Before beginning play, every craps player should have a plan of attack. That plan must take into account a number of considerations.
- How much bankroll are you willing and able to devote to a session? Can you afford the method that offers the best odds?
- What is your goal? Do you want a lengthy playing session in hopes of grinding out a profit, or do you want to bet long shots with bigger payoffs, hoping for a quick win while understanding that when the long shots don't hit, you'll lose more money faster than with other methods?
- Are you willing to cross over to the dark side and bet against the craps shooter? The odds are a little better for don't players, but most players prefer the win-together camaraderie of betting with the shooter.
POPULAR CRAPS STRATEGIES
PASS AND COME, WITH ODDS
The pass line is a great start to any craps strategy because of it's a low house edge of 1.41 percent. It's even better with free odds, with the house edge decreasing depending on how many times your pass bet you then wager on odds.
On the pass-plus-odds combination, the house edge declines to 0.8 percent with single odds, 0.6 percent with 2x odds, 0.4 percent with 3x, 4x, 5x odds, 0.3 percent with 5x odds, 0.2 percent with 10x odds and 0.02 percent at those rare casinos that offer 100x odds.
The house edges are exactly the same with come plus odds - 1.41 percent for starters, then the edge on the combo declining as your odds bet rises.
That's as it must be, for as described earlier in this guide, the come bet is the same as the pass bet except that it's made at a different point in the betting sequence. If the shooter has not yet established a point on the pass line, then the next roll is a comeout and you should bet on pass. If there's already a pass line point, then you can bet on come to get an additional number working.
Players who use this strategy frequently follow their pass bet with either two or three come bets, to get up to three or four numbers working.
How much should you bet on the odds? That's between you and your bankroll. If the casino offers 100x odds, you don't have to bet the full 100x. You can bet single odds, double odds -- any amount in your monetary comfort zone.
The object is to put as big a percentage of your bet as possible in the free odds, which have no house edge. Start with the table's minimum bet on pass or come, then reach your desired total wager by putting the rest in odds.
But betting more than you can afford is hazardous to your financial health, no matter how low the edge.
THE UP SIDE: Betting pass and come with odds has the lowest house edge of any strategy that has you betting with the shooter.
THE DOWN SIDE: Having multiple numbers, all with odds, working at the same time puts a lot of money at risk at once.
If you bet $5 on pass and follow with two $5 come bets, you have $15 at risk before worrying about odds. If you then bet $10 in double odds on each, that takes you to a total of $45, all of which can be wiped out by a single 7.
If that's too much for your bankroll to handle at once, you need to scale back your bet sizes, perhaps make fewer come bets, or explore less expensive betting options.
DON'T PASS AND DON'T COME WHILE LAYING ODDS
As detailed earlier in this craps guide, don't pass and don't come are essentially the opposite of pass and come, You're betting against the shooter making his point.
The house edge of 1.36 percent on don't pass or don't come is a little better than the 1.41 percent on pass or come. Edges on don't pass or don't come when laying the odds decline to 0.7 percent with single odds, 0.5 percent with 2x, 0.3 percent with 3x, 4x, 5x, 0.2 percent with 5x, 0.1 percent with 10x and 0.01 percent with 100x.
Just as with pass and come plus odds, the object is to put as big a percentage of your bet into the odds as possible --- the odds have no house edge, and your don't pass and don't come bets do.
So the best strategy is to bet table minimums at don't pass and don't come, then reaching your desired total wager by laying the odds.
THE UP SIDE: Don't pass and don't come while laying the odds give you the lowest house edge in craps.
THE DOWN SIDE: As with pass and come plus odds, total wagers can get pretty large, even if you start with minimum bets. Let your bankroll be your guide as to whether you can afford to follow your don't pass bet with don't come bets, and whether you can afford to lay the odds.
Some also see a downside in not betting with the shooter and missing the fun of feeling we're all in this together. Sometimes, there are taunts from the majority betting with the shooter. If that's going to bother you, this is not the strategy for you.
