How to Play Craps & Game Origins

craps As a game that doesn’t receive much publicity in the gambling sector, it may come as a surprise just how popular Craps is in some circles.

Of course, passed down through history like many of the popular games that you see today, Craps has had plenty of time to acquire a following, in a similar way to baccarat which has a niche market itself, though in some places it is one of the most frequently played games of them all.

The game certainly inspires intrigue though, perhaps because it was so often used in movies like A Bronx Tale, and to many people it looks like a lot of fun to play. It is definitely one of the more active games that you will find in a casino, although it is a difficult one to find, especially in the UK.

As well as the high entertainment factor, perhaps it is the simplicity of the setup that gives Craps its’ fan base – you only need dice and you can draw the board with chalk if you wanted to. Although it isn’t widely offered by gambling establishments, especially across Europe, it is definitely well worth investigating if you are a gambling aficionado.

How to Play Craps

For those who are new to the game of craps, it can seem hectic and hard to understand, especially because of how the board is laid out, being split into lots of different confusingly shaped sections.

At the most basic level, the idea behind the game is for players to place wagers on the outcome on the roll of the dice. Two six-sided dice are used and the player who throws the dice is called the ‘shooter’. Every player in the game takes it in turns to throw, and after each roll the dice are passed anti-clockwise around the table for the next ‘shooter’ to have a go.

The first roll of the dice for each new round of craps is called the ‘come out’ roll.

The Pass Line

pass line bet

Before commencing the Come Out roll, the shooter selects two dice (there are five in total) and then they must make what is called a Pass Line bet: that they will either pass or not pass the line. Everyone else at the table can make this bet as well, even though there is only one shooter.

Pass Line bets are the easiest bets that you can make. When you wager on the Pass Line you are betting that either a 7 or an 11 will be the result of the Come Out roll. If a shooter rolls either 7 or an 11 on the Come Out, your money is doubled and the round ends.

Rolling a 2, 3, or 12 meanwhile - also known as ‘craps’ or ‘crapping out’ - on the Come Out roll, will result in you losing your bet on the Pass Line. This will also end the round.

Should the shooter roll a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 however, then a ‘Point’ will be established and the round continues. More on that below.

A Don’t Pass Line bet is essentially the complete opposite of a Pass Line bet. When you make a Don’t Pass Line bet, you are betting against the shooter and want them to ‘crap out’, or to roll a 2, 3, or 12 on the Come Out roll. If they roll a 7 or 11 you lose, and if they establish a Point you will then be hoping that they roll a 7 in order to win your bet.

The Point

the point

The ‘Point’ is the value on the the dice after the Come Out roll, but remember, you only get to this stage if the Come Out roll wasn’t a 7 or an 11, or a 2, 3, or 12. So if the shooter rolled a 6, then this number becomes the Point and the dealer will place the 'On' marker by that number.

The round continues with the shooter rolling the dice over and over until they either hit the Point (in this case, 6) or a 7. The difference is, a 7 is now a losing bet at this stage in the game, and all other numbers mean nothing.

If you initially bet on the Pass Line, then you want the Point number to be rolled once more in order to win your Pass Line bet. If you bet on the Don’t Pass Line then your bet will already have lost. Should the shooter hit the Point before they roll a 7, then your Pass line bet is doubled as a winner. If they roll a 7 before hitting the Point, your bet loses.

After this, regardless of the outcome, a new round begins.

Come Bets

come bet

The above explains the basics of the game, the skeleton if you will. But there are also other bets that you can make in craps, and this is why the table looks so complicated.

One popular additional bet is the ‘Come Bet’, which is essentially the same as a Pass Line bet but it can only be placed after a Point has been established. Should the shooter get either a 7 or an 11 after a Come Bet is made, then the Come Bet wins. However, should the shooter get either a 2, 3 or a 12, then the Come Bet loses, just like a Pass Line bet.

Unlike a Pass Line bet, if the shooter rolls any other number then your bet will be moved to that number on the board, and this will become your individual Point number. It doesn’t matter if the shooter has already established their own Point, this one is yours. Should your Point number be rolled before the shooter gets a seven, then your Come Bet wins at even money. Should a seven pop up first then your Come Bet loses.

