Best online casino for most U.S. players: Bovada

If you're in DE, NJ, PA, or WV, online casinos are legal in your state, and you should play at a casino licensed there.

If you're in any other U.S. state, your best bet is Bovada, not because they're good, but because everything else is even worse.  I'm reminded of the Simpsons episode where the RV salesman is telling Homer, "Simpson, you're never gonna own a finer RV.  And I don't mean that in a good way, I mean this is IT for you!"

THE GOOD ABOUT BOVADA

  1. Play the practice games without having to register an account.  Other casinos force you to register so they can market to you.  Bovada is the only U.S.-wide casino I know of that lets you play right away with no registration.  (If you see a registration box, you can cancel it and continue to the game.)  Blackjack?  One click and you're in.  And the games play right in your browser, so you don't have to download any special software.
  2. Consistent payouts.  Online gambling is mostly unregulated and if a casino refuses to pay your winnings you have little recourse.  But Bovada has always had a good reputation for paying out properly.

THE BAD ABOUT BOVADA

  1. Not licensed.  Because online gambling in most states isn't explicitly legal, no legitimate authority will license a U.S.-wide casino.  That means if you have a dispute, you have no recourse.
  2. Customer service is pretty pathetic.
  3. Phantom bets in live dealer games.  While I was watching (not playing) a live roulette game to record spin data for an article, Bovada claimed that I made two losing bets ($45 and $15) that I didn't actually make.  I complained about this, but they insisted I made those bets.  So, you probably want to steer clear of the live dealer games.

Visit Bovada


Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

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Gambling problem?

  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

How to Play Craps

Craps Lessons & Practice

Last update: October 2021

Quick summary

  1. Craps is the dice game played on the huge table.
  2. It's one of the best bets in the casino.
  3. Make only the Pass Line and Odds bets, to have the best chances of winning.
  4. Digital craps games offer much lower table minimums than regular tables with four dealers.


What's great about it?

There's no more exciting game in the casino than craps.  That's because up to sixteen players are betting on the same roll of the dice, so when there's a winning roll, the cheers are loud and the camaraderie is palpable.  Sure, there's some shared fate in other table games like blackjack, but it's just not the same as in craps.  And slots can't compare at all.

Craps also offers some of the best chances of winning among all casino games, with a house edge on the main bet of only 1.41%.  That's four times better than double-zero roulette, and several times better than most slot machines.  And it means you stand to get back 98.6% of every dollar bet, on average.  And once you learn the Odds bet, you can take the house edge down to a mere 0.4%.  In the casino, it just doesn't get better than that.

Finally, craps is the only game where the players get to create the outcome, by physically rolling the dice.  The players themselves determine whether they win or lose.  In other table games someone else is dealing you the cards or spinning the little marble.  But in craps you (or your fellow players) are responsible for your own fate.


How much does it cost?

The minimum bet at most casinos on the Vegas strip is at least $10, and as much as $25 at the tonier casinos.  The cheapest available in Vegas is $5.  (See a list of table minimums by casino.)  Expect to lose an average of $6 an hour when making $10 Pass Line bets.  (More on the Pass Line below.)  See my Average Loss Calculator to calculate your losses for various conditions.

In February 2021 the Harrah's casino on the strip introduced a live digital craps game.  It uses a standard size table and real dice, but the table felt has been replaced with a huge computer screen, and each player makes his/her bets on a personal computer screen rather than with chips.  What this means for you as a player is lower table minimums.  The game costs less for the casino to run (only one dealer instead of four), so the minimum bet at Harrah's is $10, versus $25 for the traditional game. (more on digital craps)  There's also a digital version nicknamed "Bubble Craps", which is played on a smaller, circular table, uses captive dice, and has no dealer.


Practice craps with fake money at Bovada

No popups, no download, no registration, no B.S., just the game. One click and you're in.

The various bets you can make

There are so many different bets  in craps that covering them all would take a small book.  The good news is that you need to know only one or two easy bets, because the rest are sucker bets anyway.  Below you'll learn about the Pass and Odds bets, which are all you need to know.

Once you've learned these bets you can practice online for free or small stakes at Bovada.

Okay, enough intro, let's see how to play.


Rolling the Dice

Each player takes turns rolling the dice.  The player who's rolling is called the shooter.   Everyone bets on the the same roll of the dice, whether they're the shooter or not.  The shooter keeps rolling until he "sevens out" (rolls a losing seven), and then the next player gets to roll.

A complete round in craps can last just one roll or a whole bunch of rolls, depending on what's rolled.  The first roll of a round is called a Come-Out Roll.  If you get confused, just wait for the next Come-Out Roll, and everything will start over.  When a Come-Out roll is about to happen the dealer will flip the little hockey puck on the table to read "OFF", and s/he'll say, "Coming out!"  At that point you can be confident that a new round is starting.


