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Perhaps the most iconic of all casino games is the game of craps. Most people will recognize this game from movies and land-based casinos, but not everyone knows how craps is actually played. Rolling some dice and hoping for a winning result is the basic idea behind the game, but how do you know whether the results are good or not? And, in what order you need to get the “good” results? If you don’t know these things, you’re not alone.

In this casino guide from GoodLuckMate, we’re going to take you through the game and explain all the rules of craps in each of the different parts of the game. In addition, we’ll tell you how to play craps online. 

How to play craps

Craps is a very social game since it’s played with a lot of players at the same table. However, not everyone will be playing the same way. There will always be one person rolling the dice, and this player is known as the Shooter. Everyone else will be betting on the outcome of the shooter’s roll. There are several different bets to place, and there’s a specific order they need to be in. But, before we get into explaining the bets, let’s have a look at how the dice have to be rolled.

Rules of craps – the shooter

Players are assigned to turns at the shooter position according to where they’re sitting around the craps table. The player who is the designated shooter starts off by choosing two dice. The dealer presents, usually, five dice to the shooter, and the shooter can then choose two of them. The reason for this is so the player can be certain the dice haven’t been tampered with. Once the shooter chooses the dice, he or she will stand at one of the short ends of the rectangular craps table. 

The two dice have to be thrown the full length of the table. According to the craps rules, this must be done using only one hand, and both of the dice must be thrown simultaneously. Both dice have to hit the back wall at the opposite end of the table and then bounce back onto the table. If this doesn’t happen — for instance, if only one dice hits the back wall — the dealer can call it an invalid throw, and the shooter gets to try again. The dealer might also approve the throw but give the shooter a warning. This is left to the discretion of the dealer and any of the house rules. 

Once the shooter throws the dice, and the throw is approved by the dealer, this part of the game is over. This first roll of the dice is what’s known as the shooter’s Coming Out throw.

Come Out Roll

Once it’s been decided which player will be the shooter, the other players can place their bets as well. In many ways, the players bet for or against the shooter, although the results won’t affect the winnings of any of the other players or the shooter. The first thing a bet should be placed for is the Come Out roll, which is the dice throw that starts the game round. The bet will be either Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line. The shooter has to bet for the throw to be Pass Line, but the other players are free to bet as they like. The numbers the shooter should achieve in the Come Out roll are as follows:

  • Pass Line: the shooter rolls a 7 or 11
  • Don’t Pass Line: the shooter rolls a 2, 3 or 12

If the shooter rolls a Natural, which is either a 7 or an 11, the players betting on Pass Line will win. If the shooter rolls a 2 or a 3, the players betting on Don’t Pass Line will win. If the shooter rolls a 12, the players betting on Don’t Pass Line will achieve a push, which means their bets will be returned to them. Here’s some craps terminology you should know:

  • A Pass Line bet can also be called a Win or a Right bet
  • A Don’t Pass Line bet can also be called a Don’t Win or a Wrong bet
  • A result of 2, 3 or 12 is called Crapping Out, or just Craps
  • A result of 7 or 11 is called a Natural

Establishing a Point

Any result other than the Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line numbers on the Come Out roll will establish a Point. These results are 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10. Once a Point has been established, the game moves to the next stage. Now the shooter will have to get this same result again for the players betting on Pass Line to win. It’s the value of the point itself that matters and not the exact combination of the dice that make up the point. For instance, if the point is 5, and the initial roll that set this point was a 2 and a 3, the shooter can achieve the same point in the next roll by rolling a 1 and a 4. However, if the shooter rolls a 7 before he or she rolls the second point, this is called a Seven Out. This means the players who placed a bet on Don’t Pass Line will win. 

The shooter continues to roll the dice until he or she gets either the point or a 7 since there are no limits on how many rolls the shooter has to make to get one of these results. Once this is achieved, the game round is over, and the shooter position is taken over by the next player. The dice and the shooter position always move clockwise around the table.

