Learn the Basic Pass Line Bet Before All Other Bets
C raps offers a variety of bets, some good and some bad. You’ll learn in another article what “good” and “bad” mean, but first let’s learn the basics. Most bets are similarly marked on the tables in all casinos, so in general, all craps tables look alike, except for cosmetic differences such as color and letter/number style. Some casinos offer a few additional unique bets, such as Hop bets, Big 6 and 8, and “no craps.” These bets are always clearly marked on the layout so you’ll easily know if the casino offers them. Note: If you’re unfamiliar with some of the terms in this article, please refer to our other articles to learn the introductory material they present. Understanding the game basics will make understanding the Pass Line and other bets a lot easier.
The “Pass Line” is plainly marked as such on the layout adjacent to the apron. At each end of the table, the Pass Line extends around the perimeter of the playing area within easy reach of all players. The Pass Line is also known as the “front line.” You often hear the stickman bark, for example, “Winner, winner, front line winner.”
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The Pass Line bet is a self-service bet, which means you make this bet yourself (i.e., you put your chips on the Pass Line yourself without the dealer’s help). Unless you have a physical handicap, the only other time the dealer will make a Pass Line bet for you is when you don’t have the proper chip denominations and you need change. For example, suppose all you have are $25 chips and you want to make a $10 Pass Line bet. Get the dealer’s attention and put one of your green chips in the Come box and say, “Ten on the line, please.” If the dealer doesn’t react immediately, then you don’t have his attention. Don’t be shy in this situation because if the stickman pushes the dice to the shooter and she rolls them while your $25 chip is in the Come box, the crew assumes you made a $25 Come bet and you’re stuck with it. Wave to the dealer, point to your chip, and say louder, “Ten on the line, please.” He’ll pull down the $25 chip and exchange it for five $5 chips. Then, he’ll put two $5 chips on the Pass Line in front of you and the other three $5 chips in the apron in front of you. Before the stickman pushes the dice to the shooter, pick up your three chips from the apron so the crew doesn’t think you’re trying to make a $25 Pass Line bet instead of only the $10 bet.
Ready? Let’s make your first‑ever craps bet. While the stickman controls the dice in the center of the table and banters, “New shooter, coming out, new shooter,” put a $5 chip inside the Pass Line directly in front of you. That’s it! You just made your first craps bet.
Assume you’re in player position #2. In this example, your $5 Flat Pass Line bet is placed in the Pass Line directly in front of you as shown in the figure below.
Notice the black “Off” puck in the Don’t Come box. The “Off” puck indicates that there’s no point established and a new game is about to start with a come-out roll.
When the stickman sees that the dealers are ready and everyone has made all their Flat bets, he pushes the dice to the next shooter who selects two and then throws the come‑out roll. If you need to review our article about game basics, do it now. For a Pass Line bet, the come‑out roll can produce three possible outcomes: 1) if a 7 or 11 appears, the Pass Line bet wins and the game ends, 2) if a craps appears (i.e., a 2, 3, or 12), the Pass Line bet loses and the game ends, and 3) if a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10 appears, a point is established and the game continues until either the point number appears again, in which case the Pass Line bet wins, or a 7 appears, in which case the Pass Line bet loses.
A “craps” is when the shooter rolls a 2, 3, or 12 on the come-out roll. A seven-out (7-out) is when the shooter establishes a point and then ends the game by rolling a 7. When someone rolls a 7-out, don’t be like most people who groan, “Oh, darn, he crapped out.” By saying this, you show your ignorance of the game. After a point is established, if the shooter rolls a 7 to end the game, call it a “7-out,” not a “craps.” By showing your ignorance to the dealers, they’re more eager to try to influence you to make “bad” bets.
If a point is established on the come-out roll, you can’t remove your Flat Pass Line bet. Other bets, such as Place bets, can be removed whenever you change your mind and decide to take them down. Not so with the Flat Pass Line bet. For the Pass Line bet, the come-out roll favors the player but then shifts to the house when a point is established. Therefore, for a Pass Line bet, the price for getting an advantage on the come‑out roll is that you can’t remove the bet once a point is established and the advantage swings to the house. Again, once a point is established, you must leave your Flat Pass Line bet alone until a win/lose decision is made. If you forget this rule and pick up your Pass Line bet before a decision is made, the stickman will smack you on top of your head with his stick and yell at you to put it back. Just kidding! The crew will simply remind you of the rule and politely ask you to return the bet to the table.
