The Game of Craps for Beginners, A Simple Walkthrough

My favorite game in the casino is craps. I am not going argue the merits of craps versus blackjack, or whether or not craps can be beaten via dice control or dice influence. Rather, I am going to attempt to walk you through the game of craps, as if you have never ever played the game of craps.

If you’ve never played craps, this is the ultimate beginners walkthrough, complete with real pics to show you what to do. This is NOT an explanation of craps. It is merely an introductory guide – a script – on what to do during your first time trip.

I am not even going to delve much into win/loss conditions. You will learn those things through conversion with the dealers and the players. This is merely a walkthrough on what to do, so that you survive, and thrive, during your first game.

If you walk up to the craps table, it may seem like an intimidating experience. I assure you the game is much simpler than it appears.

You’re a craps virgin, you walk up to the table, and you see this…all these bets on the table strewn all over the place…

Believe it or not, craps is a very simple game to play, and you will learn quickly. In no time at all, you will learn what all those chips on the table mean.

Go to an empty (or emptier table) and walk up to it. Hopefully, your new table looks more like this…

Now that you’ve found your empty (emptier) table. It’s time to play.

THE BUY IN

To buy chips, called the buy in, tell the dealer how much you want to buy in for and then just drop your money onto the layout anywhere in front of you. You cannot hand the dealer money, hand to hand. All exchanges from dealer to player must be done by dropping chips or cash onto the layout. This is for security reasons.

THE BETS

If you are a beginner, I encourage you to make only four bets: the pass line bet, the odds bet, the place 6, and the place 8. Between us, we will call these four bets the ‘4 bets’ (don’t call it the Easy 4 because that’s an actual bet, and don’t use the phrase ‘4 bets’ in a casino because the dealers won’t know what you’re talking about).

I base this opinion on 25+ years of watching craps virgins walk up to the table for the first time, and thinking to myself, ‘why are they explaining the YO bet to these people?’

By using only these four bets – the Pass line, the odds on the pass line, the place 6, and place 8 – you will acclimate yourself to the craps table. Later, you can make more complicated bets, as you progress. For now stick with the 4 bets.

Believe it or not, these four bets are actually the best bets on the table. These 4 bets will give you the best chance of winning because the house edge, meaning the fee the casino takes out of your winnings, is lowest on these 4 bets.

Let’s go over each bet one by one. After I explain each of the four 4 bets, remember that I will give you a script for your conversation with the dealer. The script will ease your transition into the game.

THE PASS LINE BET

See the red chips in the area of the layout that says ‘PASS LINE’? That bettor (who happens to be yours truly) has made a pass line bet. So all you do is put your chips in the pass line area.

A pass line bet can be anywhere in the area marked pass line. Just put the bet in front of you, in the pass line area.
Multiple players can make a pass line bet. Here three different players have each made a pass line bet by placing their bet in front of them, in the area marked pass line.

PLAYING THE PASS LINE

Look to see that the disc, called the PUCK, is black. If it’s black, it means the game, or the round, has not begun.

A common and relatively expensive mistake that I see players make is that they walk up to a table and make a pass line bet when the puck is white. DO NOT PUT DOWN A PASS LINE BET IF THE PUCK IS WHITE. Pay attention to the puck. If you walk up to the table and the puck is white, wait until the round is over, and the dealer will turn the puck black.

If it’s black, you can make a pass bet. For your first bet, I recommend a minimum bet.

The puck is in its’ black position (the flip side is white). This means that the game has not begun, but is about to begin. Time to make a pass line bet.

Next, look at the sign next to the dealer, located here, on the table (you can also look while the puck is off/black)…

This sign tells you the least amount of money you can bet.
Here is a close-up of the sign, indicating that the minimum bet is $10.

If you’re not sure of the minimum bet, just ask the dealer, ‘what is the minimum bet?’

Place your minimum bet on the Pass Line. Someone will roll the dice. That ‘someone’ might even be you (if it’s you, tell the dealer this is your first time, and they will walk you through how to properly roll the dice). The person who rolls the dice is known as the ‘shooter’. The shooter will cause one of three things to happen to your pass line bet: win, lose or establish the point.

Without exception, every time that the puck is black, the shooter is rolling a Come Out roll. The Come Out roll is the establishment roll of the hand. On the Come Out roll, if the shooter rolls a 7 or 11, your Pass bet wins even money, meaning if you bet $10, you win $10.

If the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12, you lose, and the casino takes your Pass Line bet.

So just remember, 7 or 11, you win. 2, 3, or 12, you lose.

If the shooter rolls any other number, then the dealers turn their pucks to the flip side, where the white side will show…

The same puck is now white, meaning the game has progressed and you have made it past the first roll, which is known as the Come Out roll.

