I have written so many articles and books on craps that I have decided to start this article by looking at the often deliberately-overlooked area of the game. Many gambling writers shy away from the darkside because it is uncomfortable to write about and thus they give short shrift to it and its devoted but usually quiet players.

That’s right. I am going to lead some of you, maybe many of you, into the darkest corner of the most exciting game in the casino; a corner fraught with really deep emotion but not the loud, wacky, intrusive emotion of the wild crowd maybe cheering and maybe whining and complaining all about you who are not playing the darkside.

You will probably be alone on this side of the game but anyone who plays and wins craps on the darkside knows the joy of being perhaps the one and only such player at a table. 

The word “unique” comes to mind when discussing the darksider. Unique and strong-willed and not afraid of anything at a craps game. Winning at craps is their desire; not wanting to be merely a part of the crowd. Everyone can be losing at craps while the darksider takes the money and can walk from the game as the out-and-out winner!

Rightside vs. darkside

There are two essential games of craps, those being the rightside and the darkside, the former going with the number or point; the latter standing on one’s own and going against the number or point. 

And that second player, known as the darksider or the “don’t player,” means you are rooting against the shooter whose desires are to satisfy the mob of the other players at almost all tables by making his point or other numbers other than the 7 which will knock him or her out of the game as the dice will then be passed to the next shooter.

When a shooter fails to make his point and sevens-out, the table will often moan as if they are one being. The darksider thinks it is too bad for those other players as the darksider can rejoice in his win while that rightside mob is licking their wounds on their losses.

Many of you know how this casino game is played. The new shooter gets the dice and this is called the “come-out roll” that starts the shooter’s turn to establish a point (any of these numbers, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) or hitting an immediate win of the 7 or 11. The longer the shooter can hold the dice, the better it usually is for the rightside contingent, the worse it usually is for the darksider.

However, once the point is established, the darksider usually goes to work making bets that call for the 7 to hit. That 7 means a win on every darkside bet the player has made.

On the come-out roll, the darksider can win immediately on the 2, 3 and tie on the 12 (four chances to hit one of those), although he or she loses on the 7 or 11 (eight chances to lose). Okay, no doubt, that the come-out roll favors the rightside player but once a point is established the darksider is in command. Winning at craps becomes easier at this point for the darksider than for the rightsiders.

That 7 has six chances to come up, the most appearances compared to any other number. The darksider is good friends with the 7 except on the come-out roll. That 7 loses all the bets of rightsiders but wins all the bets of the darksiders during the point cycle of the game.

You can bet several ways on the darkside of the game. On the come-out roll, you place your “don’t pass” wager and hope for a 2 or 3. The 12 is a push (tie). Obviously, you win your bet if one of those two numbers shows.

Once a point is made, you will win on any 7.

A look at the house edge

What is the house edge against the darksider in craps? It is a mere 1.36%! 

That’s right; the darksider will lose $1.36 per $100 wagered – one of the very best bets in the casino.

[Please note: The darksider can make a “don’t come” bet which can go up directly on a number. Again, our darksider is rooting for the 7 to appear before that number for a win. And the darksider can lay the odds as well.] 

Now, once the darksider is on a number, he or she has the choice of “laying odds” against that number. Because the 7 has the edge against all the numbers, the darksider must place the long end of the odds bet. 

If the casino allows double odds on a pass-line bet or a come bet, the darksider can lay the odds against that number. If the number is 6, the darksider puts $6 for every $5 he or she hopes to win. On the numbers 5 and 9, the darksider will put up $3 for every $2 he or she wishes to win and on the 4 and 10, the darksider will put up $2 for every $1 he or she wants to win. 

Of course, the odds will be higher amounts of money than those shown above. If the point is a 10 in the double odds game, the darksider can put up $40 to win $20 on a $10 minimum-bet game. Remember, the darksider is in the driver’s seat when the game is being played after the come-out roll. 

There are darksider place bets where you go directly up against a certain number and root for that number to lose to the 7. You can ask the dealer how to do these if you wish. Personally, I prefer to keep the number of bets I use to one or a maximum of two.

I would stick with the don’t-pass bets and the don’t come bets. Once you lay odds on these bets the house edge sinks even more!

Now, to finish this and let you know one thing – rightside players tend to dislike darksiders. (Some say they “hate” darksiders.) You will rarely see or hear a darksider loudly rooting for the 7. I’ve seen this a few times in almost 40 years of play. It isn’t usual.

Okay, there you have it. Now you can bet a good bet at a great game and to heck with all the other players scowling at you.

Craps dice

The altar of craps

Take a close look at that craps table in action with players and dealers taking up spots all around it. What is it they are actually doing? Doesn’t it resemble an ancient altar, the Mayans, the Incas, the ancient churches? Is something being sacrificed to the powers-that-be? 

