Playing
Smart Craps

(


The free and complete guide to being a bad-ass
 on the Craps table your first time.

 By: Ernie de la Fé

)

    If one is ever going to understand anything about the game of craps, they'd better get a grasp of the mathematical realities of the game.  Although it's not that difficult to master, I'm amazed at how many people have told me that they've actually gotten on a craps table and made bets, without having the foggiest notion of what was going on around them on the table, or even the simple math that's at work in the game.  I guess they just kind of got a glimpse of what was going on around them, threw a few bucks on the table and imitated a few players, good or bad.  But, since you're reading this because you want to learn the game and the math is at the root of the game, the math is where we will start.

    I am by no means an expert on the game, but I enjoy playing craps ... and I enjoy teaching my buddies how to play it, as well.  So consider yourself one of my buddies and, here we go...


The Math

    Usually, when I start to teach somebody the game, I lure them down the same garden path, -- and inevitably they fall into the same trap as the last guy: (the same trap that I and everybody else fell into when we were first learning).  I ask them: "When you roll two dice on a table, how many ways can you make a 2?"  Their answer, of course, usually goes something like this: "One way..., a 1 and a 1."  These are usually pretty smart people, so I would expect the right answer to my question - but then I ask: "So, how many ways can you make a 3?"  Invariably, the answer to my second question is: "One way ..., a 1 and a 2." -- WRONG! --  There are TWO ways to make a 3: a 1 and a 2, and a 2 and a 1. Yes, a 1 and a 2, and a 2 and a 1. That's because there are TWO separate dice at work here.  Each is an individual unit, acting independently of the other. For example, if we were trying to roll a 5, and one die rolled the "2" that we need for the "3-2" combination, and the other one ALSO rolled the two, the end result would not be a 5 at all, we'd have a four instead.  The only way we can make the 5 is if that second die rolls a 3.  Conversely, if the first die rolled the 3 and the second die rolled a 3, now we'd have a six.  Two SEPARATE AND INDEPENDENT dice are at work.  (If you have difficulty with this concept, for the moment, think of the dice as being of different colors, one RED and one BLUE.  Think of the total as being composed of "the red number" plus "the blue number."  A red 5 plus blue 4 is not the same as a blue 5 plus red 4, even though both add up to 9.)  This is a very important fact in the game of craps and cannot be overlooked.  If you don't get it, forget Craps.  Go play the slot machines!

    Keeping this crucial information in mind, we can now move on to analyze the numbers between 2 and 12, and see how many ways each can come up when you roll two dice.   We can see that there is one way to roll a 2; two ways to roll a 3; three ways to roll a 4; four ways to roll a 5; five ways to roll a 6; and six ways to roll a 7.

    Upon reaching the 7, another very important fact has to be taken into account: After the 7, the ways that a number can be rolled starts decreasing instead of increasing!  Until now, we had seen that the ways a particular number could be rolled was one less than the number itself (for example: there are four ways to roll a 5).  Starting with the number 8, however, the ways that a particular number can be rolled begins a downward, step-ladder regression that duplicates in reverse the upward step-ladder progression of the numbers 2 to 6.  See Chart "A" below.

    Once this fact is noted, we can clearly see that the 7 is the number with the greatest probability of showing on any given roll of the dice, with six of the thirty-six possible rolls.  The 6 and 8 are mirror images of each other, with identical probabilities of showing: five each.  The 5 and 9 are also mirror images of each other, with four ways of showing, as are the 4 and 10,

Chart A: The Numerical Possibilities
(the 36 ways that two dice can possibly come up)
Possible Numbers:
(When rolling 2 dice)
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
                       
Ways to make each number: One Two Three Four Five Six Five Four Three Two One
            4-3          
          3-3 3-4 4-4        
        3-2 4-2 5-2 5-3 5-4      
      2-2 2-3 2-4 2-5 3-5 4-5 5-5    
    2-1 3-1 4-1 5-1 6-1 6-2 6-3 6-4 6-5  
  1-1 1-2 1-3 1-4 1-5 1-6 2-6 3-6 4-6 5-6 6-6

with three.  The 3 and 11, can show in two ways and the 2 and 12, only one.  A craps player must keep these numbers paired up in his or her mind during play on the table, and know the odds of each showing, in order to play the game effectively and profitably.

    Get it? Good!  So let's get started with learning how to play the game of Craps.  I want to first talk about the game itself without any reference to the bets.  We'll get to the betting later.


How The Game is Played
 

    First of all, you have to realize that the table layout has nothing to do with the play of the game.  All of the markings, fields, lines and numbers (See the table layout below in Fig. 1) are used simply for keeping track of the betting that is being done 

Fig 1: The table layout plays no role in the game itself.  It is used only to keep track of the many bets made by players.  This figure represents the left half of the table.  The right side is practically a mirror image of this figure.

by all of the players at the table.  The game is played by simply rolling two dice together to obtain a resulting number.  Each player at the table has a chance to be the roller, and when he or she finishes, the dice are passed clockwise around the table to the next player.  Players may opt to pass up the dice if they are shy, superstitious, or just don't want to roll them, but once they start shooting, they must roll until they've either won or lost.

