Beat The Casinos At Their Own Games
A casino craps table can appear somewhat mystifying and maybe even intimidating to a novice who knows nothing about the game. I mean, when you consider that there is usually a cloud of cigar and cigarette smoke hanging over the table and you hear people speaking in code shouting things like “$5 Yo!” or “Horn High Ace-deuce!” what is a person to think? One might also observe that craps players seem to be riding an emotional roller coaster and are either having more fun than anyone else in the casino or they are the most disgusted.
Well, in the next few paragraphs I am going to attempt to remove the cloak of mystery and let you in on the fun as I explain the rules of the game and how to play. I’ll also touch on some of the terminology so you won’t even need a decoder ring when you finally walk up to a craps table and place a bet.
Casino Craps is played with two dice that have a total of 36 different possible combinations. There are 11 numbers that can be rolled with those 36 combinations (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12). 7 is the most frequently rolled number since there are more combinations that produce a 7 than any other number, six in all. There are five combinations that produce a 6 and also five that produce 8. Four combinations produce the 5 and 9, three for the 4 and 10, two for the 3 and 11, and one each for the 2 and the 12.
As you view a casino craps table, you will notice that there is an individual seated at the center of the table on the pit side. This person is known as the “Boxman” and he/she is in charge of the game. The Boxman settles any disputes that may arise. Among his other duties is watching the dealers to insure they make correct payoffs as well as keeping a sharp eye out for any potential cheaters.
Flanking the Boxman on both his right and left is a dealer that handles the betting action on his/her half of the table.
In the center of the table opposite the Boxman is the “Stickman”. He calls out the result of each roll of the dice and retrieves the dice with a long stick which is curved on the end (thus the term “Stickman”). The Stickman also has the responsibility of booking the proposition bets which are on the layout in the center of the table in front of him. When a proposition bet wins, the Stickman authorizes the amount of payment and to whom the bet is paid.
Casino craps tables come in various sizes ranging from eight feet to fourteen feet. So the maximum number of people that can be accommodated at a craps table varies also but ranges from twelve to twenty or so.
Each player at the table can take a turn at shooting the dice if he/she so desires and the dice move around the table in a clockwise fashion. When it comes his turn, if a player wants to throw the dice (it’s not mandatory), then he/she must place a bet either on the Pass Line or the Don’t Pass Line.
The minimum bet for craps in most casinos is $5 although there are some smaller venues that may have minimum bets as low as $1. As with other casino table games, the minimum bet may vary from table to table. Normal table minimums are $5, $10, $25 and $100. The minimum bet amount is posted on the inside wall of each craps table.
If a player opts to shoot the dice, then he continues to throw them until he “seven’s out” (this term will be explained shortly). Then the dice are offered to the next player to his left.
Come Out Roll
When a new shooter gets the dice, his first roll is called the “Come Out” roll. Also, if the shooter makes his point, the first roll after a made point is also a Come Out roll. If a shooter’s Come Out roll is a 2, 3, 7, 11 or 12, then another Come Out roll is made. Come Out rolls continue to be made until a shooter rolls a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 (these are also known as the “box numbers”). When this happens, the shooter is said to have established a point and is no longer making Come Out rolls.
The first bet we will discuss is one of the most prominent bets shown above on the typical casino craps layout. The “Pass Line” is the bet that most players who are new to the game will make. A Pass Line bet is placed squarely in the middle of the area marked “Pass Line” on the layout. It is important to place the bet in the center of this area so that it isn’t touching a line because bets placed on the inner line or outside the outer line are different bets.
A Pass Line bet wins if the Come Out roll is a 7 or 11. The player is paid even money or one to one odds on any winning Pass Line bet. When a 7 or 11 is rolled on the Come Out roll, the dice are said to have “Passed” and all bets on the Pass Line win. If a 2, 3, or 12 is rolled on the Come Out roll, this constitutes a Craps Roll and the Pass Line automatically losses but the shooter does not forfeit the dice.
When something other than a 2, 3, 7, 11 or 12 is rolled on the Come Out roll, that number becomes the shooter’s point. The point will always be one of the six “box numbers” (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10). If the shooter can then roll his point before rolling a 7, the dice have passed and he wins his Pass Line bet. But if he rolls a 7 before rolling the established point, the Pass Line bet losses. The shooter has “sevened out” and his roll has ended. Note that other than on the Come Out roll, dice rolls of 2, 3, 11 or 12 have no effect on the Pass Line bet.
