By Abigail Hartung, David S. LewisPublished October 1, 2012
Craps is a fast-moving game and the table is large, often crowded, and seemingly complex. While there are thousands of possible bets, the rules are actually simple, so just shove in there and get in on the action with a few easy bets to get you started.
Play passes from player to player, with the stickman helping to keep things moving, and at least one or two bosses standing around keeping an eye on things. Bets placed in the center of the table ought to be tossed (with as few chips as possible, so use higher denominations), while wagers on the outer fields may be placed on the felt by the bettor.
The person rolling the dice is called the “shooter,” and the results of the shooter’s roll decides winners and losers around the table, depending on whether they bet with or against him or her.
Before the “come-out” roll, (that’s the first roll of the play), the other gamblers wager by betting on either the Pass line (which means they are betting with you) or the “Don’t Pass” line (that means they are betting against you).
On the first roll, certain combinations either cause the player (and “Pass”) bets to automatically win or lose. If you roll a 7 or an 11 on that first toss, you win (called a “natural”). However, if on the first roll, you get a 2, a 3, or a 12, Pass Line bets lose. “Don’t Pass” bets win on either 2 or 3, but not 12, which is a tie, or “push.” This is called “Craps.” (Some people pronounce it “shit” or “dammit!”)
However, if the shooter’s come-out roll is a 7 or 11, “Don’t Pass” bets lose.
If a 12 is thrown, it is a tie or “push” between you and the casino. Don’t Pass bets stay, but Pass bets are lost.
Now, if both for- and against- bettors have navigated the minefield of the come-out and a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 is rolled, that number becomes the “point.” The stickman marks it on the table’s layout with a plastic puck, and the shooter must re-roll the point number to win, known as “making the point.”
If he or she rolls the point again before rolling 7, bets on the Pass Line win, while Don’t Pass bets lose. That round is over, wagers are collected and winners are paid out, and the shooter throws another “come-out” roll, retaining his or her turn. This is called a “pass.”
However, if the shooter rolls a 7 before the point, “Pass” bets lose, “Don’t Pass” bets win, and the shooter’s turn is finished.
Don’t Pass bets may be removed at any time.
Only throw the dice with one hand, and make sure they bounce off the far wall of the table. Dealers will insist on this to prevent cheating. If you have to pass the dice from one hand to the other, set them on the layout and then re-pick them up with the other hand. Don’t cup and shake them in both hands; this isn’t Yahtzee. Bets are placed between rolls of the dice; once the stickman hands the shooter the dice, no more bets may be placed.
» When you’re the shooter, the stickman will hand you up to five dice. Choose two, and give the rest back to him. The game is only played with two dice.
» When you are passed the dice to shoot, you may pass them to the next player without worrying about pissing anyone off, but there has to be a bet on the “Pass” or “Don’t Pass” line for the game to continue.
» Tip the dealer from your winnings with the announcement “this is one for the boys,” even if the dealers are women. You can also place a bet for the dealers as a form of gratuity; just announce that the bet is for them as you place it.
» After the come-out roll, it is bad luck to say the word “seven” while the shooter is still trying to make his or her point. Substitute “seven” with “Big Red” if you have to talk about it.
While there are many other bet combinations, from betting on a specific pair being thrown in the next roll (“hardway”) to “field” bets (to bet that a specific number will be rolled next, either a 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, or 12), some of the best odds are on the “Pass” and “Don’t Pass” lines, and the “Come” and “Don’t Come” bets. “Come” and “Don’t Come” are slightly more complicated, but essentially, it’s as though you’re betting on a new “Come-out” roll just for you, starting with the next roll, if the point has already been set. “Come” bets don’t work before the point is set.
Also, the “Odds” bet is damn favorable. If you bet on the shooter to “Pass” and the shooter establishes a “Point,” you may make a side bet on the “Pass” line that the shooter will make the point. The odds on the “Odds” bet is dead even: You have as much a chance of winning as the casino. When the odds are 0, they are in your favor in any house game. The “Odds” bet is made by placing a second stack of chips behind your original bet, just on the other side of the “Pass” line, nearer to you. (Sometimes the dealer will lean that stack up against your original bet to connect it with, but keep differentiated from your original wager.)
Keep in mind: the “Odds” bet gives the house zero edge, which means that there’s usually a limit on how much it can be, sometimes no more than 3 or 4 times the original bet, and it is dependent on exactly what was rolled as the point. If all of it sounds complicated (and when first you sidle up to that bustling table, it’s going to seem very complicated), just bet “Pass” if you want to play, and watch the other players. Craps is loud, fast, and a lot of fun, and you’ll probably have the hang of 90-percent of it within the first 20 minutes of playing.