Don’t be afraid. 

I know that many novice craps players or players initially looking over the craps game, perhaps thinking they might try it, can be intimidated by the layout which seems as complicated as cuneiform writing or Egyptian hieroglyphics.

Yes, that layout does seem complicated but in truth the game is easy to play and if played properly gives the player a decent chance of beating the house on any given session. Of course, the key words here are “if played properly.”

Craps is a game that is often played incorrectly by players who make some of the worst bets in the game, which translates into some of the worst bets in the casino as well. Bad bets make it much, much tougher to have a victory over the casinos’ mathematical edges at craps and other games.

[Please note: While I love to discuss different betting styles at various games, including craps, there are bets that are good and there are bets that are bad. I’ll always let my readers know where I stand on various betting methods even as I write about them.]

Down and Dirty

I am going to give you a way to play craps immediately upon arriving at the table; even if you know nothing about how the game is actually played. Take any combination of six dollars ($6, $12, $18, $24, $30 and up) that will be used for a single bet. Place it on the table and say, “Twelve dollars on the six” or “Twelve dollars on the eight.” 

The dealer will take your chips and place them on the number you’ve indicated. Should the shooter roll your number you win $14. Should the shooter roll the 7, you lose your $12. 

Why do you win more than you lose? Because the 7 will come up six times as opposed to the number 6 (or the number 8) coming up five times. All the other numbers that the shooter rolls are irrelevant to your bet. In short, they don’t count.

[Please note: The house edge against a player using this method is 1.52 percent. It means an expected loss over time of $1.52 per $100 wagered. This is one of the best bets at craps and one of the best bets in the casino. You can make this bet and not have any idea of how the game of craps is played. This bet is to be made after the come-out roll once the shooter has established his or her point number.]  

Playing the Fundamental Game

Here’s the bottom line in what you need to know to understand the game:

Take a look at that craps layout again. Now close your eyes and say to yourself something such as this: “Almost all bets at craps are bad bets. I will not make any bad bets – ever! – because I want to have the best chance to win some money from this rich casino.”

Following that advice then just about all those weird-looking symbols on the layout can remain unneeded and utterly useless knowledge for you. They represent bets not good to make or even care about. In the future, if you wish, you can discover what those bad bets mean but we don’t have to do that for our first trips into the game. 

If you are already playing the game, but really want to up your chances to win, then you too should follow the advice in this article.


Playing Smart is Playing Right!

Closest to the player is a line that goes around the whole layout. This line is called the Pass Line and it is the indicator of the game. 

A player is passed five dice from which he chooses two. He is the shooter. Every player gets the chance to shoot the dice if he or she so wishes.

The shooter places a bet on the Pass Line. This initial roll is called “the come-out roll” and if the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, he wins his bet on the Pass Line at even money. If the shooter rolls a 2, 3 or 12, he loses his Pass Line bet. There are eight chances to roll a winner and four chances to roll a loser. 

A winning or losing bet on the come-out roll sets up the shooter to roll another come-out roll. However, should the shooter roll a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10, that becomes the point number. The shooter must now roll that number before he or she rolls a 7, which would end the shooter’s turn and lose anyone who bet on the Pass Line their wager.

The Pass Line wager comes in with a house edge of 1.41% or a loss or $1.41 per $100 wagered. This is another good bet.

And that is the basic game. 

There are other variations of how to bet on the come-out roll but these are not used by many players and those who do use them are generally disliked by the other players. Such bets are called “darksider bets” where the player is actually rooting for the shooter to roll a 7 instead of his point number. As a beginning player don’t bother with the dark side bets.  

[Please note: One of the most enjoyable elements of a craps game is taking the dice into your own hand and trying to beat the house. It is the only game where your “skill” at shooting might give you and other players a win. Unless you are the type of person who becomes overly nervous don’t give up your chance to roll “dem bones.”]

The Come Bets

Another excellent bet is called the come bet and you can see a rather large area of the layout marked COME. Once the shooter has established his point number, players can put bets in the come area. This bet works exactly like the Pass Line bet: it wins on the 7 or 11 and loses on the 2, 3, and ties on 12.

