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Basics of Playing Craps

When it comes to entertaining and social casino games, it doesn’t get much better than craps.

If you have walked through any land-based casino during peak hours, you’ve undoubtedly passed a table filled with cheering (and sometimes booing) players. You might have even wanted to join the party but were apprehensive because craps is new to you.

There are so many moving parts in this game that it feels like it will take hours to learn the rules for how to play craps.

But it won’t. You can start playing in the next few minutes, and we show you how in this guide to the basics of craps.

We show you what a craps table looks like, and explain some key details you need to know, before covering the objective and how a game of craps starts. Then we move on to the types of craps bets you can make and table etiquette you need to know before you play.

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The Craps Table

The craps table is designed specifically for the game and a betting area for players to place their wagers.

In a brick and mortar casino, the betting area of a craps table looks something like this.

The betting area on a casino craps table.

The table also features and area for rolling the dice. There are two of them, and they are rolled on the table by a player known as the shooter.

A new player usually becomes the shooter at the start of each round, although there’s nothing in the craps table rules that says this HAS to be the case. A player can remain as the shooter for several rounds.

Everyone at the table, including the shooter, can place their chosen wagers by by placing their chips on the relevant spot in the betting area.

The craps table requires multiple casino employees, as follows.

  • Boxman: The boxman is in charge of the chips at the table, exchanging cash into chips for players and swapping them for different denominations if required. He (or she) is also responsible for supervising the dealers and generally ensuring that the game runs smoothly.
  • Stickman: The stickman is in charge of the dice, moving them around the table with the use of a stick (hence the name) and passing them to the shooter at the start of each roll. He also announces the outcome of each roll.
  • Base Dealers: There are usually two base dealers at the craps table. They are responsible for collecting losing bets and paying out winners. When requested to do so, they can also place certain bets on behalf of players.

The basics of playing craps are the same when you play online. Things are a little simpler, though. There’s no allocated shooter, as you are effectively the shooter every time you play, and no employees required. All other craps game rules remain unchanged.

Both dice are rolled automatically for you, and bets are placed by clicking in the appropriate spot on the betting layout.

Here’s an example of what an online craps table looks like.

How playing craps online looks.

Now let’s move on to the other important craps basics you need to know.

How to Start a Game of Craps

The objective of craps is to predict the outcome of the dice and bet on it. It’s a game of pure chance, and made slightly more complicated by the fact that there are two distinct parts to the game.

  • Part One: Come Out Roll
  • Part Two: The Point

Let’s explain the rules of craps for each part.

Part One: Come Out Roll

A game of craps starts with the come out roll. It’s the first time a new shooter rolls the dice. Craps betting rules during this stage allow for two options.

  • Pass Line
  • Don’t Pass

You need to understand both these bets if you want to learn how to play craps.

Pass line bet in craps

Pass Line Bet

The pass line is the first bet you need to know. It’s the most common bet in craps.

Placing this bet is as simple as placing a bet in the pass line area right in front of you.

After all the wagers have been made, the shooter will roll the dice. The result will be one of the following outcomes.

  • 7 or 11 – This is an automatic win for all players with a pass line bet. It pays 1:1. This is the end of this game. The next round will be a new game with a new shooter and come out roll.
  • 2, 3, or 12 – This is an automatic loss for all players with a pass line bet. This is the end of the game. The next round will be a new game with a new shooter and come out roll.
  • 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 – This establishes a point, which is marked with an “ON” button on the table. No one wins or loses their bets. The game then shifts to part two (explained later).
Craps don’t pass bet

Don’t Pass Bet

If you are a contrarian and want to buck the norm, you can opt for the don’t pass bet.

This is considered betting against the shooter. Players who bet against the shooter are called wrong bettors.

The do not pass bet leads to one of four outcomes.

  • Total of 2 or 3 – This is an automatic win. It pays 1:1.
  • Total of 7 or 11 – This is an automatic loss. The house collects the losing bets.
  • Total of 12 – This is a push. You get your bet back.
  • Total of 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 – This establishes the point. No one wins or loses. The game shifts to the second part.

