How to Play Craps: Basic Rules

Offering close to a hundred different bets, craps may seem a very confusing game but it is, in fact, quite easy to play once you understand its rules and basic types of wagers. It is fast, played by up to 20 people at a time, and the outcome depends solely on chance. All this makes craps a unique casino game that does not require using any complex strategies or betting systems to guarantee your winnings.

Despite the fundamental simplicity of the game, where you just bet on the outcome of a pair of rolling dice, there are a few details players should take into consideration before going to the craps table. This includes the rules for handling the dice in brick-and-mortar casinos and the types of bets that can be made since the choice of wagers influence the return of the game the most.

Craps Fundamentals


The game of craps is played with two standard, six-sided dice, which are tossed by one of the players onto the table. The player throwing the dice is called a shooter, a position for which everyone on the table takes turns. The dice move around the table in a clockwise manner and players have the options to shoot or to reject, giving their right to the next player. This does not apply to online craps, however, where the roll of the dice is controlled by a piece of software called Random Number Generator.

2Possible combinations

Each side of the dice is numbered, so the shooter can roll anything from 2 to 12. There are a total of 36 possible combinations in the game and some numbers are more likely to be rolled than others since the combinations that form them are more. The house edge for each bet is, therefore, different and the overall winnings or losses in craps depend on chance and on the particular numbers players choose to bet.

The number 7, for example, is the easiest one to roll because there are more possibilities for throwing a 7 than any other number in the game. The combinations for 7 are six – 1-6, 6-1, 2-5, 5-2, 3-4, and 4-3. In comparison, the 2 and the 12 can be rolled only with 1-1 and 6-6. Of course, players can bet on 7, 2, 12 or any other particular number in the game. But the rules allow many more interesting wagers to be placed.

Craps Rules of Play

The game of craps is played in two main phases but before that, bets should be placed. Once all chips are on the table and the shooter chooses a pair of dice from 5 to 8 dice available in a special tray, he or she tosses them to the opposite end of the table. The roll will be allowed if the dice reach the opposite inside wall of the table.

When the dice come to a rest, the numbers showing on their top sides are added for the final outcome. If one of them shows a 3 and the other a 5, then the outcome of the roll is 8. The chips for the losing bets are collected by the dealers, while winners receive their winnings. There are, however, bets that remain on the table without being settled – these are often referred to as “riding” bets and they remain active for the following one or more rolls of the dice.

Come-Out Roll
Establishing the Point

Come-Out Roll

When the game starts or a new player takes a turn to be the shooter, the first roll of the dice is called the come-out roll. Depending on the numbers showing, it has three possible outcomes:

  • 7 or 11 – The dice wins when they show a natural, i.e. a 7 or 11. Everyone who placed a bet on the Pass Line also wins. All other bets lose and are collected by the dealers.
  • 2, 3, or 12 – These numbers are known as the craps numbers if any of them appears, the dice is an immediate loser. All Pass Line bets lose, as well, where the Don’t Pass bets may win.
  • 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 – These totals set a point, which is essential for the following roll. If one of these numbers is rolled, it becomes the “point” or point number.

The above-mentioned Pass Line and Don’t Pass bets are the two simplest and most fundamental bets in craps. The “pass” refers to the dice winning the game round with a 7 or 11, whereas the “don’t pass” name of the other wager means that the player bets that the pair of dice will lose (with 2, 3, or 12).

Usually, if the player shoots craps, he or she is given another chance to throw the dice. Another interesting thing about the craps numbers is that the 2 or the 12 may be considered a push for the Don’t Pass bets, but this rule varies across casinos. Whenever a natural or a craps number shows in the come-out roll, the marker puck on the table is “Off”. The next roll will also be considered a come-out roll – this only changes once the total of the dice is any of the point numbers.

Establishing the Point

When the initial roll is 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, this number becomes the point and is marked by the dealer on the table. The dealer flips the button (the puck) to the On side and moves it to the respective number on the betting layout. Once the point number has been established, the second phase of the game commences and the shooter keeps rolling the dice until one of two possible events happen:

  • The point is rolled – If the point is rolled before 7, the dice win, bringing a winning to those who bet with it, i.e. the Pass Line bets, among others.
  • The number 7 is rolled – If 7 appears before the point has been rolled, the dice loses and the round ends.

However, if any other number is rolled, it has no effect on the outcome and the shooter is required to keep tossing the dice until the point or the 7 appear. Certain bets can be made only if the button is On, signifying that a point has been established.

Betting Options

Craps is the casino game with the most bets but there are only a few basic wagers that are necessary even for beginner-level players. These include the Pass Line and the Don’t Pass bets, as well as the Come/Don’t Come, and the Odds bets. They are easy to understand and players do not need any previous experience on the craps table in order to make them.

Pass Line and Don’t Pass
Come and Don’t Come Bets
Pass and Don’t Pass Odds

Pass Line and Don’t Pass

As we have mentioned above, the Pass Line and the Don’t Pass bets are the two basic wagers in craps. With them, players bet that the shooter will either win or lose. Unlike many other bets, they are necessary and the game cannot start without at least one of them. This is why the shooter is always required to make a Line bet before shooting the dice for the come-out roll.

If the come-out roll is 7 or 11, the Pass Line wins and pays even money (1:1). If the come-out roll is 2, 3, or 12, the bet loses. After the point has been made, the Pass Line wins if the point number is rolled before a 7, but if the shooter tosses a 7 before the point, the bet loses. Of course, the Don’t Pass wager wins when the Pass Line loses – with a 2 or 3 in the come-out roll (12 is usually a tie) and with a 7 after the point has been established. Once a point is set, the Don’t Pass loses when the point appears before 7.

