Giving players the games they want is part of the business for casino operators, and plenty of players have made clear they want craps. Through the 1940s and '50s it was the most popular casino table game in the United States before it was overtaken by blackjack in the 1960s.

But some jurisdictions don't permit dice games, with California being the leading example. What's an operator to do?

In California and some Native American casinos in other states, one solution has been Card Craps, in which playing cards take the place of dice. The craps substitute is  uncommon in online casinos, where images of dice, or occasionally, streaming video of live hands are used.

The Cards

Translating craps to a card format takes some adjustment. A dealer turns up one two-card hand instead of a shooter rolling two dice. To mimic six-sided dice, only six card denominations are used: Aces, 2s, 3s, 4s, 5s and 6s.

Card Craps can be dealt with as few as two such six-card decks. To do so, each deck is shuffled separately. Usually different colored card backs are used so the dealer knows which cards go together.

With that method, there is a 1 in 6 chance of any number being dealt from each deck. That parallels the 1 in 6 chance of any number coming up on each die in traditional craps. 

That makes the two-card odds the same as two-dice odds. Available bets and payoffs can be the same with cards as with dice.

Multiple Decks

Some casinos use more cards, with multiple decks shuffled together, One common method is to use 24-card decks, with each denomination in clubs, hearts, spades, and diamonds.

To best approximate the odds of traditional craps, multiple decks must be used. That's because of the effect of removal from play for each card dealt.

With dice, if the first die lands on a 4, the chance of the second die then landing on a 4 is 1 in 6. If cards are used instead and only a 24-card single deck is in play, if the first card is a 4, there are only three fours the remaining 23 cards. That makes the chance of drawing a second 4 only 1 in 7.67, meaning a hard 8 consisting of 4-4 would occur less often in Card Craps than traditional craps.

In order to adjust, many decks are used. If six decks are used, there are a total of 264 cards, with 44 of each denomination. Then, if a 4 is dealt on the first card, the chance of a 4 on the second is 43 in 263, or 1 in 6.12, much closer to the 1 in 6 odds with a second die.

Casinos can vary how many decks they use, but six decks and 264 cards yields a good approximation of the dice game, with some small differences in odds and payoffs.

Layout & Gameplay

As in regular craps, a table felt is marked off with available wagers, including pass, don't pass, come, don't come, point numbers for place bets, the field, hardways, and one-hand propositions such as any craps or any seven.

Players can make pass, don't pass, come or don't come wagers by putting their chips in the designated areas. They also can back pass bets with free odds and lay odds on don't pass bets by putting their chips behind those wagers.

For odds on come and don't come and for all other bets, players must put their chips on the layout and tell the dealer what bets they want to make.

Craps table

The Wagers

Single-hand bets – the Card Craps equivalent of one-roll propositions with dice –  are simple no matter what the format. If you bet any 7, you win on if the two cards or two dice total 7 and lose on any other total. If you bet on any craps, you win if the two cards total 2, 3 or 12 and lose on anything else.

You pay a high price for single-hand bets being easy to track. House edges are higher than on more complicated wagers that take multiple hands to decide.

In Card Craps games that use two six-card decks shuffled separately,  the house edge is 13.89 percent o 2 or 12, with a 30-1 payoff on winners; 11.11 percent on 3 or 11, with 15-1 pay; 11.11 percent on any craps, where you win on 2, 3 or 12 and which pays 15-1, and a whopping 16.67 percent on any 7, which pays 4-1.

The one-hand wager with the lowest house edge is the field. You win even money if the hand is 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11. You also win on 2 or 12. Minimum payout is 2-1, and many casinos raise that to 3-1 on one of those numbers. The house edge is 5.56 percent if 2 and 12 both pay 2-1, or a more playable 2.78 percent if one of them pays 3-1.

But the lowest house edges come on wagers that take multiple hands to decide. Let's look at how some of the most frequent wagers work. For a complete look at how craps bets and odds work with dice or the separate decks method at Card Craps, see 888's "Ultimate Craps Strategy Guide."


Make a bet before a sequence starts with a comeout. If the dealer turns up a two-card total of  7 or 11 on the comeout, you win, but if the hand is 2, 3 or 12 you lose. If the comeout is any other number, it becomes the point. 

Once a point is established, you win only when the dealer repeats that total with a subsequent hand before turning up a 7. If a 7 comes first, you lose. No other totals matter. If the point is 9 and the following hands are 11, 8, 2, 5 and so on, your bet stays in action until you either win with a 9 or lose with a 7. The payoff on all winners is even money.