A Come Bet is placed in the large area marked “Come”. A Come Bet works the same way as a Pass Line bet, but it is made after a Pass Line bet. In other words, you can only make a Pass Line Bet on a Come Out roll. However, if you want to continue to make a Pass Line type bet after a point has been established, then you place your bet in the Come area. Just like a Pass Line bet, a Come Bet wins on a roll of 7 or 11 and loses on 2, 3 or 12. If any other number is rolled (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10), the dealer moves the Come Bet to that number on the layout. If that number is rolled again before a 7 is rolled, the Come Bet wins, but if a 7 is rolled first, it losses. So you see, a Come Bet is the exact same thing as a Pass Line bet except it is made after a point has been established. It also pays even money like a Pass Line bet.
Pass Line bets and Come bets are said to be “contract bets” which means that once you make those bets you cannot pick them up. You are under contract to leave that bet on the table until it is either won or lost.
Pass Line and Come bets are called “Do Side” bets because you are betting with the shooter. You are betting that he will either win on his come out roll by rolling a 7 or 11 or subsequently win by making his point.
Don’t Pass and Don’t Come Bets
A Don’t Pass Line bet is the opposite of a Pass Line bet. If you will notice on the layout above, the Don’t Pass Line is the next area inside the Pass Line and that is where you place your bet if you want to bet against the shooter.
A winning Don’t Pass or Don’t Come bet also pays even money.
A Don’t Pass bet losses if the Come Out roll is a 7 or 11, but it wins when the Come Out roll is a craps roll of 2 or 3. You will also notice on the layout that it says “Bar 12”. That means that if the Come Out roll is a 12, then the Don’t Pass bet does not win, but it doesn’t lose either. For the player betting on Don’t Pass or Don’t Come, it is as if the roll didn’t happen. By not paying the Don’t Pass or Don’t Come bettor on a craps roll of 12 the house gains its advantage over a Don’t player. Otherwise, a player could just bet Don’t Pass or Don’t Come all the time and be assured of winning long term since he would have an advantage.
After a point is established, the Don’t Pass bet wins if a 7 is rolled before the point and losses if the point is rolled before a 7. So, once a point is established, the odds are in favor of a Don’t Pass bettor but are 22% against him on the Come Out roll.
Don’t Come bets are placed in the little box marked “Don’t Come” located in the corner of the layout next to the dealer. The Don’t Come bet is exactly like the Don’t Pass bet except it is made after the Come Out roll. It wins on a roll of 2 or 3, is barred on a roll of 12, and losses to a 7 or 11. Otherwise it moves to whatever number is rolled and is placed behind that number on the layout instead of on the number like a regular Come bet. Once a Don’t Come bet goes to a number, if that number is rolled again, it losses. But if a 7 is rolled before that particular number is rolled again, the Don’t Come bet wins. For example, if a Don’t Come bet is placed and a 5 is rolled, the dealer places the bet behind the 5. If another 5 rolls before a 7 is rolled, the dealer announces “down behind” and removes the Don’t Come bet because it has lost. But if the shooter rolls a 7 before another 5 has rolled, the Don’t Come Bet wins and the Don’t Come bettor is paid.
Before leaving the subject of Don’t Come and Don’t Pass bets I should mention that neither of these bets is a contract bet. Therefore, they can be picked up at any time between rolls. However, once a Don’t Pass or Don’t Come bet has made it past the 7 and 11 and has been established on a box number, it should never be picked up because the odds are then heavily in favor of the Don’t player.
By way of a side note on terminology, a player who is betting on Don’t Pass and Don’t Come is sometimes said to be playing the “Dark Side”.
Taking and Laying Odds
The odds bet is a separate bet that can be made after the point has been established on a Pass Line Bet, Come Bet, Don’t Pass Line Bet, or Don’t Come Bet. It is actually the best bet offered by any casino any time because it is the only bet in the casino that is paid off at correct odds.
On a Pass Line bet, after the point has been established, the odds bet is placed behind the Pass Line Bet (outside the Pass Line area between the wall of the table and the outer line of the Pass Line area). When a Come bet goes to a box number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10), the dealer stacks the odds bet on top of the Come Bet but slightly askew in order to differentiate between the original Come bet and the odds bet added afterwards.
It is not mandatory to take odds on your Pass Line and Come bets, but it is a good bet and can actually decrease the house percentage against you, especially if a casino allows a player to take 5 times odds or 10 or even 20 times odds. By the term 5, 10, or 20 times odds, what I’m referring to is the fact that most casinos will allow you to take odds in the amount of from 5 to 20 times the amount of your original Pass Line or Come Bet. In other words, if your Pass line bet was $5, then with 5 times odds you would be able to take odds of up to $25 on that bet. If a casino offered 20 times odds, you could place an odds bet of up to $100 with only a $5 Pass Line or Come bet.
