By David Stratton
Craps is one of the most exciting and fastest games in the casino. And, because of its low house percentage against the player, it provides a chance to win large sums of money in relatively short periods of play.
It is also one of the least understood games, mainly because of the complicated table layout. The game, however, is very simple. A player or "shooter" rolls a pair of dice that determines the outcome of his and other players’ bets.
The shooter’s first roll of the dice is called the "come out" roll. If he rolls a 7 or 11 he, and those who bet with him, win. If he throws a 2, 3 or 12, that is "craps," and he and the other players who bet with him, lose.
If the dice turns up a 4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10, that number becomes the shooter’s established "point," and he must continue rolling the dice until he makes the number again in order to win. If the shooter rolls a 7 before his point, he "sevens out" and loses.
Although the object of the game is very simple, craps is complicated by the myriad of bets available to the players. Most of those bets are heavily weighted in favor of the casino, and should be avoided.
Pass Line: By playing the Pass Line, you’re betting with the shooter. An immediate 7 or 11 on the come out roll wins; a 2, 3 or 12 loses. If a point is established (4, 5, 6, 8, 9, or 10), it must be repeated before a 7 is thrown in order to win. The Pass Line bet pays even money and, with a house advantage of 1.41 percent, is one of the best bets at the table.
Don’t Pass: The Don’t Pass bettor bets against the shooter. He therefore wins his bet if the come-out roll is a 2 or 3 (a 12 is usually a push), and loses if the shooter throws a 7 or 11. If the shooter establishes a point, a 7 must be thrown before the point is rolled again in order to win. This even-money bet has approximately the same house advantage of winning as the Pass bet.
Come and Don’t Come Bets: These bets are identical to the Pass and Don’t Pass bets, except that they can be placed only after a point has been established. That is, an immediate 7 or 11 is a winner; a 2, 3 or 12 loses, and any other number becomes an established point for the Come bettor. The reverse is true for the Don’t Come bettor. In addition, you can place as many consecutive Come/Don’t Come bets as you like, while you are limited to one Pass/Don’t Pass bet. The importance of these bets is that they allow players to increase their chances of winning during any given roll of the dice. They offer the same odds as the Pass/Don’t Pass bets.
Place Bets: A bet on any or all of the Place numbers (4, 5, 6, 8, 9 or 10) is a bet that the number or numbers will be thrown before a 7. The 4 and 10 pay at 9-5 odds; the 5 and 9 at 7-5 odds; and the 6 and 8 at 7-6 odds. Placing the 6 and 8 is a fairly good bet because the house edge is 1.52 percent. However, placing the 5 and 9 and the 4 and 10 are less attractive because the house edge jumps to 4 percent and 6.73 percent, respectively.
The Field: This is a one-roll bet that any number in the Field ”” 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 or 12 ”” will be rolled. If any other number ”” 5, 6, 7 or 8 ”” is thrown, the bet is lost. The house advantage on this bet is nearly 6 percent and too great to recommend it.
Big 6 and Big 8: A bet on either the 6 or 8, or both, can be made at any time, and either must appear before a 7 is thrown in order to win. Because the bet only pays even money, instead of its true odds of 6-5, the house enjoys an advantage of 9.09 percent.
Proposition Bets: These bets, which include the Hard Ways and One-Roll Bets in the center of the layout, are all poor betting propositions. Because the house advantage varies from 10 percent to 17 percent, they should never be made.
Free Odds: Although there’s nothing on the table to indicate the existence of this bet, it is one of the most advantageous to the player. It is available to all Pass/Don’t Pass and Come/Don’t Come bettors after a point has been established. Once the shooter establishes a point, a player can make a bet equal to his previous bet and receive true odds (instead of even money) if the point is made. This amounts to 2-1 on the 4 and 10; 3-2 on the 5 and 9; and 6-5 on the 6 and 8. If the casino offers "double odds," the player can double his previous bet. It’s always to the player’s advantage to make the free odds bet, especially at double odds, because it gives you the chance to win more money at correct odds when the shooter is on a "hot" roll. With single odds, the house edge is reduced to 0.8 percent; with double odds it’s reduced further to 0.6 percent.
As with other casino games, the goal in craps is to capitalize on the relatively short cycle of streaks that invariably occur. These are marked by prolonged passes of the dice by a given shooter. That is, the shooter continues to roll, often times for many minutes, without sevening out.
You can take advantage of these hot streaks by playing the Pass Line, backing that bet with Free Odds bets and placing multiple Come bets, also with Free Odds.
Professional gamblers disagree on the number of come bets to place. The most aggressive players make Come bets on every roll until all the point numbers are covered. This gives them the opportunity to win many bets in a short period of time, provided the dice stay hot and the shooter continues to roll without hitting a 7.
But that method is too risky. A sound strategy calls for placing a maximum of two Come bets, which, coupled with the original Pass Line bets, give the player three numbers always working for him. When one of the points is made and his bet is paid off, the player places another Come bet to keep three numbers working.
1. Bet the Pass Line and back up the bet with a Free Odds bet.
2. Make two additional Come bets, also taking the Free Odds bets.
3. Stop betting after three points have been established.
4. If one of the Come bets is won, immediately place another Come bet. Similarly, if the original Pass Line bet is won, make another Pass Line bet.
This system lets the player capitalize during a shooter’s hot streak while minimizing his losses when the dice eventually turn cold.