Pass Line Bet

The basic bet is in craps is the Pass Line bet and it pays even money.  (Bet $10, win $10.)  Make this bet by waiting for the Come-Out Roll (hockey puck set to "OFF"), and then putting your chip(s) on the area of the table marked "Pass Line".

Now we're ready to roll!  The shooter rolls the Come-Out Roll, and it's always the total of the two dice that counts.  Here's what happens based on the total rolled:

  • 7 or 11:  You win.
  • 2, 3, or 12 ("craps"):  You lose.
  • Any other number: (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10):  Go to the bonus round

No one calls it a bonus round but me—that just makes it easy to understand.

The number that was rolled to get to the bonus round is called the Point, and a marker is placed on that number.  Find the marker in the picture above, to the left of the word "Bovada" near the top.  The marker is set to "ON", meaning that somebody already rolled and we're in the bonus round.  And because the marker is on the 4, that means the shooter rolled a 4 to get us into the bonus round.

In the bonus round the game changes and you have another chance to win or lose, based on the total of what's rolled:

  • The Point:  You win.
  • 7:  You lose.
  • Any other number:  Irrelevant, roll again.

Notice that on the come-out roll seven makes you win, but in the bonus round seven makes you lose.  This is confusing to newcomers, and that's why it's important to know where you are in the round.  On the first roll, 7 isin good.  But  the bonus round, 7 is bad.

Remember:  In the bonus round you win if the Point is rolled again, and you lose if a seven is rolled.  All other numbers are irrelevant.  If any other total is rolled, you ignore it and the shooter keeps rolling.

When a seven is rolled before the point, causing you to lose, that's called sevening out.  When a shooter sevens out the dice pass to the next shooter.

Putting both the come-out roll and the bonus round together here's how the pass line bet works:

Win Lose
Roll a 7 or 11 on the first roll,
-or-
Roll a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10,
and roll it again before a 7 comes up
Roll a 2, 3, or 12 on the first roll,
-or-
Roll a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 and then a 7 before you roll the original number again


Still confused? Then here's a sample game. Assume you place another Pass Line bet every time you win or lose.








4
5
6
8
9
10

PASS LINE


 



Click the button to start.

Once a Point has been made, dice totals other than 7 are called numbers.  When a shooter is "throwing numbers", that means s/he's making lots of throws without hitting the 7.  Other players are probably betting on some of those numbers and are happy about winning.  We also say that such a lucky shooter is "on a roll".  Yeah, that's where that phrase comes from.


The Odds Bet

A very special bet in craps is the Odds Bet, which has zero house edge!  The catch is that you have to make a Pass Line bet first, so you don't get to play craps with no house edge at all.  Still, the Odds bet dilutes the house edge of the Pass Line bet.  But first let's see how to make an Odds bet.

You can make an Odds bet only after a Point has been made.  After a Point has been made, place your Odds Bet below your Pass Line bet.  (That is, due South of your Pass Line bet, not vertically under it.)  The Odds bet is tied to the Pass Line:  if you win your Pass Line bet, you win the Odds bet too.  If you lose the Pass Line, you lose both bets.

The payout on the Odds Bet varies depending on how hard it is to hit the point.  For example, there are only four ways to roll a 10, but six ways to roll an 8, so you get a bigger payout for hitting a point of 10.  Here are the payouts depending on the point:

Point Payout
4 or 10 2:1 (e.g. $10 bet pays $20)
5 or 9 3:2 (e.g. $10 bet pays $15)
6 or 8 6:5 (e.g. $10 bet pays $12)

How much you can wager on Odds bets

Since the Odds Bet carries no house edge, the casino limits how much you can bet on it.  These limits vary from casino to casino.  Here are the common limits:

  • Single Odds.  Your Odds Bet can be as much as your Pass Line bet.  All casinos offer at least this much.
  • Double Odds.  Your Odds Bet can be twice as much as your Pass Line bet.
  • Full Double Odds.  Same as Double Odds, but if the point is 6 or 8, you can bet 2.5x as much as your Pass Line bet.
  • 3-4-5 Odds.  This is the most common.  You can bet 3x on a point of 4 or 10, 4x on a point of 5 or 9, and 5x on a point of 6 or 8.  No matter what point you bet on, your payout for a winning Pass Line + Odds bet will be 6x the Pass Line bet.  This makes it easier for the dealers to figure the payouts.
  • Even higher odds.  Some casinos offer 5x, 10x odds, and some have gone as high as100x odds.


Maximizing the Odds

Since there's no house edge on the Odds bet, you want to bet as little as possible on the Pass Line and as much as possible on the odds.  For example, say you're budgeted to bet $25 per round.  In that case:

  • The wrong way:  $25 on the Pass Line
  • The right way:  $10 on the Pass Line, $15 on the Odds

That slashes your average loss:

  • $25 on the Pass Line x 1.41% house edge = $0.35 average loss.
  • $10 on the Pass Line x 1.41% + $15 x 0% = $0.14 average loss.