When placing an odds bet after a point has been established or after a Come bet goes to a number, you are said to be “taking” odds. All odds bets pay according to the odds of a 7 being rolled before that particular number. When playing the do side, the odds of any box number being rolled before a 7 are against you, therefore all odds bets associated with box numbers pay better than even odds.
A six or an eight box number pays odds of 6 to 5 because the odds are 6 to 5 that a seven will roll before a six or an eight. So, all odds bets placed on six or eight should be in multiples of 5. For example, if the point established on a Pass Line bet is eight, then you should place the odds bet behind the Pass Line bet and it should be either $5, $10, $20, etc. (a multiple of 5). So, assuming you had a $5 Pass Line bet on the eight along with a $20 odds bet, and the shooter rolled the eight and made his point, you would get paid even money ($5) for your Pass Line bet, but you would receive $24 for your $20 odds bet.
A winning odds bet placed on the five or nine pays 3 to 2 because there are 4 combinations that make up a five or nine and there are 6 combinations that result in a seven. Therefore, 6 divided by 4 is 1.5 or 3 to 2. Odds bets for the five and nine should always be made in multiples of 2.
The odds paid on a four or ten are 2 to 1 since there are 3 combinations that make up a four or ten and 6 that make a 7.
If you are making Don’t Pass or Don’t Come bets, you are said to be playing the “Don’t Side” because you are betting against the shooter. As I stated earlier, when playing the “Do Side” you “take” the odds but when playing the “Don’t Side” you “lay the odds” or give them. The reason is obvious. Once a shooter has established a point, the odds are in favor of a 7 rolling before any box number. Therefore the don’t bettor must give the odds else he would be assured of being a winner over the long term.
If a player makes a Don’t Pass bet, he can lay odds by placing his odds bet beside his original Don’t Pass bet on the Don’t Pass Line. If a player wants to lay odds on a Don’t Come bet, he simply gives his odds bet to the dealer and tells him he is laying odds on the Don’t Come bet (sometimes referred to as a “DC” bet).
Odds on Don’t bets are laid in the exact opposite proportions as Do side bets. If the point is six or eight, a player must lay $6 to win $5. The reason of course is that there are 6 combinations that produce a seven and 5 combinations that produce a six or eight. Once a six or eight is established as the point, the odds are 6 to 5 in favor of the Don’t bettor that a seven will roll before a six or eight.
Likewise, you must bet 3 units in order to win 2 when laying odds against the five or nine (for example you must lay $15 in order to win $10). And if you are laying against a four or ten, you must lay 2 units in order to win 1.
All odds bets whether they are Pass, Don’t Pass, Come or Don’t Come are non contract bets and can be picked up at any time between rolls of the dice. They can also be increased or decreased as long as the increase does not take them above the maximum allowable odds bet or below the minimum. Odds bets may also be turned off or turned on at any point between rolls simply by telling the dealer to turn your odds bets on or off. However, if an odds bet is “Off” or not working when its associated box number is rolled, you only get paid even money on the associated Pass or Come bet. You do not get paid on the odds bet. But, if a 7 rolls you don’t lose a non working odds bet on the Pass Line or on a Come bet.
In general, odds bets lose or win when a 7 rolls (Pass and Come odds lose and Don’t Pass and Don’t Come odds win). The exception is when a come out seven is rolled, Come bet odds are returned to the player while the Come Bet itself loses. However, a player can tell the dealer to “work” his odds on the Come Out and in this case, the Come bet odds will also lose if a seven rolls, but, conversely it will win and pay correct odds if the Come bet number is rolled.
Another type bet that is considered a Do Side bet because it pays the player better than even money is a “Place Bet”. A Place bet is made on the box numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) and can be made at any time by giving the dealer the proper amount of chips and telling him which numbers you want to place. A Place bet is somewhat like a Come bet in that it wins if the number placed is rolled before a seven and loses if it is still on the table when a seven is rolled. The exception is on the Come Out roll. If a come out seven is rolled, it does not affect a Place bet (doesn’t win or lose) since Place bets are automatically considered to be “Off” or “Not Working” on Come Out rolls. The player does have the option of instructing the dealer to “Work” his Place bets on the Come Out. In that case, if any number he has placed rolls, it wins but if a seven is rolled, all his Place bets lose.
You do not have to wait for a number to roll before it can be placed. You simply decide which number you want to place and make the bet. From that point on, as long as the Place bet is on the table and working, it wins whenever the number which has been placed rolls, and it loses if the shooter sevens out.
