A typical craps table in Las Vegas looks more like a party than a gambling game, with perfect strangers suddenly hugging and hopping around after a perfect run from the roller.

If you’ve never played craps before, simply watching the action unfold can be an experience in and of itself. You’ll see no less than five casino staff working a massive elongated oval table – the Boxman running the show, three dealers taking turns as the Stickman, and a fourth dealer rotated out on break. For folks accustomed to sitting down and making small talk with a lone dealer at the blackjack table, this abundance of employees can make craps seem more important somehow.

Then there’s the rush of activity before and after every roll. Up to a dozen players are on hand, each placing their chips down for basic bets or informing the dealer exactly where their wagers should go. A craps table humming at full speed can be almost like a symphony, with the dealers and players engaged in a delicate dance and the boxman conducting the orchestra at every step.

Finally, when the roller takes the dice in hand and lets them fly, for a moment or two time seems to stand still. Everybody is hoping to see the point number hit again, or any number other than the dreaded seven for that matter in order to cash various exotic wagers.

When the dice tumble to any non-seven number, you’ll hear whoops and cheers all around. And when the seven finally does show its face, the collective groan going around the table is akin to a baseball stadium crowd watching the home team closer blow a save.

Yep, craps is by far the liveliest experience gamblers can savor on the casino floor.

Even better, the game perfectly blends elements of skill and luck, and it even offers one of the rarest sights in all of gambling – wagers where the house holds no inherent edge over players whatsoever. Throw in extremely reasonable house edge rates on the basic Pass Line and Don’t Pass Line “ante” bets, and a diverse selection of longshot exotic bets offering higher rewards for a higher level of risk, and craps really does have it all.

So why are so many recreational casino enthusiasts hesitant to give craps a go? Well, that hectic scene described above does have a way of scaring inexperienced players away. Hit up any craps table in Sin City and you’ll see them, typical tourists in town for a little fun who are hanging around and soaking in the sights and sounds.

These guys and gals will crane their neck to see how the dice fell, and try their best to track the flurry of bets being made, but they’ll never quite muster up the courage to enter the fray. And even those who do manage to get in the game can easily be disillusioned by what they find.

Without a basic knowledge of how the craps table betting layout really works, gamblers accustomed to the binary decision making of blackjack or baccarat can easily be confused and confounded by what they find. What’s the difference between a “Hard 8” and the “Big 8?” Why do people keep yelling “Yo” at me? And who the hell comes to Vegas to visit the “Don’t Come” bar anyway?Add in a pressure packed environment defined by big bettors not suffering rookies lightly, and the number of “one and done” craps players out there is shocking to say the least.

To help you avoid that fate, and embrace one of the most enjoyable and entertaining casino games ever created, strap in for my list of seven simple steps to improve your results at the craps table. When its all said and done, you should be much better prepared to sidle up to the table and place the proper bets to give yourself a good shot at a profit by session’s end.

1 – Know the Odds and Stick to the Best Bets

First and foremost, you should try to view craps as two separate games wrapped into one.

At its core, craps can be played using just two or three basic bets – all of which offer extremely reasonable house edge rates. The initial wager that must be placed before taking your turn as the roller is known as the Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line. You can choose between either one – we’ll talk more about backing the Don’t Pass Line in the next section – but for now consider the Pass Line to be a basic ante bet.

To start each roll, players will put a chip or two down on the Pass Line area in front of them on the table. Once these Pass Line bets are in place, the shooter will make their first roll of the dice in what’s known as the “come out” roll.

From there, bettors backing the Pass Line earn an instant even money winner if the shooter hits a 7 or an 11. And should the come out roll produce a 2, 3, or 12, all Pass Line bettors lose their opening bet right from the jump. But in cases where the come out roll lands on any other number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10), this number is now established as the “Point.” And that’s where the fun really begins…

With a point number now set, the shooter will roll again and again until one of two outcomes occurs. If they hit the Point number again before hitting a seven, all Pass Line bettors win their wager at even money and a new come out roll commences. Conversely, if they land a seven before landing the Point number, all Pass Line bettors lose and the roll ends – a process known as “sevening” out.

