Craps is probably the scariest game for a new casino gambler, simply because of the number of things going on at the table at once. There are several dealers helping the action move along, dozens of bets being made all around the table, and dice are flying all over the place. To an outsider, it all seems incomprehensible.
But the truth is that craps isn’t such a hard game to learn. Most of the action revolves around just a couple of different bets, with most of the others being side bets that a good player can ignore if they don’t feel like getting involved with them. In fact, the best craps strategy involves making just a few simple bets, and will result in giving you one of the lowest house edges available in the entire casino.
Pass Line Bet
The most fundamental bet to a good craps strategy is the pass line bet. This is a simple bet that is (appropriately) placed on the pass line, on the outside of the craps table. After making this bet, if the come out roll is a 7 or an 11, the player wins even money. If the come out roll is a 2, 3 or a 12, the player loses.
Things get more interesting if the come out roll is anything other than those numbers. In that case, the number rolled becomes “the point.” In this case, the pass line bet remains live, and the shooter keeps rolling the dice. If the shooter can roll the point before rolling a 7, then the pass line bet wins at even money. If the shooter rolls a 7 first, then the pass line bet loses. This very simple bet has a house edge of just 1.41%, making it one of the best bets available in the casino.
Taking the Odds in Craps
However, the best part about the pass line bet is that it gives you the opportunity to make an even better bet! If the shooter rolls a point, you’ll have the opportunity to “take the odds” by betting more money behind your pass line bet. How much you’re allowed to bet depends on the casino you’re playing at, and typically ranges anywhere between 3x the original bet to as much as 100x that bet.
Just like with the pass line bet, this bet will win if the shooter rolls the point before rolling a seven. However, this bet pays better than even money – in fact, it pays exactly the amount that’s fair given the chance of the shooter rolling the point first! If the point is a 4 or 10, the odds pay 2-1; on a 5 or a 9, you’ll win 3-2; and on a 6 or 8, you’ll win 6-5. These odds mean that the pass line bet carries no house edge at all, making it an essential part of any craps strategy. The only edge the house has over the player is the small edge on the original pass line bet that you must make in order to be allowed to take the odds.
Don’t Pass Bet
If you’re looking an even lower house edge, the don’t pass bet is actually a slightly better bet for the player than the pass line. The house edge is just 1.36%, a tiny bit better than on the pass line. Just like with the pass line, you can lay odds behind your don’t pass bet; these odds also carry no house edge.
The only downside to taking the don’t pass bet is that you’ll usually be betting against almost everyone else at the table. Since the two bets are so close in house edge, many players choose to stick with a craps strategy that uses the pass line bet, so that they can root for the shooter to hit points along with everyone else, if only because it’s a lot more fun.
Other Craps Bets
If you want to maximize your odds by playing the best possible craps strategy, you’ll want to avoid most of the other bets available on the craps table. However, there are some exceptions. Notably, the come and don’t come bets carry the same house edge and the pass and don’t pass bets. The only difference is that you can start making these bets at any time, rather than on the come out roll.
Other bets tend to have much higher house edges. Place and buy bets offer lower odds than you would get when taking the odds on a pass line bet, so it’s not surprising that the house edge is fairly high. Bets like the “hard way” and field bets also carry high house edges.
Finally, some casinos have a bet that is an absolutely sucker bet that should be avoided no matter how you enjoy playing craps. If your craps table has bets labeled “Big 6” and “Big 8,” you should never take these bets – they are the same as making place bets on 6 or 8, only with worse odds.