    Each player that chooses to roll the dice, must throw them in such a way as to hit the side of the table at the other end, make them bounce back, and roll to a stop somewhere on the surface of the table.  A player's rolls will be classified as one of two types: A) his first roll, otherwise known as his "Come-out roll," and then; B) every other roll thereafter.  Let's look at the "Come-out" roll first. 

    A roller can do one of three things on the Come-out roll:

1) he can win;
2) he can lose; or,
3) he can "Establish a Point"

     A player wins on the Come-out by rolling either a 7 or an 11 (a "Natural"). He loses on the Come-out by rolling "Craps", which is either a 2, a 3 or a 12.  See chart B-1, below.  Notice that rolling the numbers on both ends and the middle cause you to either win or lose on the Come-out roll!  

Chart B-1: The Game
"Winning or Losing on the Come-out roll"
Rolled
Number
:
 2    3    4   5    6   7  8    9   10   11    12  
Result
if rolled on
 "Come-out": 
Lose Lose        Win         Win Lose

     Like the meat in a "Big Mac" at McDonald's, the remaining numbers are neatly sandwiched in between the three layers of bread (winning and losing numbers).   If, on his Come-out roll, the player rolls any of those remaining (meat) numbers: 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10, he "Establishes a Point," (and "the Point" is the number that he just rolled on the Come-out.)  See chart B-2, below

Chart B-2: The Game
"Establishing a Point on the Come-out roll"
Rolled
Number
:
4 5 6   8 9 10
Result
 if rolled on
 "Come-out": 
4
becomes
The Point
5
becomes
The Point
6
becomes
The Point
           8
becomes
The Point
 9
becomes
The Point
10
becomes
The Point

    If a player wins, he gets another Come-out roll and starts all over again. If he loses, he passes the dice to the next player. If, however, he establishes a Point, he rolls over and over again until he has either won or lost.  He wins by repeating the Point that he rolled on his Come-out and loses by rolling a 7.   Here's the way all subsequent rolls look 

Chart B-3: The Game
"Winning or Losing after a Point was established on the Come-out roll"
Rolled
Number
:
 2    3   4 5 6 7 8 9 10  11    12 
Result if 
 rolled on any  
subsequent roll: 
 None   None   If Point 
 is 4,
Win 
 If Point 
 is 5,
Win 
 If Point 
 is 6,
Win 
 Lose    If Point 
 is 8,
Win 
 If Point 
 is 9,
Win 
 If Point 
 is 10,
Win 
None None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None

    Understand that this means that, after the Come-out roll, no other number has any significance in determining whether or not you win or lose the game.  Only your Point and the Seven mean anything at all!  If you hit your Point you win.  If you hit a 7 you lose.  For instance, let's say your point is a Five.  It doesn't matter that you hit a 4, then a 3, then an 11, then a 4 again, then a 6, then a 12, etc. on your subsequent rolls, before hitting your Point or a Seven.  The only two numbers that count are??  That's right, the 5 and the 7!!! 

     That, in a nutshell, is the basic game of Craps.  Ready to move on to the betting?  OK!


Betting on the Game

     It is now an appropriate time to say that there are many bets that can be made on the Craps table.  Some of them are good but others are considered "sucker bets" that can wipe you out faster than a New York minute.  This is because almost every single bet in a casino has a house advantage, a profit margin or "edge" built into it.  In other words, over the long term, for every dollar wagered on that particular type bet, the house is going to profit a certain percentage after it collects from players who lose and pays players who win their bets.  Some bets have a bigger edge (even a much bigger edge) than others.  This is a mathematical reality, although it seems somewhat obscure.  If the house did not have an edge, it would simply be collecting money from the losers and paying it to the winners.  And we can all understand that that is not the way that big casinos are built in Vegas or elsewhere.  In my book there are only two ways to play craps well:  You can play it well by being a "right" bettor or you can play it well by being a "wrong" bettor.   -----  Huh? ----  Read on...

The Line Bets

     In order to prevent your screwing yourself at the craps table you've got to stick to the "Line Bets" and the other few bets that have a reasonably low edge in favor of the house.  You've got to stay away from the attractive, easy, deceptively lucrative-looking bets that the casino is trying to tempt you with on the table.  Those easy-looking, big-payoff bets all have very high and unacceptable edges in favor of the house. 

     Basic Line Betting:  The simplest and best way to get in on the action is as follows:  Smart players wager on the game by either betting with the roller or against him. They simply try to predict whether the particular roller will win or lose.  This includes the roller himself, -- who can bet for or against himself.  A bet in favor of the roller is placed on the "Pass Line" while one against him is placed on the "Don't Pass Line".  These bets pay dollar for dollar or "one to one".  The casinos call all those bettors who are siding with the roller: "Right" or "Positive" players.  It reserves a mean and nasty name for the bettors who side against the roller, calling them "Wrong" or "Negative" bettors.  (Stick with me on that point.)