Other bets

Pass and Don’t Pass are the two major bets players make when they play craps, but there are also other possibilities. Come and Don't Come are bets you can place after the Point has been established, and what you’re betting on then is whether the shooter will roll the Point again before a 7 is rolled. In addition, you can also bet on the shooter rolling a specific number. This is something like a side bet, since it’s not the outcome of the game round itself you’re betting on, but rather one or more specific results within the game. Not only can you bet on a result of the dice throw, you can also bet on a specific combination of numbers. 

Another thing that makes craps a bit different than many other table games played at casinos is that you can adjust your bets during the game. This doesn’t apply to the Pass Line, Don’t Pass Line, Come and Don’t Come bets, but any other bets you choose to place during the game can be withdrawn or adjusted whenever you want — at least before the shooter rolls again.

The bets are all placed on the craps table in the form of chips. On the table, you’ll also be able to see the craps payouts because these are marked on the felt where you place the bets. The craps table layout is usually the same, though the size of the table can vary. The bets are placed in the middle of the table. If you play craps online, a virtual table will pop up on your screen where you can place your bets.

How to win at craps

Unfortunately, there’s no strategy that’s guaranteed to help you win when you’re playing craps. In fact, this is one of the few table and casino games where it’s been proven that there are no strategies at all that will tell you how to win at craps. This is simply a game of luck, and betting on your luck might, therefore, be the best craps strategy. Since gamblers are generally quite superstitious, it’s normal for players to think the shooter is the one who’s either lucky or not, and they will, therefore, adjust their bets depending on who’s actually rolling the dice.

Of course, you could use a progressive strategy when you play craps. Since there’s a 50/50 chance that you’ll win with a Pass Line or a Don’t Pass Line bet, and the same goes for a Come or Don't Come bet, a strategy based on the martingale theory could be used. However, keep in mind that it’s easy to reach the table limit, so this might not work in the long run. 

Craps odds

The odds for winning at craps are good, at least compared to other casino games. Actually, for some bets, such as Pass Odds and Don’t Pass Odds, there’s no house edge. With these bets, you have a 50% chance of winning, and the payout is 1:1. Other bets will give the house an edge between 1.36% and 16.67%. However, the house edge is one thing, but what the casino takes is another. For some bets, the casino will get their cut by taking a commission. This is why you might end up losing in the long run, even if you play on 50/50 bets. 

The worst craps odds is for a single bet on any 7. The payout for this is 4:1, and the house edge is 16.67%. Playing a 7 might seem exciting for players since 7 is a significant number to roll in the game of craps, but if you’re looking for winnings ahead of excitement, betting on 7 should be avoided at all costs. 

Because there’s no way to predict the outcome of a dice roll, the best craps strategy is simply to trust your luck and quit while you’re ahead.

Playing craps online

Craps is a very physical game since there needs to be a shooter who’s actually rolling the dice. And, no matter how advanced live casinos get, it’s simply impossible to toss a pair of dice through a screen. That’s why craps is the only classic table game you won’t usually find at online casinos, at least not in its true form. What you might find though, are other types of dice games. Live games — like Lightning Dice from Evolution Gaming, a game where you bet on the outcome of three dice — have become quite popular. However, this game is a very simplified version of craps.

If you want to play a more genuine craps game online, a digital machine is your best bet. Digital versions of craps are games you might find among the digital table games or slots, and most of the rules for craps are followed. There won’t be anyone rolling the dice for you since these are fully digital dice where the result is determined by a random number generator. And, there won’t be any other players betting against you either. 

Street craps

What we’ve described in this guide is a game that’s known as Casino Craps. This is a game that’s banked by the house, and you bet against the bank rather than other players. However, the game of craps started out as a street game played against other players. Craps games played on the pavement, on the kitchen floor, or anywhere else with a wide-open surface, have been happening since long before casinos started offering this game. If you play this version of craps, you’ll need to have other players betting against you with matching bets. 

The bets themselves are usually not as complicated or as plentiful as they are in casino craps. Pass and Don’t Pass are usually the only bets you can play with. The reason is that craps is a game that moves fast, and keeping track of all the different bets available at casinos usually takes four casino employees. If you’re playing the more relaxed form of street craps, you won’t normally have anyone keeping tabs on the rules or the bets, so a simpler game is in everyone’s interest.

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