You’ll see all kinds of craps systems and strategies on the internet. The main thing to remember about such systems and strategies is that none of them can overcome the house edge. The only one that might have a realistic chance of beating the house is “dice control.”
I’ll have something to say about dice control toward the end of this post, but let me go on record from the start as “skeptical.” The other systems I talk about below are mostly just betting systems. I’ve written extensively about betting systems in the past, but let me reiterate about them:
Raising and lowering the sizes of your bets based on what’s happen on previous bets does nothing to change the underlying odds of a game. You might increase your probability of being a small winner during a short session, but in doing so, you increase your probability of being a big lower during a short session, too.
The main strategy for craps is just a matter of knowing which bets offer the lowest house edge and sticking with those. You’ll still lose in the long run if you keep playing. You’ll just lose more slowly and have more fun along the way.
Having a Big Enough Bankroll
According to one book I read about craps (I can’t really remember which one), a craps shooter will go on a hot streak about once out of every 10 shooters. To last long enough to get to a shooter on a hot streak, you therefore need enough bankroll to cover at least 10 bets. I think, to be safe, you should make sure you have at least enough money to cover 20 units.
Let’s suppose you’re a “right bettor,” someone who bets on the shooter to succeed. You bet $5 on the pass line, then you take $5 on the odds bet, and you bet $6 on the place 6 and another $6 on the place 8. (This is not an unusual betting strategy, by the way.)
That’s a total of $22 on each shooter. You should have at least a $220 bankroll for that session, although I think a $440 bankroll would be even better. I want to be sure I can hang around long enough to catch a hot streak.
If you’re playing with money you can’t afford to lose, you’re playing scared. You won’t have a good time, and if you bust out fast, you’re going to be miserable. For this reason, you should only play with money you don’t need for anything else.
This isn’t just true in craps, by the way. This is true of any gambling activity you participate in. Gambling involves chance. Even if you’re a card counter, you stand a chance of losing. That’s what happens when you’re betting on random events. Sometimes.
Win Goals and Loss Limits at the Craps Table
Most fans of betting systems also incorporate win goals and loss limits into their bankroll management strategy. I think this is a fine approach so long as you understand that these win goals and loss limits don’t affect the house edge. The casino will still win in the long run.
The first concept to understand is that of a “session bankroll.” This is the amount of money you’re going to bring to the table with you, but it’s not your total bankroll. Your session bankroll is JUST for this gambling session. According to the “experts on money management,” whoever they are, your session bankroll for craps should be no more than 1/3 of your total bankroll.
Your loss limit is the same concept as a win goal, but in reverse. The idea is that if you quit after you’ve lost a certain amount of money, you’ve limited your losses for that session. This, again, is usually a percentage of your bankroll. It might be 25% or 50% or any other percentage you’d like.
These are arbitrary amounts and don’t really affect the long-term probability of the game, though. You should understand that.
The Basic Right Betting System
It’s more fun to bet with the shooter, and that’s what most players do, even though betting against the shooter is slightly more advantageous in the long run. The house edge on the “pass line bet,” which is the most basic bet in craps, is 1.41%. The house edge on the don’t pass bet is 1.36%, so it’s 0.05% better.
For me, and most other players, it’s worth that 0.05% to have the opportunity to root for someone. And since the other players at the table are also rooting for someone, it can lead to lots of clapping and high-fiving and jumping up and down.
In fact, that’s one of the fun things about craps. You don’t see people yelling with excitement at the blackjack table, but it’s a common site at the craps table—especially when a shooter gets hot.
In the basic right betting system, your goal is to have 3 numbers working for you all the time. The 1st of these numbers is the point number, which you don’t get to choose. The point is set by the shooter with the come-out roll.
The other 2 numbers I suggest putting into action are the place bets, which you should bet on after the point is set during the come-out roll. The number you choose to place are determined (indirectly) by what the point is.
The house edge on these place bets varies based on which number you’re betting on. Here are the figures:
|PLACE NUMBERS||WAYS TO ACHIEVE||HOUSE EDGE|
The place numbers column shows the bet you can make. For example, “place 4” or “place 10.”
The ways to achieve column shows you the total number of ways that number can come up. For example, you can get a total of 4 in 3 ways: 1-3, 2-2, or 3-1.
The house edge is the average amount per bet that the house expects to win on average in the long run. For example, if the house edge is 1.52%, the house expects to win $1.52 on average over the long run every time you bet $100.
If the point is 9, instead of betting “place 6” and “place 8,” you’ll bet “place 6” and “place 9.” (Or you could bet “place 5” instead of “place 9” if you prefer.) Yes, that bet has a higher house edge, but it’s not outrageously high. It’s better than a bet on an American roulette table, for example, which has a house edge of 5.26%.
