Introductory Craps - Part
By Mike in Hawaii
Now that you have some
understanding of who's who at a Craps table and following the flow of the game,
we can move on to betting. There is a vast array of bets on the Craps table.
Fortunately you can ignore most of them. Some are quite bad. Others take a bit
of study to understand. So we will construct a very simple, but legitimate,
betting strategy for having lots of fun at a Craps table. We will also introduce
many of the key concepts in Craps betting strategies.
Passing Money in a Casino
You never hand money to a Casino employee
directly. It has to do with the cameras and security, people always
watching etc. For instance, when you buy into a Craps game, you do not
hand the $100 or whatever to the dealer. You place it on the felt and say
something like "Change please". The dealer will then pick it up off the
felt where you left it. He will place the chips you just bought back on
the felt in about the same place. Then you will pick up your new chips.
Same thing with making bets that require
dealer interaction. You put the chips down when it is your turn to bet,
and you have your dealer's attention, telling him what kind of bet you
want to make. The dealer then picks them up and puts them in the right
place for you. If you win, the dealer puts the chips on the felt in front
of you. You then are free to pick them up. Never hand-to-hand. This
is not unique to Craps. It is how it is done throughout the Casino.
Beginners should probably be playing at a table with a
$5 minimum pass line Bet requirement or less. A Franklin, or a $100 bill, is
plenty of money to buy into a Craps game to get chips for a conservative betting
strategy. Chips have nicknames. $5 chips are called Reds because they usually
are red, and also Nickels. The $25 chips are typically Green and the $100 chips
are typically Black, sometimes called Blackbirds. The $1 chips have quite a bit
of color variation but tend to be mostly white or blue. So when you lay your
$100 cash on the felt and ask for "Change", the dealer will probably replace it
with a stack of 20 red chips for you to pick up.
puck is showing "OFF" is the correct time to buy into a Craps game by placing
your cash on the felt and asking for "Change". When you ask for "Change" the
dealer will immediately know you are not placing a bet but just getting chips.
If you have a player's club card for that Casino, you can put it on top of your
Cash so you will be logged into that table and your play will be rated for
comps. You can get comps and points for playing table games just like playing
slot machines, usually with the same player's club card. Your player's club card
will temporarily disappear behind the table into the realm of the Pit Boss, but
do not worry, it will be returned to you in a few minutes.
The top edge of the tub,
the depressed area of the Craps table, is called the rail. It is very
much like the rail on a banister. The rail is typically broad and has two
rounded bottom troughs cut into it where you can place your chips on their edge.
You want to keep an eye on your chips and keep them together right in front of
you in the rail, or in your hand.
Keep your Hands to
Keep your hands out
of the tub except when placing a bet, picking up chips or getting change.
Do not lean on the rail and let your hands hang over into the playing area
where they might be hit by thrown dice. One thing that always upsets Craps
players is having the dice hit another player's hands (it is considered
very unlucky), so keep your hands out of the tub. It will save you
a potential embarrassment.
So how and what to bet?
There are two types of Craps betters called "Right" betters and
"Wrong" betters. There is nothing really wrong with the "Wrong" better and
he is doing nothing actually wrong, it is just one of those strange Craps terms
for the types of bets he likes to make.
Most betters are "Right"
betters, and you should start out betting right. I have never tried to count the
number of possible bets at a Craps table, but there are lots of them. When you
get down to the "good" bets, those with low house advantage, you end up with a
very short list. These good "Right" bets are called pass line, Odds on pass
line, Place 6, Place 8 and Come. After those few bets, the house advantage
starts to go up painfully fast, until we get to some bets that qualify as the
worst sucker bets the Casino has to offer.
One of the best bets on the
Craps table is called the "pass line". It is an actual strip on the felt that
runs all the way around each end of the table. To make a pass line Bet, you just
put a chip in this strip which is marked "pass line". Put your bet into the
strip directly in front of where you are standing. pass line Bets are one of
those Craps bets you can make yourself, without help from a dealer.
The pass line Bet is only
made before a Come Out Roll. Remember the two "phases" of Craps? When a shooter
is about to "come out", and the puck is showing its "OFF" side, is the time to
drop your Nickel ($5 Chip) on the pass line. This particular bet is what is
called a "Contract bet". Once it is made, it is stuck there. For better or for
worse, until the shooter either wins this hand or loses this hand. The pass line
Bet has a great low house advantage and is one of the best bets in the house.
