How to Play Craps : The Simple Fundamentals

Learn how to play craps H ere’s an obvious but very important piece of advice that will save you money: never play craps, either live or online, without knowing how to play the game.  If you don’t heed this advice, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll lose your entire buy-in.  You think, “Well, duh, why would I risk my hard-earned money on something I have no clue about?”  Sadly, a lot people do it, especially when they’re all hopped up on the excitement of Vegas.  Here’s a typical scenario.  You’re at the craps table and notice in the distance someone strolling along the casino floor.  He hears the yelling and clapping at the craps tables.  His pace quickens to see what all the fuss is about.  He thinks, “Those people are winning tons of money, I better hurry up and get some.”  He finds an open spot at the table, squeezes between two other players, and drops a cool hundred onto the layout.  He doesn’t have a clue, so he asks the one of the crew members, “How do you play this game, what do I do?”  Fifteen minutes later, the guy walks away broke and baffled.  Trust me, that scenario happens more than you may think.  Learn the game before you play.  You’ll save tons money and have much more enjoyment.  This article focuses on the very basic premise of the game.

You play craps with two dice and the result of throwing them determines whether you lose or win.  The two dice have 36 potential ways for a number to appear.  The way you determine how many potential numbers can appear is by multiplying the six numbers on one die (“die” is singular, “dice” is plural) by the six numbers on the other die.  So, 6 multiplied by 6 equal 36.  The potential numbers that can appear range from 12 (as the high) to 2 (as the low).  Because seven has the most potential ways to appear, the game’s premise is built around the seven.

In this lesson, let’s not worry about how to bet.  Let’s just learn the basics of the game’s premise.  The initial roll for each new starting game is always identified as the “come-out roll,” or “come-out” for short.  The stickman shouts something like, “Coming out, please make your bets, there’s a new shooter coming out!”  The game keeps going until the shooter rolls a particular number that makes what’s called a “decision” to conclude the game.  It doesn’t matter how you bet before the shooter rolls the come-out, a decision is made and the game concludes immediately if the shooter rolls a 12, 11, 7, 3, or 2.  These numbers are called “naturals.”  Notice that the naturals are the two lowest numbers in the range of possible numbers (i.e., 2 and 3), and the two highest numbers in the range (i.e., 11 and 12), and the number directly in the middle of the range (i.e., 7).  Again, if a natural appears on the come-out roll, a decision is made and the game concludes immediately.  On the come-out, if the shooter rolls anything but a natural, then it’s identified as a “point number.”  Unlike a natural, the game continues if a “point” is determined on the come-out.  The potential point can be a 10, 9, 8, 6, 5, or 4.  Notice there are three numbers on the low side of 7 (i.e., 4, 5, and 6), and three numbers on the high side of 7 (i.e., 8, 9, and 10).

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If the shooter rolls a point, she continues shooting until she rolls a 7 or the point again, at which time a decision is made and the game concludes.  The type of bets you make decide if you lose or win.  Suppose you like the number 7 and you bet on it (this is called betting on “Don’t Pass” or betting “against” the dice).  If the shooter rolls a 7 instead of the point, then you win, but you lose if she rolls the point again before a 7.  On the other hand, suppose you dislike the number 7 and you bet against it (this is called betting on the “Pass Line” or betting “with” the dice).  If the shooter rolls a 7 instead of the point, then you lose, but you win if she rolls the point again before a 7.

Depending on how you bet before the come-out, a natural will determine if you lose or win.  By betting with the number 7, you: 1) lose when an 11 or 7 shows, 2) win when a 3 or 2 shows, or 3) tie when a 12 shows.  By betting against the 7 (i.e., betting on the point), then it’s almost the exact opposite: 1) lose when a 12, 3, or 2 shows, or 2) win when an 11 or 7 shows.  Again, don’t worry about what bets to make or how to make them, the purpose of this lesson is to understand the importance of the number 7 and that most craps bets are based on the 7.