1.  The Pass Line

    For the sake of simplicity, let's just talk about the Pass Line bet for now and ignore the Don't Pass Line until the next section.  Let's just see how the Pass Line bettor wins or loses money on this basic bet.   For ease of reference, I have combined Charts B-1, B-2, and B-3 covered in the last section, into Chart "C" below:

Chart C: "Pass Line" and "Come Bets" (pay 1 to 1)

Rolled
Number
:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11  12
Nickname "Craps" "Craps" "Natural" "Yo" "Craps"
                       
Result if
rolled on
"Come-out":
Lose Lose 4
becomes
Point
5
becomes
Point
6
becomes
Point
Win 8
becomes
Point
9
becomes
Point
10
becomes
Point
Win   Lose
Result if 
rolled on any
subsequent roll: 
None  None If Point 
is 4,
Win
If Point
is 5,

Win
 
If Point 
is 6,
Win
Lose
or
"7-out"
If Point 
is 8,
Win 
If Point 
is 9,
Win 
If Point 
is 10,
Win
None None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None

    Combined Chart "B" illustrates the entire physical universe of the Pass Line bet. The Pass Line bettor believes that the roller is going to win. As noted above, in Craps parlance, a Pass Line bettor is known as a "right" bettor

    The right bettor puts his chip(s) on the Pass Line  and waits for the roller to win by either:  A) rolling a 7 or an 11 on his "Come-out roll", (a "natural"); or B) by establishing a Point on his Come-out roll and then repeating the Point on a subsequent roll, before a 7 ever shows.  Conversely, the right bettor loses if: A) the roller rolls "Craps" on his Come-out roll: (2, 3 or 12); or, B) the roller establishes a Point on his Come-out roll and then rolls a 7 on a subsequent roll, before he ever repeats or "makes" his Point.  

    A winning roller continues to roll until he has lost.

    As you might guess,  there can be many rolls of the dice and it can be a long time between the time a roller establishes a point and the time he either makes it or "7's-out."  This can be a good thing for a right bettor, a very good thing. A right bettor that wants more "action" than that which is provided by a single Pass Line bet can take advantage of these "in-between" rolls to make other bets that are just as good as the one on the Pass Line. 

    This is where the "Come" bet becomes available to the right bettor.  The easiest way to describe the Come bet is to say that it is exactly like a Pass Line bet, except that can be wagered before any roll other than the shooter's Come-out roll.  In other words, when a bettor makes a Come bet, the shooter's next roll becomes the Come-out roll for that Come bet.  It doesn't matter that the shooter came out 3 rolls ago, or that he's now on his 5th, 10th, or 20th roll.  The Come bet will be won with a 7 or 11 on that roll; lost with a 2, 3 or 12 on that roll; or a "Come point" will be established for that bet with a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 on that roll.  The Come point must then be repeated or "made" before a 7, shows in order for the bettor to win his Come bet.   If a 7 is rolled the Come bet is lost.  So Chart "B" above works exactly the same way for Come bets as it does for Pass Line Bets, except that the Come Out roll for a Come bet is a roll other than the roller's true, legitimate, original Come-Out roll.

    Frequently, a good "Right" Craps player will make a Pass Line bet, and follow the next two or more rolls with Come bets, in order to have more numbers "working" for him on the shooter's subsequent rolls, which may be many or few depending on how "hot" or "cold" the table or the roller is.  

    After the next section, I'll talk about additional bets that enhance this favorable betting picture, including the bet that is widely recognized as "the best bet in the entire casino."  

2.  Don't Pass Line betting, or:  "Playing the Dark Side"

     As I stated earlier, the Casino calls a player who bets Don't Pass a "wrong" bettor -- And borrowing a little from "Star Wars," sometimes wrong bettors are said to be playing the "Dark Side."  (Me?  I'm bettin' with the house, buddy!   -- Like Darth Vader, I'm playing the Dark Side.)

     The Don't Pass Line bet is almost the exact opposite of the Pass Line bet.  In other words, the Don't Pass or "wrong" bettor is wagering that the shooter is not going to win.  The Don't Pass bet wins if the shooter rolls a 2 or a 3 on his Come-out (no, I didn't forget the 12!); he loses if the shooter rolls a 7 or an 11 on his Come-out; and if the shooter establishes a point on his Come-out, the Don't Pass bettor wins if a 7 shows before the point is repeated and loses if the shooter makes his point.    

    This is the exact opposite of the Pass-Line bet except for the 12, which is "barred" on most Craps tables.  In some casinos the 2 is barred instead of the 12, but one of those two numbers, the 2 or the 12, will definitely be barred in the game. The effect of barring the 12 is that if a 12 shows on a Come-out roll, the casino collects the bet lost by the Pass Line bettor but does not pay the Don't Pass bet. In essence, the barred number is considered a "tie" on the Don't Pass bet. These rules apply equally to the "Don't Come" bet, which works just like the Come bet on the "right" side. See Chart "D" below:

Chart D: "Don't Pass" Line and "Don't Come" Bets (pay 1 to 1)
(otherwise known as "wrong" or "negative" bets)
Rolled
Number
:
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11  12
Nickname "Craps" "Craps" "Natural" "Yo" "Craps"
                       
Result if
rolled on "Come-out":
Win Win 4
becomes
Point
5
becomes
Point
6
becomes
Point
Lose 8
becomes
Point
9
becomes
Point
10
becomes
Point
 Lose   Tie*
Result if 
rolled on any
subsequent roll: 
None  None If Point 
is 4,
Lose
If Point
is 5,

Lose
 
If Point 
is 6,
Lose
Win If Point 
is 8,
Lose 
If Point 
is 9,
Lose 
If Point 
is 10,
Lose
None None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
Otherwise
None
* Sometimes a particular casino will "bar" the #2 instead of the #12. In that case, rolling a 2 will produce
the tie, but for our purposes we'll continue considering the 12 as the barred number.