PLACING 6 AND 8
This strategy is popular because you get to pick your own numbers, instead of waiting for the shooter to establish a point.
Other than 7, the 6 and 8 are the most frequently rolled numbers, so those are the numbers of players like to have working. The house edge on placing 6 and 8 is 1.52 percent, higher than on pass, come, don't pass and don't come, but lower than most bets in the casino.
Players in the know stay away from other place bets because the house edge is higher -- 4 percent on 5 or 9 and 6.67 percent on 4 or 10.
If you're going to place 6 or 8, be sure to bet in multiples of $6. Winning bets are paid at 7-6 odds, but if you don't bet in multiples of $6, you'll get shorter pays. For example, a $5 bet will be paid only $5, but a $6 bet will be paid $7.
THE UP SIDE: You're never stuck with less frequently rolled points such as 4 or 10, and you get a relatively low house edge
Also, you can play this system for less money than the systems that include odds. At a $5 minimum table, placing both 6 and 8 requires an investment of only $12 at a time.
THE DOWN SIDE: No free odds are offered on point numbers and free odds have no house edge. The house edge is higher than on the pass-come-odds and the don't pass-don't come-lay odds systems.
PASS WITH ODDS, PLUS PLACE 6 AND/OR 8
Players who want to take advantage of free odds but can't afford to use it on both pass plus a series of come bets sometimes use this hybrid system.
You start with a pass line bet at table minimum. When a point is established, you back the pass bet with the free odds you can afford. If the point is 6 or 8, then you add a place bet on the other number. If the point is any other number, then you add place bets on both 6 and 8.
THE UP SIDE: The house edge is lower than just placing 6 and 8 because of the free odds backing your pass bet.
You also always have the two most frequent non-7s working.
Just as important, it takes less money than the full pass-come-odds system. If you have a $5 pass bet backed with $10 in double odds, and you also have $6 place bets on both 6 and 8, your total at risk is $27. Contrast that with the $45 for pass and two come bets, all backed with double odds, and even more at risk if you bet more than double odds.
THE DOWNSIDE: You're not getting the lowest possible house edge, since the edge on the two place bets is higher than on the come-plus-odds combo in the first system listed here.
The strategies listed above are popular for a reason. They trim the house edge nearly to the bone and give you the best chance at extended play and winning sessions at craps.
However, there are alternative strategies. Some are designed for quick, big wins when they work. One way or another, you're in and out of action fast, either with your desired win or without the money you've budgeted.
Others are designed for players who want to bet the don't side without sticking to don't pass or don't come, or who want to find a way to take advantage of free odds without waiting for the shooter to establish a point. And some are designed for players trying to cover weaknesses in one bet by layering on another.
All of these have higher house edges than the systems already listed, so be warned. Proceed at your own risk.
Here's where you can take advantage of free odds without waiting for the shooter to establish a point.
Craps put bets are pass line bets made after the shooter already has established a point. If the shooter rolls a 6 on the comeout, you can still bet on the pass line. You get the 6 as your point and winners are paid even money.
House edges are high: 9.1 percent if the point is 6 or 8, 20 percent if the point is 5 or 9, or 33.3 percent if the point is 4 or 10. That's because you're skipping the comeout, where there are eight ways to win (six ways to roll 7 and two ways to roll 11) and only four ways to lose (two ways to roll 3, one way to roll 2 and one way to roll 12).
The attraction is that you can back your put bet with free odds, which in themselves have no house edge.
If you're a low roller, that's not enough incentive to make put bets. Most players who want to choose 6 or 8 as their goals are better off making place bets.
However, there are breaking points where put bets become as good as and better than place bets.
On points of 6 or 8, a put bet has the same 1.52 percent house edge as a place bet if you take 5x odds, and the house edge dips lower if you wager even more in odds. If you take 4x odds, then other put bets have the same house edge as place bets -- 4 percent on 5 or 9 and 6.67 percent on 4 or 10. Again, with more odds, the edge on the put-odds combination dips lower.