With this system, you will never bet on “place 4” or “place 10.” That’s never necessary, and the house edge on either of those bets is too high. If the shooter rolls a 7, though, all the money you have in action gets wiped out.
Here’s an example in actual play:
You bet $5 on the come-out roll. The shooter rolls a 5, setting the point at 5. You then place a $5 bet on the odds bet, and you bet $6 on place 6 and another $6 on place 8. You now have $22 in action.
If the shooter rolls a 5, you win the odds bet and the original pass line bet. The pass line bet pays off at even money, or $5. The odds bet pays off at 3 to 2, so you win $7.50 on it. The place 6 and place 8 bets stay in action until the shooter rolls a 7, so you still have $12 in action on the table.
You can see how you can start racking up wins quickly with a shooter on a lucky streak, right? And this assumes you’re flat betting these amounts and replacing them once you’ve won. You also have the option of increasing your bet sizes as you win, too.
Progressive Betting on Place Numbers
It’s tempting to just take the winnings on such a bet and add it to the size of your bet in the hopes that the shooter will get hot and you’ll book a large win. This can and does happen all the time, in fact.
But a better way to approach this is to wait until you’ve locked in a profit, then you start increasing the sizes of your bets as the winning streak continues. And you always keep in mind that you’re going to quit once you hit your win goal.
But from a strategies and systems perspective, it does make a kind of sense to lock in that win before increasing your bet sizes on the place numbers.
Here’s how you do that:
On your 1st bet in a series, if you win, you take your winnings, and you leave the $6 you had bet on the 6 or 8 there.
If and when you win a 2nd bet in that series, you double the size of your bet. If you hit the place 6 again, you increase your bet from $6 to $12. If you win a 3rd time, you pocket your winnings again, and you go back to a $6 bet on the place 6.
You can continue to raise and lower your bets, pocketing your winnings as you go along. Or, once you’ve locked in a certain amount of profit, you can continue to increase the size of your place bets.
But always lock in that profit from the get-go.
The Come System
Another common betting system in craps is the “come system.” It’s another system that is simplicity itself.
You still want to have 3 numbers working for you at a time, so you start by betting on the pass line. Once a point is set, you place the odds bet and a come bet. On the next roll, you place an odds bet on the come bet (if possible), and you place a 2nd come bet.
At this point, you’ll constantly have 3 numbers working for you—the original point bet, the 1st come bet, and the 2nd come bet. Since the house edge is lower on these bets because of the addition of the free odds bet, this is arguably a better system than the basic right betting system. The come system has its drawbacks, though.
For one thing, if the shooter keeps rolling 4s and 10s, you’ll often lose the pass line and come bets and the odds bets before he hits the point again. When you do hit, you’ll see a nice payoff, though.
Your bankroll should, of course, be correspondingly higher in this situation. You need $300 or even $600 to play this way, instead of the $220 or $440 I recommended for the basic system.
A Simpler System for Low Rollers
You don’t HAVE to have 3 numbers working for you at all times. Let’s assume you’re a low roller, and you can afford to have $5 or $10 in action on each roll, but that’s about it.
All you do is place the pass line bet and take odds when they become available. You don’t place additional place bets or come bets. You just keep placing those pass line and odds bets repeatedly.
You can even combine this system with the progressive betting thinking I discussed above. Once you’ve locked in a profit, you can increase the size of your pass line bet.
But in most casinos, you can take out at least 2X odds. 3X 4X 5X odds is also common. In such casinos, you need a correspondingly higher bankroll to stay in action.
Dice Control Systems
Being able to influence the outcome of the dice would give you the opportunity to make craps into more of a game of skill. I’ve seen proponents of dice control compare craps to darts in this respect.
I’m skeptical of a player’s ability to influence or control the outcome on the dice. It sounds great in theory, and even if your probability of influencing the dice were minimal, it could make a big impact on your edge.
Me neither. I’m convinced that if controlled shooting were a possibility, the casinos would put new countermeasures in place to thwart these shooters. It looks like the casinos are happy enough with their existing countermeasures.
If you do want to learn more about dice control, try searching for “Frank Scoblete” + “dice control” in Google or Bing.
There’s no denying how much fun you can have playing craps. I think it’s even more fun when you have some kind of system in place. Many gambling pundits decry betting systems that rely on win goals and loss limits, but I know that for gamblers like myself—who have little self-discipline—they make it possible to sometimes walk away from the table a winner.
One of the tricks to all craps systems, though, is to always stick with the best bets at the table. The higher the house edge on the bet, the likelier it is that your system will fail. No betting system will make up for placing repeated sucker bets based on hunches.