Just a little technical stuff about the tie and the house edge on Line bets.

    The "tie" that is declared by the casino on a Don't Pass bet when the "barred number" (usually 12) comes up on the Come-out is the quirk that accounts for the casino's edge or profit margin on Pass and Don't Pass bets.  It is widely accepted that the casino's edge on the Pass Line and Don't Pass Line is approximately 1.39%.  If not for the casino's edge, the house would simply be trading money between the right bettors and the wrong bettors, without being assured of making a profit over the long haul.  The 1.39% edge is actually the percentage represented by the fraction 1/72, which is the portion of a dollar that the house gets to keep for free, without any risk at all on Craps 12s.  In that case, the house collects on the losing right bets but doesn't pay wrong bets.  This "tie" represents one half of the 1 in 36 times that the 12 can be rolled on a Come-out roll.  One half of 1/36th = 1/72 = 1.39%

    The 1.39% edge is a modest and relatively acceptable advantage to give the house (especially in light of some much greater edges enjoyed by the house throughout the craps table and the whole rest of the casino), but there is an even better bet to make on a craps table.  It is a bet that carries a 0, (nothing, nada, zippo) edge for the house.  The Free "Odds" bet is considered the best bet in the casino.  It is available to both the right bettor and the wrong bettor, but don't ever expect the casino to tell you about this bet in their complimentary Craps instructional brochures.   

3.  The Free Odds Bets

$

$

The Best bet in the Casino!

    The Free Odds Bet is simply a way that the casino permits you to "back-up", or put more money on your initial Pass Line, Come, Don't Pass or Don't Come bet after the Come-out roll, (after the point has been established)!  FOR FREE: No edge, no commission, no charge!  In order to make an Odds bet you place additional chips behind your initial Pass Line or Don't Pass bet.  Most casinos will even allow you make the new bet for double the amount of your initial line bet, or more.  (Many in Vegas permit "10 times odds" bets, and I've heard, but not seen, where some casinos have permitted "100 times odds" to bring in the craps players in droves.)   So, how is a free bet free, you ask?  To illustrate, let's once again use the method of talking only about how the free Odds Bets is played by right bettors.  We'll then talk about how it is played by wrong bettors under a separate heading.  It's easier to explain that way, but simply stated, the right bettor "takes" odds while the wrong bettor "lays" them.

"Taking Odds" on Pass Line & Come bets

     In order to appreciate what I'll be trying to explain, it is necessary to refer back to an abbreviated version of Chart "A," which lays out the numerical possibilities and probabilities of the game.  In fact, just so you don't have to look back, let's reproduce a truncated version of that chart here and call it Chart "E-1":

Chart E-1: Probabilities of "making" a Point vs. 7-ing out
Numbers: 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
               
Ways to make each number: Three Four Five Six Five Four Three
               
Six       4-3      
Five     3-3 3-4 4-4    
Four   3-2 4-2 5-2 5-3 5-4  
Three 2-2 2-3 2-4 2-5 3-5 4-5 5-5
  3-1 4-1 5-1 6-1 6-2 6-3 6-4
  1-3 1-4 1-5 1-6 2-6 3-6 4-6
               
The probability of making
a given point versus
the Probability of hitting a 7
 on any given roll of the dice
Three
to
Six
Four
to
Six
Five
to
Six
  Five
to
Six
Four
to
Six
Three
to
Six
or 1/2 2/3 5/6   5/6 2/3 1/2

    Remember that Odds bets are made after the Point is established and Points can only consist of the numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10.  Note that the 4 and the 10 each have three ways of coming up, whereas the 7 has six ways.  The number 7 therefore has twice as many chances of coming up as the 4 or the 10.  These are "true odds". The casino pays a winning Odds bet at true odds.  So, on a "right" odds bet, since the casino has two times the chances to win, it pays your winning Odds bet on the 4 and the 10 at exactly two to one, without taking a cut for itself.  

Chart E-2: True Odds payouts
Numbers: 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
               
Payout at True Odds Six
to
Three
Six
to
Four
Six
to
Five
  Six
to
Five
Six
to
Four
Six
to
Three
or 2 to 1 1-1/2 to 1 6 to 5   6 to 5 1-1/2 to 1 2 to 1
or, more commonly
expressed as:
2 to 1 3 to 2 6 to 5   6 to 5 3 to 2 2 to 1

     To illustrate with money, if you have a $10 Pass Line bet on the table and the shooter rolls a 4 on his Come-out roll -- after which you back up your Pass Line bet with a $10 Odds bet -- and then finally the shooter repeats the 4: the casino's total payout to you will be $30 on your total $20 in bets (Payout=$10 on the Pass Line and $20 on your $10 Odds bet).   If you had wagered a Double Odds bet, assuming the casino permits it, you would be paid $10 on the Pass Line bet plus $40 on your Double Odds bet of $20, for a total of $50 on $30 worth of action.  