If the come-out results in a point being determined, then the only relevant numbers for that game, in terms of a decision to conclude the game, are the 7 and whatever number the point is.  All other numbers are irrelevant for that game.  For example, suppose the shooter’s come-out is a 9 (i.e., she establishes 9 as the point).  For that game, she can roll as many times as it takes to show another 9 or a 7.  She can roll for hours and the game will not conclude until either a 7 shows or a 9 shows.

If the come-out results in a natural (which concludes the game immediately), then you keep the dice and continue rolling the next game.  If you establish a point on the come-out and if you then roll the point again before a 7 (which concludes the game), you keep the dice and continue rolling.  However, if you establish a point on the come-out and if you then roll a 7 before the point (which concludes the game), you do not get to continue rolling the next game.  Instead, the “stickman” passes the dice to the next player on the left.  The next player is not required to roll the dice.  If a player doesn’t want to shoot, he simply tells the stickman, “No thanks.”  The stickman simply moves the dice to the next person on the left who wants to roll the next game.

Let’s do a quick review.  The first roll of a new starting game is called the come-out.  The come-out can have one of two basic outcomes: 1) The come-out can be a natural (i.e., 12, 11, 7, 3, or 2), in which case the game concludes immediately; or 2) The come-out can be a point number (i.e., 10, 9, 8, 6, 5, or 4), in which case a point is determined and the game continues.

Remember, in terms of a decision that concludes the game, once a point is determined, the only relevant numbers are the 7 and whatever number the point is.  All other numbers are meaningless in terms of a decision to conclude the game.  The following scenario illustrates how games conclude with decisions (forget about betting, just concentrate on how a game starts and ends).  Suppose you’re the next shooter.

  1. You roll an 8 on the come-out roll, so the point for this new starting game is 8.  The dealer turns the puck ON and places it in the 8 point box indicating that 8 is the point.  (The “puck” is discussed in the article on the craps table and equipment.)
  2. After the point is determined, the only numbers that matter for that particular game, in terms of a decision to conclude the game, are whatever number the point is and 7.  You roll a 12, which doesn’t matter, so the game continues and you roll again.
  3. You roll a 4, which doesn’t matter, so the game continues and you roll again.
  4. You roll an 8 (i.e., you roll the point).  A decision is made and the game concludes.  The dealer turns the puck OFF (black side up) and places it on the side of the table indicating that a new starting game is about to begin.
  5. Since you rolled your point, you continue shooting the next game.  You roll a 7 on the come-out roll for the new starting game.  A 7 on the come-out is a natural, so a decision is made and the game concludes immediately.  You continue shooting the next game.
  6. You roll a 12 for the come-out roll for the new starting game.  A 12 appearing for the come-out is a natural, so the game concludes immediately.  You continue shooting the next game.
  7. You roll a 5 on the come-out roll, so the point for this new starting game is 5.  The dealer turns the puck ON (white side up) and places it in the 5 point box.
  8. You roll a 10, which doesn’t matter, so the game continues and you roll again.
  9. You roll a 7 (i.e., a “7-out”).  A decision is made and the game concludes.  The dealer turns the puck OFF (black side up) and places it on the side of the table.  Because you rolled a 7-out, you turn ends and the dice move clockwise to the next player who wants to shoot.

If you shoot the point to conclude the game, you have the option to throw the two dice that you used previously to begin a new game, or select another two dice from those that the stickman offers you.  If you make your point, the dice you used to make it are deemed lucky.  That’s why you rarely see someone ask for two new dice when they make their point.

If you roll a 7-out to conclude the game, your turn as the shooter ends.  The stickman then uses his “mop” (or “whip,” which are terms for the stick) to slide them along the tabletop to the person to your left.  That person then picks two dice and makes the come-out to start another game.

Here are a few links to internal pages that you may find of interest:

You can now head over to the table of contents to find more great content.

Author
Written by John Nelsen in partnership with the team of craps pros at crapspit.org.