The Pass Line bet is an even-money bet, which means you win the exact amount that you bet. For example, if you make a $7 Pass Line bet and win, you win $7.
If you bet the Pass Line, it’s also called betting “with” the dice (as opposed to betting “against” the dice with the Don’t Pass bet) or betting the “right” way (as opposed to betting the “wrong” way with the Don’t Pass). If a Pass Line bet wins, the dice are said have “passed.” In the context of Pass Line bets, “pass” means to win, so don’t confuse it with “passing” the dice to the next shooter.
On the come‑out roll, a Pass Line bet has a 2:1 player advantage. There are eight ways to win on the come‑out roll and only four ways to lose. Let’s review. For a Pass Line bet on the come-out roll, a 7 or 11 wins and a 2, 3, or 12 loses. There are six ways to make a 7 and two ways to make an 11; therefore, there are eight ways (i.e., 6 + 2 = 8) to win a Pass Line bet on the come-out roll. There’s one way to make a 2, two ways to make a 3, and one way to make a 12; therefore, there are four ways (i.e., 1 + 2 + 1 = 4) to lose a Pass Line bet on the come‑out roll. Eight ways to win versus four ways to lose is written in terms of odds as 8:4, which like a fraction reduces down to 2:1. That’s how we get a 2:1 advantage with a Pass Line bet on the come‑out roll. But that’s only on the come‑out roll. For a Pass Line bet after a point is established, the advantage shifts back to the house. No matter what the point is (i.e., 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10), there are always more ways to make a 7 and lose than there are ways to make the point and win. The advantage that you enjoy on the come‑out roll for a Pass Line bet is outweighed by the disadvantage you incur when a point number is rolled on the come‑out. The net result is that the house maintains a small advantage on the Pass Line bet, even when you make an Odds bet on the point.
When a point is established, you can make a Free Odds bet, or “take Odds on the point.” This is a bet on the point number in addition to the Flat Pass Line bet. You can’t make an Odds bet without having made a Pass Line bet first (i.e., you must have money on the Pass Line before you can make an Odds bet). The Odds bet is a self-service bet, so you make this bet yourself by putting the chip(s) in the apron directly behind your Pass Line bet. There’s no marked location on the table to define where to put your chip(s) for an Odds bet. It goes in the apron one or two inches directly behind your Pass Line bet.
In the figure below, notice the white “On” puck in the 4 point box. This indicates the shooter rolled a 4 on the come-out roll to establish 4 as the point. Notice the $5 Odds bet in the apron about one or two inches behind the Pass Line. This is called “behind the line.” You’ll occasionally hear a dealer remind a player by saying, “Sir, you don’t have anything behind the line.” This means the player doesn’t have an Odds bet on the point. After the shooter establishes a point, you can then make an Odds bet. Make sure your Odds chips aren’t in the Pass Line or touching the outside line of the Pass Line; otherwise, the dealer might think they’re either part of the Pass Line bet or a Place bet on the point.
If your Odds bet requires you to use different-denomination chips, put the higher-denomination chips on the bottom of your stack. For example, if the point is 5 and you want to make an $8 Odds bet, stack your chips so the $5 chip is on the bottom and the three $1 chips are on the top of your stack. If you mix them up (called a “barber pole”) or if you put the $1 chips on the bottom, the dealer will re‑stack them. Avoid making the dealer constantly fix your chips; stack them properly yourself. In the figure below, the stack on the left has the $1 and $5 chips mixed up (called a “barber pole”). The stack on the right has all higher denominations on the bottom and all lower denominations on top.
I like to slightly offset the lower-denomination chips on top to make sure the dealer sees the higher denominations on the bottom. Offset them just barely enough so the stack doesn’t look out of alignment but so the dealer can clearly see that big chips are on the bottom. Offsetting the chip stack isn’t required, but I like to do it to ensure the dealer knows big chips are on the bottom. When the shooter rolls the point and the Pass Line wins, the dealer double-checks the total amount of your Odds bet and then pays accordingly. However, sometimes the dealer is sloppy or lazy and misses the fact that you have big chips on the bottom. So, offsetting the lower-denomination chips on top by just a hair allows a lazy dealer to realize the full amount of your Odds bet.
