Craps is the fastest - and certainly the loudest - game in the casino. With the big, colorful table, chips flying everywhere and players yelling, it's exiting to watch and exciting to play.
Craps also has the one of the lowest house edges against you of any casino game, but only if you make the right bets. In fact, with one type of bet (which you will soon learn) you play even with the house, meaning that the house has a zero edge. This is the only casino game where this is true.
THE TABLE LAYOUT
The craps table is slightly larger than a standard pool table, with a wood railing that goes around the outside edge. This railing acts as a backboard for the dice to be thrown against and is sponge-lined on the inside with random patterns so that the dice bounce randomly. Most table rails also have grooves on top where you can place your chips.
The table surface is a tight fitting green felt with designs to indicate all the various bets that can be made in craps. It's very confusing for a beginner, but all you really need to concern yourself with right now is the "Pass Line" area and the "Don't Pass" area. These are the only bets you will make in our basic strategy (and for the most part the only bets worth making, period).
BASIC GAME PLAY
Don't let the confusing layout of the craps table intimidate you. The basic game itself is very simple. A new game with a new player (the person shooting the dice) begins when the current player "sevens out", which means he rolls a seven. That ends his turn and a new player is given the dice.
The new player makes either a pass line bet or a don't pass bet (explained below) and then throws the dice, which is called the "comeout roll".
If that first roll is a 7 or 11, this is called "making a pass" and the "pass line" betters win and "don't pass" betters lose. If a 2, 3 or 12 are rolled, this is called "craps" and pass line betters lose, while don't pass line betters win. However, don't pass line betters do not win if the "craps" number is a 12 in Las Vegas or a 2 in Reno and Tahoe. In this case, the bet is push - neither the player nor the house wins. All pass line and don't pass line bets are paid even money.
Barring one of the three "craps" numbers from winning for don't pass line bets is what gives the house it's low edge of 1.4 percent on all line bets. The don't pass bettor has a stand-off with the house when one of these barred numbers is rolled. Otherwise, the don't pass bettor would have a small advantage over the house - something that no casino permits!
If a number other than 7, 11, 2, 3, or 12 is rolled on the comeout (in other words, a 4,5,6,8,9,10), that number is called a "place" number, or simply a number or a "point". In this case, the shooter continues to roll until that place number is rolled again, which is called "making the point", at which time pass line betters win and don't pass bettors lose, or a 7 is rolled, which is called "sevening out". In this case, pass line bettors lose and don't pass bettors win. When a player sevens out, his turn is over and the whole process begins again with a new player.
Once a shooter rolls a place number (a 220.127.116.11.9.10), many different types of bets can be made on each subsequent roll of the dice, until he sevens out and his turn is over. However, they all have odds in favor of the house, many of them heavily in favor of the house, with the exception of two: odds on a line bet, and "come" bets. Of these two, we will only consider the odds on a line bet, as the "come" bet is a bit more confusing.
You should ignore all other bets, as they carry odds that are too high against you. Yes, this means that all those other players that are throwing chips all over the table with each roll of the dice and making "field bets" and "hard way" bets are really making sucker bets. They may know all the many bets and special lingo, but you will be the smarter gambler by simply making line bets and taking the odds.
Now let's talk about line bets, taking the odds, and how to do it.
To make a line bet, simply place your money on the area of the table that says "Pass Line", or where it says "Don't Pass". These bets pay even money when they win, although it's not true even odds because of the 1.4 percent house edge discussed earlier.
When you bet the pass line, it means you are betting that the shooter either makes a 7 or 11 on the comeout roll, or that he will roll one of the place numbers and then roll that number again ("make the point") before sevening out (rolling a 7).
When you bet on the don't pass line, you are betting that the shooter will roll either a 2 or a 3 on the comeout roll (or a 3 or 12 if in Reno and Tahoe), or will roll one of the place numbers and then seven out before rolling the place number again.