To me it does seem quite ritualistic and the emotions that craps bring out in players can certainly be intense. It is almost as if we are putting up a sacrifice when we put up a bet at the game. We want the gods and goddesses of luck to be on our side, don’t we? I certainly do. 

Or maybe this is just my imagination? I don’t really know. But it seems so to me that craps exists in its own universe. And that’s enough for me.

No matter what, casino craps certainly has many rules and regulations imposed by the casino in order for the game to run smoothly. These I am sure most craps players know even after just one or two sessions of playing the game. Most dealers know the game and know how to make the game run smoothly. Dealers are the actual trainers of the players. 

However, there are some “rules” that I am now putting in quotes which are strongly believed in by many craps players – even if these “rules” aren’t written on the signage at the table. In fact, for some players these “rules” are close to commandments and must be obeyed. 

Get thee ready to learn the “tablets” of this great game that I am now bringing down the mountain!

  1. Do not talk to a shooter once he or she is passed the dice. Although the game is random, many shooters like to take care with their rolls and they prefer not having someone bothering them or jabbering at them. If you are the critical type, save your negative comments for yourself. No one wants to hear you lambasting a shooter who just sevened-out – certainly the shooter doesn’t. Everyone sevens-out. Life is death, taxes and sevening out.
  2. If a shooter has hit his or her point, don’t jump in his or her face enthusiastically blowing your garlic-wine-scotch-cigarette-cigar-scented breath into his or her nose. That is not a turn-on for any shooter. Does that turn you on? I doubt it. Best to clap and leave the shooter be.
  3. Keeping the shooter safe to shoot without harassment from other players is an important thing to remember. Clapping? Yes, of course. Cheering? Yes, certainly. Going farther than that? No and no. So, hands and breath off all shooters. You can be loud at a craps table but do not be loud directly into someone else’s face.
  4. Do not dangle your arms down the inside of the table. That is bad manners and often you will see and hear even dealers sternly warn you about not doing that. Shooters hate it and so do the non-shooters at the table. Your arms belong on your side of the table and preferably not in someone else’s space.
  5. Do not try to get into the game when the shooter has the dice in his or her hand. Put your money on the table when the dice are being controlled by the dealer in the middle of the table. In short, if the shooter has dice, you do nothing. Dice are being controlled by the dealer in the middle of the table, put your money down and get into the game. That’s the sequence. 
  6. If you are across the length of the table from the shooter, don’t cause much of a stir because some shooters don’t want to look at you gyrating. 
  7. It used to be standard practice when I first started playing craps in the olden (golden) days of Atlantic City (hey, do any of you remember the time you had to pay to get into the first casino, which was Resorts Casino in those olden, golden days?) many players would tip the shooters who just had good rolls, even modestly good rolls. You don’t see this as much anymore. I liked the practice because it created harmony at the table among the players. My early tutors in craps were those great World War II veterans. The greatest generation and the greatest craps generation – at least to me. So, if you feel like tipping that shooter? Do so and think a good thought about the greatest generation.
  8. If you smoke (stop right now) do not blow the smoke out over the table. Blow it behind you away from the other players. Fewer people smoke now but it is still an annoying habit for those players who do not indulge in that particular habit. So be careful if you are a smoker.
  9. Do not count the shooter’s rolls out loud. (“Hey! Hey! Hey! That’s number eighteen everyone. We got a hot one here! Keep it up big guy!”) That is distracting for the shooter and the rest of us at the table. Count to yourself. Oh, and be happy if the shooter can get into those double digits. That’s good shooting.   
  10.  If you are a “darksider” (meaning a don’t player) do not cheer if the shooter sevens-out. That’s bad manners, also dangerous in some casinos in our land. Remember that those craps tables do resemble an altar like the ones from the ancient past – and you know what happened on many of them, right? So happy, yes, but quiet is good advice.
  11.  Don’t hold your drink over the table (or any food). Keep it on your side of the table so if it spills it doesn’t spill on the layout.
  12.  If you enjoy setting the dice in certain configurations then make sure you can do it somewhat quickly. Other players are not as enamored with other players’ shooting forms. By the way, I am, but I think I do not represent the other players.
  13.  And do not say the word “seven.”

All the best in and out of the casinos!

Frank Scoblete grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. He spent the ‘60s getting an education; the ‘70s in editing, writing and publishing; the ‘80s in theatre, and the ‘90s and the 2000s in casino gambling.

Along the way he taught English for 33 years. He has authored 35 books; his most recent publisher is Triumph Books, a division of Random House. He lives in Long Island. Frank wrote the Ultimate Roulette Strategy Guide and he's a well known casino specialist.