You Can Play Craps

April 13, 2017

by Henry Tamburin

A hush came over the table as the dice passed to the new shooter. This dice table was hot and players were making a score. The new shooter shook the dice and flung them down the table. Unbeknownst to the players, this new shooter was an 82-year young great-grandmother that had never played craps in her life. In fact, up until this moment she had only played slots on her weekly jaunts to Atlantic City.

"Granny", as I affectionately called her, is the oldest student that ever attended one of my Casino Gambling Workshops. And I'll be candid - I had my doubts when she asked me to teach her how to play. But she fooled me and became a model student.

Historically most casino players shy away from craps because it has the reputation of being an intimidating game. But like Granny found out, it really isn't. In fact, craps is not only a fun and exciting casino game, it also offers smart players some of the best odds in the house.

Let me show you what I taught her. The basic bet that you will be making is on the pass line. If you look at a craps layout, you'll see that the pass line runs all around the table. So no matter where you stand, you'll be able to lean over and make that bet.

When you arrive at a craps table, wait for a pause in the action, place your cash on the layout, and tell the dealer you want "chips please". The dealer will convert the cash into an equivalent amount of casino chips, which he will place on the layout in front of you. Again wait for a pause in the action, then bend down, pick up your chips, and place them in the rails in front of you.

Here are a few tips on craps etiquette. Don't dangle your hands over the table especially when a player is throwing the dice. Never speak to or touch a player who is having a good roll. Never mention the number 7 when someone is rolling. Never hand your cash directly to a dealer. And if you decide to roll the dice, only hold them in one hand above the table and toss them with enough force that they hit the back wall.

Let's suppose that the dice have passed to a new shooter. Prior to the new shooter rolling the dice, you should make your bet on the pass line. The very next roll by the new shooter is known as the come out roll, sort of the phase 1 of craps. And in this phase, pass line bettors win if the numbers 7 or 11 (known as naturals) are rolled and lose instead if the numbers 2, 3 or 12 are rolled (so called craps numbers). Simple enough?

Suppose, however, that the shooter doesn't throw a 7, 11 or a 2, 3 or 12. This could happen because if you pick up a pair of dice and throw them, you can roll any number from 2 through 12. Let's suppose for teaching purposes, the shooter throws a 6. Here's what happens.

First the dealer will mark the 6 by placing what looks like a hockey puck on the 6 point box at the top of the layout. This number has become the shooters point and the rules for winning your pass line bet change (this starts phase 2 of craps).

During phase 2 of craps, the shooter will continue to roll the dice until one of the following events occurs.

1. If the shooter rolls the point number again BEFORE rolling the 7, pass line bettors win their bet and are paid at 1 to 1 payoff odds (e.g. bet $5 and win $5).
2. If instead the shooter rolls a 7 BEFORE rolling the point number, then pass line bettors lose their bet.

Notice that on the point rolls, the only numbers that lead to a decision are the 7 and the point number (the number thrown on the come out roll). Any other number that the shooter happens to throw, including the 11, 2, 3 or 12, do not effect a decision on the pass line.

Come Out Roll 7 or 11 2, 3 or 12
Point Roll Point number is 7 is thrown before
thrown before 7 point number

Notice that the 7 is a big winner for pass line bettors on the come out roll but if it is rolled on a point roll, it results in a loss. Likewise the 11 is a winner on the come out roll but does not result in any decision on point rolls. On the other side, the 2, 3 and 12 thrown on the come out roll results in pass line bettors losing but these numbers do NOT result in a loss on point rolls.

Another key point is that you should only make a bet on the pass line prior to a come out roll (not on point rolls). And remember that there are three different instances when come out rolls occur - the first roll by a new shooter, the very next roll after a shooter throws a 7, 11, 2, 3 or 12 on a come out roll, and the next roll after a shooter makes his point.

Let's try a few simulated dice throws so you see how easy this all this. Suppose the shooter threw these numbers in succession:

9 - 6 - 3 - 5 -11 - 9

The come out roll was a 9 and this became the shooter's point. The next rolls - 6, 3, 5, and 11 - had no bearing on the pass line bet. However, the next roll was another 9 and the pass line bettors win because the shooter repeated the point number (9) before throwing the 7.

In the following series of dice rolls the pass line bettor won two times and lost once. Can you figure out why?

3 - 8 -9 - 2 - 8 - 11

The first come out roll - the 3- was a loser for pass line bettors. The next come out roll established 8 as the point. The next two rolls - the 9 and 2 - have no effect on the point rolls but the next roll - the 8 - does as the shooter repeated the 8 point number again before rolling the 7 resulting in a win for the pass line. The next come out roll was an 11 and this results in another win for pass line bettors.

Try this sequence of rolls, which resulted in pass line bettors winning three times.

4 - 11 - 4 - 7 - 5 - 2 - 5

The first come out roll was a 4, which becomes the shooter's point. The next point roll was an 11, which results in no decision but then the shooter rolled the 4 again and pass line bettors win. The next come out roll was a 7 which wins for pass line bettors. The next come out roll was a 5, which wins when the shooter repeats the 5 again before throwing the 7.

When the dice shooter throws a 7 on a point roll, this is known as "sevening out" and it results in all pass line bettors losing their bets and the shooter relinquishing the dice. The dealer will pass the dice clockwise to the next shooter for a new come out roll. When you play craps, you don't have to roll the dice. Just wave your hands and the dealer will pass them to the next shooter. But don't be afraid to "shoot the dice" because it's easy to do and fun.

By learning how to make a pass line bet in craps, your expected return is 98.6% of all the money you bet over the long term.