    The same true odds payoff applies to the remaining points.  On the 5 and 9, since true odds are six to four, in other words, the 7 has a one-and-a-half times greater probability of showing than do the 5 or 9, thus the payoff is one-and-a-half to one (preferably called three to two).  It pays $15 on a $10 Single Odds bet or $30 on a $20 Double Odds bet.

Chart F: "Free Odds" bets made to "back up" Pass Line & Come bets
(the best bet in the Casino because the House has no edge on you)
Numbers  that Remain in Play after a Point is Established: 4 or 10 5 or 9 6 or 8 7
Ways to make each number: Three Four Five Six
"True Odds":
A fraction in which the numerator  
is the number of ways that the 
SEVEN can be made and the 
denominator
is the number of ways
that the Point can be made:
Six/Three  

or

2 / 1

Six/Four

or

3 / 2

Six/Five

or

6 / 5

 
Payout on a Win:
(Paid at true odds!)
2 to 1
$20 for a $10 bet
$40 for a $20 bet
3 to 2
$15 for a $10 bet
$30 for a $20 bet
6 to 5
$12 for a $10 bet
$30 for a $25* bet
 

     The 6 and 8 are closest to the 7 in probability, each with five ways of showing.  True odds are six to five and payoffs are made at six to five.  The casino will pay you $12 on a $10 Single Odds bet on the 6 or the 8, but some casinos prefer that you make your Double Odds bet on the 6 and 8 at $25 instead of $20, so they can pay off your winning bet with an even $30. See Chart "F" above for an analysis of the Free Odds bet on the Pass Line and Come bets.

     Here's a visual illustration of the payouts on a $10 Pass Line bet, backed up by a $20 double odds bet:

Payouts for a $10 Pass Line bet w/Double Odds

4 / 10

You wager $30
(10 + 20)

You get $50
(10 + 40)

5 / 9

You wager $30
(10 + 20)

You get $40
(10 + 30)

6 / 8

You wager $35*
(10 + 25)
* see par. above

 You get $40*
(10 + 30)
* see par. above

   Click the following links for visual illustrations of the Payouts and Layouts for the following bets:  $10 Pass, Single Odds, $5 Pass, Single Odds, $5 Pass, Double Odds

"Laying Odds" on Don't Pass & Don't Come

    Don't Pass and Don't Come bets can be backed up with Odds bets too.  Do you remember that Don't Pass and Don't Come are almost the exact opposites of Pass and Come?  Well, Odds bets on Don't Pass and Don't Come bets are the exact opposites of the Odds bets on Pass and Come.  They are paid at true odds and thus there is no house edge on "wrong" Odds bets either.  

    This makes them free just like the Odds bets on the "right" side of the game.  The difference is that, after the Come-out roll, true odds favor the negative or "wrong" bettor. In other words, the "wrong" bettor is the beneficiary of of the 7's greater probability of showing.  The bettor is thus the one who puts up the bigger money on the wagers, not the casino.  Instead of collecting two to one on an Odds bet on the 4 or the 10, the bettor must give the house two to one on that bet. 

    For instance, on a Single Odds bet that backs up a $10 Don't Pass bet, the bettor must put up a $20 Single Odds wager in order to collect a $10 payout from the house.  Similarly he must put up $15 in order to collect $10 on a Point 5 or 9, and $12 to collect $10 on a Point 6 or 8.  If the bettor wants to take advantage of Double Odds on Don't Pass or Don't Come, he's got to put up $40 on his Points 4 and 10 Double Odds bets to collect $20; $30 on his Points 5 and 9 Double Odds bets to collect $20; and $30 on his Points 6 and 8 Double Odds bets to collect $25.  Pretty cool shit, huh?  You can master this stuff during your first game.  See Chart "G" below for an analysis of the Free Odds bet on Don't Pass and Don't Come bets:

Chart G: "Free Odds" Bets made on Don't Pass & Don't Come Bets
(the best bet in the Casino because the House has no edge on you)
Numbers that Remain in Play 
after a Point is Established
:
4 or 10 5 or 9 6 or 8 7
Ways to make each number: Three Four Five Six
"True Odds":
A fraction in which the numerator is the
number of ways that the point can be
made and the denominator is the number
of ways that the SEVEN can be made:
Three/Six = 1 / 2 Four/Six = 2 / 3 Five/Six = 5 / 6  
Payout on a Win:
(Paid at true odds!)
1 for 2
$10 for a $20 bet
$20 for a $40 bet
2 for 3
$10 for a $15 bet
$20 for a $30 bet
5 for 6
$10 for a $12 bet
$25 for a $30 bet
 

      Here's a visual illustration of the payouts on a $10 Don't Pass Line bet, backed up by a $40 double odds bet:

Payouts for a $10 Don't Pass bet w/Double Odds

4 / 10

You wager $50
(10+40)
You get $30
(10+20)

5 / 9

You wager $40
(10+30)
You get $30
(10+20)

6 / 8

You wager $40
(10+30)
 You get $35
(10+25)

      Click the following links for visual illustrations of the Payouts and Layouts for the following bets:  $10 Don't Pass, Single Odds, $5 Don't Pass, Single Odds and $5 Don't Pass, Double Odds.

