### A Short Course in Craps

Posted: May 30, 2010 – 1:22 pm**A Quick Intro to Craps**

Maybe you have watched from afar the fast-paced action at the craps tables or heard the raucous cheers of the players and thought to yourself: “I wish I was there”. Wish no more. I promise you that after you read this guide, you too can be a crazy craps player like me.

There is a symmetry to a pair of dice that is beautiful to observe. Two opposite sides of a die always total 7 (6 opposite 1, 5 opposite 2, 4 opposite 3). The odds of throwing any single combination of dice (for example, 1 & 1) are 36 to 1 because each die has 6 sides and there are two of them (6 x 6 = 36). Craps odds are simple to compute because every time a pair of dice is rolled, the outcome is completely random (although advocates of the “Golden Touch” dice-throwing system would disagree). In addition, the combinations and the respective odds follow a mirrored pattern that is easy to learn.

There are 6 ways to throw a 7 (1&6, 2& 5, 3&4, 4&3, 5&2, 6&1)

There are 5 ways to throw a 6 (1&5, 2&4, 3&3, 4&2, 5&1)

There are 4 ways to throw a 5 (1&4, 2&3, 3&2, 4&1)

There are 3 ways to throw a 4 (1&3, 2&2, 3&1)

There are 2 ways to throw a 3 (1&2, 2&1)

There is 1 way to throw a 2 (1&1)

Notice that each combination 1 less than the actual number thrown (6 ways to make a 7). But what about 8, 9, 10, 11, and 12? Except for 7 (which falls squarely in the middle) these numbers are the flip sides of the numbers above:

8 is the flip side of 6 so there are 5 ways to throw an 8 (2&6, 3&5, 4&4, 5&3, 6&2)

9 is the flip side of 5 so there are 4 ways to throw a 9 (3&6, 4&5, 5&4, 6&3)

10 is the flip side of 4 so there are 3 ways to throw a 10 (4&6, 5&5, 6&4)

11 is the flip side of 3 so there are 2 ways to throw an 11 (5&6, 6&5)

12 is the flip side of 2 so there is 1 way to throw a 12 (6&6)

The payoffs at the crap table are computed based upon the odds of making the number (less the casino edge).

**True odds**

**Table Payoff**

2 36 to 1 (1 out of 36) 30 for 1

3 18 to 1 (2 out of 36) 15 for 1

4 2 to 1 (3 out of 36) 9 for 5

5 3 to 2 (4 out of 36) 7 for 5

6 6 to 5 (5 out of 36) 7 for 6

7 ——-

8 6 to 5 (5 out of 36) 7 for 6

9 9 to 1 (4 out of 36) 7 for 5

10 12 to 1 (3 out of 36) 9 for 5

11 18 to 1 (2 out of 36) 15 for 1

12 36 to 1 (1 out of 36) 30 for 1

**Luckily for you, you don’t need to know any of this to play the game or bet on it.**

I. The Rules of the Game.

The game of craps is very simple. The dice are given to one of the players (the “shooter”). The shooter must have a bet on the Pass line or the Don’t Pass line (“Pass” means the shooter will do well – “Don’t Pass” means the shooter will fail). The shooter takes the dice into one hand only and throws them across the table so that they hit the opposite side and land on the table. This is the “comeout” roll. If the shooter throws a 7 or 11, everyone with a pass line bet wins even money (if you bet $5, you get your $5 and another $5). If the shooter throws craps (2, 3 or 12) then the pass line bets are lost and the don’t-pass bets get paid even money. If the shooter throws any other number, then a “point” is established, the button is turned to the white side (“ON”) and put near the “point” on the board so that the “point is marked”. The shooter must now throw the point again before throwing a 7. Every number he throws in the meantime can result in a payoff for some player based on the chart above. If the shooter throws a 7, he is out, all the bets are lost and a new shooter comes up and everything starts over again. Those betting “Don’t Pass” will win if the shooter throws a 7 (“craps out”). “Don’t Pass” (or “wrong”) bettors are generally disliked by the other players because they are betting against everyone else. Street players (that is, those who play the game informally outside of a casino) will usually be wrong bettors because they know that a shooter is more likely to make the 7 (and crap out) than he is to hit the point. It is not a bad bet to make, and has slightly better odds than “right” betting, that is, betting on the pass line.

II. The Strategies of Betting

There are millions of pages written on this subject. I am only going to give you my best advice on this. Most books will advocate a pass line bet with odds behind it, followed by two “Come” bets (a pass line bet made after the original point is established) with odds behind them. For a new player, this is impossibly confusing and can get extremely expensive. My recommendation is that you make what is called a “Place” bet. It is a bet made on a specific number on the board. When I am playing, I like to make a $5 “World” bet on the comeout roll. This is a bet of $1 each on the 2, 3, 7, 11 or 12 for the comeout roll. If a 7 is thrown, you keep your money (called a “push”); if a 2 or 12 is thrown, you are paid 30 to 1; and if a 3 or 11 is thrown, you’re paid 15 to 1. It is a one roll bet. If any other number is thrown, you lose your bet.