You think, “There’s a square or rectangle painted on the table for every other bet, so why isn’t there a little box for an Odds bet?” Good question. The casino prefers that you don’t make Odds bets, so they don’t have a spot painted on the table for them. Without a big box to remind the newbies who don’t know what they’re doing, the casino hopes to minimize the overall quantity of Odds bets made. You think, “Why doesn’t the casino want me to make an Odds bet?” Another good question. Odds bets pay off based on true odds (i.e., not casino odds), so the casino doesn’t have any built-in advantage. Because it’s the only bet in craps that doesn’t have a built-in house advantage, the Odds bet is the best bet you can make. With the payoff based on true odds, you can expect to break even over the long run with this bet. Not so with any other bet on the table. (If necessary, review our article on calculating the house advantage.)
The minimum Odds bet is typically the table minimum as defined by the placard located on the inside wall of the table. The placard also tells you the maximum amount of Odds you can take. Depending on the casino, the maximum Odds generally vary from 2 times to 100 times your Flat Pass Line bet (written on the placard as “2x” or “100x”). For example, if the table minimum is $5 and the maximum Odds allowed is 3x (i.e., three times your Flat Pass Line bet), and if you make a Pass Line bet of $10, then you can make an Odds bet on the point for as little as $5 (i.e., the table minimum) or as much as $30 (i.e., 3x your Pass Line bet).
Here’s where the material that you learned in our other article about basic craps math comes into play. The Odds bet on the point is based on true odds, or the odds that a number will appear compared to a 7. Let’s review the data from our other article. Remember, the Odds bet is the only bet on the table that doesn’t have a built-in casino advantage; therefore, it pays off based on true odds, not casino odds.
|NUMBER ROLLED||WAYS TO ROLL IT|
|6 or 8||5|
|5 or 9||4|
|4 or 10||3|
|3 or 11||2|
|2 or 12||1|
Remember, for a Pass Line bet after a point is established, the bet wins if the point is rolled before a 7, and it loses if a 7 is rolled before the point. Therefore, odds are based on the number 7. For example, if the point is 6, the odds against rolling the point and, therefore, winning the Pass Line bet are 6:5 (i.e., six ways to roll a 7 and lose versus five ways to roll a 6 and win; therefore, 6:5). If the point is 5 or 9, the odds against winning are 6:4, which reduces down to 3:2. If the point is 4 or 10, the odds against winning are 6:3, which reduces down to 2:1. Notice how the odds are based on the number of ways to roll a 7 compared to the number of ways to roll the point number. These are true odds with no built‑in house advantage.
So, how much Odds can you put down for each point number? If you need to review the “pairings” that we learned about in our article on basic craps math, then do it now. Refer to table below for examples of how much of Odds you can take behind the line for each point number. For a 100x Odds table, your Odds bet can be the minimum (i.e., 1x), the maximum (i.e., 100x), or anything in between (i.e., 2x to 99x). It depends simply on your bankroll and how much you want to risk.
|POINT NUMBER||FLAT PASS LINE BET||MINIMUM ODDS (1x)||2x ODDS||MAXIMUM ODDS (100x)|
|6 or 8||5||5||10||500|
|5 or 9||5||6||10||500|
|4 or 10||5||5||10||500|
You ask, “Why is the Odds bet for the 5 or 9 a multiple of two (e.g., $6, $10, or $500 in the table) when Odds bets for the other point numbers are multiples of five?” To answer that question, let’s take this a step further and examine how we determine the Odds bet amounts for each particular point number.
For a point of 6 or 8, the odds of rolling it compared to rolling the 7 are 5:6 (i.e., five ways to roll a 6 or 8 compared to six ways to roll a 7). Therefore, with odds of 5:6, if you bet $5 in Odds, you expect to win $6 if the point shows before a 7. Therefore, for the point numbers 6 and 8, the Odds bet should be a multiple of five to ensure you get the full true odds paid if you win. For example, if the point is 8 and you make an Odds bet of $10, how much do you expect to be paid if your Odds bet wins? That’s right! You’re getting the hang of it! You expect to win $12 for that $10 Odds bet. Why? Because the true odds compared to the 7 are 5:6, which (as you know from your grade school math class on fractions) equates to 10:12.
For a point of 5 or 9, the odds of making it compared to the 7 are 4:6 (i.e., four ways to roll a 5 or 9 versus six ways to roll a 7), which reduces to 2:3. This means that, for every $2 multiple, you win a $3 multiple. Therefore, the Odds bet for the 5 or 9 should always be an even number (i.e., a multiple of 2). For example, suppose the shooter rolls a point of 5 on the come-out. The dice feel like they’re starting to heat up, so you decide to make an Odds bet on the point. We know for a point of 5 that the Odds bet should be an even number, so you decide to bet $8 in Odds. If the shooter then rolls the point (i.e., 5) before rolling a 7, how much does your Odds bet win? Very good! Your $8 Odds bet wins $12. Remember, your Odds bet on the 5 or 9 should be a multiple of two (i.e., an even number).