That’s all there is to the rules for craps for the first part of the game.

Now we’ll move on to the second part, which takes place if a point is established on the come out roll.

Part Two: The Point

Establishing the point in craps

If the come out roll ends up a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10, the game gets much more interesting. That is because you’re now playing the point.

You will know you’re playing the point (even if you don’t see the outcome of the roll) because the stickman will flip a button on the table from “off” to “on” and place it on the designated point.

For example, say the come out roll was a 4. The dealer will flip the “off” button to “on” and place it on the number four at the top of the table.

Playing the point in craps is straightforward. Here is how it all works, assuming you make a pass line bet on the come out roll.

  • Your pass line bet remains.
  • The goal is to roll the point before a 7. If that happens, pass line bets are paid 1:1. If a 7 is rolled first, all pass line bets lose.
  • If the shooter rolls a number other than the point or a 7, they will roll again. This will continue until the shooter rolls the point or a 7.

That’s all there is to it. Now you know the basic rules for playing craps. That wasn’t so bad, was it?

Once you’re comfortable with these craps rules, you can then move on and learn about the different bets you can make once the point has been established.

Craps Betting Options for Beginners

Now that we’ve shown you how to play basic craps, it’s time to get to the fun stuff – all the different bets you can make.

We’re going to start with the best craps bet of all.

The Best Craps Bet

The best in craps bet is called taking odds.

Bet Taking Odds
Placement Behind the pass line / player-placed
Single or Multi-roll Multi-roll
House Advantage 0%
Payout Point-dependent

When you take odds in craps, you’re predicting that the shooter will roll the point before a “7.” Any player who makes a pass line bet can take odds, and experts recommend you do.

Depending on the casino, you can typically take odds by staking up to two, three, or five times your pass line bet on the space behind the Pass Line.

If your bet wins, the payout will depend on the point.

Point Payout
4 2:1
5 3:2
6 6:5
8 6:5
9 3:2
10 2:1

The alternative to taking odds is laying (the) odds. This is a prediction that the shooter will roll a 7 before the point.

And that is all there is to the best craps bet. But we’re just getting started. In the next section we’ll cover four additional need-to-know bets for playing craps for beginners.

Four More Craps Bets You Need to Know

Instead of bombarding you with a long list of different craps bets, we’re separating them into sections. That way it is easier for you to get the gist of how to play casino craps.

The next four craps bets we want to cover are some of the most common bets you can make at the table.

  • Come
  • Don’t Come
  • Place
  • Field

Here is what you need to know about each bet.

Come Bet

The come bet in craps

The easiest way to remember a come bet is that it’s a follow-up bet with the same premise as the come out roll.

For example, say the come out roll was a “4,” and the shooter is about to roll again. You can make a come bet based on the next roll. This bet has the same three outcomes as the come out roll.

  • A total of 7 or 11 wins
  • A total of 2, 3, or 12 loses
  • Any other result is the point

What’s important to keep in mind here is that, if you establish a point with your come bet, that point can be different from the point established during the come out roll.

So, if you make a pass line bet and then make a come bet after the first point is established, you could have two bets on the table at the same time.

From here, there are a few potential outcomes.

  • The shooter rolls the point for the come out roll, but the point for your come bet stays. A new round will start with a new shooter, come out roll and, potentially, a new point.
  • The shooter rolls the point for your come bet but not the pass line bet. You’ll have the option to make another come bet (which can then lead to a win, loss, or another point).
  • You can make a pass line and come bet. If you win your pass line bet, you can either make a new one for the next round or just play your come bet. If you only play your come bet and a new point is established on the come out roll, and then you win your come bet, you can make another come bet.

The potential outcomes can get a bit confusing because playing the come bet is like playing a game of craps within a game of craps.

You’ll see what we mean once you start playing craps online or in-person and experiment with different bets.

