So you want to play craps? Good move, as this game has the best odds of winning out of any table game in Vegas. Of course, the house still wins in the long run—but unless you live in Vegas, you’re probably not in it for the long run.
Most novices avoid the craps table like the plague because it looks so confusing. Others know it involves 6th grade math and frankly, they had enough of that in 6th grade. But don’t be afraid—all you need to know are a few basic bets and you’ll be hefting those oversized dice and asking for a new pair of shoes in no time. (Between us, all of the “non-basic” bets are “sucker bets” anyway—bets where the odds of winning are much worse than the odds of the basic bets.)
The most basic bet there is, and the one you absolutely have to know in order to play, is the PASS bet.
But before you get to that…
Step up to any empty slot at the craps table and lay your money on the felt, and they’ll give you some chips. Now wait for a new shooter to “come out” (a first throw of the dice by a new shooter is called a “come out” roll). Whether it’s you or another player makes no difference, you’ll bet the exact same way. So let’s pretend it’s you.
A “stickman” will push five dice toward you. Do not pick up all five and hurl them. That would be even more embarrassing than getting bitten by your own tiger. Choose any two, and you’re all set to go.
But before you roll, you have to place a bet. Now we come back to the PASS bet, as promised. Every craps table has a minimum bet, let’s say it’s $10. Take $10 in chips and put it in front of you in the area of the table labeled “PASS LINE.” You are now betting that you are going to have a winning roll. PASS means win. (Note that you can also bet “Don’t Pass” by putting your chips in the “Don’t Pass Bar,” but by doing that you’re basically betting that the rest of the table is going to lose, so unless you like dirty looks, avoid it for now.)
Anyway, you’ve laid your $10 down, and it’s time to shoot. Throw your dice down to the far end of the table, and be sure to hit the back wall… otherwise, you’re now risking dirty looks from the pit crew. Luckily, it’s not that hard.
Now that we’ve got all that down, it’s all about the numbers.
Roll a 7 or 11 on the “come out” roll, and you win! Roll a 2, 3, or 12, well, that’s craps and you lose. (The good news is that even if you roll craps, you don’t lose your turn at the dice.) Roll anything else—4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10—and you have now established the “point.” Meaning, you need to roll another one of those (“hitting your point”) before you roll a 7. If you do it, you win and keep shooting. If you roll that 7 before hitting your point, you lose both your money and your turn at the dice.
For example, if you roll a 6, you keep rolling until you either get another 6 and you win, or you roll a 7 and lose (called “sevening out”). Do not be confused—just remember, 7 is great on the “come out” roll, but terrible afterwards.
Now, if you do roll a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, you have the chance to “bet odds”—meaning, bet even more that you are going to win by hitting your point before you roll a 7. Almost everyone does, as it’s the best bet you can make.
“Odds” refers to the odds of hitting your point—and there’s no getting around it, you’ll just have to memorize this:
If the point is…
6 or 8 – The odds are six to five (meaning you’ll win six dollars for every five you bet if you hit your 6 or your 8 before “sevening out”)
5 or 9 – The odds are three to two.
4 or 10 – The odds are two to one.
So, say you roll a 6. Take another $10 and put it behind your original PASS bet, just outside the PASS LINE field. Now if you roll another 6, you’ll get $10 on the original PASS bet (always even money on the PASS line), and $12 on your odds bet (odds at 6 to 5, meaning you win $6 for every $5 bet, thus $12 on a $10 bet).
Now, say you’re rolling again and roll a 10. You “back up” your original bet with another $10, and keep rolling. Lo and behold, you’re on a roll and hit another 10. You now get $10 on your $10 PASS bet, and $20 on your odds bet (2 to 1, remember?)