Another great advantage of Place bets is that they can be called “Off” or “On” at any time. They may also be increased or decreased or even taken down and returned to the player at any time between rolls of the dice. The player must simply tell the dealer of his intentions.
There are no limits on Place bets other than the minimum and maximum bets posted for that particular table.
Place bets are paid at different rates from odds bets. A winning Place bet on the six or eight pays 7 to 6. Therefore, Place bets on the six or eight should normally be made in multiples of 6 while Place bets on the other box numbers are normally made in multiples of 5. Winning place bets on the five and nine pay 7 to 5 while the four and ten pay 9 to 5.
A “Buy Bet” is exactly the same as a Place bet and all rules that apply to Place bets apply to Buy bets. The difference is that a winning Buy Bet pays correct odds (i.e. 3 to 2 for a Buy bet on the five or nine and 2 to 1 for the four and ten). The catch is that a 5% commission must be paid on all winning Buy bets.
It is advantageous to buy the five and nine if you are making a bet of $25 or more. Buy the four or ten if you are betting $15 or more. You should never buy the 6 or 8.
Lay Bets are kind of like the Don’t Side equivalents of Place Bets or Buy Bets. You may make a Lay bet against any box number at any time, even on the Come Out roll. Lay bets are understood to be working at all times unless they are called off or picked up. And lay bets, like any other Don’t bet, may be picked up at any time.
A lay bet wins when the seven rolls before the box number being laid against rolls. However, if you lay against a number and that number rolls before a seven, the dealer will announce “down behind” and you will lose your lay bet. For instance, if you lay against a nine, and the next 3 rolls are five, six, seven, you win your lay bet because the seven rolled before a nine rolled. However if the next 3 rolls were five, six, nine, you would lose the lay bet because a nine rolled before a seven.
The proper way to make a lay bet is to place your money on the table in front of the dealer and say, “$30 lay against the nine.” Or you could say, “Laying the nine for $30,” or even “$30 no nine.”
Winning Lay bets pay the proper odds less a 5% commission. So lay bets against the four or ten pay 1 to 2. Bets against the five or nine pay 2 to 3 and against the six and eight pay 5 to 6. Therefore, lay bets against the six and eight should be made in multiples of 6 (i.e. $12, $18, $24 etc.). When laying against the five, nine, four or ten, use multiples of 2.
Some casinos will allow you to make lay bets of any amount just so the amount won will be at least equal to the table minimum but others require you to lay enough to win at least $20 or in some cases, $10. If you are going to be making lay bets, you should find out what the minimum lay bet is before beginning play.
Big 6 and 8
In the corner of the layout next to the Pass Line and the Don’t Pass Line you will see a large red 6 and 8. This is sometimes called “Big 6 and 8”. This is one of the worst bets in craps. It works exactly like a Place bet on the six or eight but instead of paying off at 7 to 6 odds, a winning bet only pays even money. It is basically there as a sucker bet. The only times it can be useful is if you are down to your last one or two chips and don’t have enough money to make a proper Place bet on the six or eight, then you might use the Big 6 or 8. Or, if you decide at the last split second you want to bet the 6 or 8 and it is too late to give your money to the dealer and still get your Place bet down in time, you can quickly place a bet on the Big 6 or 8 yourself. Other than for those two reasons, you should never make this bet.
There is a huge area on the layout between the Come area and the Don’t Pass Line marked “Field”. This is a one roll bet that covers the 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 12. If any of those numbers hit on the next roll after you place your Field bet, you win. A winning Field bet pays even money except for the two and the twelve which pay double. There are still a very few casinos around that pay triple in the Field when a twelve is rolled.
C and E
As we move further toward the center of the layout you will notice two little circles joined by a line. Within these circles are the letters E and C. The “E” is a symbol for the number 11. A one roll bet on the number 11 is a popular bet among craps players and it pays 15 to 1. An often used slang term for this bet is “Yo”. When a yo bet is made, the Stickman places it in one of the circles marked E that corresponds to the Player’s position at the table.
The small circle marked “C” is where a general bet on craps is placed. This bet is sometimes called a “Craps Check” or “Any Craps” and it is for one roll. The player is betting that the next roll will be a craps roll of some kind (i.e. 2, 3, or 12). If the bet wins, it pays 7 to 1.
Many players make these two bets simultaneously by saying something like, “Four dollar C and E,” as they give their money to the dealer. This means that a bet of $2 on any craps and $2 on the number 11 has been made.