Once a point is established, I like to bet the 6 and 8. These numbers occur most often (after the 7 – see chart above) and when I bet both of them, I stand a good chance of winning. The payoff on the 6 and 8 is 7 for 6 so when you are at a $5 table, your minimum bet would be $12 ($6 each on the 6 and 8). If either number comes out, you would win $7 (plus your original $6 bet). I don’t increase my bet until I have recouped my $12 (by hitting either bet 2x), then I go “up a unit” each time the number is thrown. Say, for example, that two 8’s are thrown so I have recouped my initial bet. The next time either a 6 or an 8 is thrown, I say “up a unit” so that my bet becomes $12 on whatever number was thrown. Although they are totally random, dice are streaky so that if one 8 is thrown, more 8’s may come around. If a 6 gets thrown, I increase my bet there. Each time the number I bet is thrown, I increase by my original bet ($6), until a new point is established or the shooter craps out. At some point, your bet may get so high that you want to take the money off the table or you may feel that the shooter’s luck is running out. Before the shooter throws the dice, say to the dealer “Take my bets down” or “Off this roll”. The dealer will then return your whole bet to you. The other players will not like this because craps players are very superstitious and will think you’re changing their luck, but if you feel you want to do it you should. I have saved a lot of money for myself by pulling my bets.

Pass line bet: If you want to make a pass line bet, then be sure to take odds “behind the line”. Odds bets are paid off at true odds and that is what makes them excellent bets for the serious player. The way it works is this: You put a $5 line bet (pass line) on the table. The point is established as 5 (“5 is”). You now put money on the layout behind your pass line bet (at least double your original bet or in this case, $10). If the shooter makes the point, the pass line bet is paid at even money (1 for 1) and the odds bet is paid at true odds (3 for 2), so in addition to getting back your $15, you would get paid $25 as your winnings. Even though my example is 2x odds, most casinos let you go as high as 5x odds, some even higher.

Place bets: As I indicated earlier, the 6 and the 8 are called place bets. The other place bets are the 4, 5, 9, and 10. You may want to bet these numbers as well if the table is hot. One thing to remember about the 4 and 10 is that you can “buy” them by paying a 5% “vig” (short for viggorish, a street term for interest on a loan) to the house. What this means is that you’ll pay a little extra for your bet, but you will be paid out at true odds. You can only do this for the 4 and the 10 and only when your bet gets to $20 because the casino doesn’t take vig in amounts less than $1. The way you would place this bet is to say “buy the 4 (or the 10) for $20” and you would give the dealer $21. The dollar is immediately collected by the house, but if a 4 (or a 10) is rolled, you would be paid $40 (2 for 1) instead of $36 (9 for 5).

III. How to Look Like a Player

Step up to the table. Each position is called a “slot” and is set off by racks for your chips. If you have chips, put them in the rack. If you don’t have chips, you’ll have to “buy in”. Make sure no one is shooting and that the big button on the table is black (OFF). Drop your money (at least $50) near the dealer closest to you–not the stickman–and say “change only”. The dealer will then give you $5 (usually red) chips for $50. The dealer may ask if you want any “action” (meaning a bet). If you do, say the amount of the bet and the type of bet ($5 World bet). If you want a pass line bet, just put a $5 chip on the pass line. The pass line, come, don’t pass and field bets are the only bets you place on the table yourself – all other bets get “called” to the dealer). If you aren’t making a pass line bet, you have to wait until a point is established. When the point is established and the button is ON, put $12 in chips near the dealer and say “$6 each on 6 & 8”. The dealer will put the chips on the board as a “Place bet”. As you become more comfortable with the game, you may want to put money on other numbers. The same procedure applies. You put the chips on the table, call out the amount and the numbers you want ($5 on the 5, $10 on the 9, etc.). Make sure you see the dealer put your chips on the number you want. When the number you’ve bet comes out, the dealer will pay you by putting the chips in front of you. Try to be sure you are being paid off in the correct amount. Your original bet stays on the board, so if you hit a 6 and you have $6 on the board, you’ll get $7 put in front of you. If you are increasing your bet, try to call it to the dealer before he pay out, so that he can take money out and put it on the board for you ($6 on the 8 pays $7, you say up a unit, he gives you $1 and put $6 on your 8 so that you have $12 on board on the 8). The dealer will pay the pass line winners before you so wait your turn, but don’t let him forget to pay you.

Some people tip (“toke”) the dealers when they leave the table. This isn’t so smart because the dealers never know that you intend to tip them until the end. I like to throw in a small bet for the dealers periodically so that we become friends and allies. The toke I like to make is a $4 bet for the dealers on the “hardways”—it’s cheap and pays off for them. “Hardways” is the gamblers term for what gamers call doubles. It is a “hard” way to make the number (for example, 8 the “hard way” is 4 & 4, 8 “easy” is 3 & 5 or 2 & 6).

Never hand money or chips directly to a dealer. They will not take it and if they do, they’ll get into trouble for it.

Never touch the dice with both hands.

I think I covered all you need to know. There are a lot of other kinds of bets but they are all sucker bets. The truth is that even the place bets for 4, 5, 9, and 10 have too much house advantage but at a hot table, ALL numbers pay off. As a general rule, be very careful about being encouraged to bet anything other than the pass line, come bets or the 6 and 8 place bets.

Virginia Wylly

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