Whatever number the shooter shoots that causes the puck to turn white, the puck will go to that number (remember that only a 7, 11, 2, 3, or 12 will not cause the puck to turn white). In the picture above, the shooter has rolled an 8. That means the puck is turned to its white ON side and moved to the 8. The number on which the puck lies is known as ‘the point’. In this case, the point is 8.

Now the game becomes even simpler.

Now that the luck is white, completely disregard what I said earlier about the 7, 11, 2, 3, and 12. For purposes of your pass bet, those numbers do not matter. They are now irrelevant and mean nothing to you.

It’s simply now a competition between the 7 and the point. The shooter will continue to roll until he or she rolls either a 7 or the point.

In the pic above, if the shooter rolls a 7, then you LOSE. If the shooter rolls the point, then you win. If the shooter rolls neither a 7 or the point, then the shooter continues to roll until the point or the 7 appears.

This means that the 7 is a double edged sword. When the puck is black, you win with a 7; but when they puck is white, you lose with a 7.

What if the puck is white and the shooter rolls a 2? Irrelevant. Shooter rolls again until the 7 or the point appears. Remember, at this junction, only the 7 or the point matter. If any number other than a 7 or the point is rolled, the shooter rolls again.

Once either the 7 or the point is rolled, the puck is turned OFF to it’s black position, and the betting starts all over again.

That’s the Pass Line Bet.

Oh, one more piece of advice about the pass line bet: always bet the minimum. Always, unless you want to bet higher odds. For the reason why, see the section below: the odds bet.

THE ODDS BET

The odds bet is one of the more complicated bets on the table. But it’s also THE best bet on the craps table. I would be an irresponsible teacher if I didn’t teach you the Odds bet. It’s such a good bet that the casino doesn’t even have it marked on the layout.

It’s a good bet because the casino has no advantage over you. Zero. Zero advantage doesn’t mean that you’ll win, but rather it means that you will have a better chance of winning because you are not charged a fee for winning. I’ll explain this ‘fee for winning’ in a little bit.

You put down your odds bet ATFER the Come Out roll. This means that when the puck is black/off, you do not put down an odds bet.

Here is where you put down your odds bet…right behind your pass bet…like this…

The blue arrows are pointing to the odds bet. Both odds by both players are 2x, which means their odds bets are 2 times that of their pass line bet: $10 pass bet and a $20 odds bet. If their odds bet was, hypothetically, $30, then it would be a 3x odds bet.

Different players can also bet different amounts of odds, depending on what the casino allows…

Here we have three different players betting three wildly different amounts and different multipliers on their odds bet. Notice that they all position their odds bet behind their pass bet.

The next question is how much you should bet. As a first time player, my advice to you is to bet in $10 increment for ALL your odds bets. If you bet in $10 increments, you can’t be wrong. So bet either $10, $20, $30, etc all the up to the maximum allowed by the casino or up to the maximum you are comfortable with.

Remember, we are just acclimating you to the craps table. You will learn as you play because the dealers will help you (although, you should ignore any advice from the dealers or other players if their advice is to deviate from these 4 bets; I’ll explain why in a later post).

Having told you to bet in $10 increments, let me explain what increments to bet in, if you feel like deviating from my $10 increment advice.

If the point if either 6 or 8, the proper increment is any $5 increment.

If the point is 5 or 9, the proper increment is any even numbered amount.

If the point is 4 or 10, it doesn’t matter what you bet, unless you somehow bring over a 50 cent or $2.50 chip over from another game, and the dealers don’t catch it. On the 4 and 10, every increment is correct.

The reason why I say that an increment is correct is because if you bet an incorrect increment, you are penalized. For example, remember that I said on the 5 and 9 that you should bet even amounts? Well, if you accidentally or unwittingly bet $15, then the casino will pay you $22, when it should have paid you $22.50. You are penalized 50 cents.

Same concept on the 6 and 8. If you bet $5, your odds on the 6 and 8 will pay $6. Meaning by betting $5 you win $6. But what if you bet $6? You still win…$6. By risking that extra dollar, you got nothing in return. Nothing. That’s kind of a horrible penalty, even if it’s only $1.

Once you have positioned your odds bet, the stick person (the employee at the table who is holding the stick) who will send out the dice to the shooter. If the shooter rolls a 7, all players on the pass line lose both their pass line and their odds bet.

If the point rolls, the dealer will pay you true odds. What this means is that whatever your chances of winning and losing, the casino will pay those correct payout. In almost no other casino bet does the house pay out a correct payout; rather the house charges you a fee for winning.