Now, I'll let you in on a little secret

     When you read section 5 below, you'll learn about all the sucker bets on the craps table.  Each of those sucker bets are prominently and attractively displayed on the casino's craps table Layout, enticing you to put money down on one or more of them.  So what's the best way to play this game?  Remember how the Casino's complimentary Craps brochure doesn't tell people about the free Odds bet?   Remember how the casinos call Pass Line players "Right" bettors or "Positive" players, while they call Don't Pass Line players "Wrong" bettors or "Negative" players?  .  --  So, who wants to be a wrong or negative player, anyway?  You do, that's who!

     In my opinion, playing "Wrong," while always taking "full odds" is the absolute best way to play this game.  It's not perfect, and you may sometimes get burned if rollers are hitting their points, but as a general strategy it works well.  It certainly works for the casinos, - after all they are usually the "wrong" player on the tables, but they don't want to tell you that.  You see, each roll of the dice always abides by the mathematical realities discussed above, but the game does not consist of a single roll.  It is made up of many independent rolls.  The trick is that, on some rolls, the game gives a mathematical advantage to one set of players and a disadvantage to the others, while on the remaining rolls the tables are turned.  You've just got to make sure that when those tables are turned YOU are on the CORRECT side of that table.  

     Let's look back at a slightly altered version of the very first chart that appeared in this article, where the numerical possibilities for each numbered are shown.  We can see that out of the 36 different ways that a pair of dice can show on a Come-out roll there are eight ways for the "Right" bettor to win (Six + Two), and only four ways for him to lose (One + Two + One).   The "Wrong" bettor has three ways to win (One + Two), one to tie (One), and eight ways to lose (Six + Two).  So, on the Come-out roll:  Advantage "Right"!

Chart A (Colors added): The Numerical Possibilities
(the 36 ways that two dice can possibly come up)
Possible Numbers:
(When rolling 2 dice)
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
                       
Ways to make each number: One Two Three Four Five Six Five Four Three Two One
            4-3          
          3-3 3-4 4-4        
        3-2 4-2 5-2 5-3 5-4      
      2-2 2-3 2-4 2-5 3-5 4-5 5-5    
    2-1 3-1 4-1 5-1 6-1 6-2 6-3 6-4 6-5  
  1-1 1-2 1-3 1-4 1-5 1-6 2-6 3-6 4-6 5-6 6-6

     But the truth of the matter is that, if and when the Wrong bettor survives the Come-out roll, the tables are then turned in his favor.  He then finds himself hoping with all his heart and soul for the 7 to show.  And, of course, the 7 has the highest probability of showing.  Why is this important?  Because YOU have the advantage when all the BIG MONEY is on the table!  If you're playing "Wrong" on a $10 table with Double Odds, and you lose on the Come-out, you lose only $10.  But if you survive the Come-out and win on a "7-out," you've won $30 or $35.

    Conversely, the "Right" bettor playing at a $10 table with Double Odds has the advantage when he can win only $10 and is at a disadvantage when he can lose $30 or $35.   Makes sense to me.  That's why the casino wants to call me wrong and negative!  They don't want me playing the game like them!  They don't want me to win their money.

4.  The Place Bets

    If I'm playing intelligent Craps, as a "wrong" bettor, there are no more bets that I am willing to make on a Craps table. Nevertheless, if I am playing "right" there is only one more: the "Place" bet, but only on the 6 and 8.  This bet carries a slightly larger house edge than do the Pass & Don't Pass bets: 2.8% (remember that Pass, Come, Don't Pass and Don't Come have only a 1.4% house edge).  The Place bet may be made at any time after the Come-out roll and may be taken down at any time.

Chart G: "Place" 6 and 8 Bets
(the House has a slight edge on you)
Place bet: 4 or 10* 5 or 9* 6 or 8 7
"True Odds": Six/Three = 2/1 Six/Four = 3/2 Six/Five = 6/5  
Payout on Win: 9 to 5
$20 for a $10 bet
$40 for a $20 bet
7 to 5
$14 for a $10 bet
$28 for a $20 bet
7 to 6
$14 for a $12 bet
$21 for a $18 bet
 
House Edge: 10%* 6.7%* 2.8%  
* Not recommended for Place betting - because the house edge is too big. Provided for informational purposes only.

    We will use the take-down of Place bets when we get to my explanation of betting strategy below.  "Placing" the 4, 5, 9 or 10 is not a smart bet.  The house edge on the 5 and 9 is 6.7% and on the 4 and 10 it's a whopping 10%. See Chart G for Place Bets.

    Unfortunately, there is no corresponding relatively cheap "Don't Place" bet that can be wagered on the "wrong side" of the table.  The Don't Place bets all carry large edges, with a 4% edge on the 6 and 8, 6.25% on the 5 and 9, and 9% on the 4 and 10.  The large house edges come about because of the lesser payouts made on those bets: four for five on the 6 and 8, five for eight on the 5 and 9, and five for eleven on the 4 and 10.  The high house edge on these bets makes them poor performers in the long run and turns them into a drain on your betting dollars.