While the Point number is still live, players can also place a second bet known as the “Odds,” which pays out at true odds based on whichever Point is in play. Odds betting is the most important part of successful craps strategy, so we’ll devote an entire section to this crucial wager a little later on.

That basic tutorial describes how the come out roll and subsequent rolls work, but in between, you’ll see players firing off any number of wagers separate from the Pass Line / Don’t Pass Line and Odds. The sheer variety of bets in question – along with the goosed up payouts that offer a tantalizing temptation to casual players – is what gives craps its reputation for action and excitement.

But aside from entertainment value, are these “exotic” craps bets really worth your while? Nope, not by a longshot… which is exactly what each and every exotic craps wager is designed to be.

In order to compensate for the very low house edge rate of 1.41 percent offered by the Pass Line – not to mention the 0.00 percent advantage held by the house on Odds bets – craps includes all of those exotics with their higher house edges to compensate. The casino might give a few bucks back to conservative players who stick to the Pass Line, but they make that much back and then some off tourists chasing the Hard 8 and its ilk.

To get a better idea of how basic craps bets compare to the exotics, check out the table of odds and probabilities below:

House Edge and Probabilities for Common Craps Bets

Pass Line 1 to 1 3.38 1.41 Percent
Don’t Pass Line 1 to 1 3.47 1.36 Percent
Take Odds 6 and 8 6 to 5 3.27 0.00 Percent
Take Odds 5 and 9 3 to 2 3.60 0.00 Percent
Take Odds 4 and 10 2 to 1 4.00 0.00 Percent
Lay Odds 6 and 8 5 to 6 3.27 0.00 Percent
Lay Odds 5 and 9 2 to 3 3.60 0.00 Percent
Lay Odds 4 and 10 1 to 2 4.00 0.00 Percent
Big 6 and 8 1 to 1 3.27 9.09 Percent
Don’t Place 6 and 8 4 to 5 3.27 1.82 Percent
Don’t Place 5 and 9 5 to 8 3.60 2.50 Percent
Don’t Place 4 and 10 5 to 11 4.00 3.03 Percent
Place 6 and 8 7 to 6 3.27 1.52 Percent
Place 5 and 9 7 to 5 3.60 4.00 Percent
Place 4 and 10 9 to 5 4.00 6.67 Percent
Hard 6 and 8 9 to 1 3.27 9.09 Percent
Hard 4 and 10 7 to 1 4.00 11.11 Percent

*Average number of rolls before result is expected to show
**House edge rate over course of average roll

As you can see, craps offers a multitude of options to choose from, but they’re not created equal in the slightest. While folks who stick to the Pass Line and Odds face a house edge that averages under 0.71 percent combined (1.41 percent on Pass Line + 0.00 percent on Odds / 2 = 0.705 percent), others who prefer exotics are lighting their bankroll on fire.

Everybody has heard of the Hard way in craps, which means you’re betting on a specific matched dice total (4 + 4 for a Hard 8, 5 + 5 for a Hard 10, etc.). But as the name implies, this wager is much more difficult to hit – and it shows in the house edge rates.

When you bet on any 6 or 8 – non-matching combinations like 4 + 2 for 6 and 5 + 3 for 8 still work – this “Place” bet offers a house edge of 1.52 percent. Switch things up to the Hard 6 or 8, however, and the house edge swells to 9.09 percent. Sure, the payout also increases in kind to 9 to 1, but that juiced up reward isn’t quite enough to balance out the higher level of risk.

All things considered, a craps player trying to learn the game and get better should stick to the following basic strategy:

  • 1. Bet the Pass Line
  • 2. Take the Full Odds
  • 3. Place the 6 and 8 (to spice things up and give yourself multiple ways to win on each roll)

Using this simple three-pronged attack, and avoiding all exotic bets like the plague, can turn anybody into a competent, profitable craps player in no time flat.