For example, here is a payout on a point of 4, with 100x odds…

The odds bet was $3000, and the casino paid $6000 on the odds. Why did the casino pay out twice the amount of the bet? Because the point was 4. Remember that when the point is 4 (or 10), you win if the 4 rolls before the 7. If after the come out roll (which is the first roll when the puck is black) the 7 rolls before the 4, then you lose. What this means is that there are three ways to win by rolling a 4: 3+1, 1+3, and 2+2. There are six ways to roll a losing 7: 1+6, 6+1, 2+5, 5+2, 3+4, and 4+3. Since there are six way to lose and only three ways to win, the house pays 6 to 3, i.e., 2-1.

Why did the casino pay out twice the amount of the odds bet? Because the point was 4. Remember that when the point is 4 (or 10), you win if the 4 rolls before the 7 rolls. If the 7 rolls first you lose. What this means is that there are only three ways to roll a 4: 1+3, 3+1, and 2+2. There are six ways to roll a losing 7: 1+6, 6+1, 2+5, 5+2, 3+4, and 4+3.

This means you have six ways to lose and only three ways to win, i.e., 2-1. Not coincidentally, the payout is 2-1, or $6000 for $3000.

On a payout that is not true, the house would pay something $5950. That $50 difference is the ‘fee for winning’. This fee is how the casino makes money on every casino game. In every casino game, the house will pay you less than true odds. For example, on roulette, when you bet the outside, either red or black, the house has a 5.25% edge on you, meaning that if you bet $3000, true odds would dictate the house pays you around $3157 (because the casino has 20 chances to win, with the opposite color and the green 0/00, while you only have 18 chances to win); however the casino will only pay you even money at $3000.

The odds bet, while being the best bet in the casino (outside of certain games such as full pay Dueces Wild video poker), does not guarantee that you will win. It only guarantees that you will be paid true odds.

Think of it this way, if you and I flip a coin, and we agree that you will pay me $1 if heads flip, but I will pay you $1 if tails flips, then we have a true odds game, assuming the coin flip is fair (in real life coin flips are usually not fair, but for purposes of this explanation, assume it’s fair). Even though it’s a fair game with true odds, either you or I may still win or lose if either of us hits a streak of heads or tails. That’s just variance.

That’s the odds bet in a nutshell.

THE PLACE 6 AND 8 BET

The problem with the above betting strategy is that some people – actually a lot of people – find it boring because there are many rolls where nothing happens. If you’re impatient, and you want to risk some extra money, then play the Place 6 and place 8 bet.

Remember early I spoke about the fair odds bets? Well, the place 6 and place 8 are NOT fair odds bets. The house will charge you a fee for winning.

It’s very simple to bet the place six or place 8. Tell the dealer you want to bet the place 6 or the place 8 (people usually bet both the place 6 and 8). You should bet in any increment of $6, meaning $6, $12, $18, $24, $600, etc.

The place 6 and 8 has a house edge of 1.52%, which isn’t too bad. If the 6 or 8 rolls, and you had a place bet on that number, the casino will pay you $7;whereas they should have paid you $7.20 approximately, if the payout were true.

How do you give the place bet money to the dealer? You cannot hand money or chips directly to the dealer. By procedure, you must drop the chips somewhere on the layout so that the dealer can pick them up (security issue). You make your place bet by dropping the place bet money into this area of the layout, known as the COME box, and saying ‘place bet six and 8’…

This player is about to make place bets by dropping chips into the part of the layout that says COME, and then he announces which numbers he wants to place.
The player has dropped his place bet chips into the COME and announced ‘$30 six and $30 eight’.

As a first time place bettor, I advise you to do this: ask the dealer what is the minimum you can place bet on each of the six and eight, and then bet those minimums.

CONCLUSION AND FINAL ADVICE

Craps players and dealers can be a surly bunch, and that can intimidate new players. If there’s one piece of etiquette that will make your time at the cross table more enjoyable is this: when the dice are no longer in the center of the table, KEEP YOUR HANDS OUT OF THE TABLE.

The violation of this piece of etiquette has caused more yelling and grief at the craps table than any other rule.

Let me show you. See the dice, and how they’re in the middle of the table? Pay attention to them.

Dice are no longer in the middle. Shooter has the dice. Notice the guy in the blue shirt has his arms tucked and crossed, out of habit, so that his hands are not blocking any part of the layout? Be like the guy in the blue shirt.

Let’s say that the dice are no longer in the middle of the layout. If they’re not there, DO NOT reach in. If you want to take off a bet or make a bet, at this juncture, it might be too late, but try anyways. Yell out ‘turn my bets off’ if you want to remove your bets, and the dealer will say ‘bets are off’. If you want to make a bet, yell out that bet. Whatever you yell out, the dealer must acknowledge the bet.

Just learn to make you bets ahead of time, and you won’t have this problem making late bets that annoy everyone.

That’s it. I hope you enjoy you first time at the craps table. I’ll update later with the other bets…the sucker bets, which you don’t want to make anyways. Or you shouldn’t make them.