Don’t Come Bets are the opposite of a Come Bet. This is also made at any time after the Point has been made. Don't Come Bets win at even money should a shooter get either a 2 or a 3, while a 12 results in a draw. If any other number is rolled then this becomes your individual Point as already explained.

Place Bets

place bet

These bets can be placed at any time during the game after the Come Out roll, but only on numbers 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10. You are simply betting that the shooter will roll this number before they roll a 7. That’s all there is to it.

Place bets are popular because they are simple, fun, and flexible. You can bet on as many of the place numbers as you want and you can also have your bet removed at any point too if you get cold feet.

Anything else that is going on in the game does not affect your place bet, and it pays out at 7:6.

Other Bets

There are other bets you can make on Craps as well, and this is one of the reasons the game can be so exciting at the same time as being confusing. Here are a few other options:

  • Field – The Field are the numbers 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12. A bet on The Field is a bet that any one of these numbers will be rolled. This is another even money bet, except for the 2 and the 12 which pay double.
  • Big 6/8 – On the corner of the board are the Big 6 and the Big 8. You are simply betting that a 6 or an 8 will be rolled before a 7. The difference between these and the same numbers as a Place Bet is that you can place the bet yourself, you don’t need to get the dealer to do it. You can also place this bet at any time, but the payout isn’t as good as a Place Bet, it’s 1:1.
  • Proposition Bets – The key thing with these bets is that they last for one roll only, whereas the other bets stay on the table until they either win or lose. Essentially you are betting that specific numbers will come up on the very next roll, and the odds can be as high as 30:1.
  • Odds Bet – This is just like betting on the Pass Line again. Rather unhelpfully, there is no area on the board for these bets so they are placed just behind the Pass Line bet. They can be added or removed at any time and you are betting that the Point number will appear before a 7, so if you bet on the Pass Line initially and a Point was established, you now want that Point number to come up to win your initial Pass Line bet as well as your Odds bet. If a 7 comes up before the Point then both bets lose. It works the same way in reverse should you have gone for the Don’t Pass option. People place these bets because the odds are slightly increased.

It can get even more complex than this, but until you get to know the game better it’s best to stick with the above.

Paytable

Not every single bet is included here (there are scores of them), but for all of the main bets that you might want to use as you begin to play craps as a novice, the following payouts usually apply:

BetPayout
Pass Line 1:1
Don’t Pass 1:1
Come 1:1
Don’t Come 1:1
Field Bet 1:1
Field Bet 2 or 12 2:1
Big 6 or 8 1:1
Place 4 or 10 9:5
Place 5 or 9 7:5
Place 6 or 8 7:6
Place Against 4 or 10 5:11
Place Against 5 or 9 5:8
Place Against 6 or 8 4:5
Pass Odds 4 or 10 2:1
Pass Odds 5 or 9 3:2
Pass Odds 6 or 8 6:5
Don’t Pass Odds 4 or 10 1:2
Don’t Pass Odds 5 or 9 2:3
Don’t Pass Odds 6 or 8 5:6

Versions of Online Craps

There are many different variations of the game of craps these days, especially online, which has become an increasingly popular way to play the game. Each variation has its own unique style and way of being played, and as a result they have each developed their own individual fan bases.

Bank Craps

Bank Craps is arguably one of the most popular versions of the game, and as a result it can be found at the majority of online as well as land-based casinos that offer craps. This game is played on a special table and has a unique layout that is used. All bets which are made are against the house and, as such, a player must place them by using chips or cash on the key section of the table prior to the dice being rolled.

Crapless Craps

dice This version of craps is considerably different from Bank Craps because it is not possible to lose your money should you make a Pass Line Bet to craps on the Come Out roll. It was created by a man called Bob Stupak, and his idea was to invent a game where you could never lose a Pass Line Bet should a two, three or 12 be rolled.