Odds on a Line Bet (or, simply called "odds bets")
When a point has been established (a place number is rolled) on the comeout, you are permitted to take true odds against a 7 appearing before the point number is rolled again. This means you can bet an additional amount up to the amount of your line bet. This called an "odds" bet.
Your odds bet can be any amount up to the amount of your line bet, although many casinos will now allow you to make odds bets of two, three or even more times the amount of your line bet. This odds bet is paid at a rate equal to the odds of that point number being made before a 7 is rolled.
You make an odds bet by placing your bet directly behind your pass line bet. You notice that there is nothing on the table to indicate that you can place an odds bet, while there are indications loudly printed all over that table for the other "sucker" bets. This is because the casino does not want to encourage odds bets. You have to know that you can make one.
Here's how these odds are computed. Since there are 6 ways that a number 7 can be rolled and 5 ways that a 6 or 8 can be rolled, the odds of a 6 or 8 being rolled before a 7 is rolled again are 6 to 5 against you. This means that if the point number is a 6 or 8, your odds bet will be paid off at the rate of 6 to 5. For every $10 you bet, you will win $12 (bets smaller or larger than $10 are of course paid at the same 6 to 5 ratio). The odds of a 5 or 9 being rolled before a 7 is rolled are 3 to 2, so you get paid $15 for every $10 bet. The odds of 4 or 10 being rolled first are 2 to 1, so you get paid $20 for every $10 you bet.
Note that these are true odds - you are paid exactly proportional to your chance of winning. This is the only true odds bet you will find in a casino, so be sure to make it whenever you play craps.
AN EASY TO LEARN BASIC CRAPS STRATEGY
Here's an example of the three types of outcomes that result when a new shooter plays and how you should bet.
Assume new shooter is getting ready to make the comeout roll and you make a $10 bet (or whatever amount you want) on the pass line. The shooter rolls a 7 or 11 on the comeout. You win $10, the amount of your bet.
You bet $10 again on the pass line and the shooter makes a comeout roll again. This time a 3 is rolled (the player "craps out"). You lose your $10 pass line bet.
You bet another $10 and the shooter makes his third comeout roll (remember, each shooter continues to roll until he sevens out after making a point). This time a 4 is rolled - one of the place numbers or "points". You now want to take an odds bet, so you place $10 directly behind your pass line bet to indicate you are taking the odds. The shooter continues to roll the dice until a 4 is rolled (the point is made), at which time you win $10 on your pass line bet, and $20 on your odds bet (remember, a 4 is paid at 2 to 1 odds), for a total win of $30. Take your chips off the table and get ready to bet again.
However, if a 7 is rolled before the point number (in this case, before the 4), you lose both your $10 pass line bet and your $10 odds bet.
And that's all there is to it! You simply make you pass line bet, take odds if a point is rolled on the comeout, and then wait for either the point or a 7 to be rolled. Ignore all the other confusion and sucker bets. Your have the best bet in the casino and are playing wisely.
IMPORTANT NOTES ABOUT ODDS BETS
Odds bets can be made any time after a comeout point is rolled. You don't have to make them right away . However, you'd be foolish not to make an odds bet as soon as possible considering it's the best bet on the table. However, you are permitted to make, withdraw, or reinstate an odds bet anytime after the comeout and before a 7 is rolled.
When you win an odds bet, be sure to take your chips off the table. Otherwise, they are considered to be automatically "off" on the next comeout and will not count as another odds bet unless you specifically tell the dealer that you want them to be "working". But in a fast moving and loud game, your request may not be heard, so it's better to simply take your winnings off the table and bet again with the next comeout.
BEST PLACES TO PLAY CRAPS IN LAS VEGAS
Any of the downtown casinos. Minimum bets will be low (you can usually find $3) and, more importantly, they frequently allow up to 10X odds bets.
About the Author: Tom McBroom is the webmaster for http://www.blackjack-for-everyone.com, which is dedicated to the beginning through serious recreational Blackjack player. Visit his site for complete Blackjack instructions, advice, strategies and the best online and Las Vegas casinos for Blackjack.