2 – Embrace the Dark Side if You Dare

If you didn’t know any better while reading craps instructional material, the content above included of course, you’d think the Pass Line was the only ante bet to make. In reality, craps players can always bet on the Don’t Pass Line too – and in fact, this wager carries a slightly better house edge (1.36 percent) than its Pass Line (1.41 percent).

So why aren’t people lining up to bet on the Don’t Pass Line? The answer lies in how that come out roll plays out. If you’re a Pass Line bettors, you’re essentially betting with the shooter, hoping that they hit their Point before sevening out. But when you back the Don’t Pass Line – an approach craps enthusiasts derisively refer to as the “dark side” – you’ll be betting against the shooter in hopes that they do seven out before hitting the Point.

Because 9 out of 10 craps players reflexively bet the Pass Line – building a sense of camaraderie around the table as almost everyone shares a common rooting interest – Don’t Pass Line bettors win when everyone else loses.

Just imagine a full table anxiously awaiting the next roll, only to groan in unison when the shooter sevens out. Then, amidst the unhappiness, one player is laughing and celebrating because their Don’t Pass Line wager just came in. This dichotomy explains why most recreational players “stick to the script” and bet as team players by backing the Pass Line.

Nonetheless, there’s nothing binding players to the Pass Line, and if you’re looking to play the game perfectly based on seeking the lowest possible house edge, the Don’t Pass Line is the ticket. You can even take “Don’t Pass Odds” afterward, and while they pay out slightly worse thanks to your increased likelihood of seeing a seven out before a Point, you can still earn hefty payouts when the dice do what they’re supposed to do.

Dark side bettors aren’t the most popular people at the table, but that doesn’t really matter if you’re seeking the best possible betting strategy.

3 – Always Take the Odds to the House Limit

I’ve already touched on the role of Odds betting, but if you take one lesson away from this craps primer, it should be that taking the Odds is always in your best interest.

Most casinos allow players to size an Odds bet at double their initial Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line increment. But you’ll also find venues offering a 3x – 4x – 5x system on Odds bets, and even higher at the off-Strip joints looking for a hook to get customers through the door. In any event, however, your job is to find out the maximum limit you can place on an Odds bet and make that bet after every come out roll.

And why is that? Well, if you can find any other bet on the casino floor carrying a house edge of 0.00 percent, I’m all ears. The reality is you can’t though, as the Odds bet in craps is a truly one of a kind breed that no other games can offer.

At this point you may be wondering why casinos would ever put such a player-friendly bet on the board. The answer lies in the fact that you can’t take the Odds unless you have a Pass Line or Don’t Pass Line bet on the line. By forcing you to make this initial ante, at either 1.41 or 1.36 percent house edge, respectively, the house ensures that it still has an inherent advantage between both wagers.

Either way though, by betting a basic amount on the Pass Line (or the dark side if you’re so inclined), then backing it up with a bet of double or higher on the Odds, you’ll put yourself in one of the most advantageous spots gamblers will ever see.

With an Odds bet in place, you’ll receive the following payouts depending on the Point number:

Odds Bet Payouts in Craps

Point Number True Odds Payout
Numbers 4 or 10 2 to 1 2 to 1
Numbers 5 or 9 3 to 2 3 to 2
Numbers 6 or 8 6 to 5 6 to 5

Thus, a $10 bet on the Odds with a point number set at 4 or 10 would bring back $20 when the shooter cooperates. You’ll get $15 back on the Odds with a Point of 5 or 9, and $12 for a successful roll on a Point of 6 or 8. Those crazy stories of a craps novice turning a few bucks into stacks of cash usually involve two basic ingredients – a maximum Odds bet and a nice, long session filled with plenty of Point numbers rolled.