This simple tweak turned Crapless Craps into an extremely popular version of the game which is usually played outside of casinos, where better odds are available due to the house edge for Come Out rolls being reduced. This version also goes by the name of Ruse Craps, Bastard Craps and Never Ever Craps as well.

Of course, this game is not all that popular with many casino operators. It would be counter efficient from a profitability perspective so it isn’t found in many gambling establishments.

You can trace this version of the game back to the state of Mississippi, where it is still played with increasing frequency today.

High Point Craps

While this is a particularly simple version of the game, it also marks the biggest difference from the original game of craps that most are acquainted with.

When a shooter rolls first, a roll of two or three is ignored completely and the dice are returned to the shooter who then throws them once more. Should an 11 or 12 be rolled they then win automatically.

Any other combination of numbers establishes the point and, as a result of this, the shooter will then have to get a total higher than the established point in order to win. The payoff in high point craps is even. The house edge is not too bad, but it is worse than normal craps at 2.35 percent.

Simplified Craps

It is not surprising, given the name, that this version of craps is particularly easy to understand. This is because only one roll of the dice is made by the shooter.

A total of 2, 3, 4, 10, 11 or 12 yields a win. A 5, 6, 7, 8 or 9 results in a loss. It is ridiculously easy to join in with a game of simplified craps and the house odds which are offered are 2.8 percent. There are without a doubt far worse odds on a lot of the other casino games, though a normal craps table is definitely still the best.

Die Rich Craps

craps logoThis style of craps is a particularly ‘sexy’ take on the original format of the game, and it only uses one standard die. This may make it an easier game for beginner players as it is far easier to understand.

Should a six be produced on the Come Out roll, this results in it being a winner. However, should the roll be a one, this means an instant loss. If any other numbers are produced, it means that a point will be established.

Following this, the shooter then has three more attempts to try and land on the point number once more prior to a one being rolled. In the event that this does not occur, the die is then given to the next player and the whole process is repeated once more.

New York Craps

Born in the east of the United States, this version is played on a different table which is known as a double-end dealer. In this style of the game, Come, Don’t Come and Place Bets are not allowed.

Instead of this, players are required to place bets on the box numbers four, five, six, seven, nine or 10. True odds are given to players, though in casinos five percent of all winnings are taken. This means that the house edge for New York craps always stands at five percent.

Low Limit Craps

Not everyone who wants to play craps will be comfortable placing large bets. For this type of player there are low limit craps games that can be played. Low stake craps can still be a very exciting game to play, but with the lowest possible pay-ins you can get in on the action at a fraction of the cost.

Not many low limit games will be found in land-based casinos but there are plenty online. You’ll also find a number of demo games you can play that require no real money bets and are even better if you just want to practice and hone your skills.

High Limit Craps

dice money and casino chips Over the last few years, there appears to have been a considerable change to the limits that are imposed at casinos which offer online craps. This could well be due to the fact that playing online has taken away the adrenaline and social aspect of the game, as well as the fact that lower limits have become increasingly more popular.

It is important for online casinos to cater towards the requirements of their players, and as a result, a number of them have introduced online craps tables which have higher limits.

Limits usually begin at £1, while the upper limit often goes beyond £1,000. It subsequently means that these games are now able to cater for a wider range of players; both beginners and high rollers.

Scarney Craps

A variant of craps which was developed by betting enthusiast John Scarne. Quite simply there are zero Come and Don’t Come Bets, while the house does not earn any percentage charge on any of the right bets.

Private/Open Craps (offline)

Also called private craps, these games can also be played on the street as seen in old gangster movies. However, these are games which are run illegally, sometimes in locations such as a person’s home or an business venue out of hours. It requires one person to front the game in terms of money, and the odds overall are a lot worse than those of Bank Craps.

This does make the game more exciting however, because players get the opportunity to win much more. But let’s not forget that this also increases the chances of losing everything. This game has a number of similarities with bank craps with the addition of a variety of other side bets, usually paying a commission of five percent to the house.

Social/Street Craps (offline)

This version of craps is played without any casino involvement, and is very similar to Open Craps.