These wagers have the same payout – 1:1. However, the house edge for the Pass Line is 1.41%, while for the Don’t Pass, it is 1.36%.

Come and Don’t Come Bets

The Come and Don’t Come wagers are very similar to the Pass/Don’t Pass bets. However, they can be made only after the point has been established by the shooter. When we make a Come bet, we bet that the next roll will be 7 or 11. If it is, we win 1:1, but if it is 2, 3, or 12, the Come bet loses. If any other number appears, however, it becomes the come-bet point and it remains locked until 7 or the point is rolled. If the dice total is 7, the Come bet loses, and if the point for the Come wager is tossed before the 7, the bet wins 1:1.

The Don’t Come bet is exactly the opposite. It cannot be made in the come-out roll and players can place it only after a point has been set. In this case, it wins when 2 or 3 are rolled (even payout) ad it loses when 7 or 11 are tossed. If the dice show 12, this is considered a push. If any other number is rolled, it becomes the Don’t Come-bet point and a 7 must be rolled before this point number for the bet to win (also even money). If the point number appears first, the Don’t Come bet loses.

Pass and Don’t Pass Odds

Once a point is established, Pass Line players can take odds by placing a bet that is a predetermined multiple of the Pass Line wager right behind it on the table. The Pass Odds can be described as an additional bet to the Pass Line since it wins and loses with the same outcomes of the following rolls – if the point is rolled before the 7, the Pass Odds wins, and if 7 is rolled before the point, it loses. The same applies to the Don’t Pass Odds bet.

These two wagers are usually 1x, 2x or 3x multiples of the Pass/Don’t Pass bets but some casinos allow multiples of up to 100x the original bet. The best thing is that the odds for these bets are the same as their payouts, which means that the house edge is practically 0%. The payouts here vary, depending on the point number.

Right and Wrong Betting

1Bet With the Shooter or Against Him

When playing craps in a live, brick-and-mortar casino, most players bet that the dice will win or that the shooter will win. In the come-out roll, this means hitting a 7 or 11 and if the point was already established, this means shooting the point before 7 is rolled. All players who bet with the shooter are called “right bettors”, while those who bet that the shooter will lose are called “wrong bettors”.

2The Pass/Don’t Pass Bets

The above-mentioned Pass and Don’t Pass bets are a great example – after the point has been established, some players bet that the shooter will win by tossing the point before he rolls a 7. These players have placed the Pass Line wager and they are betting right. Those who win when the shooter loses with a 7 will be betting wrong. In other words, right bettors bet that the dice will “pass”, while wrong bettors bet that it “will not pass”.

The Pass/Don’t Pass bets are the exact opposite and players are free to make any of them. In general, there is nothing wrong to prefer wrong betting since the chances for winning are higher. The reason for this is that the wrong wagers have a slightly lower house edge than their right counterparts. It is hardly a surprise then that most online players prefer the “dark side”. The majority of craps guides and strategies also recommend betting against the shooter.

3The Social Element in Land-Based Casinos

So, why are wrong bettors not given a warm welcome in land-based casinos? The answer is very simple – because while wrong bettors win, the shooter and everyone who bets with him loses. Since all players are at some point in the game shooters, betting the right way seems logical, supportive and even sympathetic. Wrong bettors are, on the other hand, often considered quite insensitive.

It is up to players to decide whether they will choose the right or wrong side of betting. The social aspect of the game is eliminated when they play craps online, however, so this is probably the best way to play this game.

Table Rules

There are many more bets that can be made in this game but in this article, we have covered only the fundamental ones. They should be the perfect option for every novice who is just starting to play craps for real money. There are several other things players should take into consideration, however, especially when they are playing live craps in a brick-and-mortar casino.

Preventing Dice Control
Handling Chips and Cash
Call Bets

Preventing Dice Control

Shooters are required to toss the dice hard enough so they reach the opposite side of the craps table. It should bounce off the inside wall of the table so the roll is as random as possible. Moreover, the dice should be thrown in the air rather than being slid along the table felt. If the shooter does not manage to throw the pair of dice properly, the boxman (the dealer in charge of the game) can decide to reject the roll.

There are other requirements, designed to prevent dice control in the game of craps. The shooter is not allowed to take the dice with one hand and throw them with the other. It is also absolutely forbidden to throw the dice with two hands or to take them away from the table – casinos do not permit rubbing the dice onto someone’s clothes or blowing on them for good luck.

Handling Chips and Cash

Most casinos do not allow players to hand cash or chips directly to the dealers. In fact, nothing should be handed directly between patrons and the table crew. When players arrive at the craps table, they need to exchange their cash into chips by placing the banknotes onto the table and announcing the denomination of the chips they prefer. The chips will be moved back to them in the same manner – they are placed onto the table and then, picked by the player, rather than being handed directly.

The dice are also slid along the table. The stickman collects the dice and places them in the tray, which he pushes next to the player who is about to shoot. The player then selects a pair of dice and proceeds to shoot.

Call Bets

Since the craps tables are often very crowded places, with loud people betting, cheering or simply observing the game, call bets are usually forbidden. Casinos that do not accept them would have a warning on the table itself so the rule is clear to everyone. Call bets are those bets that are made without placing the corresponding chips on the table.

Many players would try to place their bets as quickly as possible and sometimes forget putting their chips onto the table where the dealers can reach or see them. This can cause misunderstanding after the dice have been rolled. To avoid such scenarios, players should simply learn never to call out bets without putting chips on the table and explaining in a clear manner what these chips are dong there.

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