in the come box, and the shooter threw a 5, my chip would get moved into the box with the number '5.'
Once your chip is in the numbered box, you can add odds to that bet just like you did with the pass line bet (in other words if your 5 dollar come bet was moved to the 5 box, then you can bet another 10 along with the original 5). At this point your goal is for the shooter to roll a 5 before rolling a 7. If the shooter rolls a 7, you lose all those chips. If the shooter rolls a 5, then you get back double your money on the original 5 (just like with the pass line bet) and you also get back money on the 10 dollars odds bet. The amount you get back once again depends on which number your chips were sitting on. Since we are saying 5 was the point in this example, then you will get back 3-2 or 15 dollars on top of the 10 you get back.
One other thing to consider is, what happens if the shooter wins before rolling 5 (or whatever your chips are sitting on) or 7? You keep your chips sitting on that number, and the game restarts with the button off. A technicality: if your chips are still sitting on say, 5, and the shooter rolls a 5, then you win on the 5 dollars you put down originally in the come box, but you don't win with the 10 dollar odds bet you made afterward. Instead, you just get it back without any winnings. In other words, whenever craps is in phase one instead of phase two, your come odds bet is not in effect.
What's extremely fun about craps (in my experience) is when you keep placing come bets, and the shooter keeps rolling numbers other than 7, and before you know it you have chips on virtually every number, and you get back winnings every time the shooter hits one of those numbers. It can get extremely exciting.
Shit, that wasn't a brief summary was it.
The Other Types of Bets: Everything Else
There are other types of bets you can make directly on the different numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) that are more complicated and I won't try to explain. Then there are lots of bets that are in effect for one roll only (similar to roulette). For example, you can place a bet on the 'field' which can be found near the pass line. If you roll any of the numbers listed there, then you win. If it is a 2 or a 12 then your winnings are double what they are if you roll any of the other numbers. After one roll, you've either won or lost. The boxes on the left such as horn bet also feature lots of ways for you to gamble on the next roll. They all have a higher house edge than the other types of bets I've explained, and I won't bother to try to explain them further (I don't know most of them anyway).
If you want to know about any other types of bets, or want more information, consult the millions of pages on information available online.
It was very difficult to figure out how to play craps by watching people in the casino. Even when a dealer explained the basic rules, I still couldn't keep up with what was going on at all. My suggestion for anyone who wants to take some of this knowledge and turn it into an ability to play craps is to start with some software/computer game that has craps. The screen shot of the craps table is taken from me playing Hoyle Casino 2008 which I neither recommend or discourage you from playing as I have no idea if it's a good one or not, but it seems to be working for me.
If you have plans of going to casinos and don't know craps, then you should learn. It's the best* "player against house" game in the casino. *Best odds of winning