    There does exist a non-recommended type of bet that is similar to the Place and Don't Place bets, in that they may be wagered on the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 at any time after the Come-out roll and may also be taken down at any time.  This bet pays at true odds, but the catch is that you must pay the casino a 5% commission at the time the bet is made.  On the "right" side this is called the "Buy" bet and on the "wrong" side it's called a "Lay" bet.  (In order to wager a $20 "Buy" bet you've got to hand the casino $21. In order to win $20 on a "Lay" bet you've got to give them $21.)  Forget 'em.  The house edge turns them into sucker bets. Here are the other sucker bets that are advertised on the table:

5.  The Sucker Bets (These encompass everything else on the table)

    For me, none of these other bets on the Craps table even exist. However, since they exist in the real Craps world, and are in fact prominently advertised on the Craps table, and you might not believe me otherwise, I'll briefly cover them for informational purposes only.  The reason I wouldn't play them comes down to one thing, again: the size of the house's edge.  Here are some of the "Sucker bets" that you need to stay away from because their edges are unacceptably large, making them a poor use of your betting dollars in smart Craps play:

The Field: This is a One Roll bet.  It is won or lost on a single roll of the dice.  The bettor wins if a 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 or 12 is rolled on the next roll (2 and 12 pay double). He loses if a 5, 6, 7, or 8 turns up.  So lets do the math to see how large the house's edge is on this bet:  The bettor has sixteen ways to win, count'em: one + two + three + four + three + two + one, but since he gets paid double on the 2 and the 12, we'll add an additional two to the bettor's number of ways to win.  Correspondingly, in order to keep the math right, we must also add a two to the total number of ways that the dice can be rolled, for a total of thirty-eight, instead of the usual thirty-six.  In looking at the number of ways the bettor can lose, we see that there are twenty: four + five + six + five.  So the house has two more ways to win than the bettor, out of the thirty-eight total, which equals 2/38ths or = a 5.3% house edge on Field bets.

Big 6 and Big 8: This "big loser" bet, which is prominently advertised on the table, is won when the 6 or the 8 shows before a 7.  The bet can be placed at any time and pays even money.  As you already know the 6 or the 8 can show five ways and the 7 can show six ways for a total of 11 ways to reach a decision.  The house's edge in this case is 1/11th or 9%.  That means you're leaving 9 bucks on the table for every $100 that you wager on this bet!

The Proposition Bets (everything in the center of the table, handled by the stickman), including:

Hardways: To make a number the "hard way" is to make it in the most difficult way: the one with only ONE probability of showing.  For instance the 8 can be made the "hard" way by rolling a 4 and 4, or it can be made an "easy" way: by rolling a 2 and 6; a 6 and 2; a 5 and 3; or a 3 and 5.  A Hardway 8 or 6 bet looks attractive because of the size of it's payout (nine to one), but when you look closer you realize it's not such a good deal.  A Hardway bet is won when the number is rolled the hard way before either the 7 is rolled (six ways) or the number is rolled an "easy" way.  In the case of the Hard 6 or Hard 8, odds against you are ten to one whereas the payout is only nine to one.  The player is therefore giving up a 10% edge to the house. On the Hard 4 or 10 the house edge is even greater: 12.5%, as the payout is only seven to one when the odds of winning it are eight to one.

The other One Roll Bets:

Any 7: Pays four to one, true odds are five to one: house edge is a whopping 20%

Any Craps: Pays seven to one, true odds are eight to one: house edge is 12.5%

2 or 12: Pays thirty to one, true odds are thirty five to one: house edge is 14.3%

3 or 11: Pays fifteen to one, true odds are seventeen to one: house edge is 11.8%

Horn Bet: The equivalent of four bets at one time on the 2, 3, 11 or 12, the bet is paid at true odds but the casino keeps 3/4 of the original bet (the chips attributed to the losing three numbers).

Ok, now you know 'em. 

- -   Forget 'em all!

Wagering Strategy

    When I'm just starting out on a Craps table I take it slow and easy and allow myself time to feel out the game.  I play Wrongt. In other words I become a simple Don't Pass Line player on a $10 table.  I realize that I've never fancied myself a 

A Little Table Etiquette: The casino Craps table can accommodate up to 14 players, but without much elbow room.  It is always manned by a crew of 4: the stickman, two dealers and a boxman (the guy in a suit who is in charge of the table, watches the game and represents the casino).  So how do you actually go about placing a bet, you ask? Well, since one of the crew's goals is to keep the players' hands off the table as much as possible, basically the only bets that YOU actually physically set on the table are your Line bets, Odds on Line bets, Come and Don't Come bets.  The crew (either the dealer on your side, or the stickman) will take care of the rest for you.  YOU put Line bets directly in front of you on the space marked "Pass Line" or "Don't Pass Bar (12 or 2)".  You take Odds on a Pass bet by setting your chips right behind your initial bet, closer to you, outside the the Pass line, in the blank area.  Odds on Don't Pass are stacked directly on top of the initial Don't Pass bet, but OFFSET a little bit in order to distinguish the new odds bet from the initial line bet.  (See the figures below, the left side shows chip placement on Pass and Don't Pass; and the one on the right side shows the same bets with Odds.)