Bet Come
Placement On the Come line / player-placed
Single or Multi-roll Multi-roll
House Advantage 1.41%
Payout 1:1

Don’t Come Bet

Don’t come bet in craps

The don’t come bet is the second “don’t” bet on the craps table. We’ve already mentioned the don’t pass option.

Like the come bet, the don’t come is a two-step bet. You can’t bet it until you’re playing for the point.

Once a point has been established, and you make a don’t come bet, there are a few potential outcomes.

  • A total of 7 or 11 is an immediate loss
  • A total of 2 or 3 is a win
  • A total of 12 is a push
  • Any other outcome becomes a point. The don’t come bet will then pay if a “7” comes up before the point.

The don’t come bet is like the don’t pass bet. That’s the easiest way to remember it. The key difference is that you can’t make this bet until a point is established on the come out roll.

Bet Don’t Come
Placement On the Don’t Come line / player-placed
Single or Multi-roll Multi-roll
House Advantage 1.36%
Payout 1:1

Place (to Win)

A place bet is typically made after a point is determined. It’s a prediction that one of the six numbers at the top of the table (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10) will come up before a “7.”

The payouts depend on the number(s) you back.

Point Payout
4 9:5
5 7:5
6 7:6
8 7:6
9 7:5
10 9:5

The alternative to a place to win bet is a place to lose bet. This bet wins if a 7 comes up before the place number.

Bet Place
Placement Dealer-placed (in-person)
Single or Multi-roll Multi-roll
House Advantage 1.52%-6.67%
Payout Varies

Field

Casino craps field bet

You can place the field bet on your own, even if you’re playing in a brick-and-mortar casino.

There’s a large area right below the Come line designated as “Field.” It displays seven numbers.

  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12

The 2 and the 12 are circled on the craps table. That’s because they are worth double the other numbers.

A field bet is a prediction that the next roll will be one of the seven numbers. If so, the payout is 1:1 for all numbers excepts 2 and 12, which pays 2:1.

You might find players betting a more considerable amount of money on the field bet, as a 5, 6, 7, or 8 are the only losing numbers.

Bet Field
Placement On the Field line / player-placed
Single or Multi-roll Single roll
House Advantage 5.56%
Payout 1:1 or 2:1

That wraps it up for the four common craps bets outside of the pass/don’t pass and taking/laying odds bets. Now let’s look at a few proposition bets.

Proposition Bets in Craps

Prop bets in craps

There are quite a few ways to bet on craps, as you can see from looking at the table. But proposition bets will really catch your eye, as their payouts are prominently displayed and are as high as 30:1.

Some craps players call these center bets instead of proposition bets. Either way, they are a prediction on a specific outcome of a roll such as doubles (known as hardways).

Propositions bets in craps can either be multi-roll or single roll bets. Multi-roll bets will have lower payouts (7:1 for rolling 2-2) compared to single roll prop bets (30:1 for rolling 1-1).

While proposition bets have the potential for higher payouts, keep in mind that they also come with a much higher house advantage.

So, if you’re trying to play it safe and keep your bankroll on the table for as long as possible, you might want to avoid making these bets.

Full List of Craps Betting Options

Since this guide focuses on the basics of how to play craps, it’s important that we cover the most common bets you can make. These bets will get you started and having you look like you’re a pro.

However, the bets we covered so far are just the beginning. There are tons more bets you can make in craps.

We’re not going to get too in-depth with every bet you can make because we have a page dedicated to craps bets.

The following table gives you an overview of the bets you can make, how long they last, who places the bet (when playing in-person), and the average payout.