You ask, “How do you know you win $12 for the $8 odds bet?” Remember, the true odds of rolling a 5 or 9 before rolling a 7 are 4:6, which reduces to 2:3. Always remember, for the 5 and 9, the true odds are 2:3. Lock it away in your brain, 2:3. Say it out loud right now, “two to three.” Now that you have the 2:3 true odds for the 5 and 9 locked away, here’s an easy rule for determining how much you’ll win with an Odds bet on the 5 or 9:
(Remember 2:3): Divide your Odds bet by 2, and then multiply by 3.
Say it our loud, “Divide by two, then multiply by three.” For example, suppose the shooter rolls a point of 9. The dice are really hot and the shooter makes point after point, so you decide to live dangerously and this time you make a $50 Odds bet (note that your Odds bet is an even number). If the shooter again rolls the point before rolling and 7 and wins, how much does your $50 Odds bet win? That’s right! Good job! You win $75. Use the rule to figure it out: Divide the Odds bet by 2 (i.e., $50 divided by 2 = $25), then multiply by 3 (i.e., $25 x 3 = $75). Easy as pie! Remember, divide by 2, then multiple by 3. Let’s do one more, just for practice. The point is 5 and you make a $15 Odds bet. You say, “Wait, that’s not right!” Good catch! I tried to trick you by saying you made a $15 Odds bet (15 is not an even number). Let’s start again. The point is 5 and you make a $16 Odds bet. “Divide by two, multiply by three.” $16 / 2 = $8. $8 x 3 = $24. Very good! For your $16 Odds bet on the point of 5, you win $24.
For a point of 4 or 10, figuring out the Odds bet can’t get any easier. The odds of rolling a 4 or 10 compared to rolling a 7 are 3:6, which reduces to 1:2. Notice that you can bet in $1 multiples because for every $1 multiple you bet, you win a $2 multiple (i.e., you win double your bet). The odds of rolling a 4 or 10 compared to the 7 are exactly half; therefore, you expect to win twice as much as whatever your Odds bet is. For example, suppose you make a $5 Odds bet on the point of 4. (Remember, if the table minimum is $5, you must bet at least $5 in Odds.) If the shooter rolls the point, you win $10 (i.e., $5 x 2 = $10). More examples, if you bet $17 in Odds on the point of 10, you win $34. If you bet $23 in Odds on the point of 4, you win $46.
Unlike the Flat Pass Line bet, you can pick up (remove) your Odds bet at any time. When you decide to make or remove an Odds bet, do it while the stickman still controls the dice in the center of the table. Avoid reaching down at the last second just as the shooter is about to roll; otherwise, the whole table may yell at you, “Watch your hands!” It’s considered bad luck if a die hits someone’s hand. The losers at the table have to blame their misfortune on something, so if the dice hit your hands and a 7 shows, they blame you for causing the 7‑out. Let’s go through a scenario to illustrate what we mean by making or removing an Odds bet “at any time.”
- The puck is OFF (black side up). A new game is about to start. You make a $5 Flat Pass Line bet.
- The shooter rolls a 6 on the come‑out; therefore, 6 is the point for this game. The dealer puts the puck ON (white side up) in the 6 point box.
- The shooter looks lucky and you have a gut feeling that a 6 is going to hit before a 7, so you make a $10 Odds bet behind the line.
- The shooter rolls for 15 minutes, rolling number after number, except for the point (i.e., 6) or the dreaded 7. You get a terrible gut feeling that there’s no way the shooter can keep rolling before a 7 shows. You can feel it; that dreaded 7 is coming soon. So, you quickly reach down and pick up your $10 Odds bet before the shooter makes her next roll. (Remember, you must leave the Flat Pass Line bet alone. Once you make a Pass Line bet, you cannot remove it.)
- The shooter rolls a 7 to end the game. Everyone’s Pass Line bets and their Odds bets lose.
Wow, your gut feeling was right, just in the nick of time! Way to go! In this scenario, the Flat Pass Line bet loses because a 7 appeared before the point number, so you lose your $5 Flat bet. But you don’t lose the $10 Odds bet that you made at the beginning of the game because you picked it up (removed it) before the shooter rolled a 7‑out.