When making a Come or Don't Come bet YOU can put your chips in the Come or Don't Come box.  When the Come Point is established, the dealer will move your Come bet to the bottom of the appropriate Point number, prominently printed along the top of the Craps table layout.  The dealer moves a Don't Come bet to the little space above the Point number.  By the way, you'll notice that the dealer will set your Come or Don't Come bet in a location in the box that represents your approximate location on the table.  That way, he or she can remember which player made the bet when it comes time to pay.  You make Odds bets on Come and Don't Come by throwing your chips on the table and advising the dealer that you are making an Odds bet, for instance: "Odds on the Come 4" or "Odds on the Don't Come 8."  Place bets are always made by the dealer, again by you throwing the chips on the table and announcing "Place the 6 and 8 , please." (See the figures below for a demonstration of chip placement on making a Come bet; the location to which the dealer would move your Come bet if a 5 was rolled as the "Come Point"; and finally the Come 5 bet with Odds.)  The dealer will position the Place bet chips in the blank space below the point numbers, just below the locations of the Come bets.

Incidentally, the shooter's Point is always marked with a puck that is white on one side and black on the other.  The white side is marked "ON" and the black side is marked "OFF."  When a Point is established, the puck is placed on the Point number on the table layout, with the white "ON" face up.  When there is no Point it rests with the black or "OFF" face up and to the side of the layout.

Now, just for the record, the Proposition bets are all managed by the stickman.  So, if you wanted to make a Hardway bet you might throw your chip to the stickman and say "Put this on the Hard 8 please."

 

sophisticated Craps player, a regular, nor a high roller, so I like to keep things simple and easy.  I start it all off by making a $10 Don't Pass Line bet and take full odds when a Point is established.  Usually full odds is "double odds".  Taking full double odds means that I'm going to back up my Don't Pass Line bet with a $40 odds bet if the point is a 4 or a 10, a $30 odds bet if the point is a 5 or a 9, 6 or 8.  (Remember, the $30 on a 6 or 8 is made so that the casino can pay me $25 - five for six.)

    After I've won and lost a few times and I feel myself getting into the groove of the game, and maybe I start seeing some longer rolls coming up, I step up my betting to include, not only my Don't Pass Line bet with full odds, but in addition, I make a single Don't Come bet immediately following the Come-out roll on my Don't Pass Line bet.  Of course, I take full odds on the Don't Come bet too, after the Come point has been established on the second roll.  After that I just let the dice continue rolling until a decision is reached.

    Of course, there will be many times when you will not be able to play this sequence to the end because your play will be interrupted by 7's, 11's (Yo's) and Craps on the shooters' Come-out rolls.  You will win some of those bets when Craps and 7-outs are rolled. You will lose some bets when 7's and 11's are rolled or Points are made on the Come-outs.   But boy it's sweet when you have three points working for you and they all hit!!

    Betting "right" employs the same wagering strategy, betting the Pass Line and following that bet with two consecutive Come bets. You also have the option of making Place bets on the 6 and 8, however, because house edge is so large on all of the Don't Place bets. I would start off by making a $10 Don't Pass bet and take full odds when a Point is established. Again, Full Odds will probably be "double odds" in most casinos. Remember that as a "wrong" bettor you must lay the odds in favor of the casino. Thus, taking full double odds means that you will have to back up your Don't Pass bet with a $40 odds bet if the point is a 4 or a 10; a $30 odds bet if the point is a 5 or a 9; or a $30 bet if the point is 6 or 8. (That's so that the casino can pay you $20 if the point is 4 or 10, $20 if it's a 5 or 9, and $25 if the point is 6 or 8.) The Don't Pass bet should be followed by a Don't Come bet with full odds and then a second Don't Come bet with full odds too.

 


How and How Much do I wager?

    As far as any wagering methodology or HOW MUCH to wager, here's some guidelines recomended by other players:

A) Before stepping up to the table, decide how much you want to win and how much you are willing to lose. As a general rule, you should walk away once you have reached either your win or your loss maximum. A good maximum win is doubling your buy-in amount while the down side would be losing it.

B) A good guideline to follow when starting to play is to buy in for 40 times the table minimum. In this way you will have enough of a bankroll to be able to ride-out any losing streaks that you may encounter on your way to a win. This means that, ideally, you should bring $400 to a $10 minimum Craps table.

C) Try to gamble with the house's money. Be conservative when you are using the money you brought with you to the casino and gamble heavier only when you are ahead.

D) Widely accepted wagering progression: Start conservatively. At first, wager the minimum unit. (ie: $10) When you win, double your bet with 2 units of the table minimum (ie: $20). If you win again, bet 3 units (ie: $30) and pocket the extra unit. If you win again, you should wager 4 or 5 units (ie: $40 or $50) and stay at 4 or 5 units until you lose. When you lose start at one unit again and go through this progression again. Alternatively, at the beginning of this progression, you can wait for your second win to double your bet.

I wish you good luck!

Ernie de la Fe                                                            

 

Copyright (c) 2000, Ernesto J. de la Fe

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