Bet Multi or Single Roll Placed by Player or Dealer? Average Payouts
Pass Line Multi Player 1:1
Don’t Pass Multi Player 1:1
Come Multi Player 1:1
Don’t Come Multi Player 1:1
Place Win – 6 or 8 Multi Dealer 7:6
Place Win – 5 or 9 Multi Dealer 7:5
Place Win – 4 or 10 Multi Dealer 9:5
Place to Lose – 6 or 8 Multi Dealer 4:5
Place to Lose – 5 or 9 Multi Dealer 5:8
Place to Lose – 4 or 10 Multi Dealer 5:11
Big Six Multi Dealer 1:1
Big Eight Multi Dealer 1:1
Field 2 or 12 outcome Single Player 2:1
Field all other outcomes Single Player 1:1
Any Seven Single Dealer 4:1
Any Craps Single Dealer 7:1
2 or 12 Craps Single Dealer 30:1
3 or 11 Craps Single Dealer 30:1
Horn Bet – 3 or 11 Single Dealer 3.75:1
Horn Bet – 2 or 12 Single Dealer 7.5:1
Hardways – 2s Multi Dealer 7:1
Hardways – 3s Multi Dealer 14:1
Hardways – 4s Multi Dealer 9:1
Hardways – 5s Multi Dealer 7:1
One roll – Aces Single Dealer 30:1
One roll – Ace-Deuce Single Dealer 15:1
One roll – Boxcars Single Dealer 30:1
One roll – 5-6 Single Dealer 15:1
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Craps Table Etiquette

Once you’re done reading this guide showing you how to play craps for beginners, your next step is to play the game, to practice. That’s the best way to ensure you understand the rules for playing craps.

When you make it to that step, we suggest you play craps online. There are several reasons why online craps is better.

One reason why we prefer to play online craps is so we don’t have to worry about table etiquette. There are several rules and superstitions you need to be mindful of when you play craps live.

  • Don’t try to buy-in while an active round is in play. You need to wait until just before the next come out roll.
  • You buy chips by giving money to the closest dealer. The dealer, in turn, purchases the chips from the boxman on your behalf.
  • You’ll have a rack in front of your position on the craps table for your chip stacks. Position your pass line wager directly in front of your spot.
  • Pay attention to player-placed and dealer-placed bets. For dealer-placed, you’ll set your chip(s) on the table and then make your request to the stickman.
  • When the dealer calls out something along the lines of “dice are out,” stop placing bets as it’s time for the roll.
  • Shooters roll the dice with one hand.
  • When you’re the shooter, you must hit the back wall with the dice.
  • If it’s your turn as the shooter and you’re not comfortable, you can pass your turn to the next player.
  • Craps isn’t a game that’s food or drink friendly. You have to keep the area clear, as so many players are placing and moving bets around at one time.
  • It is proper casino etiquette to tip the dealers on a big win or if you’re leaving the table a winner. In large casinos, like the ones in Las Vegas, dealers pool their tips and rely on them to supplement their income.
  • Don’t say “seven” at the table.

This list of etiquette for playing craps should get you started. Common sense and courtesy will take you a long way, too. Just don’t do what this guy did, and you should be fine.

Start Playing Craps Now

Playing craps online

We’ve covered all the basics of how to play craps. You have all the info you need to get started, regardless of whether you plan to play craps online or in-person at your local casino.

If you’re still hesitant about playing craps live, then we suggest you consider playing craps online. It is a great way to get started.

Even though craps rules for beginners are not THAT complicated once you understand them, getting used to the game without the crowded table is a good option.

Not only do you not have to worry about table etiquette, but you also don’t have to worry about not fully understanding craps rules, how to place bets, or possibly making an embarrassing mistake.

You can learn all this stuff online at your own pace, and you don’t have to worry about other players judging you.

What’s more is that you can learn the instructions for craps for free online. Most online casinos offer a demo mode, so you can learn the rules for craps and experiment with different bets without risking any of your own money.

Once you find your footing, you can switch to playing craps for real money. Even then, you can take things slow, starting with pass line bets. Then slowly add in other craps bets as you get more comfortable.

The best part about playing craps online is all the casinos you can choose from. Here are a few suggestions for online craps casinos to get you started.

All these casinos have craps you can play for real money or free from your PC, Mac, or mobile device. It couldn’t be easier to get started, either. Just choose a casino, create an account, and make a deposit.

You’ll be using your newfound knowledge to play craps online before you know it.