Craps – Masterclass

It’s 4am. Your wad is tight and your tie is loose. You take a deep breath, pick up the dice and brush them lightly on your cuff. The crowd becomes quiet as you draw back your arm. As the dice leave your hand time seems to slow down. You follow the arc and see them hit the back wall, spin and stop. ‘Six, hard six, winner six’ shouts the stickman and the crowd erupt as you make your tenth point on the trot. Blokes pat you on the back, and exchange high-fives. Middle-aged women blow you kisses.

It sure beats feeding the slots.

Anyone who has been to Las Vegas will have heard the commotion of a craps table and probably wondered what the hell was going on. At first you might be forgiven for thinking that a fight has broken out. The game is chaotic – money is flying all over the table and everyone is shouting. Like most tourists, you probably stand to one side and watch carefully. If you’re a perceptive kind of person, you may eventually twig that in this game, someone can win because someone else has lost, and that your lucky number seven is not so lucky here.

You, like the other tourists will probably meander back to your blackjack but wouldn’t it be nice to join in? To persuade you to play just think about the game of cricket. If someone tried to convince you to play cricket by explaining the rules you would never pick up a bat. Craps is no different. To gently push you in the direction of the craps table, is going to explain the basics. No tittering at the terminology, please.

He shoots. . . he scores!

Craps is played by a ‘shooter’ – the player rolling the dice – throwing a pair of dice from one end of the table to the back wall and establishing a point number. ‘Making the point’ is done by throwing a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 and is indicated by a white puck being placed on the table at the appropriate number. If a 7 is rolled then the game is over and the dice are passed to the next player. At this point, the stickman will utter the terminal phrase, ‘Seven out, new shooter’ – craps’ equivalent of ‘Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. . .’

Once the ‘point’ is made, the shooter carries on trying to roll that same point number. There’s no time limit and a vast variety of side bet possibilities. Players bet on what number the shooter will roll and the payout is based on the odds of that occurring against a 7 being rolled – but more of that later.

Each new game starts with a ‘come out’ roll and initially involves two types of bet – the ‘pass line’ and the ‘don’t pass line’.


Pass Line

The pass line bet is the basic craps bet. It pays even money and has a house edge of 1.4% – which is excellent compared to most other games, especially some of the newer carnival games. You place the bet before the first roll of the dice in a new game and you will win immediately if the shooter rolls 7 or 11 and lose if the roll is 2, 3 or 12. If any other number (as mentioned already, namely the 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) is rolled, that number becomes the point. If the shooter rolls the point before throwing a 7, your pass line bet has won. If the shooter rolls a 7 before rolling the point number, again you have lost. Most casinos accept a £2 minimum bet and £1,000 maximum – check the house rules before you play.

Don’t Pass Line

This is the reverse of the pass line bet. If the shooter rolls a 3 or 12 you win immediately, but if the roll is 7 or 11 you have lost. If 2 is rolled this is a ‘push’ and your bet is returned. If the shooter makes his point, the don’t pass line bets win if the shooter rolls a 7 before making the point again.

The pass line and don’t pass line bets start the whole game but it is after the point has been made that it gets interesting, as you can then place an additional bet – known as ‘taking the odds’. Here are some of the most common subsequent bets:


This is the same as a pass line bet but is made after the point has been made and pays even money. Come bets are placed prior to any roll and win if the shooter rolls 7 or 11 and lose if 2, 3 or 12 are rolled. If the shooter rolls 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10 then that number becomes the ‘come point’. If the shooter rolls that number prior to rolling a 7 then the come bet wins.

Don’t Come

Predictably, this is the opposite of the come bet and wins if the shooter’s next roll is 3 or 12 and loses if 7 or 11 is rolled. If the shooter rolls a 2 this is a push and the bet is returned to you. Once the come point is made, don’t come bets win if 7 is rolled and lose if the come point is rolled.

Place Bet

Place bets are made on any of the point numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) and are paid at house odds (4 and 10 pay 19/10; 5 and 9 pay 7/5; 6 and 8 pay 7/6). They can be made or removed at any time before a shooter rolls and like the previous bets can be placed to lose – in other words, you are betting that a 7 will be rolled before the placed number is thrown. For instance, a placed ‘no 5’ bet will mean you are betting that a 7 will be rolled before the shooter rolls 5. As the chances of this happening are quite high you are paid at low odds and furthermore have to pay a 5% commission – ‘vig’ – to the house.

Field Bet

This is the box in the middle of the table that attracts most players like a magnet. You are betting that the numbers 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 or 12 will be thrown next. Seems a decent outcome but the payout is evens, except for 2 and 12 which can be 2/1 or 3/1, depending on the casino. You have to bear in mind the odds of the shooter rolling 5, 6, 8 or that damn 7.

Proposition Bet

These are one-roll bets with high payouts and alluring acronyms such as ‘any craps’ (next roll will be 2, 3 or 12), ‘horn’ (next roll will be 2, 3, 11 or 12), and ‘hardway’ (the shooter will roll 4, 6, 8 or 10 as pairs of numbers before rolling a 7). In general, avoid hardway bets unless you feel very lucky.

Let’s draw breath and look at some examples of typical bets.

It’s a new game. You bet £10 on the pass line. The Shooter rolls a 7. Congratulations – you have won £10.

It’s a new game. You bet £10 on the pass line. The shooter rolls an eight and that becomes the point. You then place a £10 come bet. The shooter then rolls eight again – the pass line bet wins and eight becomes the point for the come bet. You have won £10 and need another eight before a 7 for the second bet to win.

The night’s just begun and already things are looking good…