Usually, or historically at least, a craps table is created using whatever is available at the time, and will include a win line and lose line along the numbers four, five, six, eight, nine and 10 as well. In order to start the game, the shooter is required to place a bet in the middle of the playing area.

All of the other players then also have the chance to cover all or part of the initial wager by placing their bets in the centre area too. This part of the game is given the name ‘fading’. After the Come Out roll has been thrown by the shooter the game plays exactly the same as the normal game of craps.

If craps is rolled by the shooter, then every other player in the game is given their money back as well as the shooters bet which is divided between everyone else. If a natural is rolled by the shooter it then means that he takes all of the cash in the middle of the table.

Online Craps vs Real World Craps

craps game in casino
BagoGames / Flickr.com

Due to the nature of the game of craps in a land-based casino and the atmosphere that can surround it, the online version could seem like a bit of an anti-climax. Arguably, out of all of the gambling games that you can partake in at a casino, craps looks like it might be the most fun because you are in the spotlight with a captive audience as you roll the dice to see if you will win.

In online craps, however, while it might be more convenient to play on the move or via your mobile device the atmosphere is almost non-existent. One of the best things about playing online, however, is that you do not have to travel to a casino, or make an effort with a dress code. That’s if craps is even available near you. The greatest benefit of online craps is that you can actually play it.

Everyone will have their preference, but while online gambling has grown exponentially over the last decade, particularly with advancements in mobile technology, craps may remain one game which is more fun to play in land based casinos due to the interactive and social elements.

Future of Craps

virtual reality diceWhile the game of craps is not too well known in the UK at the moment compared to the likes of blackjack, roulette, and poker, it will be really interesting to see how the future of the game unfolds. It is perhaps surprising that craps isn’t played in the UK as much as it is in the United States, after all, it has such a fun feel and can be hugely entertaining, and the UK gambling market is thriving. The fact that every player also has the opportunity to be the shooter definitely makes it far more social than any other gambling activity too.

What could well happen, is that more interactive online versions of craps are created which might catch people’s eye. This is one game in particular which would make for a great game using virtual reality headsets and instead of a board, for example; each player could wear a headset and see the board out in front of them, which would definitely peak interest. However the future of the game unfolds, there is certainly a lot of potential, especially considering how the game has adapted over the centuries.

Historical Background of Craps

The legend goes that it was Roman soldiers who invented the game of craps using the knuckle bones of pigs as dice, and their armoured shields to provide the tables.

There are others though who believe that the game of craps originated from an Arabic game of dice called Al Dar, which literally translates to ‘Dice’ and which merchants brought to Europe in the 12th century.

The most commonly accepted story however, is that the game was created by Sir William of Tyre in 1125 around the time of the Crusades, who named the game after a castle but with two different spellings and pronunciations: “Asart” or “Hazarth”. In the end though, the game became known as “Hazard”.

Hazard

old dice and coins

This version from the middle ages gradually expanded across Europe and was brought back to England by Sir William and his soldiers where it spread rapidly. The game received a considerable amount of attention from medieval author Geoffrey Chaucer in his book ‘The Canterbury Tales’, serving as further evidence that the game was particularly well known at the time.

It was circa 1600 that the game of Hazard reached a lot of the luxury gambling houses across England, mainly frequented by the nobility of the time, and as a result it became a considerable pastime and social event.

According to a number of historical sources, a French mathematician by the name of Pierre Raymond de Montfort created the official rules for Hazard in the 1700s, and it was during this time that the game was brought to a French colony called Acadia.

In 1755, France surrendered control of the colony to the British, under whose rule it became known as ‘Nova Scotia’, a maritime region of what we know today as Canada. The French ended up in Louisiana taking their love of Hazard with them, and so the game’s popularity continued to spread. This is how French culture came to reach America and gambling was a part of this, especially the game we now know as Craps, although it was referred to by this point as ‘crebs’ or ‘creps’.

Conflicting sources tell of the game coming to America directly from England on the Mayflower.

A Tale of Two Craps Variations

By the middle of the 19th century, it is thought that the US-English accent that had developed caused the name of the game to go from crebs or creps to ‘craps’, which has stuck ever since.