So if you are sufficiently bankrolled and comfortable with betting 5x odds, then put bets on 6 or 8 become as good as placing 6 and 8. With 6x odds or more, put-plus-odds is better than the 6-8 place bets.
THE UP SIDE: You get to choose the most frequently rolled numbers, and you get to bring down the house edge by betting free odds.
THE DOWN SIDE: Bets will fall outside the comfort zone for many players. At a table with a $5 minimum bet, a $5 put bet plus 6x odds to drop the house edge on 6 or 8 below 1.52 percent means a $35 investment -- and that's with only one number working. At the same table, you could get 1.52 percent by betting $6 on 6 or 8. So this is a system for bigger bettors.
One other thing. The house edge will never fall as low as pass plus the same amount of odds. You get to choose your points, but there's a cost in starting with a 9.1-percent put bet instead of a 1.41-percent pass bet.
Every craps bet has a weakness. On pass and come, it's that once a point is established, the most frequently rolled number, 7, is a loser. Same deal on place bets: 7 loses, and that's the number that rolls most often.
Players sometimes try to cover the weakness with craps hedge bets. One common way to hedge is to bet on any 7 at the same time as making a place bet.
If you place $6 on 8, for example, but hedge with $2 on any 7, then if the shooter rolls an 8, you win $7 on the place bet and lose $2 on the hedge, leaving a $5 profit. If the loser 7 comes up, then you lose your $6 on the place bet but since any 7 is paid at 4-1 odds, you win $8 on the hedge, leaving a $2 profit.
However, dice rolls are not limited to 8 and 7, and any 7 is a one-roll bet. If any other number comes up, you lose your $2 on any 7 while the place bet stays in action until the shooter rolls either an 8 or a 7.
If you're going to continue to hedge, you'll need to add a fresh $2 bet, and then perhaps another, and another, and maybe another one after that. You can lose multiple hedge begs and still lose your place bet.
Any 7, at 16.67 percent, has a much higher house edge than the 1.52 percent edge on placing 6 or 8. Hedging a good place bet with any 7 results in a higher overall house edge and higher losses. In the system described above, with a $6 place bet on 8 and $2 hedges on any 7 on every roll, your average loss per 36 rolls is $1 without the hedge, and $13 with a hedge.
There are other ways to hedge. For example, on the comeout, where 2, 3 and 12 are losers, you could hedge with any craps.
Results are similar, given the 11.1 percent house edge on any craps. Per 36 comeouts, if you bet $5 on pass and $1 on any 7, you average $16 in winnings. If you stick to the pass bet and skip the hedge, your winnings average $20.
Hedge bets are weaker than the weaknesses they're trying to cover. Systems that use hedges should be avoided.
THE UP SIDE: Hedge bets can turn losing numbers into winners, giving you a profit when your main bet loses.
THE DOWN SIDE: House edges on hedge bets are very high. The bets themselves are of the one-roll variety, so there will be rolls when you lose your hedge bet while your main bet isn't even decided.
Overall, hedge bets work against the player, not in favor.
Sometimes called "the dinner bet" or "Darby's field," the Craps Iron Cross was designed as a hit-and-run strategy.
The idea is to cover many numbers, look for a win on your first roll, then take the remaining bets down, take your profit and move on. That "move on" portion is why some have called this the dinner bet. You leave after one win buys your dinner.
Iron Cross bettors cover every number except 7. They start with a field bet, which covers 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Then they also make place bets on 5, 6 and 8.
Of the 36 possible combinations of two dice, that leaves 30 winners, with only the six ways to make 7 as losers.
Most field numbers pay even money, but 2 usually pays 2-1 and 12 pays either 2-1 or 3-1. You want to find a table that pays 3-1 on 12 to take best advantage of this bet.
The place bet on 5 pays 7-5 odds, and the 6 and 8 pay 7-6 odds.
If you're betting minimums at a $5 table, the total investment is $22 -- $5 each on the field and the place bet on 5, and $6 each on the place bets on 6 and 8.
If the next roll is 12, you win $15. If it's 2, you win $10. You win $7 on 5, 6 or 8, and $5 on 3, 4, 9, 10 or 11.
