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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: September 2019

Craps is one of the bet bets in the casino.  The house edge is a mere 1.41%, which is four times better than roulette, and several times better than most slot machines.  That means you stand to get back around 99¢ of every dollar bet, on average.  But to get these great odds you have to make only the best bets and avoid the sucker bets.  That's what this craps lesson is for.

Craps is more lively than other casino games, with the players screaming like banshees when they win.  It's also unique in that the players themselves roll the dice, so they're the ones who 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.

Practice craps with fake money or real money at Bovada

There are lots of different bets you can make in craps and covering them all would take a small book, but the good news is that you need to focus on only a few easy bets, because the rest of the bets are sucker bets anyway.  We'll ignore the bad bets completely.

Once you've learned the rules you can practice online for free 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.

Craps is a game of rounds.  A round 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 turn the little hockey puck on the table to "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 the Pass Line bet and it pays even money.  (Bet $5, win $5.)  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, to the left of the word "Bovada" on 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:

  • Roll the Point again:  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 is good.  But if you go to 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,
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,
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.




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.

House Edge for Odds offered

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
3-4-5 odds 0.37%
100x odds 0.02%

So, if you would normally bet more than $5 a round, then bet $5 on the Pass and the rest on the Odds.  For example, if you'd normally bet $10 a round, don't put $10 on the Pass and then not place an odds bet.  Instead, put $5 on the Pass and $5 on the odds.  That cuts your average loss almost in half.

If you wouldn't normally bet more than $5 a round, then don't bet on the Odds, because that's just more risk, even though there's no house edge.

By the way, you'll generally make about 30 Pass Line bets per hour, which is handy to know if you're trying to calculate your average loss for a craps session.

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 same 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.

Practice craps with fake money or real money at Bovada

Don't Pass

The Pass Line bet eThere's lots more to craps, but what we've covered already is all you need to know to play the game for fun.  There's no need to learn any more, so if you want to stop reading now, feel free to do so—you've earned it.  But if you have an interest in learning a couple more bets, we'll cover them now.  These extra bets won't make any significant impact on your chances of winning, though.  (If it made a big difference, this section would be mandatory, not optional.)  In any event, if you don't clearly understand the material that's already been covered, then go back and learn that material well before you even think about reading this section.  What's already been covered is a lot more important than what's about to be covered.

Okay, so you know how to make a basic Pass Line bet.  Instead, you could bet the opposite, the Don't Pass line.  On this bet, you lose if a 7 or 11 is thrown, and you win if a 2 or 3 is thrown. (12 has no effect if you're betting Don't Pass.)  If a Point is made, then you win if a 7 is thrown, and lose if the point is thrown again.

There's also the Don't Come bet.  After a point is made, a Don't Come bet loses on a 7 or 11 and wins on a 2 or 3.  If a point is made, then Don't Come loses if the point is repeated and wins if a 7 kills the point.

You can make Odds bets on both Don't Pass and Don't Come, only in this case it's backwards:  For example, instead of being paid 2 to 1 when winning on a point of 4 or 10, you're paid 1 to 2.  That means that a $10 Odds bet wins $5.  You also get paid on your original Don't Come bet, whatever that was.

Most players bet Pass/Come instead of Don't Pass/Don't Come.  Someone who bets Don't Pass/Don't Come is called a "Wrong Bettor".  That doesn't mean they're betting incorrectly, it just means they're betting contrary to the way most people at the table are betting.  As a Don't Pass/Don't Come player, you'll be losing when everyone else is winning, and winning when everyone else is losing—and the other players may be hostile towards you as a result of the latter.  At the very best, there won't be any camraderie.

So why would you bet Don't Pass/Don't Come?  Well, in fact there's not much point.  (Remember how I begged you to believe me that this section was optional?)  You can be a fine craps player without ever betting the Don't side.

Technically, the Don't side has a slighter smaller house edge than the normal bets, but it's so tiny it's not worth worrying about—especially for the heat you'll take from the other players for being a "wrong bettor". But for inquiring minds, here's the house edge for Pass Line+Odds compared to Don't Pass+Odds (rounded)

House Edge for various Craps Bets

Combined House Edge
on Pass Line + Odds
Combined House Edge
on Don't Pass + Odds
No odds 1.41% 1.36%
1x 0.85% 0.68%
2x 0.61% 0.46%
3x 0.47% 0.34%
5x 0.33% 0.23%
10x 0.18% 0.12%
100x 0.021% 0.014%
Figures from Wizard of Odds, then rounded

Let's put this into perspective: Let's say you're playing 16 hours, $5 basic bet, at a rate of 30 Come Out rolls per hour.  Your expected loss from betting on the Pass Line is $33.84, compared to $32.64 from betting Don't Pass instead.  That's an extra 7.5¢ an hour.  Big whoop.

Whether you're betting Pass or Don't Pass, make sure you calculate your Expected Loss before you start playing.

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 plus shipping.  There's more about this in my article on betting systems.

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 craps with fake money or real money at Bovada

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.


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.

Related articles

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.





Site Contents ©2001-2019 Michael Bluejay.
I believe everything herein to be accurate, but I'm not responsible for errors or omissions.  I'm pretty irresponsible, actually.

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