Thirty-five and fourteen cents might not seem like a big loss, but that's just for one round.  When you're playing for hours, it adds up.  Figure about 43 Pass Line bets per hour, though you can use my Average Loss Calculator to do the heavy lifting.

Here's the house edge on combined Pass Line bets plus the Odds bet, depending on the Odds limit offered by the casino, courtesy of the Wizard of Odds.

No odds (pass line only) 1.41%
1x odds 0.85%
2x odds 0.61%
Full double odds
0.57%
3-4-5 odds 0.37%
100x odds 0.02%


An example session

Here's a sample session to see how it works with the odds bet.

New Round Win: 7 or 11   Lose: 2, 3, 12   Set a Point: 4,5,6,8,9,10
7 You win! New round begins with same shooter.
New Round Win: 7 or 11   Lose: 2, 3, 12   Set a Point: 4,5,6,8,9,10
12 You lose. New round begins with new shooter.
New Round Win: 7 or 11   Lose: 2, 3, 12   Set a Point: 4,5,6,8,9,10
4 Point is set. Marker is moved onto the 4. You place your Odds bet below your Pass Line bet.  You win both bets if a 4 is rolled again before a 7.


Point is set: Win: 4    Lose: 7    Doesn't Matter: Everything else

6 No effect
3 No effect
10 No effect
4 You win both bets!  Marker is moved back to the side. New round begins with same shooter.
New Round Win: 7 or 11   Lose: 2, 3, 12   Create a Point: 4,5,6,8,9,10
3 You lose.  Dice pass to the next shooter.
New Round Win: 7 or 11   Lose: 2, 3, 12   Create a Point: 4,5,6,8,9,10
11 You win!  New round begins with same shooter.
New Round Win: 7 or 11   Lose: 2, 3, 12   Create a Point: 4,5,6,8,9,10
8 Point is set.  Marker is moved onto the 8.  You place your Odds bet below your Pass Line bet.  You win both bets if an 8 is rolled again before a 7.


Point is set: Win: 8    Lose: 7    Doesn't Matter: Everything else

4 No effect.
6 No effect.
4 No effect.
4 No effect.
11 No effect.
10 No effect.
7 You lose both bets.  Marker is moved back to the side.  New round begins with new shooter.


Craps Superstitions

Many craps players are superstitious, so you have to avoid doing anything they think is bad luck, otherwise they'll get mad at you and blame you if they start losing.  Here's what to watch out for:

  • Never say the word "seven" once a Point has been made.  Crappers think that saying "seven" somehow makes it more likely that a seven will be thrown.  They commonly refer to seven simply as "it".
  • Don't hit anyone's money with the dice when you roll.  Craps players think this will induce a seven and kill any points that have been set.
  • If you're a man and you've never played before, don't mention that fact.  New male craps players are supposedly unlucky and are expected to seven-out quickly.
  • On the other hand, if you're a woman, you should definitely mention your newness to the game.  Female craps "virgins" are considered to be extremely lucky and are expected to throw numbers (i.e., make points instead of sevening-out) for a long time.  Upon mentioning that you've never played before, you may see the players start suddenly wagering all kinds of money on the table, and maybe even giving you chips to bet with!  Of course, even if you have played before, you could always say you haven't, just to see the fascinating human spectacle.

Betting Systems

You may see ads for Craps Systems on the Internet or in magazines that purport to show you how to win at craps.  They're all junk.  (Like this one, which was debunked here.)  There is no way to overcome the house edge and put the odds in your favor.  If these systems really worked, the authors would be living on an island with their millions rather than being eager to get your $24.95.  There's more about this in my article on betting systems.

Practice craps with fake money or real money at Bovada

For those who really think they've come up with a winning system and want random craps rolls to test it, see my Craps Rolls Generator.


Practice Online

While you can get a general understanding of the rules from the lesson above, you really won't get a feel for the game until you've played it a few times.  You can practice craps at Bovada with fake money.  It beats going to the casino clueless.


 


Congratulations!  Now you know the basics of how to play craps!
If you can have suggestions for how I can make this lesson easier to understand, please let me know.

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Practice gambling with play money

Before you throw down your hard-earned cash in a casino, PRACTICE FIRST!  Learn the games with play money where it doesn't cost you anything if you lose.  Seriously.

You can play Bovada's games (below) right away without registering for an account.  Most every other online casino makes you give up your email address just to play the fake-money games — ugh.  That's the mean reason Bovada is the only online casino that gets advertising space on my site.  I hope other casinos will eventually start treating their visitors like human beings rather than walking wallets, but until they do, there's Bovada.  One click and you're in.

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