4 – Stick to the 6 and 8 after the Come Out Roll

A perfectly fine strategy involves sticking to the Pass Line / Don’t Pass Line + Odds exclusively, but most players want to spice things up after the come out roll. To do so without chasing those longshot exotics, consider making a “Place” bet on the 6 and/or 8 once the point has been established.

When you do, you’ll now have multiple ways to win on each subsequent roll – the Point can come in to cash your Pass Line and Odds bets or a 6/8 can hit to provide an instant odds-based payout. When the shooter is hot, one rolling session can produce a long lineup of Place bet winners.

You can put a Place bet on almost any number (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10), but as you can see in the table below, the 6 and the 8 are the most likely (aside from 7 that is) to show up:

Possible Ways to Roll Each Total in Craps

2 = one way (1 + 1)
3 = two ways (1 + 2 / 2 + 1)
4 = three ways (1 + 3 / 2 + 2 / 3 + 1)
5 = four ways (1 + 4 / 2 + 3 / 3 + 2 / 4 + 1)
6 = five ways (1 + 5 / 2 + 4 / 3 + 3 / 4 + 2 / 5 + 1)
7 = six ways (1 + 6 / 2 + 5 / 3 + 4 / 4 + 3 / 5 + 2 / 6 + 1)
8 = five ways (2 + 6 / 3 + 5 / 4 + 4 / 5 + 3 / 6 + 2)
9 = four ways (3 + 6 / 4 + 5 / 5 + 4 / 6 + 3)
10 = three ways (4 + 6 / 5 + 5 / 6 + 4)
11 = two ways (5 + 6 / 6 + 5)
12 = one way (6 + 6)

5 – Don’t Let Silly Superstitions Dictate Your Strategy

I wish I didn’t have to waste time on a topic like this, but wishes don’t mean a thing when it comes to gambling. Unfortunately, the bulk of recreational players out there just trying to have fun are beholden to myths and misconceptions. They believe in “lucky” rollers, so they’ll bet bigger when a lady has the dice in hand.

They think certain exotics are “due” to come in soon, as it’s been awhile since the Hard 8 showed up. Blowing on the dice, situating them just so in your palm before rolling, and even betting larger when “virgin” shooters roll for the first time are all common craps superstitions.

They all have one thing in common though… they don’t work. Just stick to a sound strategy based on betting with the odds in your favor, and let the dice fall where they may.

6 – Be Sure to Communicate Your Bets Clearly

When a craps table is humming on all gears, you’ll be forgiven for thinking you walked into a nightclub and not a table game. Everybody is talking over one another, either exchanging idle chit chat or trying to get the dealer’s attention before betting closes. One of the most difficult part of craps gameplay to master is instantly placing the bets you’re allowed to make physically, before alerting the dealer and vocally announcing other wagers.

Unless it’s a Pass Line / Don’t Pass Line, Odds, or Come bet, be sure to let the dealer know how much and where you want to wager. Don’t be shy now either, speak confidently and make eye contact to ensure no miscommunications are made. This part of the game can be intimidating at first, but after a few sessions getting the hang of things, you’ll be barking out bets like a boss.

7 – Have Fun and Let Loose – Win or Lose

We’ve all seen the miserly ladies and gentlemen at a craps table, crying foul over every seven out and generally ruining the festivities for everybody else. Don’t be “that gambler” and try your best to detach yourself from the results. Don’t get me wrong now, celebrating a big win or an extended roll is always kosher, just realize that losses will be sprinkled in from time to time. That’s the nature of craps, or any gambling game beast for that matter, and the best players are able to let short-term losses go.


Craps is one of the greatest casino games ever invented, thanks in large part to its complexity and intricacies. But beneath the veneer of exotic wagers and longshot payouts, the game can really be boiled down to a three-step system to success. Bet the Pass Line if you want to make friends, or the dark side if you don’t, then back it up with a full Odds bet. From there, put a Place bet on the 6 and 8 and sit back to enjoy the ride.

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