Throughout the 19th century, there were a number of variations of the game working their way around the United States; which version of the game you played (French or English) was dictated by the version that had been adopted in the region you were residing.

In the Southern states, it was the African American community who became acquainted with the modern version of the game, and this subsequently became the most popular variation and definitely spread the quickest, making the other versions almost extinct.

During the 20th century the game of craps became a primary gambling activity. With strong roots that went deep into the American lifestyle it was already sought after by many a gambling enthusiast.

The CrapsFather

soldiers playing craps

In 1907, it was the highly esteemed John H Winn who revolutionised the game of craps, turning it into the version that we know today, and as a result he became the aptly titled ‘Father of Modern Day Craps’. Winn made some considerable and seemingly popular changes to the game, from both a design layout and gambling mechanics perspective, which made it richer for those who played it and gave the game more substance.

Although gambling as a was prohibited in America during the early 20th century, the game was still played in a lot of ‘underground’ gambling houses, though when a new gambling bill was passed in Nevada during the 1930s it exploded into casinos and had a considerable impact on the masses.

Even during World War Two, American soldiers actually played the game as a way to pass the time in between action. Gambling was a major hobby for troops as it was one of the only releases that they could enjoy, with alcohol and good food in such short supply. Because of its popularity during this turbulent period of conflict the game spread around the world, especially among the Allied nations, and by the end of the war it had reached millions more people.

Throughout the rest of the 20th century as Las Vegas became increasingly popular and commercialised, Craps became a major gambling activity in the casinos and attracted a lot of tourists, especially from Europe where the game wasn’t as widely available in casinos compared to blackjack and roulette.

At the turn of the 21st century, the game changed again in terms of dynamics when the internet changed everything. As early as the late 1990s, casinos started to turn their attention to what they could achieve online and the same applied to popular bookmakers who began to operate on the internet. As a result, players who didn’t have access to Craps in their native country could acquaint themselves with the game and play to their heart's content whenever they pleased.

FAQs

In the event that you still have some questions, have a look through the following and see if they are answered here. Although we have endeavoured to cover the game of craps in detail, we understand that you still may be unclear on some aspects, and have anticipated what some of your questions might be.

How Easy is it to Win at Craps?

While a lot of it is in the luck of the roll, there is some logic in there too. If you understand the law of averages and probability, then you might be able to quickly sum up what the outcomes might be and the odds of getting a certain number on each roll.

Also, because of the fact that you are never limited to just one number, which would make the game particularly hard, your chances of winning are significantly increased.

How does Craps Differ from Other Casino Games?

Perhaps the obvious difference is that when you are the shooter your fate is literally in your own hands, which means you only have yourself to blame or thank after you roll the dice. This differs from blackjack and roulette where the croupier is at the business end of things, while in poker you have to either rely on the cards you are dealt or your ability to bluff your opponents. Although in most instances no shooter will regularly get the results that they hope for, they are still ultimately in control of what happens.

Is Craps a Fair Game?

Yes, as much as any other casino game is fair. You are in charge of the dice as the shooter and so unless any other player in the game cheats by moving anything on the table - something which is heavily policed in casinos - then the game of craps is a fair one.

Is it Easy to Learn the Rules?

One of the best ways to learn the rules for craps is to go to an actual casino and watch the game being played for real. This is a great way to pick it up, although we understand that this might not be possible where you live.

You could use our in depth how to play guide at the top of this article as a companion at same time as actually playing the game online. Even better, a lot of online casinos will let you play the game in demo mode until you understand it and feel comfortable playing for actual money.

Best Advice for Playing Craps?

The main piece of advice is to make sure that you fully understand the rules of the game before you start playing for real, as it can lead to complications further down the road if you are not aware of them. Understanding the house edge and each type of bet that can be made is critical, so ensure that you read up on all of the rules, or play for free until you are confident that you are ready to play for real.

Also, take it slow. New rounds start every couple of minutes so you don't have to dump all of your chips in the first five minutes. And as always, if you feel that you are having a problem and playing the game too much then please visit BeGambleAware and they will point you in the right direction.