There is usually an area in the center of the layout at the bottom of the rectangular area containing pictures of dice combinations where an Any Craps bet may be placed by the Stickman if the player is not making the craps bet in conjunction with a bet on the 11.
At the top of the rectangular area in the center of the layout which contains pictures of dice combinations is an area marked “Seven”. A player may make a bet that the next roll will be a seven and it will be placed in this area by the Stickman. If the next roll is a seven, the winning bet will pay 4 to 1. This bet is also known in craps slang as a “Big Red”.
More Proposition Bets
The bets in the center of the layout (we’ve already discussed several) are known as proposition bets and they carry the highest house edge. Experts will tell you to avoid these bets, yet many dice players enjoy making them because of their higher payoffs should you get lucky and win one of them.
Beneath the Any Seven bet in the center of the layout you will see several pictures of dice combinations which represent special bets that can be made at any time.
The first four dice combinations beneath the Any Seven area are the Hardway bets. You will see a pair of three’s, a pair of four’s, a pair of two’s, and a pair of five’s. They represent the hard six, hard eight, hard four and hard ten respectively.
As an example of how hardway bets work, a bet on hard six will win if a pair of three’s rolls before any other combination of six (4-2 or 5-1) or before the shooter sevens out. (Hardway bets are automatically off on the Come Out so a Come Out 7 does not affect them unless the player calls his hardways “on” or “working” before the Come Out roll.) But if the shooter rolls any other combination adding up to six other than the 3-3, or if he sevens out, the hardway bet losses. A lost hardway bet may be replaced at any time.
All the other hardway bets work the same way as described above.
Hard six and hard eight pay 9 to 1 when they win and hard four and hard ten pay 7 to 1.
Directly beneath the hardway bets you will find the “Horn Bets”. A Horn bet is a one roll bet which covers the two, three, eleven and twelve. Whatever amount the player bets is divided equally among these 4 bets as long as it is an even amount. So, an $8 horn bet would mean that $2 each was bet on the two, three, eleven and twelve. However, should the player bet an odd amount like $5 for instance, the dealer would place $1 on each number but the player would also have to indicate which number he wanted the extra dollar placed on. Therefore, the player would say something like, “Horn, high yo!” as he tossed the $5 chip to the dealer. This would indicate that the player wanted $1 bet on each of the numbers and the extra dollar bet on the eleven.
A Horn bet can be placed at any time between rolls and it wins if one of the numbers in the Horn group appears on the next roll of the dice, otherwise it loses. The payoffs are the same as if the numbers were bet individually (which they all can be). If the two or twelve rolls, the player is paid 30 to 1. If a three (sometimes referred to as “Ace-Deuce”) rolls, it pays 15 to 1 as does the eleven.
As I indicated above, a player does not have to bet the whole Horn, but can bet only on the two or any other single number in the horn.
By way of further explanation of terminology, a player who is betting on “Boxcars” or “Midnight” is making a bet on the twelve.
A “World Bet” is not generally shown on the layout but it is exactly the same as the Horn bet and works exactly the same way with the exception that the seven is included in the group of numbers along with the two, three, eleven and twelve. If the seven rolls, it pays 4 to 1 just like an Any Seven bet.
The last type of bet that will be discussed is the “Hop Bet”. Up until recently this bet was not shown on the craps layout but it has begun to appear on some newer versions. Even though not shown, it was usually accepted by most casinos. But there are still some casinos who do not book Hop bets.
A Hop bet is a one roll bet that a certain combination will appear on the next roll. If a player hops the 3-2, he is betting that on the next roll, a 3 will appear on one of the dice and a 2 on the other.
The Hop bet pays 30 to 1 for a winning bet on the single combinations of 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6. Technically it pays 30 to 1 for all winning combinations but if you are betting the 4-3, you must also bet the 3-4 because it is impossible to tell whether the winning combination was a 4-3 or 3-4. Therefore, hopping any combination other than the single combinations that make up the two and twelve or the hard four, hard six, hard eight or hard ten only pays 15 to 1.
As a side note, it is better to hop the seven (if it is allowed) than to make the Big Red or Any Seven bet. A $6 bet on Any Seven would only pay $24, but a $6 hop bet on the 7 (which would cover all 3 possible combinations of 5-2, 6-1, or 4-3) would pay $30.
To make a Hop bet, you announce to the dealer (as you toss your money on the table) that you are, “Hopping the seven.” This will cause the dealer to automatically divide your bet equally among the 3 possible combinations for a seven. Or, you can hop an individual combination by saying, “Hopping the 6-2.”
This covers all the bets presented on a typical craps layout and some that aren’t.