Either a pass line bet or a don't pass bet
is is required of each shooter before he or she can
throw the dice. But it is optionally available to everyone else at the Craps
table before a Come Out Roll.
the shooter wins, you win. How do you know if you won or not? Simple, the dealer
gives you money! Or more correctly (remember no hand-to-hand?) the dealer will
place a second $5 chip next to your original chip which you can then pick up and
place in your rail. How do you know if you lose? Equally simple. The dealer
reaches over and takes your $5 chip off the pass line and puts it onto his
Remember the rules for the
Come Out Roll? If the shooter rolls a 7 or 11 that is a Natural Win and your
pass line Bet wins immediately. If the shooter rolls Craps, a 2, 3 or 12, then
you lose and your pass line Bet loses immediately.
If the shooter sets a
point, if he rolls anything else (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10), then your pass line Bet
just sits there waiting. Like everyone else it is waiting to see if the shooter
will throw that same "point number" again before he Sevens Out (rolls a 7). If
he makes his point, your pass line Bet wins and you will be getting another Red
from the dealer. If the shooter Sevens Out, the dealer quietly scoops up your
chip and puts it on his stack. Very simple. The dealer does all the heavy
Once you properly make the
pass line Bet by putting the chip in the right place directly in front of you,
it becomes as self working as a slot machine. Either your chip will eventually
go away, or the dealer will give you a second one to go with it. When the
stickman says something like "Take the Line" he is saying the pass line Bets
have lost and the dealers should collect them for the house. When he says
something like "Take the Don't, Pay the Line" he is saying the pass line Bets
have won and the dealers should pay them.
You will quickly
start to wonder how in the world the dealers keep track of all those chips
on the felt! Which chips belong to which players? Well dealers have a
special geometry. They arrange the chips inside each betting area into
little maps of the table.
Placing your pass
line bet into the pass line strip directly in front of where you are
standing, is one example of this geometry.
The dealer will know
that is YOUR bet based on where exactly it is on the felt. Right in front
of you. Other bets that are made by dealers or the stickman in other
places on the felt are done similarly. The exact placement of each chip is
far from random. If you watch carefully, you will soon start to see these
patterns and be able to know, like the dealers know, which chips belong to
The payoff on a pass line
Bet is known as "one to one" or 1:1 because if you win, you get back exactly as
much as you wagered. You also get to keep your original chip as well. So if your
pass line Bet wins, you get to keep your original $5 chip and you get a new $5
chip to go with it. If you lose the dealer will be around to collect your $5
original chip off the pass line and he won't be leaving anything.
Not Losing Your Money Faster
[AKA How to Politely Ignore Free
Advice at a Craps Table]
You won't be making your pass line Bets very long before
a helpful person tells you all about "Taking Odds". A friendly dealer will often
ask you "don't you want to take odds with that?" Kind of like at the local fast
food joint mantra "Wouldn't you like fries with that?" or "Do you want to Super
Size that?" Helpful advice at the Craps table is probably inevitable.
Bottom line, especially in
terms of money, is you should probably listen to advice at the Craps table
politely, thank the nice person, and then quietly keep right on doing what
you fully understand. How you are going to be betting, your betting pattern,
is one of those things which should be learned and completely sorted out in
advance. Betting strategy should not made up as you go along, pulled this way
and that by helpful advice, while at the Craps table.
Odds on the pass line Bet
are a generally good idea, but you will be making LARGER bets! That means your
money can disappear a LOT faster! However, odds, sometimes called "free odds" on
the pass line Bet is something you should know about.
the Come Out Roll, when the shooter is getting ready to start Chasing His Point,
you can increase your existing pass line Bet in a special way. You can put out
some extra chips right behind your pass line Bet. It is called
"taking odds". This bet is not paid off simply at one to one, but at the
true odds. It has zero house advantage. That is kind of a big whoop. A totally
fair bet in a Casino! Almost unheard of.
So here is how you can
start to experiment with taking odds on the pass line. IF and only
IF the shooter sets a point of either Six or Eight. Only if after
his Come Out Roll he ends up with a point of Six or Eight (the Puck will flip
over to read "ON" and be placed either behind the Six box or the Eight box) you
can put a second $5 Red chip next to your original Red chip. Do not put it on
top of the original chip, or beside it in the pass line strip, but just outside
the pass line strip, a bit closer to where you are standing. In other words,
"Behind the Line".
