Your first time playing craps will no doubt be a bit stressful – the layout looks complicated and the crowd of cheering bettors is intimidating.
Casino craps also comes with a set of etiquette rules that, if you don’t know them, can land you on the bad side of your craps dealer, the other players at your table, or even casino management. These pieces of etiquette have been developed over the years as a combination of good manners, casino rules, and tradition.
You don’t have to study some etiquette document for hours just to stay on the right side of the other folks at the craps table. If you can apply the three tips below, you’ll be fully-prepared the next time you hit up a craps table at a casino.
Tip #1: Learn What You Can (and Can’t) Do With Your Hands
The vast majority of serious craps etiquette rules have to do with what players do with their hands. This is true in most casino games – you can’t fling your hands around will-nilly, touching chips and game props whenever you want. Security doesn’t like when people behave outside the norm, so neither do dealers or other players.
Some of these rules make perfect sense – placing money on the layout while the player is holding or about to shoot the dice could be a disruption. And believe me – if you break an etiquette rule and the shooter sevens out, the whole table is likely to be grumpy with you.
The rule that says you shouldn’t place your hands on the craps table is the result of a security concern. But it’s also an etiquette thing. You wouldn’t go touching and adjusting and fussing with your dentist’s tools before a root canal, would you? You have no reason to touch the casino’s tools, either.
When people advise you not to flail or swing your arm in front of the stickman while shooting, they’re doing so because they know that the stickman will hate you for it. No one wants a grumpy casino employee, do they? This one is a matter of manners – the stickman isn’t worried that you’re going to distract him . . . it’s just a rude way to behave.
Tip #2: Become an Expert at Reading Body Language and Facial Expressions
This one applies to people who play just about any casino game involving other people. If you want to make friends at the craps table, you’re going to need to learn to read human beings.
Craps is a social game. It is perfectly acceptable – and even expected – that you’ll want to talk to the bettors around you. Trouble is, not every craps player is as social as the game. You need to learn and watch for signs and signals that a person doesn’t want to be bothered. If you see a player avoiding banter, don’t try to force it on them.
It’s also not advisable to talk to or otherwise disrupt a bettor in the process of trying to lay a bet. In craps, wagers have to be placed within a specific timeframe, and trying to talk to someone when they’re against a ticking clock is not only rude, it’s a good way to make an awful first impression.
Signs that a player doesn’t want to be social: lowered eyes, closed lips, a grim or pained expression, crossed arms or legs, low volume of voice.
Signs that a player would welcome conversation: making eye contact, talking to others, a happy facial expression, an open body posture, a loud voice.
Tip #3: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
The old adage that “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” really DOES apply in the world of craps.
Dealers and other employees are there to ensure a game runs smoothly. One way to ensure that is to make sure that everyone around the table knows the rules. They don’t want to lecture you, so they’d much prefer if you asked your questions before you started playing. Just don’t butt in and ask out of the blue – get the employee’s attention, make eye contact, and speak clearly. They’ll be perfectly happy to help you become a better craps player. After all, the more you play, the more their employer makes, and the more tips they (potentially) make.
Your best bet as a new craps player is to approach a table at an off-peak time. Remember the lessons you learned in reading facial expressions and body language – you can tell when an employee is zoned-in and when they’re checked-out. If you can find a friendly stranger, they’ll probably be happy to go over etiquette and rules with you, especially if you offer to buy them a drink or tip them a chip for their trouble.
The point is – don’t be a wimp. Be confident in your intelligence, smile, make eye contact, and get the answers you need.
Craps is intimidating. It’s also a game that’s easy to learn. If you play a few rounds of craps in a live casino, you’ll feel more confident with each roll of the dice. Etiquette in the casino is about much more than tipping dealers and not getting sloppy drunk. It’s about matching your behavior to game tradition. Going into your next round of craps with some sense of proper etiquette is the best way to prepare yourself for this exciting casino classic.