If the roll is 7, you lose the full $22.
A $5 win won't buy dinner anymore, even at a casino buffet. It might be more like coffee and a doughnut. Still, the idea of this strategy is to win once and walk away.
THE UP SIDE: You win on 30 of 36 rolls.
THE DOWNSIDE: Any loss is much larger than any of the wins, and the overall house edge assuming all bets are decided is 2.4 percent. That's not horrible, but it's not good enough for extended play when things like pass, come, free odds and the better place bets are around.
Some sources list the house edge as 1.136 percent, but that is per roll, not per decision. That's a reasonable evaluation of a system meant to last for one roll and one roll only, but if you wanted to try it for extended play, you'd want the per-decision edge instead.
No combination can have a lower house edge than the individual bet with the lowest edge. In the Iron Cross, that's the place bets on 6 and 8, at 1.52 percent per decision. On a per-roll basis, the edge is 0.46 percent -- lower than the per roll edge on the Iron Cross.
Regardless of whether evaluating the bets per roll or per decision, placing 6 and 8 gives you a lower house edge than the Iron Cross. That leaves the Iron Cross as a wager useful only for those with a specific one roll, hit and run goal in mind.
Just as place bets enable you to choose your number instead of going through a comeout roll when betting with the shooter, craps lay bets enable don't bettors to chose the numbers they want to bet against.
If you want to bet against the least frequently rolled points -- 4 and 10 -- you can tell the dealer "lay the 4" or "lay the 10." Then you win if the shooter rolls a 7 before that number, and lose if the lay number comes first.
Because 7s are rolled more frequently than the lay numbers -- 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 -- you must pay the house a 5 percent commission to make these bets.
Payoffs are at true odds. You bet $6 to win $5 on 6 or 8, multiples of $3 to win multiples of $2 on 5 or 9 or multiples of $2 to win $1 on 4 or 10. The house gets its edge by charging the commission.
The lowest house edge, 2.44 percent is on laying 4 or 10, while edges are 3.23 percent on 5 or 9 and 4 percent on 6 or 8.
So the strategy for players seeking the lowest edge is to lay 4 or 10.
THE UPSIDE: You can choose the least frequently rolled point numbers, where don't bettors win more often, without going through a comeout roll.
Also, your total wager can be less when you lay the numbers than if don't bettors use a combination of don't pass and don't come bets with laying the odds. It's the don't side equivalent of placing 6 and 8 instead of pass-come-odds combinations.
THE DOWNSIDE: The house edge is higher on lay bets than on don't pass, don't come and lay odds. A 2.44 percent house edge on 4 or 10 is no match for the less than 1 percent edge on the bets where you can lay odds.
DON'T PASS WITH LAY ODDS, PLUS LAY 4 OR 10
This works just like the strategy listed earlier where those with the shooter bet pass plus odds, then place 6 or 8.
Start with a table minimum bet on don't pass. After the shooter establishes a point, lay odds on the point. If the point is 4, then also lay the 10. If the point is 10, then also lay the 4. If the point is any other number, lay both.
THE UPSIDE: You get the chance to lay odds on your don't pass bet, and there is no house edge on laying odds. On the follow-up bets on 4 and/or 10, you can't lay odds, but that keeps your overall wager down.
If you can't afford don't pass and don't come, all while laying odds, but can risk more than someone who sticks to laying 4 or 10, this hybrid system could appeal to you..
THE DOWNSIDE: The house edge on lay bets is higher than on don't come, even more so when you also lay odds. Also, you're betting against the shooter, so you don't have the win-together feeling the majority of craps players like.
WHICH STRATEGY IS THE BEST?
So what is the secrets of craps strategies and which system is the best? That depends on your bankroll and preferences.
The lowest house edges and the best shot at winning sessions are pass-come-odds and don't pass-don't come-lay odds. If you can't afford the odds, then placing 6 and 8 gives you a shot to win while keeping wagers low.
You can choose the strategy that fits your goals, but keep in mind that straying from the best bets brings a cost in increased house edges.