This works the same way as pass, except the betting sequence starts on any hand, not just on the comeout. The hand after you make the bet becomes the equivalent of the comeout for the come bet, and from there action proceeds just as on the pass bet. The payoff on all winners is even money.

Don't pass

This is nearly the opposite of pass, except on the comeout, you don't win on 12. Instead, 12 pushes and you get your money back. Otherwise, it's the flip side of pass. On the comeout, you win on 2 or 3 and lose on 7 or 11. Once a point is established, you win if a 7 turns up first and lose if the point  number is repeated. The payoff on all winners is even money.

Don't come

The near opposite of come, this is the same as don't pass except you can make it on any hand, not just on the hand that would be a comeout for pass or don't pass. The payoff on all winners is 2-1.

Free odds

You can back pass or come bets with free odds after a point is established. On winners, the odds bet is paid at true odds, so 6s and 8s pay 6-5, 5s and 9s pay 3-2 and 4s and 10s pay 2-1.

 In California, some casinos allow up to 5x odds meaning you can make an odds bet up to five times your pass or come bet. Keeping your pass or come bet low and saving the larger share of your bet for free odds lowers the overall house edge.

Lay odds

You can back don't pass or don't come bets by laying odds after a point is established. You must spot the house the true odds, so you payoffs are 5-6 on 6 or 8, 2-3 on 5 or 9 and 1-2 on 4 or 10. There is no house edge when laying odds.

The plus in laying odds comes when you keep your don't pass or don't come bet low to save money for the odds. Then, you bet the least on the comeout when you have only three ways to win (one way to make 2, two ways to make 3) and eight ways to lose (six ways to make 7, two ways to make 11). Your bigger bets come after there's a point, when don't players win more often than they lose.

Place bets

You can bet on 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10. If your number is dealt before a  7, you win. If a 7 comes first, you lose. Payoffs are 7-6 on 6 or 8, 7-5 on 5 or 9, or 9-5 on 4 or 10.

Difference When Decks Are Shuffled Together

As noted earlier, the effect of card removal alters the odds when all cards are shuffled together instead of dealt from separate decks. At, Michael Shackelford calculates that in a Card Craps game with 264 cards shuffled together, the house edge on pass bets is 1.36 percent instead of the 1.41 using two dice or two separately shuffled six-card decks. The edge on don't pass is 1.37 percent instead of 1.36 percent.

Here's a list of major multi-hand (or multi-roll) wagers with their payoffs, house edge with 264 cards and house edge with either two dice or two separate six-card decks.


Wager Payoff House edge, 264 cards House edge, 2 dice or 2 separate 6-card decks
Pass or come 1-1 1.36% 1.41%
Don't pass or don't come 1-1 1.37% 1.36%
Odds, 4 or 10 2-1 0.51% 0
Odds, 5 or 9 3-2 0 0
Odds, 6 or 8 6-5 0.25% 0
Lay odds, 4 or 10 1-2 -0.25% 0
Lay odds, 5 or 9 2-3 0 0
Lay odds, 6 or 8 5-6 -0.21% 0
Place 4 or 10 9-5 7.14% 6.67%
Place 5 or 9 7-5 4% 4%
Place 6 or 8 7-6 1.76% 1.52%

Note that you get a slightly better deal on pass or come with 264 cards shuffled together than with two dice or two six-card decks, but the house edge is a big higher on don't pass, don't come and place bets on 4 or 10 and 6 or 8.

In standard craps, free odds have no house edge, but there the house does have an advantage on 4 or 10 or 6  or 8 in the 264-card method. There's a tradeoff on lay odds. The minus sign on 4 or 10 and 6 or 8 signifies a house disadvantage. The player has an edge in laying odds on those numbers, though you still must face the house edge on don't pass or don't come to get that deal.


Card Craps can't give you the same hands-on feeling of rolling the dice yourself, but it does closely mimic the odds and gameplay of the real thing. In jurisdictions where dice games aren't licensed, it's a worthy take on a player favorite.

Check out additional craps tip from 888casino to learn more about the game.

For nearly 25 years, John Grochowski has been one of the most prolific gaming writers in the United States. He’s been ranked ninth by GamblingSites among the top 11 gambling experts at Gambling Sites and his Video Poker Answer Book was ranked eighth among the best gambling books of all time.