If the point is 4, 5, 9 or
10, just stick with just the simple pass line Bet you have already made. No
additional odds. The Six and Eight will be the point often enough, and when they
are you will be doubling the size of your bet. Settle for the occasional
"regular fries" and do not immediately rush to "Super Size" everything.
If your pass line Bet
loses, your odds bet also loses and the dealer will be around to collect BOTH of
them. But if your pass line Bet wins, the dealer will leave you not only the $5
for your pass line Nickel, but also $6 (a Red and a White) for your $5
Remember I said that pass
line odds bets pay off at completely fair odds? The odds pass line bet on a
point of Six or Eight pays off at Six to Five, 6:5. So if you win, you get $6 to
go with your original $5 in odds. You win a total of $11; $5 for your pass line
Nickel and $6 for your odds Nickel.
This second bet, the
additional odds bet, is an example of increasing your money at risk in order to
have a chance at a bigger win. One of the most important things to learn about
Craps is TRENDS. A table can be "Hot" or "Cold" or "Choppy". When we say
a table is "Hot" we mean it is favoring the Right better. The shooters are
making their points and hitting Natural Wins more often than statistics say they
should. Life is good, at least for the players.
When a table is "Cold" we
mean the House is winning, ergo, the shooters are Crapping, and Sevening Out,
more often than statistics say they should. Either of these is a trend. The
dreaded "Choppy Table" is when results are random, flopping back and forth
between favoring the House and favoring the Shooter, with no pattern at all. No
trend at all.
It is impossible to
emphasize this enough! All the Math
types will go on and on about how each roll of the dice is independent. But if
you pay attention you will quickly see that trends certainly appear to be real.
Action at a given table will turn Hot or Cold or Choppy and then seem to get
stuck there. Why is this important? Well you need to adapt your betting pattern
to match any perceived trend. This is the entire purpose of having more than one
bet in your personal strategy which you have researched, learned and are
prepared to make intelligently. So you can adapt your betting pattern from
moment to moment as trends develop and conditions change.
If a table starts to look
Hot, that is the time to start adding the $5 pass line Odds Bet each time the
point is Six or Eight. If the shooter is getting taken to the cleaners, if the
table is Cold, and the House is scooping in chips as fast as the dealers can
move, then you should skip putting out the Odds bet even if the point is Six or
When the table is Hot and
it is like they are having a sale on Casino Chips, you want to get deeper into
the action by increasing your bets a bit. When things are not looking good, you
want to keep your chips in the rail and pull back, hoping that things will heat
When a table is Choppy
without any pattern, you want to bet very conservatively. Everyone is getting
beaten up out there, and no strategy is working, right or wrong. It is time to
hide and watch, hoping for a new trend to develop. Of course a right better is
hoping for a new Hot trend!
So why do we single out just the
Six and the Eight? What is wrong with the other points? The 4, 5, 9, and 10?
It has to do with how
difficult a given point is to make. Mathematically, points come in pairs, at
least statistically. The Six and Eight have a lot in common. The Five and Nine
have a lot in common. And the Four and 10 have a lot in common. Each pair is
paid off at different odds and need different sized bets, yada yada yada, lots
of great stuff you can have fun learning further down the road.
The nice thing about the
Six and the Eight is that you can take single odds (as it is called) by putting
down a second $5 odds bet behind the line when the point is Six and Eight. No
fancy math required. Six and Eight are the most likely point numbers for a
shooter to be chasing, so you will get lots of opportunities for making the odds
bet on the Six and the Eight. Finally, you stick with just an extra $5 bet now
and again. You do not get in over your head.
You get a chance to become
used to taking odds the simplest way possible plus learning the concept of
making different bets based on what point number is established, what point is
"working". Finally, odds behind the line, odds on a pass line Bet, is another
one of those bets which the player can make for themselves, without help from
Review so Far
- There are many
bets on the Craps table, but only a very few are good bets.
- pass line is a
great bet and the most basic bet for the "Right" better.
- Odds on the pass
line is a good bet, but it increases your average bet, your average
- Not all point
numbers are created equal. They should be regarded as pairs, 6&8, 5&9,
- Betting strategy
often adapts based on which point number is "working".
- You believe in
TRENDS. You only increase your bets when a table appears Hot.
(since you are betting right)
Our Betting Strategy So Far
On each Come Out Roll, make
a $5 pass line Bet, unless the table is
If the Point is 6 or 8
and the table
is Hot, add a $5 pass line Odds bet after the point is set.