If the shooter rolls one of the point numbers (also called a box number), the come bet goes up on that number. If the 7 rolls the come bet loses; if that number rolls, the come bet wins.

The house edge on the come bet is 1.41%, the exact same as the Pass Line bet. That’s it. You can bet Pass Line or come or place the 6 and/or 8. Once again, that’s it. These bets are all good wagers at the game of craps.

How Many Bets Should You Take?

You can have as many come bets as there are box numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10). Most players will use multiple bets as they love the action of having multiple numbers working against the house. This is a dangerous playing technique as it can be quite costly quite quickly at times.

I don’t recommend multiple bets as the best method of play. Why allow the house edge to work against so much money? Each bet a player makes comes with a price. The more numbers a player bets, the more the expected losses over time. There is no way of getting around that.

Oddly Enough

There is one other little wrinkle to the above betting – a good little wrinkle at that!  It’s called the odds. The odds is an additional bet that can be made after a point is established by the shooter or a box number has been chosen on the come bet.

The odds are placed on the Pass Line bet, behind the original chips and it is placed on top of a come bet by a dealer for the player. These odds work without a house edge, meaning they are paid off at their proper rate. The 4 and 10 are paid off at 2 to 1; the 5 and 9 are paid off at 3 to 2; and the 6 and 8 are paid off at 6 to 5. These are the true odds of the bets and thus the bet is called – you guessed it – the odds.

It is always best to make your Pass Line and come bets small and take the most you can afford in odds. If a casino has double odds, a $5 Pass Line bet will allow you to take $10  in odds. A 10-odds game will allow a $5 bet to take $50 in odds. 

[Please note: Odds are often expressed this way: a double odds game will be 2X; a five odds game will be 5X; and so forth. The more the casino allows in odds, the better for the player as the odds have no house edge.]


Those Other Bets

I am going to do something unique here. I am going to list many of the “other” bets at craps without giving you their names. I am going to show you the cost to the player of these bets so you can compare them to the cost of the Pass Line and come bets and the place bets of the 6 and 8. I think that’s all you’ll need to know to eschew these bets in favor of the better bets.

Okay, remember that the Pass Line and come bets have a 1.41 percent edge, while the placing of the 6 or 8 comes in with an edge of 1.52%. That means a loss of $1.41 per $100 wagered on the Pass Line and come bets.

The loss on the 6 and 8 placements comes in at $1.52. The odds bet does not come with a house edge but these can only be made once a Pass Line or come bet is on a number. Cost of some other bets per $100: 

  • $16.67 
  • $13.89 
  • $11.11
  • $9.09
  • $8.33
  • $6.67
  • $5.56
  • $4

Yes, there are many more bets at the game but this list gives you an idea of the amazing spread of what your losing expectation can be. Why make bets that cost as much as almost 12 times the cost of the Pass, come and placements of the 6 and 8? That makes little sense to me as it is far easier to lose those bets over time than the better bets.

[Please note: There are many “branded” bets – for example, the Fire Bet and the high/low bet – that have been added to some craps tables. All of these additional bets come in with high house edges, some as high as 20 to 25%!]

Betting Bad Bets for Less Money

Many players will defend their bad betting practices by alluding to the fact that they bet bad bets for smaller amounts than their better bets. That makes no sense either. Less bad is still bad.

If a player wishes to throw out more money – even for small amounts – then why not throw that money out on better bets? If you were going to make a $5 bet on a bad bet, why not just put that $5 on the Pass Line bet or come bet? So instead of betting $20 on the Pass Line, why not go to $25? Your expected loss on that money will be far less than your expected loss on bad-bet money. Just take a look at the bad-bet losses players can experience in the above list and take those losing percentages seriously.

Summing It All Up

Bet only the best bets as described above: the Pass Line, the come bet, the odds on the Pass Line and come bets; and the placing of the 6 and 8.

Make only one bet per decision. Do not bet multiple numbers as this will only increase your expected losses over time. Money saved is money earned.

Once you are comfortable playing the right way, you can expand your knowledge of the game by reading my books Casino Craps: Shoot to Win! and I Am a Dice Controller! Yes this is a shameless plug but I fully believe those books give players everything they need to know how to play craps at an expert level.

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.